Artificial intelligence, once restricted to NASA and sci-fi movies, is gradually becoming a prominent buzzword in the world of marketing technology. However, the widespread adoption of artificial intelligence in marketing is likely several years away as its application is not yet fully developed. But innovations taking place now are setting the stage for artificial intelligence and, more specifically, machine learning, to become a marketing standard in the near future.
Many use the two terms of artificial intelligence and machine learning interchangeably; because they are so closely related, it is difficult to establish clear boundaries between them. While artificial intelligence refers to technology that has the cognitive capabilities to solve problems, machine learning allows marketers to learn and understand, among other things, how content is consumed, and helps them predict consumer behaviors based on data patterns and algorithms.
Global tech companies like Amazon, IBM and Google are beginning to leverage both to gain more insight into their marketing metrics and, little by little, companies from every industry are following suit.
Take Facebook and Google, for example. Facebook’s News Feed curator and ad targeting system, and Google’s search algorithm and Adwords advertising network are some of the most widely recognized uses of machine learning in marketing. Outside of these obvious and familiar brands, scores of machine learning/AI software vendors are hawking their ‘wares’ to any company that will purchase them.
Many of these artificial intelligence and machine learning systems are not quite ready for prime time, and their processes are often more manual than advertised. The vast majority of these software offerings are not yet truly self-service, relying on vendors’ professional services to work properly. We see that machine learning will begin evolving from the foundation of marketing automation and analytics, which is starting to take hold of large and medium-sized enterprises beyond just Google and Facebook.
Similar to how enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and customer relationship management (CRM) systems developed in the 1990s and 2000s, we see the development of artificial intelligence and machine learning technology starting with the automation of manual tasks done by the least-skilled workers and progressing from the bottom up. With that said, machine learning will likely gain widespread adoption in marketing through marketing automation analytics, which involves the classification of existing, structured information stored in relational databases, and unstructured data such as Twitter messages into meaningful information. Like most things “Big Data,” these large data sets are difficult to process manually and will benefit from the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning to derive more meaningful insights for marketers.
Though artificial intelligence for marketing has not been globally adopted, organizations pioneering the practice are paving the way for this technology to be more accessible for all marketers, very soon (1-5 years out).
As sci-fi author William Gibson said, “The future is already here — it’s just not evenly distributed yet.”
Scott Thomas is president of revenue growth agency Intelechy Group. He has decades of experience in providing demand generation and marketing technology solutions for a vast range of clients including Accenture, Dell, IBM, Exclusive Resorts, AT&T and more.
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