Field Notes: AI, Bad Ads, And Marketing Challenges At Scale

I’m spending several days this week sitting in on conversations at CommerceNext, a conference dedicated to innovation in retail strategy, eCommerce, and tech. Here are some key takeaways from Day One:

The path towards personalization is an investment. It takes the right blend of manpower, resources, and technology, to bring a working system to fruition. Not to mention, the ability to access, acquire, and activate, the data you need to power the process at scale.

For Dave Atchison, CEO, New Engen, content optimization is king, and a lack of assets can set barriers when building unique creatives for advertising. Marketers need to look at their creatives holistically. The challenge: how can a photo, video, or messaging, be repurposed, rewritten, or repackaged, in a way that creates an entirely new experience for target audiences?

This is especially crucial for smaller teams that may not have the resources to build entirely new campaigns on a highly-personalized level, at scale. Advertising platforms, like Facebook’s newly-released video studio, are starting to make repurposing more accessible. Vendor partners can also mitigate risk through content recommendation, bidding, targeting, and identifying best courses of action.

The key, Atchison says, is regular performance testing. Retail brands traditionally run on seasonal schedules. Campaigns are built, set, and run their course. But operating for personalization is a continuous process; campaigns must be constantly optimized to turn rollercoaster revenue spikes into a meandering stream of consistent ROI.

The other issue is content fatigue. There will always be those “bad marketers,” as Atchison says, who blast audiences with the same ads over, and over – and over – again. It’s a frustrating experience for customers, especially when the creative isn’t relevant. Consumers don’t want to see an ad for something they’ve just purchased – they need something new.

Another challenge: keeping up with customers. It’s a two-fold problem, really. Emerging technology is evolving faster than companies can keep up with. First, there was the massive shift to mobile adoption. And now, with the rise of voice over the horizon, marketers will need to decide the best ways to invest and innovate their brand.

The other side is the success of the marketing operation itself. The goal of every company is to grow. But say you’re a small eCommerce company that suddenly scales. A team that handled thousands of customers suddenly must deal with hundreds of thousands, or millions. The effectiveness of teams, Atchison says, grows increasingly complex the bigger an organization gets.

Technology steps in

April Mullen, director of consumer-first marketing adoption, Selligent, says marketers need to make sense of their tech stacks to help connect the dots for customer experience. More cross-channel data transparency can help surface more cohesive insights.

Earlier this year, Selligent introduced a layer of AI to their rebranded Selligent Marketing Cloud. The data platform “offers a marketer-managed consumer data repository that keeps that data organized and secure, while feeding real-time marketing initiatives across desired channels.”

Though the goal of AI is to help crunch huge amounts of data in short periods of time. But the sophistication of the technology isn’t quite there just yet, Mullen says – it’s only getting started. Algorithms must be trained and tweaked by marketing teams in a way to provide necessary results. And even when you have data necessary to build truly personalized campaigns effectively, those communications need to be executed in a way that’s valuable to the customer, Mullen says.

Personalization needs to be human. But technology can be the partner to help achieve it at scale.

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