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AI will continue to bring human versus machine comparisons in 2023, particularly with its growing influence in marketing and how marketing professionals do their jobs.
The AI industry could contribute up to $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030, according to the "Global Artificial Intelligence Study" published by PwC, the international consultancy. With AI-powered tools, marketing operation teams can spot trends, predict behavior and personalize marketing campaigns to target audiences.
What is AI?
AI is a type of computer science where machines model the human mind and perform tasks that need human intelligence using large data sets. AI algorithms make predictions and classify data based on their machine learning model.
People use AI every day without a thought. AI technology underpins smart assistants, such as Alexa and Siri, and chatbots for customer service. It also shows up in leisure activities, such as Netflix programming or in Amazon product recommendations.
"AI can be beneficial to corporations because it can speed up business decisions without human constraint," said Liz Miller, analyst at Constellation Research, based in Monte Vista, Calif. The following are some examples of how AI can help marketing professionals.
1. Content creation
ChatGPT made a splash when it was released in late November 2022 by OpenAI, the research lab arm of OpenAI Inc., which is based in San Francisco. There are other AI content generators available where users input a subject, type of content and key points to include and the machine spits out a draft, which some say is controversial for cheating and plagiarism.
AI content generators can also turn existing content into other forms. For example, Paul Roetzer, founder and CEO of the Marketing AI Institute in Cleveland, said he asks an AI content generator to turn his podcasts into blog posts, which the tool can do in a short period of time. However, the content still needs to be edited and reviewed. AI pulls information from set data, and it still requires fact-checking.
Users adopt AI content tools in different ways, depending on their skills, Roetzer said. A skilled writer may use it for a support tool to assist with an article, while someone that is not as strong a writer may use it more for help with writing emails or getting a first draft.
Learn more here about the pros and cons of AI-generated content.
2. Predictive analytics
Companies can use AI's predictive analytics to predetermine a customer's likely decision. It follows the "if someone does this, then that usually happens" model instead of marketing waiting for someone to take the action. AI technologies use algorithms to sort and analyze large amounts of data to find a specific objective. With AI, predictive analytics helps guide interactions with customers and businesses. AI can also personalize customer service content so it is relevant to each person and not a standard response to everyone, Miller said.
Chatbots use AI to converse with users. Their beauty -- at least according to companies that use them for customer service -- is that they can be available 24/7 to assist online visitors.
Chatbots are built with a set of rules, but AI can change these rules based on user behaviors, said Griffin LaFleur, senior marketing operations manager at Swing Education Inc., a San Mateo, Calif., company which matches substitute teachers with schools and students who need them. AI helps chatbots continue to learn to improve conversations based on data it collects from users. Training a chatbot is continuous with AI. As chatbots learn with each experience, it increases their ability to converse like a human.
4. Task automation
AI can automate tedious tasks, such as audio transcription. Transcriptions can be summarized into blog posts or short articles. Writers can use AI to update a company's existing content to different formats, such as turning a marketing brochure into an email draft.
AI can also take one social media post, update it and post it on different social media platforms. Each platform has different audiences and formats, but AI can use these formats and craft the message for each platform. It can create headlines and optimize for search engines, LaFleur said.
5. Email optimization
AI can punch up email marketing by increasing open rates and speeding up the development of custom campaigns. It can write email subject lines and personalize the content to different people. AI tools can also restructure an email campaign using historical data.
LaFleur noted that AI can optimize the send times for engagement based on each person. AI does this by analyzing the typical times this person opens emails and sends the email based on each finding.
AI can also clean up contacts and improve email lists quickly to ensure the company reaches the right customers.
6. Product recommendations
Product recommendations use customer data to say, "Customers who bought this typically bought that," or highlight products frequently bought together.
"This will be huge for e-commerce," LaFleur said.
Machine learning improves product recommendations as it improves predictions on products a customer will buy. AI-powered tools can make quicker recommendations based on each customer's preferences and behaviors.
AI can uncover trends and insights that can enhance a company's advertising. For example, AI programs can send push notifications, write headlines, create digital ads and personalize messages with a company's language and tone.
AI can also help with generational marketing by personalizing the messages to different audiences through language, music, images and style instead of the one-size-fits-all ad.
Griffin LaFleurSenior marketing operations manager, Swing Education
Obstacles and ethical concerns for AI in marketing
There are other considerations with AI in marketing. Even though AI can write large amounts of content, someone must review the content for accuracy and readability. AI pulls from data. So, some adjectives such as colors or shapes may be incorrect, or it may sound too robotic, which Google penalizes when ranking pages. AI also uses predictive text to create text, so the writing may sound off or not make any sense at all.
"AI should be used as more of a tool for support than a crutch to be relied on," LaFleur said.
Ethical issues surrounding AI include cheating and plagiarism, so it needs to be used correctly. Also, when training AI and chatbots, bias can be an issue, which can lead to skewed data or even racial prejudice.
Because today's tools merely make predictions based on the data they pull, they may state information authoritatively that isn't true because of the way the language model works, Roetzer said.
Some AI tools are free, but advanced tools can be pricey. Some companies may prefer to amortize the high price of AI instead of hiring another marketing pro. It's doubtful that AI will ever replace humans, but the tools will be necessary to stay competitive, Roetzer said.
There is much to consider when adopting AI. There is training, information gathering, and deciding who gets the information and how that information is handled. Customers must answer these questions first before adopting AI.
"AI will only be as successful as a company's internal systems and infrastructure," Miller said.