Artificial intelligence (AI) is something most of us first encountered in Science Fiction. Whether it was in Isaac Asimov’s ‘I, Robot’, the dystopian vision of ‘The Matrix’, or even Marvel’s ‘The Avengers: Age of Ultron’, we’ve all seen it in one form or another; AI has always been at the centre of human imagination.
It is no longer fiction.
Now, with real-time personalization with services from Netflix or Amazon, voice-controlled digital assistants like Siri or Alexa, and chatbots, AI is no longer something far-fetched. It’s here, and it’s making waves, and nowhere more so than in performance marketing.
A Recap: Where Marketing Stands Now
The world of digital performance marketing is essentially a world where brands battle each other for transitory, virtual real estate on search engines – primarily Google and Bing. The goal is to get your brand’s ads to occupy the most prominent space so your audience can’t miss it. It’s still all about billboards on the side of the highway, except now it’s the Internet highway.
Before Google introduced ongoing optimization, when your ‘billboard’ – read: ‘campaign’ – flopped, the investment and the opportunity was wasted. Return on Investment (ROI) was dependent on the immediate success of the campaigns. Luckily, Google’s advancements allowed marketers to gain more control over their output, letting them adjust budgets and even the creative that was already in circulation. Backed up analytical tools, marketers were able to increase their understanding of their audiences and update their approaches to changes in demographics and market trends.
When AI and machine learning began to creep out of the Sci-Fi world and into reality, smart marketers began to implement it into their own tools and strategies, allowing them to gain the upper hand over competitors. It is estimated that by the end of 2020, at least 80% of the digital media market adopted some form of AI technology.
Where we’re headed: AI in Performance Marketing
One of the biggest reasons behind the exponential development of AI in digital marketing is performance. AI-powered apps and other pieces of technology allow for the rapid enhancement of creative impact, more accurate audience targeting, improved optimization of tactics and methodology, and an increase in conversion rates. The truth is, AI-powered marketing tools are faster, more efficient, and further-reaching than traditional tools.
Older, ‘traditional’ marketing methodologies rely on large-scale campaigns that are designed and executed using enterprise-level campaign-management tools. These allow marketers to easily place many ads across their desired platforms and networks, reaching a variety of target audiences. This is still the case for many companies today – but we are seeing a steady move away from these methods towards AI-driven campaigns, programmatic advertising, and marketing automation in general.
The reason for this is simple, the biggest challenge with marketing platforms before AI is that the optimization, placements, and response had to be done manually. Manual analysis of incoming data and the optimization of content afterwards is fine, provided the campaigns being managed are not overly extensive. Once a certain threshold is met, manual optimization and placement is simply not efficient or cost effective any more.
Enter AI. By bringing in marketing automation and AI into the fold, marketers can leave the optimization to the AI, allowing for real time adjustments to be made. This greatly increases efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
The Benefits of AI Performance Marketing
In 2017, Accenture reported that over 40% of consumers changed brands because of the lack of personalization they experienced with the old company. One of the beauties of AI is that it can collate omnichannel data from previous customer journeys – for example, online searches and purchase history combined with in-store purchases and returns – to predict future journeys of other customers. Armed with this information, marketers and customer service specialists can establish smoother experiences for customers, online or off.
Additionally, AI can help keep in touch with customers by sending them personalized automated emails or reaching out to them on social media through AI-powered ad targeting.
- Dynamic Pricing
By allowing AI to monitor and adjust pricing based on availability, demand, customer profiles and histories, combined with other factors that play a role in your industry, can dramatically boost sales and revenue. A simple example of this in action is a price tracker site like camelcamelcamel.com, which tracks Amazon product prices. Similarly, looking at the prices of airplane tickets, which change depending on availability, season, time of day, and demand, is another good way to wrap your head around the concept of dynamic pricing.
- Intuitive Chatbots
Chatbots are incredibly effective at handling customer service inquiries and can be programmed with all manner of responses and information. Chatbots can be used to tackle frequently asked questions (FAQs) or more complicated question sets, before directing customers to a human agent.
Not only are chatbots improving the speed and efficiency with which customers can get the answers to their questions, they are also lightening the workload of the company’s employees, making them extremely cost-effective. More and more, chatbots are serving as a very useful buffer for customer service, making sure that only necessary questions end up in the hands of an expensive human.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is dictated, in part, by the search engine algorithms that run Google and other engines like it. In search engines, integrated AI makes it possible for search engines to overlook typos, automatically adjusting to what they suppose you actually meant to type based on your search history or habits. The continued development of Google’s search AI, for example, allows it to distinguish the intent of the searcher – if you were to type in ‘Apple’, Google would know, based on your history and behaviour, whether you mean the company or the fruit.
It doesn’t stop there, the specificity of searches and the capacity of the engine to determine what you really want to see is increasing every day. AI is becoming more and more complex, now growing to understand voice search options in a variety of languages as well.
- Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Ad Optimization
Where before marketers would use A/B testing and segmentation to optimize their advertising campaigns and strategies, AI allows for continuous hands-off updates and tweaks based on conversion rates and ad engagement.
- Content Refinement & Optimization
Marketers can use AI to optimize their content to improve their SEO, audience engagement, and social share value. One of the most challenging aspects of a marketer’s role is scaling up their content marketing, in 2019 as many as 47% of marketers reported this as their biggest frustration. AI to the rescue! AI can help marketers design, optimize, and even create new content, quickly and efficiently. This is not only true of written, long-form content but also of image and creative work. In truth, today’s AI-powered technology can help marketers:
- Find and reuse existing assets.
- Automate image creation and refinement.
- Produce and personalize content.
- Continuous Machine Learning
A key benefit of AI is its machine learning capabilities. AI can learn from its experiences, collected data, and other input sources, and it can do this continuously without being programmed to do so. This advancement allows AI-driven technologies to adapt to and enhance changing circumstances, shifting its functionality as needed and so optimizing its use not only for performance marketing but for all manner of implementations.
The Takeaway: Consumers and AI in Performance Marketing
Many of us don’t realize that some of the technologies we take for granted are AI-driven already: the personalization of systems like Netflix, meticulously running algorithms in the background so that every time we log in we see video options that we might be interested in based on our previous viewings, Google search algorithms spitting out phrases and results carefully curated from our search histories, that really helpful chatbot that has ready answers even though it’s not an actual person, the list goes on.
Unlike on the big screen, existing AI are subtle programs, designed to simplify our lives in ways we don’t even consider any more.
The voice-enabled digital assistance like Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana, and Alexa are maybe more obvious examples of what we consider to be true ‘AI’ even though at times they can still be rather clunky. The finesse is on its way though, with the technology making leaps and bounds as it grows in popularity.
AI in performance marketing is not only benefiting its marketers, but also allowing consumers improved access to products and services they are looking for. As the technology continues to advance, we will continue to reap its benefits, and not only in marketing but in all aspects of life.
At 2Stallions, we provide a complete suite of performance marketing automation services (i.e. social media marketing, search engine optimization, content marketing, etc.) that can propel your business forward using smart, efficient and proven methods. Check out our complete list of services, and get in touch today to see how we can help you integrate AI-powered automation into your marketing initiatives.