Predictions: 9 AI trends in marketing for 2019

What difference will artificial intelligence and machine learning make to marketing leadership and strategy in 2019? CMO asks the experts

You can't talk about marketing today without the conversation steering to artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning. Once touted as a silver bullet for data collation, analysis, as well as customer service, AI and ML have grown past the original hype and smart marketers are using them as a way to amplify human intelligence, rather than as a replacement for it.

CMO spoke to various experts in the marketing field about what difference AI will really make to marketing in 2019.

1. AI will augment humans, not replace them

When AI first came out, many companies saw it as a silver bullet to replace all human interaction involved in customer care. Those a little further down the road know that’s not possible and can make you customer experience worse, not better.

It is important to know AI will augment humans, not replace them.

“When Facebook first announced chatbot integration with Messenger in 2016, many considered it the end all be all of customer care, resulting in many businesses finding them overhyped,” Spredfast and Lithium, CTO, Raju Malhotra, said. "Unfortunately, brands put too much onus on chatbots handle everything, an all or nothing approach. Artificial is not meant to replace the customer service agent, but empower them.

“Each year, customers expect more direct interaction with brands and they demand quick responses. In 2019, we will see brands truly embrace the chatbot/agent relationship to automate the boring stuff, free up time for agents to focus on customers, and master their SLAs.”

Fiftyfive5 director, Andrea Collier, said businesses will slow down when it comes to the incessant adoption of AI in marketing and be forced to think about the best value and application. 

“It’s not a matter of getting on the bandwagon and finding a use for AI, but rather assessing the problems and opportunities in the business first and identifying the decision making processes that could be improved to help resolve those problems or drive those opportunities faster and smarter,” she said.  

“Working backwards from here will determine what data insights are required to inform these decisions and how a company can supply them.  After all, the value of AI is not in the models themselves but in a company’s ability to harness these and operationalise them at the front line and throughout the business.”

2. AI will drive business growth

Of course there will be repetitive or low value tasks increasingly becoming automated by AI. For industry thought leaders, this will see AI making a significant difference to the marketer's bottom line.

“In 2019, we'll start to see a distinction between the successful early adopters of AI technology and the lagging companies who have yet to invest, or have invested hastily without a strategy for increasing ROI,” said Unbounce CTO and co-founder, Carl Schmidt.

“This is the year we’ll start to see real evidence that these early adopters are, in fact, driving business growth faster than their peers. Winning companies will become more efficient by automating previously manual or low-value tasks which will free them up to invest in other more revenue-impactive initiatives, or we’ll see these companies directly driving top-line performance by using AI to outperform competitors.”

3. AI-powered marketing attribution hits its stride

In 2019, Schmidt also expected to see AI-powered marketing attribution starting to hit its stride.

"In today’s digital environment, attribution continues to be a challenge — businesses are still piecing together data points from different platforms and many are still struggling to understand the full path to purchase — which marketing channels are driving revenue? What kinds of content help retain customers and at which stage of the customer journey? Where are customers falling out of the funnel? AI can sequence that customer journey together and identify when a customer comes to a company's site and leaves without converting,” he said.

"It's the businesses that adopt AI-powered attribution technology in 2019 that will have a leg up on the competition

4. Conversational AI as learning potential

Another area of growth is conversational AI. Schmidt saw this challenging marketing to re-think what impact their efforts can have on a business.

“Through conversational AI, we now have an unprecedented ability to learn about our customers and prospects, experiment with targeted messaging faster than ever before," he continued. 

“More traditionally minded marketers will use it to automate knowledge base lookups and provide a simplified interface to canned responses. Cutting-edge digital marketers will embrace the learning potential and use it to more deeply to understand the needs of their audience.

"In addition to the obvious partnership with sales, truly savvy marketers will partner with their customer success, product management, and user experience peers to maximise the impact of conversational AI will have on the business."

Up next: Our next 5 predictions for artificial intelligence in marketing in 2019

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