What lies ahead for the future of marketing post-AI

Salesforce marketing insights leader looks at how to appeal to customers in an age where artificial intelligence is already the norm

Salesforce’s Sydney event kicked off with a discussion around the future of marketing and what high-performing brands are doing to lead marketing now and into the future.

Principle of marketing insights at Salesforce, Mathew Sweezey, took to the virtual stage to say artificial intelligence (AI) is now expected by the consumer, and what marketers need to do is ensure they are helping consumers reach their goal of the moment in the easiest way possible.

“What we've been able to identify are the key differences between high performing marketing organisations and everyone else. We found only about 16 per cent of all brands are high performing marketing organisations,” Sweezey said.

Artificial intelligence is a conversation we've been having for a while. And often when we think about AI, we think about it from a business side; so how can I, as a business, use artificial intelligence to better enable my processes better enable my product make better decisions? 

“One thing we fail to think about is how AI has already changed the consumer. Any medium an individual interacts with on a daily basis now is empowered by AI. And what I call this is the 'post AI consumer'. 

“Every interaction the consumer has is specifically curated for them by AI, so we are all given a different answer focused on the context of the moment.

“The AI is only going to serve up in context of what it thinks the person is going to engage with. Looking forward to 2025, what we expect is 95 per cent of all interactions between a consumer and a brand will happen via AI. And this is critical, because we must understand what that AI is optimising for and who is optimising for, and this is what the modern consumer demands.”

“The experience a company creates is just as important as the product they sell - 84 per cent of consumers say this. Experience is now a product.”

Sweezey went on to say the idea this only applies to younger consumers is a fallacy, and all generations now expect this level of experience, and the idea experience only matters in B2C transactions is also wrong, as B2B decisions actually carry more risk.

“How does this really change some of the big fundamental aspects that we need to think about from marketing? Now that the consumer lives in a world of infinite content, they have a different decision-making process," he said. "A consumer will always optimise to mitigate risk. Messages from brands are not as nearly as trusted as those from other consumers. 

“How do we then creatively do this? We must focus on contextual experiences."

As Sweezey noted, the latest research on experiences shows a massive gap between what businesses believe they are creating and what consumers are actually experiencing.

"In fact, research shows there's a 72 per cent delta between the experience gap. So 80 per cent of businesses believe they are creating a great experience, but only 8 per cent of their consumers would agree they're being delivered a great experience," he said. 

“What we find is the number one key trait of a high performers is they have executive buy-in to a new idea of marketing. They don't just simply adopt old ideas and just have new ways of doing the same old things. They understand the idea of marketing exists across the entire customer journey, and it is about experiences, not messages. And they've shifted the definition of marketing to become the owners and sustainers of all experiences across the entire customer journey." 

As Sweezey explained it, an experience must be contextual, meaning it must help a person achieve the goal of the moment.

"A good experience is not just one that's got great copy, it's not just one that is catchy, and has a great ad behind it. It's one that helps somebody accomplish their goal at the moment," he said.

It also requires cross-functional collaboration. "We must break down the silos across the organisation and understand every silo must be connected, and they must be connected to create a cohesive customer experience," he urged.

"This really changes the very definition we think of as brand. It's not what we say. It's not the imagery that we produce. It's the sum of all experiences that we create. That is how we build the brand.” 

Data and voice frontiers

Creating a cohesive customer experience also comes back to data. Data is growing at a rapid rate, with the average brand currently using 15 different data sources and 39 different tools across the entire customer journey to manage a single customer. 

“Data is also growing at a 20 per cent annual growth rate, and we project by 2025, the average brand will be using 45 different data sources with 39 different tools, it's a major problem I call the identity crisis, because each one of those data sources uses a different unique identifier," Sweezey continued. 

“We must be able to connect all of that data together to know a single person at a single moment. If we can't solve that, first, it will be very difficult for us to create a cohesive customer experience or in better terms, an omnichannel journey.” 

Then there's the voice element to think about. Predictions suggest a majority of people on the planet by 2025 will be using a voice digital assistant, and that a recent Google Assistant is passing the Turing Test.

“This is a major step in the history of the world. It's not just that voice we need to be thinking about how are they going to be asking questions, we need to see this as a new interface for the future of the world," Sweezey said.
"Now with voice this gives us a new interface, a conversational interface." 

Success in this new world is about zero friction and that "easy is better", he said. "Let's stop doing things customers hate and make it simpler for them," he said.

"How consumers want to engage will be radically different in five years, so we also must think about a new idea of direct marketing. The highest value of the internet is direct human connection. And this is why we see so many new marketing methodologies, influencer marketing, advocacy, employee advocacy, social media, this is human-to-human, we must find ways to connect humans together and when we can they help us solve major business problems."

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