Artificial intelligence (AI) is a hot topic at the moment, and there’s a reason for that. It’s a powerful tool, and it’s also big business – in fact, global spending on AI is set to reach $57.6 billion by 2021, and the number of jobs requiring AI skills has increased by 450% in just the last five years. One report from BrightEdge found that the next big marketing trend is seen as being consumer personalization (29%), followed by AI (26%). Our question to you is, “Why not both?”
After all, artificial intelligence and personalisation go hand-in-hand. AI is the perfect tool to process the huge amounts of data that we’re creating and storing about our customers, and it can wrap its metaphorical head around more information than any human being could ever hope to process. Data is the new oil, and marketing departments and sales teams are both in the perfect place to take advantage of that.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence go hand in hand, but they’re not identical. Machine learning is essentially AI on steroids, a complicated piece of software that can simulate intelligence by “teaching” itself to understand the data it’s presented with. It’s machine learning that powers Netflix’s algorithm, which presents users with recommendations based on what other, similar users have enjoyed.
At the moment, the way that we handle email personalisation is largely superficial. Just adding somebody’s name into an email isn’t good enough, and segmenting them into different lists is only the beginning. Machine learning effectively allows you to segment people into lists of one, providing a truly personalised experience for every prospect. It’s the closest thing that email marketing has ever had to the personal touch that you get from a local business where the owner knows every single one of his customers.
The Netflix of marketing?
Imagine being able to apply artificial intelligence and machine learning to marketing in the same way that Netflix processes data for its millions of users. The technologies are already being used in some newer customer relationship management (CRM) systems, but they need data to be able to work at their best. The good news is that we’re creating more data than ever before, and many companies already have a head start because they’ve been storing historical data for years.
Remember too that AI can be applied to many of our existing concepts. For example, it could help you to carry out A/B tests at scale while simultaneously improving the quality of your data by identifying any other factors that might have swayed the results. It could also help you to process data from different sources and to convert it to a single, universal format.
Even if you’re not using artificial intelligence as part of your approach to email marketing, it’s a good idea to start future-proofing by focusing on the quality of your email list and the data that you’re able to gather on prospects. You can also work on collecting demographic data and scraping social networking sites. For most companies, their database is their greatest asset. Taking the time to build and improve it is just investing in the future.
Artificial intelligence, big data and machine learning will continue to be hot topics for marketers in the months and years to come, and so you’d be wise to invest at least part of your time and your budget into getting to know the technologies. This is especially true for larger companies with big data stores and for the early adopters who are looking for an edge on the competition.
In the future, it’s likely that we’ll be using AI within our email marketing as a matter of course. Big providers like Mailchimp and Constant Contact will find ways to build AI into their systems via a user-friendly interface that makes it easy for marketers of all abilities to take advantage of it. Until then, there’s no level playing field. AI can provide a strategic advantage to anyone who’s ready. Are you?