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AI, machine learning and the future of digital marketing

By Academy Xi

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It’s natural that humans demonstrate intelligence, but how about computers and machines? Artificial Intelligence might seem like science fiction, but it’s happening here and now. This blog will explain how AI and Machine Learning work and how they’re being used by businesses for cutting-edge digital marketing campaigns.

What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

In the simplest terms, AI is a form of intelligence demonstrated by computers and other machines that are trained to interpret information and their environment in order to take actions that achieve a particular goal. 

In recent years, AI engineers have been leveraging the capabilities of computer systems to problem-solve and learn through interactions with data. AI computer systems now use mathematical algorithms and logic to simulate the reasoning humans apply when confronted by new information. This enables computer systems to learn from experience and is a specialist branch of AI known as Machine Learning.

What is Machine Learning?

Machine Learning is the process of using data modelling to help a computer develop intelligence without any direct instruction, improving its ability to perform tasks through an accumulation of data experiences.

Hello Barbie and Machine Learning

Before being discontinued by Mattel due to public backlash, Hello Barbie used Machine Learning to listen and respond to a child’s questions. A microphone in Barbie’s necklace recorded the child’s question and transmitted it to the servers at ToyTalk. The recording was then analysed and the right response was picked from over 8,000 lines of dialogue. The whole process took less than a second. 

Data about a particular child’s likes and dislikes was stored in the server, creating more personalised interactions. The server also analysed its entire database to establish what kinds of questions children were asking and formulated new responses that were automatically added to the dialogue bank.

If AI enables a computer to think like a human and carry out actions in response, Machine Learning is how a computer system adds to its own intelligence over time. In the case of Toytalk’s server, it ensured that Hello Barbie never ran out of interesting and relevant things to say (realising every child’s dream of a toy that comes to life). Really impressive or a bit creepy, take your pick. 

Deep Learning means that AI is capable of working with more data and changing its analytical processes at any stage based on its own findings. Deep Learning makes operating AI less ‘hands-on’ and lower maintenance for businesses. Following significant advances in Deep Learning and Neural Networks, AI has become even more ‘brainy’ in recent years.

What is a Neural Network?

Computers are now trained to mimic human cognitive processes through the use of Neural Networks, which are a series of algorithms that replicate the neuro functions of the human brain. Each of these neurons:

  • Receives data from the input layer
  • Processes it by performing calculations 
  • Transmits the processed data to another neuron

How data moves between neurons within a network and the calculations performed will depend on what data findings are uncovered along the way. Though a Neural Network makes decisions about what to do with data all by itself, it first needs to be trained with data inputs.

IBM Watson and AI medical diagnosis

The AI of IBM Watson is powered by 2800 processor cores and 15 terabytes of memory. Its Neural Network was trained over a period of two years, as millions of pages of patient records, medical journals and other documents were uploaded to the system. 

IBM Watson is now used to diagnose medical problems, even identifying rare illnesses, and will suggest the best treatment plan based on the patient’s complaints. Following the principles of Deep Learning, the more IBM Watson is used, the more accurate its AI insights become.

How are other businesses using AI?

As well as IBM, big tech companies like Google, Microsoft and Intel have been pushing the capabilities of AI in recent years, making it more powerful and sophisticated than ever before. Simultaneously, the cost of building AI systems has dropped.   

Following broad uptake across a range of industries, AI is the brain-power behind our most loved products and services. Its functional day-to-day uses include:

  • Fraud detection that keeps your hard-earned money safe 
  • Facial recognition that unlocks your iPhone
  • Language translation tools, like Google Translate  
  • Personalised Netflix recommendations   

Because AI is able to accurately identify and project patterns in data, it’s become impressive at predicting human behaviour. In a business world where companies are always trying to pre-empt the habits of their customers, AI is now an essential part of many effective marketing strategies.

How is AI used in marketing? 

