Marketers in both the US and UK report that their digital marketing spend has grown in the past couple of years. You can see that pronounced increase in social media, email, web content, and more online advertising efforts.
Marketers see the increased digital spending to personalize their messages and “meet customers where they are.” Technologies can listen to prospect and customer activities through digital channels, amass data, and turn it into information and insights. Then, we can leverage those insights to digitally re-engage our prospects and customers and curate their experiences, all designed to get them to buy our products and services.
That’s today. As for tomorrow, we need to think about the future in three phases or emerging horizons.
In Horizon 1, which is underway now and will last another two to four years, AI will impact engagement at scale, vis-à-vis technology like recommendation engines in B2B marketing. The sorts of things that Amazon and Netflix do in offering suggestions such as “If you like this, you might like that” and “people who bought this also bought X” will become commonplace in B2B marketing. That’s because AI suggests specific content that should appeal to the people you are trying to reach. A practical example is predictive content in emails and on websites. Content specific to an individual based on their digital persona—which you will have built in a customer database—can be delivered in real time.
We are beginning to see the trappings of Horizon 2, but I expect this phase to mature in 2018 and 2019. This is where AI systems become much more adept at aiding marketers in understanding both their current audience and identifying new ones. AI will provide incredible insight into audience characteristics, attributes, and values, driving much more precision into our marketing efforts. This will have a massive impact at a practical level.
Furthermore, in Horizon 2 the marketer is going to have a broader range of AI-augmented choices. Today, there are predictive audience segmentation and lead scoring solutions, but they haven’t really converged. They are hyper-specialized.
In Horizon 2, you’ll see those technologies start to come together. For example, an audience segmentation engine will be integrated directly into your campaign engine so that, if the preferences of your audience change, the system will be able to respond without you needing to intervene.
The potential impact of this is profound, because if I’m a B2B marketer, I may have 2,000 different digital marketing campaigns running simultaneously across social media, mobile, web, email, ads, and on and on. If the preferences of my audience change, think about all the physical work and cost associated with manually updating all those digital activities. Think about how impactful it will be to have an intelligent assistant/engine that can accomplish much of the updating work for you. Automatically.
Let’s move on to Horizon 3, which will be here by 2025, if not before. There are going to be end-to-end deep-learning systems that are both inferential and creative in marketing.
What I mean by inferential and creative is this: Marketing AI will make connections across multiple systems, just as humans do. If someone sees a row of apple trees, they can make an inference that it’s not just a row of apple trees, but an orchard. AI will make similar connections. We will get to the point where we will be able to select a specific audience and desired outcome within our marketing automation systems and then watch as the system builds out a campaign for us. Definitely powerful, but there’s a lot of code to be written between now and then. That said, this will arrive far more quickly than most marketers believe.
Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Steve Lucas, CEO of Marketo, excerpted from his new book Engage To Win, with permission from Greenleaf Book Group Press.
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