The Future of AI Marketers

April 19, 2017

What will AI in marketing look like in the future?

The term artificial intelligence promises a futuristic vision of self-learning machines and intelligent digital assistants. But today it’s thrown around to describe even the most basic forms that it can take, from inquisitive chat bots to Amazon’s Alexa, our housekeeper of the future. Arguably, the true test of machine learning is not so much about how accurate its predictions are (based on past behaviour and what we input directly) it’s really about how correctly they can anticipate future actions based on information outside of what can be directly accessed. So what can we expect from the next generation of smart AI? And how will it impact the world of customer experience?  Particularly in e-commerce marketing? The AI we anticipate will enter our lives is a computer that adopts a more human approach to its thought process, yet it’s not so human that we’re put off by its capabilities…. Think of a revamped 2020 version of SmarterChild, our messenger friend when no one else was online, rather than the Terminator.

AI, Our Next Social Media Star?

In the world of content marketing, one that’s become intrinsically tied to social media, the popularity of online influencers is based on their ability to engage their audiences authentically. Our data has shown that a sizeable amount of consumers (around 40% at its highest) particularly in Asia and the USA, find social media advertisements more interesting than those found in traditional media. The perception that the content delivered to their screens through social media is more unique and invites conversation, may have something to do with how interesting and useful they consider the adverts to be. AI will be capable of tailoring a message, or a piece of content, a million different ways based on individual tastes or preferences. This, finally, signals the end of an era of mass marketing and a boost to these intimate, one-to-one conversations.

We can also look to a Foresight Factory trend Conversational Commerce to see how AI will influence the consumer purchase experience.  Consumers will talk to brands using AI through messaging apps, asking and receiving answers to their questions from a virtual assistant, as though they were dealing with a trusted sales associate.  These chant channels exist currently, and are manned by humans, but it won’t be long before AI takes over providing an even better, even more personalised assistance. At present, with the exception of WeChat, brands have to look to their own apps for an integrated messaging system. However, in the near future, ‘clienteling’ (an emerging customer  relationship management strategy) will take place within the apps and software installed with the operating systems on our phones, creating opportunities to build brand loyalty and providing intimate, smart suggestions. For example, recommending toys for your baby niece who features in the profile picture that you uploaded a minute ago.

AI, Our New Best Friend

How far can we go in choosing our friends? Is friendship based on how well someone knows us, or how often they’re there as a shoulder to cry on? Another Foresight Factory trend, Computers Learn Human, suggests in the near future we can expect AI to be more than Siri telling us what the weather will be tomorrow.  If you’re in the UK, most likely cloudy with the chance of rain! Instead it will be able to hold an informative conversation that’s empathetic to our tone of voice. Considering the development of facial recognition and expression-reading software, it isn’t going too far to suggest we may start looking at our AI enabled devices to comfort us with music suggestions, or make takeaway recommendations based on our mood. With wearable tech, we may even be sent a warm, pressurised ‘hug’ from our technology and be prompted to get in touch with our most accessed contact when it senses we’re in need of comfort. Let’s just hope that ‘contact’ isn’t our AI assistant, and we’ve still retained some human relationships.

Back to the question about friendship, let’s consider the kind of AI that we’ve experienced from brands to date. Typically ‘opt in’ and usually tied to big ticket items  –  think self-fixing cars that  learn your preferences and habits – to help the item work more efficiently or drive some other important, but tangible outcome, like road safety.  Not exactly likely to become my BFF.

So what about the development of AI in recommended marketing, something that already exists today and has been widely accepted, if not at least tolerated? Amazon and Netflix are prime examples of how suggested videos or recommended products have infiltrated our online experience. And our data shows that an eye-opening average of 71% of EU citizens believe that providing personal information is an increasing part of modern life. This type of marketing AI isn’t so much a friend you might ask what to wear to your friend’s engagement party next week.  It’s one that has been stalking your browser history and probably already reserved your size, just waiting for you to give the command to buy.

However, this doesn’t seem to bother most people. EU consumers rate the risk of ‘unwanted’ commercial offers as a result of providing personal information at 19%. Luckily for AI marketing technology, it is unlikely to face a hoard of pitchforks and fire when compared to consumers’ fear of fraud, which is the highest data point at 50%. Ultimately, the AI marketing channel will be that internet friend we won’t mind having a chat to when we need something. Although when we’re online, we’re automatically seen as potential customers. We’re IP addresses with green lights telling these ‘friendly’ algorithms to ‘Go’!



Written by Josh McBain

Josh McBain is Consultancy Director at Foresight Factory. He leads a team of consultants and client analysts who specialize in the design, delivery and communication of strategic consultancy projects. He has a proven track record of producing consultancy projects that have driven commercial growth, created extensive global media buzz and influenced government policy.

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