A Salesforce State of Marketing Report found only 29% of marketing leaders used AI in 2018, but that number had swelled to 84% by 2020. The global revenues for the AI market, including software, hardware, and services, is forecast to grow 19.6% throughout 2022, reaching $432 billion

AI has become an essential marketing tool because it helps businesses build customer-centric end-to-end marketing strategies, making the messaging of ad campaigns more targeted, improving the customer journey, and changing the way companies attract, nurture, and convert customer leads. 

Marketers used to target broad demographics, including age group, gender and geographical location. AI makes it possible to subdivide these market segments and categorise leads by a spectrum of personal traits, buying habits and behavioural patterns.

AI also enables businesses to quickly interpret all this data and make timely adjustments to their marketing strategies based on real-time information. Shifts in lead behaviour can be measured over hours or days, rather than weeks or months, which makes for dynamic marketing campaigns that are more attuned to customer demands.

When Automated Marketing and AI combine, a business can input its goals and let the combined technologies narrow broad audiences down to a segment of one. This ensures that when automated content is sent, the right leads get the right messaging. 

What does all this look like in the real business world? And what kind of an experience does it offer you as a consumer?

Burberry, AI and Customer Experience

Burberry has been prompt to realise that consumers are happy to share personal data, as long as it makes their shopping experience better. 

Burberry encourages each customer to share personal information and complete product preference surveys when signing up for loyalty and reward schemes. This information is then layered with the customer’s purchase history, browsing patterns on the Burberry website and any interactions they’ve had with the brand’s goods on social media channels. Burberry’s AI system then makes determinations about what clothing a customer is most likely to want, sending recommendations to a tablet that the sales assistant uses in a flagship store.  

Once a customer has chosen to buy a fancy checked Burberry jacket (or was it AI that chose it?!), they’ll find it’s fitted with an RFID tag This sends information to the customer’s mobile, providing further purchase recommendations, as well as styling suggestions for combining your new jacket with previous purchases. 

At Burberry, AI is both your personal shopper and stylist, with Deep Learning used to create a more tailored fashion retail experience.

AI and Personalised Marketing

A report from Epsilon found 80% of customers are more likely to buy from a brand when the brand offers them a personal experience. Added to this, a report from Accenture revealed that 91% of customers are more likely to purchase from a brand that makes personalised recommendations and offers.

Burberry is a perfect example of how AI helps businesses achieve personalisation at scale, making it possible to distil insights from large amounts of data, understand the customer in detailed ways and take action in real-time.

An emphasis on marketing with empathy means many modern companies are striving to stay in touch with how customers think and feel their way to a purchase. While Theory of Mind has it that AI is not yet capable of sensing its way through emotional interactions with humans (which would mean achieving the two-way psychological relationships seen in sci-fi movies), Deep Learning does detect even the faintest changes in customer interactions with brands and products. 

All this means companies are better equipped than ever to understand the fluctuating wants and needs of their customers. Who would have thought that AI could bring a human touch to digital marketing?

How to become a Digital Marketer

Social media and the internet are crowded places where companies are battling to be seen and heard. As the world’s population spends more time online, the challenge for brands is to reach customers across different devices and platforms. 

Today’s marketer needs to balance the creative side of the role – using persuasive narratives to tap into people’s needs and aspirations – with the technical demands of using digital platforms and data analytics. 

Academy Xi Digital Marketing courses enable you to promote and sell across channels, applying the cutting-edge tools of the marketing trade. Live client projects offer you the chance to put Digital Marketing techniques into practice, using campaigns strategically to generate word-of-mouth, create stronger leads and increase sales for a more profitable business. 

All our courses are taught online, come in a range of flexible formats and are designed, taught and approved by leading industry professionals. To discuss Digital Marketing course options tailored to your needs, chat to one of our course advisors.

A career in Digital Marketing allows you to turn online trends and customer insights into sales that drive corporate growth. There’s never been a more exciting time to enter the profession, with AI, Machine Learning and other tech innovations making it easier to connect with customer needs than ever before. In marketing, amazing things happen when you listen to the customer.