How to use AI in your digital marketing strategy

How your digital marketing agency can harness the power of AI

In 2021 how much are you using AI – Artificial Intelligence – in your digital marketing strategy? 

51% of eCommerce businesses are already implementing various AI technologies in their sales, marketing, and customer service teams; and 34% of sales and marketing leaders believe AI is a huge game-changer.

For these businesses, AI is beginning to revolutionise their marketing. But it is still an area that is very new; and many marketers and digital marketing agencies have not yet grasped its full potential to help them achieve business goals. 

So let’s first take a look at what exactly we mean by AI, and the various ways it can be used as part of your digital marketing strategy.

What is AI and how can it be used in marketing?

What is AI and how can it be used in marketing?

AI refers to computers that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions. Put simply, it is the simulation of human intelligence by technology.

In marketing, there are currently four broad uses of AI, as illustrated in the image on the right, courtesy of Harvard Business Review.

A business could start by using less advanced AI – such as the stand-alone automated tasks mentioned in the pink square – and progress to more advanced and integrated use of AI.

But investing time, energy and money in AI is a big commitment. Is it really worth jumping on the bandwagon? 

Let’s take a look at some specific benefits of using AI in marketing.

Three ways that AI can improve your marketing

Three of the areas where AI can make a significant difference to your digital marketing strategy are:

  • Performance
  • Precision
  • Personalisation

These areas are all very much interrelated: each underpins and flows in and out of the other.

  • Performance

There appears to be a significant difference in performance between marketing teams who use AI and those who don’t. Research by Salesforce indicates that 70% of high-performance marketing teams claim to have a fully defined AI strategy, whereas only 35% of under-performing teams do. 

Overall, 41% of marketers say that AI and machine learning accelerate revenue growth and improve performance. 

One of the main ways it does this is to speed up the process of analysing data from multiple channels. Trends in consumer behaviour can be identified more easily and inform strategic thinking. The net result of this is increased ROI on different aspects of your marketing strategy. 

Fundamentally, AI and machine learning will help you to analyse your data, highlight trends to be aware of, and answer questions that you wouldn’t otherwise have thought to ask.

  • Precision

Another benefit of AI is greater precision with marketing analytics. In digital marketing we have a wealth of data from so many different sources about the audiences we are engaging with. AI can help us to extrapolate and process this data to improve our understanding of those audiences.

For example, it can help to create customer profiles for personalised marketing, and segmented audiences to help track potential buyer journeys. AI-based demand sensing can also enable more accurate predictions of buying patterns across different demographics – including geographic – which can help to reduce issues such as stock shortages and delivery delays.

  • Personalisation

71% of marketers find AI useful for personalisation. We have just referred to its ability to create customer profiles. It does this by using intelligence from existing brand interactions to predict future customer behaviour. 

This enables marketers to tailor their content and marketing communications at an individually personalised level rather than broader generic target groups. It also enables them to do this at scale, increasing sales revenue, order frequency and customer retention.

In spite of these advantages, around 77% of marketers are using AI for less than a quarter of all marketing tasks, and 18% are not using it at all. 

So for those that are ready to dip their toes into the AI water, what are the key steps a marketer or digital marketing agency needs to take to move forward on your AI journey?

We suggest a simple Five Point Plan.

A Five Point Plan to start using AI

The key thing is to start simple. Get one thing right and build up from there. To get started you need to:

  • Assess
  • Research
  • Trial
  • Implement
  • Evaluate

  1. Assess where you are at and where you want to be

First things first. Is there anything you already use AI for at any level? For example, any kind of marketing automation software? If so, the pragmatic thing to do might be to build on that. 

If not, then think of a discrete area where you could give it a try. For example – looking again at the pink square in the image above – a stand-alone task-automation app. You could start with one that is not directly customer-facing, such as one that provides guidance to customer service agents.

But focus on one area to begin or progress your AI journey.

  1. Research how to improve one key area

Having chosen your target area, you now need to conduct research as to the best tools to use. Note down names of potential solutions that come up and begin to narrow them down. Check out the websites of potential providers and try to find case studies and reviews from businesses that are similar to yours.

  1. Trial various products

Don’t feel rushed into any specific product. Try them out first. Most software vendors will offer trials or demos, so take full advantage of this to ensure that you are going to end up with a product that will do what it says on the tin.

Also make sure that your business is set up to provide the data needed (and in the format needed) to ensure that the AI software works to its full potential. There is no point investing in all-singing all-dancing software if you are then only to use part of it effectively.

  1. Implement

Once you are satisfied that you have found the product you need to do what you want it to do, you will need to ensure that you have the budget for it and create an implementation plan.

For this to be completely effective, you need to document a business-wide AI strategy that everyone will buy into. AI will gradually lead to many changes across the organisation, so you need to get buy-in from the outset and for everyone to understand the longer term implications.

  1. Evaluate

Once you have implemented AI in your chosen area, you need to evaluate how well it is performing before making any further changes. Also evaluate the implementation process to see if that can be streamlined or improved. 

Once your organisation has acquired an introductory level of familiarity with AI, and the skills needed to work with it, you can begin to evolve from task automation into machine learning, and continue the journey of integrating AI further with other marketing and business systems.

If you are planning to start or progress your journey into AI, we hope that this article has given you a few pointers as to how and why to do that. Although AI in marketing is in its relative infancy, its capabilities are growing rapidly, and it has the potential to completely transform the future of marketing. Don’t get left behind!