Machines are taking over more marketing decisions every month for an ever-growing number of businesses. This has led many concerned people to ask what may become of the digital marketing industry within the next five years. Should marketers start preparing for a very different future?
The truth is complex but nowhere near as grim as some would have you believe. Toward the end of my companion article to this piece —in which I explore several artificial intelligence (AI) trends that will define digital marketing in the near future—I mention that over the next few years, humans will move from being merely operators of digital marketing tools to being curators, and even collaborators with machines.
This is already the case in many businesses. The latest generation of AI marketing tools is already making an impact on customer profiling, ad targeting, and content testing and optimisation. Here I explore some of the main areas where machines are transforming marketing, and how AI tools can make marketing easier for your business.
Maintaining a blog of curated content and commentary was once a full-time job. Not so now that machine-aided web design is rapidly being replaced by machine-driven design. For example, there are companies providing “AI web designers” that perform multivariate testing on millions of versions of every page until they arrive at the top-performing version and using natural language generation (NLG) to turn a spreadsheet of data into a completely original article, right on the spot. This greatly levels the playing field, providing one-person start-ups with the same iterative design and content generation power used by Fortune 500 enterprises.
AI-driven design goes far beyond content creation. Today’s generative design algorithms can start with a human-specified list of goals and constraints, then explore multidimensional solution sets to arrive not only at new content, but at entire new campaigns and strategies that human marketers might never have considered. Some have called this a kind of artificial accelerated evolution, testing and redesigning millions of possible campaigns, quite literally overnight.
Keyword-based targeting is beginning to die out. The latest content targeting algorithms scan popular content based on context, sentiment, and semantics (just as a human marketer would) and recommend context-relevant ads targeted at those audiences most likely to respond and take action. This offers an obvious advantage over traditional “dumb” keyword targeting, which values ad space based solely on clicks and impressions.
Recommendations and content curation
Whether you’re using AI to generate your content or curating it yourself, the latest generation of analytics has become adept at analysing visitor behaviour, learning from real-time feedback, and serving audiences with tailored suggestions that improve over time. The days of “you might also like …” are rapidly coming to an end, as suggestions based on clicks and purchase patterns are being replaced by smarter and more rational recommendations, derived from a robust understanding of each visitor’s actual needs and interests.
As you supplement your first-party customer data with second-party data from your partners, as well as third-party data purchased from companies like Nielsen or Axiom, segment discovery algorithms make it easy to expand your addressable audience by automatically generating predictions about customer segments that will grow in value over time. As you zero in on these new segments, lookalike modelling algorithms can find new audiences whose traits resemble those of your highest-value customers. Although these people may never have heard of your brand, you can begin to shift your advertising spend toward them.
Understanding your customers’ current needs and desires is only the beginning. Predictive analytic algorithms analyse your users’ data—behavioural, submitted, and otherwise—to discover insights and predict their future behaviour. In other words, you’ll not only know why your customer got in touch last time, but why they’re most likely to reach out to you next time. This lets you allocate resources much more intelligently, and deliver enhanced personalisation that greets each customer with exactly the content they’re looking for, before they’ve even asked you for it.
As I mentioned in the companion article, the idea of digital marketing AI is not to replace people with robots, but to “remove the robot from the person,” as Aviva’s CFO, Tom Stoddard, superbly expressed it in a recent interview. The more of the grunt work marketers can hand over to the capable hands of machines, the more they’ll be free to tell creative, original stories about their brands. To find out how Adobe is building AI into our cloud platform, and enabling many of the capabilities mentioned above through Adobe Sensei, read more here.