“A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
The days of generalised digital advertising, of mass mailers and SMS, of spam offer promotions, are fast fading. Personalisation in digital marketing infuses new life and meaning into Carnegie’s portentous words. Good experiences just aren’t good enough for today’s consumers. Unique, personal experiences are the key to drawing consumer interest and gaining consumer trust. The ready availability of data means that personalisation has played a considerable role in offline and online marketing for quite some time now. However, the emergence of AI and machine learning open up new avenues of opportunity in personalised marketing. Rising internet penetration worldwide and the exponential growth of mobile computing have been key catalysts: just as marketing AI algorithms are becoming more capable, the datasets available to them are increasing exponentially in size.
Personalisation is the key challenge that marketers face today. According to a Simpler Media study, nearly 80 percent of customer experience executives described digital customer experience as a high priority item for their business. However, less than half said that their organisation has invested towards personalization tech. According to McKinsey, just 15 percent of CMOs think that their organisation is on the right track with respect to personalization. It’s clear that the opportunities presented by AI-based personalization are tremendous: Tech-savvy marketers will reap immense benefits even as others are left out.
Let’s take a look at some a few key, expected developments in AI and personalisation:
Knowing what you want before you do: Predictive marketing
Sophisticated AI-based systems enable today’s marketers to monitor, track, and predict customer behavior: AI knows what you want to buy before you do. Predictive marketing solutions are tightly integrated with a complete range of advertising platforms. By tracking customer behaviour, brands know where to deliver advertisements and what kinds of ads to deliver: moving beyond Google banner ads, predictive marketing enables firms to place the right kind of ads on the platforms individual customers are most responsive to. AI-based predictive marketing has driven brand sales to new heights, uncovering purchase opportunities invisible even to customers themselves.
IoT integration: Marketing goes everywhere
AI-based predictive marketing benefits from parallel innovations such as the Internet of Things. Brands like Sephora and Starbucks, and a wave of coupon apps leverage GPS information, among other data points to offer customers deals that are tailor-made for them. IoT devices in and around customer environments can provide businesses with immense quantities of real and near-real time data on factors like the local weather, pollution, traffic, customer travel locations, and shopping preferences. AI-based systems can sift through the noise, provide actionable insights, and craft offers customers just cannot refuse: a buyer driving to the laundromat could be surprised with a 10 percent discount on dry-cleaning before they even get there/
Content Curation: Show customers only the things that matter
Content platforms such as Netflix have benefited immensely from AI’s capacity to curate content, ensuring that consumers see exactly what they want to see, all the time. Content curation doesn’t just benefit media streaming giants, though. Any business with print and multimedia content online can leverage curation. AI-based curation solutions can identify the content that different customers engage with the most and proactively serve only the relevant most interesting material. This makes the mere act of visiting your homepage a personalized experience. For firms that aren't in the content field, content curation can ensure that the right parts of your online platform are showcased to the right people.
The way forward: navigating the fine line between personalisation and privacy
AI offers marketers a way to proactively utilize the vast amount of data available on consumers, their behaviors, and their interests. Going into the next decade, we expect an even larger, finer-grained volume of consumer data to become available to marketers. This has clear implications on privacy, something that lawmakers around the world are starting to realize. Just when do we cross the point between personalisation and the invasion of privacy? Can AI play a role in mediating the push-pull between marketers and consumers? We see emerging possibilities in the years to come: Predictive solutions that are trained on existing datasets could offer personalized user experiences without crossing red lines in terms of privacy. Whatever the outcome, though, AI’s growing role in personalisation is only set to expand.
(The author is co-founder, chief business and operating officer, Blink Digital)