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How AI is enabling marketers to create customer experiences

At Adobe’s recent Summit in Las Vegas. Sir Richard Branson, Leslie Jones (SNL), and JJ Watt (NFL player) all helped Adobe CEO, Shantanu Narayen deliver the message “People today buy experiences, not products,” to an audience of 13,000 marketers. Predictably, businesses are now planning to wow customers with personalised experiences rather than generic marketing messages.

Technology

Marcus Lambert

CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER

For over 20 years, Marcus has built a global reputation as a technology innovator. Today, he architects and delivers world- class products and projects that solve real business problems.

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Adobe famously launched their Experience Cloud at last year’s event as the industry dived head-first into the digital transformation headfirst. When you peer under the hood to see what makes all this possible, you quickly learn that Adobe Sensei, the company’s Artificial Intelligence, and machine-learning framework is at the heart of everything.

There was also an announcement of plans to optimise Adobe Sensei for NVIDIA GPUs to speed up the time to market and improve the performance of Adobe customers and developers. The combination of AI and machine learning looks set to be a game-changer for marketers.

Essentially these advances in technology are making it possible to interpret data and combine it with content in real time. Businesses can then provide consumers with exactly what they are looking for on the right device at the right time. But, with GDPR on the horizon, consumers are also subscribers that are one click away from cancelling their subscription.

“It used to be that products were the basis of differentiation, but not anymore, because businesses must now deliver great experiences to win in this increasingly competitive world, competing for the hearts and minds of all their customers and exceeding the ever-increasing expectations that consumers have during every point in the journey.” – Shantanu Narayen

The concept of AI and speaking to digital assistants used to be nothing more than science fiction. Now our homes have become like the Starship Enterprise as we manage our home lighting and entertainment with our voice. But, what does this mean for B2B?

We all carry these same expectations into the office. Ironically, AI will force the world of B2B to become a lot more human. For example, generic marketing will fall on deaf ears and businesses will need to understand human wants, needs, and requirements without being too creepy. Sure, AI solutions will carry out mundane tasks and automate long-winded processes. But, it will also play a significant role in providing exceptional customer experiences in both the worlds of B2B and B2C.

At the B-To-B Customer Experience Summit, a study by Walker Information revealed that customer experience (CX) will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2020.

Customer journey mapping and measuring CX will help businesses identify interactions and friction points that a customer has with your company. Only after taking a holistic approach that begins with the first point of contact, through various stages of engagement and into a long-term relationship should AI and tech solutions be added into the right places to delight the customer.

Customer expectations are now pushing technology forward. Flyers of Delta airlines can already receive a push notification on their phone when their suitcase has been loaded onto their plane. You can even then skip check-in lines at Marriott or Hilton hotels and use your smartphone to unlock the door of your hotel room. But, how do companies create these experiences?

Marketers as subject matter experts and data scientists are rapidly becoming invaluable to organisations. These are the roles that enable them to customise algorithms and automate their marketing efforts. Make no mistake AI and machine learning are the stars of the show. For example here is a list of developing areas of marriage.

1. Recommendation engines – users like you looked at these services/products

2. Chatbots – use natural Language processing to understand customer intent (According to Gartner, by 2021, early adopter brands that redesign their websites to support visual and voice search will increase digital commerce revenue by 30%.)

3. Search engines – use a number of techniques to personalise and boost search terms for customers based on their location, device or past browsing habits

4. Sentiment – signals for brands using social listening is a common use case or inside customer call centre doing call analysis to help train personnel to raise quality and NPS. Take a look at https://www.repustate.com/

5. Image recognition – auto tagging images uploaded into CMSs, as well brands looking for authentic user generated content (USG) like a person holding a coke allows brand to retweet or use in campaigns. (This area, has really come on in the last few years to the point that it is now very commercialised. Take a look at with Microsoft cognitive services or IBM Watson and the google vision API)

6. Dynamic pricing – looking at funnel data to put a price in front of the customer that converts them.

7. Ad targeting – Programmatic media buying, marketing and advertising is the algorithmic purchase and sale of advertising space in real time

8. Speech recognition

9. Language recognition

10. Customer segmentation – data mining multiple customer dataset for patterns and cohorts that humans don’t see naturally.

11. Sales/marketing prediction or forecasting

12. Content generation – a developing area

But what does it for mean for us?
For consumers both as businesses and individuals, this means that every aspect of our habits both online and offline will be used to build a profile that serves them more efficiently. Our location, browsing habits, all interaction information and shopping patterns at physical stores and online all help break down our unique needs and requirements. All this data from multiple platforms and properties is being stitched together.

It could be as simple as sending gentle reminders about items left abandoned on a store’s website or news about sales items we have expressed interest in the past. However, each of us will have a preferred method of communication such as email, SMS, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. Attention to these details will be the difference between intrusive and welcomed contact.

There is a fine line between wowing and annoying your customers so businesses must act responsibly and provide complete transparency to avoid doing more harm than good. Many articles are warning that AI will pave the way for a dystopian future where machines and algorithms rule the earth. But, it should bring a little humanity back to marketing if done right.

For example, many big companies currently attempt to engage with their audience with generic marketing messages with “do-not-reply” in the sender line. Why would any business actively add to the recipient’s mailbox and proudly declare, that they don’t want you to reply or communicate with them?

From the moment we open our eyes, many of us will reach for our phone and delete as many irrelevant messages as we can. Brands need to have a personality and two-way engagement to have any chance of being relevant to us.

The symbiotic relationship between AI and the digital transformation might put marketing on a path towards automation and personalisation, but it’s people that hold the key to its success. Culture change and removal of organisational silos must be paramount to allow all functions to collaborate successfully.

The traditional marketing team often had a strained relationship with IT departments who often appeared to restrict their creativity with their rigid and serious approach to everything. Meanwhile, the guardians of corporate networks looked on in horror at marketing types who had little regard for rules or IT governance.

Here in 2018 and beyond it has never been more critical for these two teams to not only get along but collaborate seamlessly. To deliver meaningful change, there is a strong argument that new structures will be required to bring departments together to create a new mindset that can leverage these emerging technologies.

When it comes to wowing customers with technology, few can create seamless experiences where the technology is invisible like Disney. However, it is also worth highlighting their Take Five program, encourages cast members to take five minutes out of every day to do something special for a guest.

A unified team fit to serve a digital age will be able to create personalised experiences and new insights to meet the rising expectation levels of the modern consumer. Forget the horror stories; the future involves humans and machines working together rather than against each other.

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