Dave O’Flanagan is CEO of customer intelligence cloud vendor Boxever.
What are the main ways AI/machine learning will impact marketers and their work in the next year or two?
The greatest impact AI/machine learning will have on the marketing industry in the next year or two is that they will help marketers deliver smarter, more data-driven interactions with their customers across all channels. Technology has fundamentally changed how marketers do their jobs and achieve their goals. Today’s marketing executives need to be far more analytically-oriented and allow technology to firmly live within our comfort zone. The days of a marketer saying that technology is “IT’s problem” are far behind us. Marketers must work with these new forms of technology to drive business growth and secure customer loyalty. Over the next few years, marketing professionals will need to become more technically and digitally savvy to meet the needs of the modern customer experience.
In summary, what will be the long-term impact of AI/machine learning on marketing?
AI and machine learning are here to stay. Humans must learn to work side-by-side with machines in order to be successful in today’s customer-centric world. Consumers today are looking for businesses to interact with them on an individual level, communicating with them seamlessly across both offline and online channels. The airlines we work with at Boxever have thousands of customers, and there is no way several human employees can successfully market to all those individuals on a personalized level. However, a centralized data platform can pull data from all these channels, and AI and machine learning can then use this data to make smart interactions with the customer on the right channel at the right time. AI and machines won’t do away with human jobs, rather it will help marketers to be more successful in their interactions with customers, and ultimately, allow marketing professionals to focus on higher level tasks that require advanced skillsets.
How is AI/machine learning incorporated in the work you’re doing?
Marketers turn to Boxever because they are struggling with real-time, 1:1, omnichannel personalization. Each channel (email, web, mobile) has its own set of tools for personalization, which means marketers need to create a set of rules and decisions for every network. With limited time and resources, marketers previously were focusing on personalizing for only one specific channel, not for each customer. By using a solution like Boxever, marketers have a centralized hub for rules and decision making that can be applied to any channel, ensuring that their customers have a consistent, personalized experience whenever, wherever.
In your experience, is AI/machine learning already affecting what brands do, or are awareness and adoption still very limited?
While the industry is starting to understand the positive impact of AI and machine learning, the adoption of technology to support personalization marketing efforts is still low. Survey data from the 2017 World Retail Congress (WRC) proves this point. According to the findings, 95 percent of retailers surveyed stated that personalization is a strategic priority for their business. Yet only 15 percent admit to having fully implemented personalization strategies. So how do we get from awareness to implementation?
My advice would be that marketers expand their knowledge of technologies like AI and machine learning. Having a technology background is essential for marketing success today. One of the biggest hurdles marketers can face when it comes to technology is a feeling that “I don’t understand this and therefore I’m going to let IT people dictate to me what’s possible.” Having a technology background gives them greater confidence to have technical conversations with IT leaders at their level. It also gives a marketer a very strong hand when entering negotiations to implement a certain tool or solution. The best marketers I’ve worked with are ones who can traverse the technical-business line with ease.