This blog is the second installment of a 2-part series on how artificial intelligence (AI) can help marketers put their customer data to work discussed in a rare joint webinar with Forrester Research and VentureBeat.
In the first part of this series, we explained how marketers can win their customers’ moments if they fully harness all their customer data — which is easier said than done since most marketers admit to only using 10% of their customer data.
“50% of Marketers State Data Unification as their Greatest Challenge to making the most of their customer data.”
Having existing data silos is one of the main reasons why marketers cannot fully leverage all their customer data. Customer data often sits in disparate and geographically dispersed systems. “Marrying” all this data can be extremely difficult. At a recent Forrester webinar, half of polled marketers said that data unification is their greatest challenge when they want to make the most of their customer data.
Armed with artificial intelligence (AI), however, marketers can successfully break data silos and effectively generate and orchestrate customer insights and actionable intelligence quickly.
But hold on…don’t end up like countless other marketers who have battle scars from trying to bring AI into their organization. I have personally spoken with dozens of marketers and product leads who have “battle scars” when trying to implement AI into their marketing stack in the past. Before you implement AI, first consider these three crucial dimensions (Strategy, Process, Technology) in order to make the most of your AI investments and avoid costly mistakes.
It’s fairly straight-forward… don’t jump to a tool before you know what you want. Start with a strategy for fully maximizing the potential of AI. Determine what the marketing team –– or, better yet, the organization as a whole (more about this in the next section) –– is trying to accomplish and how, using AI, it can deliver business results. A key question to ask here is, “How will AI help me scale my results?”
The ultimate goal should be to become customer-led and data-driven because customer experience is the new battlefield. According to Forrester, many organizations aspire to become customer-centric and data-driven (70%), yet few can turn data into profitable actions (29%). AI can bridge this gap and enable marketers to become customer-led, insights-driven, fast, and connected. AI will give them greater visibility into customer behavior, make appropriate and contextual offers, and deliver personalized and unified experiences across all channels. And based on the insights generated, AI empowers marketers to further optimize their offerings and overall strategy.
TIP 1: Think about how you will measure the success of your efforts (KPIs).
TIP 2: Your strategy must include a “Crawl, Walk, Run” approach when rolling out AI that has clear KPIs at each step.
AI adoption impacts not just marketing processes but the entire business. Determine the organizational gaps that must be closed and address the factors and misconceptions that may hinder the organization from implementing AI.
TIP 3: Draw out the customer journey (physically draw it out) and include all steps in the process beyond just what happens in marketing. Understand where the bottlenecks are and address the key pieces that you wish to have AI help you solve. (this could be data unification, post-sale tracking, behavior tracking, multi-channel engagement, customer experience)
To evaluate the organization’s readiness to adopt AI, look at its people and processes:
People: Lack of AI skills is the primary reason why companies hesitate to implement AI. In fact, only one-third of surveyed marketers said that they have the right skills and capabilities to adopt AI. It is also a challenge to recruit people with the right blend of business and technology skills who can easily adapt to a customer-centric culture.
Process: Marketers should study how AI will impact existing processes. For example, how will AI allow for greater transparency? How will it enable siloed departments to obtain better visibility into what others are doing? How will it help me scale what I am doing?
Additionally, it is important to ensure that everyone in the organization has the right understanding of AI. For instance, they should be aware that AI alone cannot externalize knowledge. It requires both people and technology. Which brings us to the next point.
AI is not merely a plug-and-play component in your marketing stack. Marketers should know how to deploy it successfully and set the right controls and monitoring systems. Should they turn on a model and let it generate results for people to review? Or, should they embed it into an application that automates processes such as personalizing content and optimizing email campaigns? (Ideally, you would have a system that would do both. Automation is key to getting the most out of AI, otherwise, you are stuck with insights and no action…and who wants that in this market?) How will they put the right controls and monitoring to ensure that models are working properly and delivering results?
TIP 4: Don’t jump right in to look for technology partners UNTIL you have a clear strategy and understanding of your organizations real needs. (Most of the “battle scars” I referred to earlier stemmed from prematurely jumping into a new platform without proper internal preparation.)
AI shouldn’t be something you fight with. The technology must be something you work with to really scale your efforts. Picking the right technology isn’t easy, but there is plenty of help…
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AI gives marketers profound competitive advantages. For one, it enables predictive scoring to determine important indicators such as purchase intent, customer engagement, customer retention, and customer churn. Using cutting-edge tools like Blueshift, marketers can generate and manage results such as these in an intuitive dashboard, putting insights at their fingertips so they can quickly make profitable frontline actions.
Enabling AI-powered marketing can result in an optimized customer journey, greater efficiency, smarter decisions, increased speed, and continuous performance improvement. Implementing AI, however, can be a complex initiative. Don’t rush it. Commit to it and by looking at strategy, organization, and technology before implementing AI, marketers can ensure they get the most out of their investment and avoid being burned by AI.
Further Reading and Referenced Sources:
- Forrester Research, VentureBeat, and Blueshift discuss AI, customer data, and cross-channel marketing in this webinar: AI-Powered Marketing: Put Your Customer Data to Work.
- “Two-thirds of businesses do not have skills to adopt AI” via ComputerWeekly.com. Despite the growth of artificial intelligence (AI), only a third of businesses say they have the necessary skills to adopt the technology.
- Gartner Report: “Customer Experience Is the New Competitive Battlefield” that discusses the evolving strategy of building better digital and offline customer experiences to better define your brand.