New Drivers Define The Consumer Decision Journey

William AmmermanJuly 17, 20195 min

The combination of Big Data collection and the algorithmic power of AI to learn is having a dramatic impact on the world of marketing and advertising. The personalization of information coupled with the science of persuasion and natural language processing is merging with these innovations to produce technology that operates on us psychologically, something called psychotechnology. In this new age of psychotechnology, we need to recognize that AI can help marketers in unifying data, optimizing campaigns, and harvesting insights. In other words, AI brings new capabilities to all phases of the customer journey, from building awareness and helping encourage buying decisions all the way through the retention of existing customers and turning them into powerful advocates.

Just think about how Netflix leverages data in its movie-recommendation algorithms. One report estimates those recommendations help reduce the churn rate among its subscribers, saving the company upwards of $1 billion a year that it might otherwise have to spend to acquire new customers. This kind of targeted, data-driven, personalized advertising is mostly imperceptible to customers.

Marketers must also understand that AI-powered voice assistants are becoming a default go-to that consumers will use to curate the dizzying array of options they can choose from online. This is especially true in regard to digital voice assistants like Alexa, which consumers are increasingly using to help make decisions about which brands to buy. As Niraj Dawar, a marketing professor (and Branding Strategy Insider contributor) penned in the Harvard Business Review: “Consumers’ allegiance will shift from trusted brands to a trusted AI assistant.”

Seducing The Algorithm

The stakes are enormous—especially for brands that offer multiple products that the digital assistants can recommend, something Dawar calls, “the economy of scope.” The more consumers learn to trust their digital assistants, the more persuasive those assistants become at steering customers to brands. To survive this kind of paradigm shift, brands need to shift their focus from trying to develop direct relationships with customers, to developing ways to optimize their positions with digital assistants.

Psychotechnology has the greatest impact when all of the elements—from personalized information and persuasion equations to learning algorithms and NLP—converge to create entirely new ways of connecting with, and persuading consumers to act.

Leveraging Personal Data

The next generation of AI-enabled marketing and advertising tools will be contingent upon access to data—lots of data. That’s where Facebook and Google have created a significant advantage at a macro level. For marketers, when it comes to reaching their brand’s customers, they need to be thinking about how to develop ways of capturing more detailed information about them as a way to better personalize and calibrate campaigns. They also need to think about how they can eliminate the silos that separate data and prevent a marketer’s ability to build a more comprehensive picture of their customers. As Martha Mathers, practice leader for marketing technology at Gartner, said in an interview about deploying AI in marketing: “It’s pretty critical that you look at the data that you have. And do you know enough about your customers to actually be able to use that tool?”

That’s why one of the areas many enterprises are reinvesting in is their CRM systems, which have become the top of the funnel for capturing data on prospects and leads. That data can then be fed to AI systems throughout the marketing organization. But just having the data isn’t an end in and of itself. With AI, we now have enhanced capabilities of making new connections with that data wherever it might be coming from, both online and offline, and then combining it with other sources to create a more complete picture of a customer as they proceed along their buying journey. has reported, for example, that it’s AI system called Einstein makes more than one billion predictions per day for its customers. On a similar note, Microsoft has begun incorporating data it’s gathering from LinkedIn, the professional social networking site it acquired in 2016, to help it with it’s AI sales and marketing efforts. The firm Adobe spent a reported $4.75 billion to purchase the AI capabilities owned by the firm Marketo as a way to compete with Salesforce. Other data vendors, like Dunn & Bradstreet and Hoovers, have also become vital partners for organizations looking to feed their AI systems with more and more data.

Campaigns That Learn

AI can help us optimize existing campaigns in ways that allow us to achieve our goals against key performance indicators (KPIs), such as ecommerce revenue results. This is basically an interactive statistical process of testing and remediating and ultimately bending campaigns in the direction of whatever yields the best results. Firms who have employed AI in crafting dynamic email outreach campaigns have already seen persuasive results: email clickthrough rates that average about 2.6 percent have soared to more than 14 percent by leveraging machine learning to create compelling subject lines, copy, and calls to action. AI can also harvest insights about the customer decision journey that can enable marketers to create new campaigns based on answering questions like:

  • When is the best time to engage?
  • What motivates engagement?
  • Will this audience respond better to direct mail, telemarketing, online advertising or an email?

In this same vein, AI can help us with arriving at more accurate attribution modeling, ie: to what marketing action do we attribute this particular purchase?

The twenty-first-century wizards of marketing are those who have mastered the efficiency of real-time automation delivered by artificial intelligence. They understand how personalized information powers targeted persuasion and they apply machine learning to improving the process continuously. Today they are exploring the use of natural language processing to engage with consumers using speech, to ensure their products and services can be found and purchased through voice assistants. They understand the potential of psychotechnology to radically alter the customer decision journey and they are applying it already.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: William Ammerman. Excerpted and adapted from his book The Invisible Brand: Marketing in the Age of Automation, Big Data and Machine Learning

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