Back to overview

Is AI the brave new world of marketing?

We are using technologies and leaving our digital footprints in more and more areas of our lives. There are now numerous ways for brands to collect, analyse and design marketing activities based on these traces. How businesses take advantage of these huge amounts of data and what conclusions they draw from it for targeted and customized marketing campaigns will be critical to their success. Marketers can use artificial intelligence (AI) to master these challenges of using big data.

February 2018

What is artificial intelligence?

digital footprint

Scientifically speaking, artificial intelligence is the umbrella term used to denote all areas of research dealing with the mimicking of human cognitive functions by machines. As such, artificial intelligence includes machine learning as well as sub-areas such as knowledge-based (expert) systems, pattern recognition, robotics, natural language processing and machine translation. Artificial intelligence basically consists of a machine or program doing something that corresponds to the use of human intelligence.

Why is artificial intelligence so important to digital marketing?

The answer to this question is quite simple. The majority of today's customers are "always on" and interact with multiple digital touchpoints during the process of buying a product or service. They also expect more speed, personalization and precision of the user experience in their online lives than ever before. As a result, marketing should be positioned to respond in the right way at the right time. And this is how artificial intelligence can make marketers' lives easier. Using automated solutions, they are capable of analysing numerous records in real time to better understand what, how and when users want to buy something.
There are various approaches to managing processes using AI in marketing. The following future scenarios are just a few of the ones that AI could make possible:

  • up to 100% personalised automation of advertisements and adaptation of advertising texts
  • the calculation of sales forecasts
  • the predictable delivery of products to customers

But potential risks also have to be considered:   

  • loss of actual contact with the customer (e.g. due to use of chatbots in customer service)
  • company dependency on auto-adaptive systems and the platforms on which the data is stored

Many companies use AI in the form of chatbots in their communication with customers.

For example, bots help Lufthansa customers search for inexpensive tickets and Zalando customers with their online shopping.

However, AI is also helping create text. Right now, this is only being used for simple texts, for which structured data is available, but more sophisticated texts are conceivable in the future as well. The Associated Press, for example, is automatically generating company earnings reports and short sports articles.

Increasing acceptance in marketing

Following much speculation about the possibilities of artificial intelligence in the recent past, many companies are now convinced of AI's relevance, especially in the area of marketing. A survey commissioned by Emarsys and conducted by Forrester Consulting in July 2017 showed that 88 percent of the marketing managers from the retail sector think that AI will reinvent the retail industry and 78 percent of the survey respondents plan to invest more in this area in the next 12 months.

With the introduction of AI, various marketing tools will certainly become more user friendly. At the same time, it will automate many of the manual tasks. This does not mean, however, that humans will no longer be needed and that marketing experts are in danger of extinction. AI solutions are still by no means error-free and can only work based on parameters that marketers have precisely defined for them in advance. Human judgement and feedback will therefore remain essential to marketing even with the use of artificial intelligence.

AI is taking over, but only to a certain extent

One thing is certain: artificial intelligence applications will be used increasingly for marketing in the coming years. Everyone who is involved should therefore learn about the possibilities, advantages and disadvantages as soon as possible. When well planned and used responsibly, artificial intelligence can be used to create targeted campaigns that reach customers at the right moment and provides more return on investment for the company. In addition to this, AI will help free up time by taking on many marketing activities. Experts will therefore be able to focus more on what we humans do best: creative thinking, analysis and networking. Seen in this light, the future looks quite bright.