Years ago, the term ‘artificial intelligence’ would have triggered conversations about science fiction and robots learning how to love (who could forget Spielberg’s film A.I. Artificial Intelligence?)
But technology has come a long way, and today, artificial intelligence (AI) has successfully leaped from the realm of sci-fi to the real world. AI-powered applications such as chatbots and digital assistants are becoming more commonplace, with 77 percent of consumers using an AI-powered service or device on a regular basis.
In the world of marketing, research shows that AI is one of the top trends people are watching. When BrightEdge asked content, search, and digital marketers about what they saw as the next big trend in marketing, the top 3 answers were consumer personalization (28.66 percent), AI (25.69 percent), and voice search (21.23 percent).
What's interesting is that those three responses, which total 75 percent, all fall into AI territory. As BrightEdge puts it, this tells us that, “AI is more pervasive and prominent than the respondents realized."
With the pervasiveness of AI, you might be wondering: can small to medium retailers and agencies leverage the technology?
The short answer is, yes. Contrary to what some might think, AI isn’t just for companies with big budgets. Artificial intelligence is more accessible than ever, and there are things you can do right now to use AI to market and sell more products.
Let’s explore how you and your clients can do just that.
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1. Smarter advertising and marketing
Most online ad networks and platforms already use AI in some way, shape, or form. Google DoubleClick Bid Manager, for example, uses machine learning to analyze previous campaigns and suggests inventory and targeting to meet your advertising objectives.
More recently, the search giant also introduced AdSense Auto ads, which use machine learning to make placement and monetization decisions on behalf of the user.
According to Google, these ads analyze a web page to identify what ads should be placed where based on how likely they are to perform well and provide a good user experience.
Facebook’s ad platform is also rich with AI-powered applications that can help marketers automate routine tasks and scale their efforts. Take Shopify’s Kit, for example, which can create write, build, and place social ads for merchants. It can even serve up tailored marketing recommendations, and ‘talk’ with other Shopify apps.
As a marketer or agency, it’s essential to keep up with these developments so you can better serve your clients. Which ad products or services will save time and money? Which AI-centric apps should you integrate with? Answering these questions will help you craft better marketing offerings and campaigns for your clients.
2. Personalization at scale
Consumers want personalized experiences, but manually customizing your content for each user is extremely inefficient. Thankfully, with AI, personalization at scale is more than possible. Whether a business is looking to customize their emails to each subscriber (showing specific related products, for example) or wants to personalize their website for their viewers in real-time, AI can help them get there.
"Consumers want personalized experiences, but manually customizing your content for each user is extremely inefficient."
Just like with marketing and advertising, there are numerous tools and platforms which can aid you in your personalization efforts. A quick search on the Shopify App Store will point you to tools that can do everything from automating product recommendations to sending AI-powered emails.
There are a number of AI-enabled marketing programs, for example, that do the hard work of intelligent marketing for you including sending automated product recommendations via email, based on each customer’s purchase history.
There are plenty more AI solutions on the market, but before getting into these platforms, see to it that you have a personalization strategythat sits well with your customers.
Why a personalization strategy matters
While personalization has proven to help your bottom line, too much of it can also do some harm. A 2018 survey on CX trends found that 75 percent of shoppers found personalization to be a bit creepy, and of those shoppers, 22 percent said they would search for other brands if personalization went too far, while 21 percent said they would tell their friends and family. Clearly, you have to tread a fine line between being relevant and being creepy for your personalization efforts to be effective.
An excellent way to do this is to be transparent and involve shoppers in the data-collection process. Instead of just silently analyzing users, why not let them play a more active role in your data-gathering?
For example, you can create style quizzes that allow shoppers to volunteer information about their tastes and preferences. Aside from being enticing (consumers love online quizzes), these quizzes can make product suggestions and personalization tactics feel more natural to your customers. Quizzes can tone down the ‘creep factor’ because shoppers know exactly how you’re coming up with your recommendations.
