AI, Automation, and the Road to Marketing Heaven

Depending on who you talk to, AI and automation are either the answer to all of our prayers, or a massive cause for concern. Are they going to solve every issue a marketer has ever faced? Or are they going to eventually steal our jobs? As is most often the case, the answer lies somewhere in between. If we use them properly, AI and automation can speed up manual processes and help us to be more effective and efficient. Plus, if we hone some of our other skills in the meantime, there’s no way we can be replaced entirely.

If AI and automation are going to be used to their full potential, it’s up to marketers to think holistically. We need to look at the whole life-cycle of our audiences and customers, because at every step of the journey, automation has a role to play.

Grabbing customers in the first place

One of the best things about automation is that it can do things humans could only dream of. Automated systems can suck in vast amounts of data from various sources, churn it all up and produce something useful and potentially lucrative. Something like a lookalike audience. I’m sure I don’t have to explain what a lookalike audience is, but all marketers know that they have their part to play in the grand scheme of our campaigns. Thanks to clever technology, we can find other people who could have an interest in our product or service and start marketing to them, before they’ve even begun their own journey with our brand.

The next step is to analyse your audience’s behaviour. AI and automation can predict consumer actions based on what else they’re doing online and what else they are purchasing. With that information you can make sure you advertise in the right places, serve the content they want to see, and put your products in front of them when they’re ready to buy. It means that you can be more deliberate about your marketing efforts, so that your time and money is well spent.

Now, let’s say your potential customer has shown so much interest that they’ve actually put a product into their cart and started the check-out process. Abandoned carts are a potential goldmine that AI and automation can help you tap into. The most common reasons for abandoned carts are glitches in the check out process, or the need to create an account. However, these are by no means the only things at play, so using automation to contact potential customers and find out why they didn’t buy, can be helpful as well as lucrative. AI and automation can help you go beyond the basic email that reminds the customer that they have something in their basket, and find out what stopped them from buying. You might be able to make improvements to your site that will have a real impact on your conversion rate.

Keeping customers happy

Once your customer has made a purchase, you want to keep them sweet. There’s a wealth of evidence that shows that getting customers to make repeat purchases is much more cost effective than constantly vying for new customers. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it’s nice that the stats back-up common sense. And it’s a long game. Atomic Reach have found that “The average repeat customer spends 67% more in 31 to 36 months with a business than zero to six months.” How many of us are giving our customers love and attention for that long? Not enough! So how do you use AI and automation to capitalise on that?

Customer service is a great way that AI and automation can save your bacon. No matter what niche your business is in, there is bound to be fierce competition. Outstanding customer service is essential to help you stand out from the crowd, but it’s also very time consuming to get right. Thankfully, automation can help. Customers are becoming increasingly familiar and comfortable with chatbots, which are entirely automated and run by artificial intelligence. They can deal with a vast amount of customer support, which saves valuable human time for the more complicated issues, while keeping your customers happy. Win win!

If you can keep them sweet, your previous customers can be a captive audience. You know they like what you do and there’s a chance they’ll want more of it. So how do you keep them keen? Staying in contact with customers requires a tactful balance. You want to stay forefront in their mind, but it’s got to be relevant. Yet again, AI and automation come to the rescue. They can crunch your product data compared with the customer’s purchasing history, so that you can email them with promotional messaging, product recommendations, and relevant content. Yet again, automation takes the drudgery out of marketing, so you can get on with the more exciting things.

The human element

As great as all of this automation is, there will always be a place for actual, real marketers. If nothing else, it’s up to us to test, test and test again. AI and automation are very clever, but they aren’t infallible, and we can’t just blindly believe that they are always doing everything right. Marketers are no strangers to testing their work, but it’s especially important for automation. Get familiar with your filters, scripts and so on, and keep on top of your automations.

Beyond that, there is a real human element to marketing, that artificial intelligence simply cannot replace. While automations take care of the time-consuming, repetitive tasks that often fill our days, we will be left to the bigger picture, and the more complex elements of marketing. Relationship-building, imagination and emotional intelligence are just a few of the attributes that robots can’t emulate just yet.

So as long as you keep innovating, stay creative and continue to build your network, you’ll be just fine.