Think You’re Ready for AI? You Might Not Be

In an industry rife with buzzwords, it’s become one of the biggest: AI. Artificial intelligence, along with automation, more generally, has become the fixation of so many in the martech field. But is it just the latest shiny object or a powerful tool for marketers? The answer, of course, is both. It can be an unwieldy distraction or, in the hands of the right people and powered by the right data, a game-changing innovation.

AI holds a tremendous amount of promise for marketers. According to McKinsey, AI can create $1.4 trillion to $2.6 trillion of value in marketing and sales across the world’s businesses. AI can help automate tedious tasks to free up employees, enable down-to-the-minute timing for targeted sales tactics, and can quickly sort through data, allowing marketers to drill down into many layers of demographics and behaviors.

However, despite this great promise, AI is not for everyone, and integrating AI into your existing functions isn’t something that happens overnight. If you’re not ready – and you don’t have the right kind of data to make AI productive and the insights actionable – it can be more of a hindrance than a help. AI-based campaigns should be approached carefully and methodically, but if done right, the payoff can be substantial. 

What you need to succeed in AI

If you’re thinking about integrating more AI into your tech stack, here are some key considerations that will help you evaluate whether AI is right for you: 

  • Data is sovereign: It’s the mantra of modern marketing. However, when it comes to implementing AI, it’s not just about having information. Quality matters, and it also has to be the right kind of data to allow AI tools to analyze and predict behavior. For example, identity resolution is key. You must be able to have personalized, consistent engagements across touchpoints and in order to do so, you need to be able to recognize customers consistently in a privacy-compliant way. The power of AI is in leveraging signal data around intent paired with historical knowledge of the consumer to anticipate their next action. Messy or disorganized data can also be a roadblock, so having people on your team who know how to organize and implement AI is critical. 
  • You still need a human touch: While one of the benefits of AI is that it can free up personnel for more strategic and creative tasks, technology can’t completely take human beings out of the equation. Companies can use AI to pull out patterns from the data, but skilled, experienced marketers are still needed to review those patterns, decide what they mean, and how best to apply or adjust them to reach their target audiences. 
  • Educate across your organization: Training programs for AI are still evolving – the best tool in the world won’t be much help if you don’t have a team that can use it. Make sure any AI rollout is accompanied by robust training for all employees.
  • Consider privacy concerns: Any marketing program that requires large amounts of data is going to come with privacy concerns. AI requires deep, nuanced data to work, and it’s not out of the question that more informed customers would see it as invasive. On top of that, privacy laws and the public’s attitude toward big data are still rapidly evolving. It’s another area where having a level of human oversight is important – no algorithm will be able to properly predict consumer tolerance for data mining.

Why AI is worth the effort

AI needs careful planning and rigorous preparation to be properly implemented in marketing programs. But if you lay the correct groundwork – particularly if you have the right kind of data – your marketing programs will see benefits, including:

  • Freeing up marketers to make more big-picture decisions, looking further ahead to predict trends, and dedicating new energy to creative tasks
  • Greatly increasing personalization by highlighting the right actions at the right point in the process, bringing marketers’ attention to critical insights
  • Analyzing large amounts of data to glean high-level insights much faster than more traditional methods, which enables companies to pivot quickly and adapt to changing landscapes or confront any crises more effectively
  • Engaging consumers with more timely ads based on market signals or predicted behavior. For example, identifying that a consumer needs a car every few years and what that window of opportunity for engagement is

AI is not the magic solution some make it out to be, but it can be a tool of vital importance for enterprises. We set ourselves up for failure when we think about AI and automation as replacing human labor. Instead, it works best as a complement, unlocking the power of data to ultimately empower the marketer to make better decisions and manage multiple channel workflows efficiently.  

If you take it slow and get a good handle on AI functions, the reward down the road is a well-functioning, mature AI process that will help automate decisions and free employees up to focus on strategic thinking — and that’s when your business will accelerate to the next level. 

Chris Lanaux is Chief Product Officer at Acoustic.

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