One retailer that’s using style quizzes effectively is lingerie retailer, ThirdLove. Many users kick off their bra-buying experience on the site with a Fit Finder quiz that asks them about their current bra size as well as any issues they’re having with their existing brands.
From there, ThirdLove serves up tailored recommendations and other campaigns (like follow-ups and offers delivered via email), which also incorporate each user’s quiz results.
This strategy is quite effective in positioning ThirdLove as helpful and smart, versus creepy. Because the recommendations are based on the input of shoppers, customers are more receptive towards them. Keep this in mind when crafting a personalization strategy (either for your company or clients). Determine what types of data you need to gather as well as how you’re going to do it, and then be transparent about your efforts.
Once you’ve mapped that out, you can then work on scalingyour efforts through AI solutions that can analyze inputs and automate recommendations—and that’s where nifty personalization apps would come in handy.
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3. Timing optimization
The right content delivered at the wrong time will yield subpar results at best. That's why it's critical for businesses to time their messages and content, and make sure they show up at just the right moment for each user.
Here are some of the areas where you might be able to help your clients improve their timing.
"It's critical for businesses to time their messages and content, and make sure they show up at just the right moment for each user."
From growing a subscriber list to crafting the right messages, retailers put in a lot of work in email marketing. The last thing anyone wants is for a message to go unread (or straight to the trash) because it arrived at the wrong time.
Fortunately, several email marketing platforms are now letting users optimize the timing of your messages. For instance, AI can help trigger email sends based on the optimal time to engage with each customer after an interaction with your store.
When should you display that pop-up offering a discount code? At what point should you make product recommendations?
These are some the questions that should be running through your mind when you’re thinking about timing optimization for web content. The right answers (and the questions, for that matter) will vary, depending on each site. While one retailer might want to explore real-time content and product recommendations, another would benefit more from optimizing the timing of their pop-up offers.
The best way to figure this out is to analyze a website’s data (or better yet, use AI to do it) and then find areas for improvement.
4. More efficient and cost-effective marketing
Artificial intelligence can save you and your clients loads of time and money. When used correctly, AI can literally put hours back into your day.
For example, Google Analytics has an Assistant feature that automatically streams insights and recommendations in the GA app. It even lets you ask questions like, ‘What’s the month-over-month growth rate of my users’, or, ‘What are the top-selling products this week?’
In Google’s words, this functionality:
- Combs through your data to give you meaningful insights and recommendations
- Offers quick tips on how to improve your Google Analytics data
- Gets smarter over time by reacting to your feedback and how you use it
- Helps you share insights so your whole team can take action
Some of the things that Google Analytics brings up would have taken marketers hours (maybe even days) to surface, but with this feature, you can find them with just a few taps.
And it’s not just about saving time. Having the right information at your fingertips helps you be more cost-effective with your marketing budget. When you’re aware of which product pages have higher-than-usual bounce rates, for instance, you can effectively devote time and money to those pages, rather than trying to guess where to spend valuable resources.
So, see to it that you and your clients are taking advantage of AI by setting up intelligent systems that can analyze your website data. Whether you’re using Google Analytics or another platform, you want to make sure it’s smart enough to provide insights you can actually use.
This doesn’t just apply to web analytics. As we alluded to earlier, AI can make you a more efficient and effective advertiser, email marketer, or even customer relationship specialist. For example, rather than combing through a client's database to figure out which customers are about to churn, you can use AI technology to do that for them, so they can craft the right campaign.
Bottom line: if you’re spending too much time deciphering shopper behavior or if you’re unable to figure out what you should do next, you may want to get help from an artificially intelligent assistant.
Artificial intelligence can empower your marketing initiatives and those of your clients in so many ways. From giving you the ability to run smarter ad campaigns to surfacing useful insights, the benefits of AI are clear as day.
That’s why it’s so important to be aware of how businesses can use AI to their advantage. Having this knowledge will help you have more meaningful conversations with your clients, and you’ll be able to assist them more effectively in reaching their goals.