Partner Voices: Using Artificial Intelligence to Build Real Relationships
Personalization. Relevancy. Omnichannel. Customer journeys. All these terms and more get thrown around when it comes to marketing to today’s consumer, and for good reason. They’re all used in an attempt to address the core problem faced by every brand competing for shoppers’ increasingly divided attentions: building real, one-to-one relationships with customers — at scale. Authentic, sustainable customer relationships are key to long-term business success.
According to a , 34 percent of shoppers reported “breaking up” with a brand because of “poor, disruptive or irrelevant marketing messages.” Of them, over half (53 percent) attributed parting ways to irrelevant messages sent via multiple channels, and one-third (33 percent) said they did so because the messages were generic and obviously sent en masse.
It’s Not You, It’s (About) Me
The modern shopper is savvy in the art of price checking, comparison shopping and independent vetting through online reviews and other research. According to , 41 percent of shoppers engage in “showrooming” — i.e., checking out a product in-store before going online to find the best price — more often than they did a year ago. Showrooming is easier than ever thanks to smartphones that enable instantaneous access to information no matter where a shopper is.
Therein lies the problem: Armed with all the information the internet can offer, shoppers today see right through most brands’ marketing efforts. They know if messaging has been tailored to their interests or if they’re receiving a generic blanket promotion. Customers have grown more and more adept at ignoring the latter.
With the rise of e-commerce, and mobile in particular, consumers have an unprecedented number of channels through which they can make purchases. This affords them the ability to demand a customer-centric shopping experience, at the center of which are their unique needs and interests. It’s no longer a question of whether marketing should be personalized, but how well brands are doing it.
Lifecycle Marketing: A Good First Step, But …
Lifecycle marketing was the industry’s first smart response to this shift in customer behavior. The concept posits a “lifecycle” that represents the different stages of a consumer-brand relationship, from initial contact to final purchase. Campaigns are built around these different stages, which creates a more targeted experience for customers.
This method is a significant improvement over sending the same message at the same time through the same channel to all of your customers (i.e., batching and blasting). When combined with data-driven insights on best times to message these customers, or best optimized offers, brands get quite close to delivering a degree of personalization on a large and repeatable scale. It’s also important because it’s the first real step toward focusing on long-term relationships between customers and brands.
Still, lifecycle marketing falls short of creating truly personalized customer experiences at scale. The concept is based on the assumption that the customer lifecycle is static, and that every customer has the same trajectory at similar stages.
Enter AI (Not the Robot Kind)
This is where (AI) comes in — no, not the robot kind. Advances in this field of study include deep machine intelligence, which processes massive amounts of data and uses those insights to create powerful predictions. The technology can then determine the right message for each customer, and automatically send that message via the best channel at the time that customer is most likely to convert.
This is true one-to-one engagement. AI brings adaptive marketing down to an individual level. Predictive analytics alone can identify which stage of the lifecycle a customer is in; however, AI technology can take direct action based on those predictions. AI removes the static framework of a customer’s lifecycle, and instead uses their actions and data to adapt to each singular journey.
It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s through this level of micro-precision that machines help build better relationships with your customers than humans can. Machine intelligence enables computers to uncover insights from vast amounts of complex data, use that data to make predictions, and then take actions to create unique experiences for thousands or even millions of individual customers. Every customer action can set off any number of reactions; AI has the ability to pick the best one.
AI’s True Advantage
Most importantly, AI-powered marketing allows retailers the freedom to focus on building a brand rather than trying to map out journeys to create a crude approximation of personalization. Since AI can take care of the logistics, optimizations and messaging, marketers have the advantage and opportunity to create compelling content and develop new ways to engage and delight customers.