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Microsoft Industry Blogs - United Kingdom

A women uses a Surface tablet and AI to help a female customer in a small SMB boutique retail shop.

AI isn’t the future. It’s the now. It’s already around us – from the auto-complete in our search engines to our sat navs helping us avoid that Monday morning traffic. And it’s more than just robots and self-driving cars. AI can help us improve our business value and respond to customers’ needs quicker too.

Digital marketing and AI are a natural fit. Marketers are leveraging the technology to help steer business decisions, improve customer experiences, and understand their audience better. Best of all, they’re saving money and time whilst they do it.

So, what are the main opportunities that AI could offer for a digital marketing team?

1. Make sense of huge amounts of data

By 2020, it’s estimated that for every person on earth, 1.7 MB of data will be created every second[1]. That’s a whole heap of data for your organisation to collect, analyse, and plan with. Too much, in fact. And this is where AI comes into play.

AI provides advanced analytics to optimise operations, deliver insights, and drive innovation in an organisation. Best of all, AI and machine learning are readily available. Microsoft’s AI platform makes it easy to innovate and accelerate solutions with pre-built or customisable options.

Try: Get hands on with AI to see what amazing capabilities you can draw from your data.

2. Understand your audience for better targeting

AI can analyse data to quickly understand your audience demographic and their buying behaviours. This means AI can help you predict their future actions and decisions. Imagine what impact this could have on your marketing campaigns.

If you were looking for organisations at the forefront of data-driven marketing, you’d find Ignition Ai. They have self-learning predictive marketing algorithms that integrate the emotion and psychology of shopping with real-time data to predict trends.

“Our machine learning writes its own rules. We’re not telling it what to do; we’re telling it the outcome we need, and it will go away and write its own logic,” says Ignition Ai CEO, James Harrison.

Running in Azure, the algorithm identifies consumers across devices and analyses their web browsing. Machine learning builds an understanding of the consumer, which lets Ignition Ai bid for advertising space and display highly targeted copy that matches each unique person. This results in more accurate ad placement, more ‘human’ conversations, and ultimately, increased profit.

“All this happens in less than 50 milliseconds and we’re able to scale the weight of advertising in a matter of minutes,” says Harrison. “It’s getting to the point where our chairman tells us to ‘tone it down a bit’.

“A ten percent improvement would be great, but we’re seeing halving of budgets and doubling of effectiveness. The results are astounding.”
– James Harrison, Ignition AI CEO

3. Employ chatbots to create a better customer experience

While 29 percent of companies use AI for predictive analytics, 31 percent are using it for virtual assistants. These assistants, or chatbots, help customers with routine questions and tasks, making it easier for them to find what they’re looking for. Chatbots are also available 24/7 so your customers are never kept waiting. This frees employees up to handle more complex tasks, and provide more hands-on service. 73 percent of customers are open to businesses using AI if it makes their life easier.

Dixon’s Carphone research found that around 90 percent of customers start their journey online, and 65 percent use their mobiles phones to assist them in-store[2]. To capitalise on the opportunity they built Cami on the Microsoft Bot Framework using Cognitive Services. She understands text and images, meaning she’ll respond to common questions. She’ll even look at pictures of items taken in-store and see if they’re in stock.

“We didn’t create any new information, we just pulled it together in a different way. And with Cami, we’ve giving customers the ability to search through it using natural language,”  says Antonia Colin-Jones, Strategic Partnership Program Manager. “The biggest thing Cami will do is help strengthen our relationship with customers. We’ll also improve our in-store operations by supporting our store colleagues to do their jobs more efficiently.”

Consumers expect a more omni-channel experience – 59 percent of customers in our 2018 Global Customer Service Report say they engage with five channels, and 75 percent expect employees to know their previous interactions[3]. Cami bridges that gap between online and in-store. Employees can look at what the customer has searched for online or added to their wishlist and improve their in-store experience. Employees can also use Cami to answer stock questions.

Try: Meet LUIS, a service that interprets normal language and understands the outcomes. A fast learner, LUIS needs little training, and gains insights based on real user-inputs.

4. Offer a personalised service

With AI on hand to help to understand your data, you can offer a more personalised service than ever before – in real time. An e-commerce store can now easily show recommendations in real-time based on the customer’s past purchases or habits. But it’s not limited to the online experience. AI can also be used in physical stores, giving suggestions that make it easier for the customer to find what they need or to help reduce traffic in aisles, giving customers a faster checkout experience. Data collected from a mobile banking app can predict when a customer needs help and a customer agent can reach out before an issue arises.

5. Take the hard work out of email marketing

AI takes all the hard work out of email marketing. Analysing vast amounts of data, it can understand the best time to contact a customer, how often they should be contacted, and the topics they’re interested in to create the ultimate personalised communication. CRM powered with AI gives you a 360° view of a customer. You can use these powerful insights to drive better email marketing campaigns to the right people at the right time.

Learn: How to reduce customer churn on Microsoft AI School.

Adopt AI responsibly to improve employee engagement

AI has the power to do some incredible things for your customer experience, but it also offers huge potential for impacting your most valuable asset too – your employees. Two-thirds of key business decision makers believe AI will bring out the best in their people. AI is here to stay – and those who use AI with an ethical approach are already outperforming those who do not by 9 percent in productivity, performance, and business outcomes.

Tip: It’s important to ensure that any concerns about AI are addressed in the early stages of planning and adoption in order to get a good return on AI investment. One way to do this is to get your employees involved in the process, listen to feedback, and be transparent with the organisation’s goals and values.

It’s clear to see the benefits AI can provide for digital marketing, from providing fast, personalised omni-channel engagement and real-time analytics, to freeing up employees to spend more time with customers or being more creative and innovative in their work.

[1]Data Never Sleeps 6.0

[2] Dixons Carphone case study

[3] State of Global Customer Service Report