Digital Marketers Deploy AI to Break through the Noise

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Consumers have spent more time at home in the past year than ever before, but getting their attention has never been harder. What gives?

Not being able to rely on billboards and other out-of-home advertising strategies pushed more brands to explore content marketing in 2020, creating a flood of messages in consumers’ inboxes and on their smartphone screens. The number of push notifications, text messages, and email newsletters sent by brand marketers reached a fever pitch this past summer, and that’s when consumers started pushing back.

Brands Overwhelm Customers

Data from the customer engagement company Airship shows businesses sent 16% more mobile app push notifications and 36% more web notifications in March 2020 over the previous month as they sought to provide customers with “in-the-moment” information, reassurance, and even entertainment.

The result? Seventy-eight percent of consumers now report feeling “overwhelmed” by the frequent communications, according to a separate study by Avionos. Consumers now say they engage with just 30% or fewer of the brand communications they see.

The sentiment has made it harder for businesses to ensure the content and marketing campaigns they’re running are actually breaking through the noise, and it’s leading brand marketers to explore some outside-the-box solutions. 

AI for Digital Marketing

Chief among the newest strategies brands are adopting is the use of artificial intelligence in digital marketing. Brands are increasingly willing to try AI to gain a better understanding of customer behavior, so they can spend more time on creativity and delivering more relevant content, says Mary Schneeberger, director of the integrated marketing practice at Avionos.

“The pandemic has accelerated digital investments, and as part of this AI is becoming more commonplace so that retailers can stay competitive in this new environment and a post-pandemic world,” Schneeberger says.

The use of data and automation in retail marketing has been on the rise for years. Small AI startups are competing against major players like IBM, which just started testing using AI to forecast the demand of future products that haven’t even been developed or designed.

But Schneeberger says the real opportunity in AI has to do with integration. The more brands can integrate AI into their marketing initiatives and their customer databases, the deeper the understanding they’ll have of customer behavior and the more proactive they can be in guiding consumers to relevant products on their store shelves.

Already, Schneeberger is seeing AI being integrated in all kinds of creative ways. In addition to using enriched customer data to create a more personalized, omnichannel shopping experience, brand marketers are personalizing email campaigns and making strategic decisions for targeting customers. 

The Uses of AI

“Aggregating this customer data also allows marketers to use AI to build customer affinity groups. These enable marketers to categorize like-minded consumers into the same group, which makes for more personalized campaigns and experiences and allows marketers to target them more effectively,” Schneeberger says.

Already, brand marketers are using AI-powered tools to write subject lines and personalize the copy of newsletters at the individual level. AI is also being used to clean up email lists and optimize send times.

But it isn’t just online where the effects of AI are seen. Schneeberger says AI can create better offline experiences as well by unifying the customer experience across different interaction points. Customer service teams are leveraging AI to facilitate cashier-less payments and digitize store displays based on customer shopping paths. 

“All of these interaction points provide useful insights that AI can then store and analyze as it bridges the gap between online and in-store personalization to ultimately improve the overall customer experience,” Schneeberger says. “Through insights gained from AI-enabled data, marketers can make better informed, hyper-personalized decisions to drive greater customer loyalty and build trust for their brands no matter where their customers are.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.