The other day I read an interesting article from Advertising Age about the future of artificial intelligence in the marketing world. My two big takeaways: First, progress in the realm of AI depends on the quality of the people programming the systems, not the machines themselves. Second, let’s get rid of the buzzword “artificial intelligence” and call it what it truly is: artificial interaction.
Articles about artificial intelligence surface constantly, but I wonder how many people truly understand the concept. People associate it with robots taking over the world. In reality, though, the intelligence isn’t artificial at all — it’s programmed into the system by a human.
With that in mind, bots can be a brilliant tool for marketers; the key is to devote the time and energy to properly develop them.
The Case for Artificial Interaction
What’s being classified as artificial intelligence — in marketing, at least — is really just artificial interactions in which a bot uses known variables. Smart marketers can program information into these automated systems, allowing the bots to quickly deliver personalized content to the end user. So, the only sense in which such an interaction is truly artificial is that it doesn’t require human touch; that’s already been coded in. But the intelligence itself? That came from a human.
Where I think this technology can enhance marketing is through the continued sophistication of data collection and synchronization. Really good artificial interactions depend on smart people who always think one step ahead. They know how to anticipate the needs of their consumers and code those interactions into automated systems. And because this technology is scalable, a group of people can use automated technology — with the right programming — to influence the masses.
All of these factors make using sophisticated artificial interaction systems a no-brainer for the marketing world.
As technology and marketing approaches improve, programmers and marketers will get smarter about creating multidimensional views of the customer, further enhancing the customer experience with artificial interaction. In many companies, multiple customer interactions are captured in disconnected databases without synchronization of touch points. But really good companies — Amazon, for instance — merge touch points for each individual to enhance the customer experience.
For example: If a customer talks to a representative at a call center in New York, visits the online store, and makes a final purchase in a Dallas store, all of these interactions are captured in different databases and may never connect for a holistic view of this customer’s purchase cycle. In order to improve databases and artificial interactions, these touch points need to be integrated into a synchronized database to paint an accurate picture of your customer — ultimately enhancing the overall customer experience.
Enhancing Customer Experience
According to a Walker study, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by the year 2020. With that in mind, marketers have no choice but to improve interactions and data capture. These enhancements to customer experiences are the parts of AI that excite me the most.
Few things are as annoying as the discernible robotic interaction of unnecessary retargeting, which can steer users away from your brand. While premature artificial interaction systems retarget without knowing where you are in your purchase cycle, highly developed AI will synchronize touch points to retarget you until you reach the desired goal: a purchase. So, instead of continuing to receive retargeting ads for a product you’ve already purchased, the system will know when you make the purchase and stop retargeting you (or start serving you different ads that compliment your purchase). And this level of sophistication requires human intelligence to plug the right formulas and rules into the technology, giving the user a smartly tailored experience.
So while artificial interactions can greatly improve customer experience by eliminating the frustration of nonresponsive customer service, there’s a fine line to using it correctly. Ultimately, the end goal is to engage customers — which sometimes requires outside-the-box thinking — and make them happy.