Is AI really the answer to your business’ problems?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been the star of sci-fi movies, it’s thrashed a chess master at his game, and more recently it’s intimidating us marketers into thinking we’ll one day be tossed onto a pile with pagers and Betamax.

It’s no wonder that the latter is an alarming prospect. AI has the capability to extract golden nuggets from unstructured data sets, orchestrate personalized marketing campaigns based on a user’s personality, tone and emotion, and even monitor our fridges and recommend recipes based on its contents, minimizing wastage.

In marketing, AI has most certainly been the buzzword of 2017; check Google Trends and you’ll see the term has been sitting above 90 for the majority of the year. But while many of us are talking about Artificial Intelligence, are any of us actually ready to adopt it into our marketing strategies?

The answer is likely no – but it depends on what level of AI we’re referring to. For example, there’s ‘full-blown’ Artificial Intelligence which I would liken to the Internet of Things (IoT); and then there are machine-learning tools – such as Facebook Ads – that focus on smaller areas and which many marketers are already using in their day-to-day. It doesn’t help that the definition of AI has evolved over time, blurring the lines of how it’s viewed person to person.

Here I’m focusing on the marketing aspect of AI and whether it provides the solution to a business’ problems, or whether it’s the antidote to a problem that doesn’t really exist.

We know today’s consumer craves authenticity and for businesses to gratify that need, it’s all down to providing a personalized experience. Delivering relevant communications has always been a challenge for online marketers, especially when it’s required at massive scale – and that’s why we got dynamic content and marketing automation. These two tools in the marketer’s arsenal are readily available and are included in almost every marketing automation platform. What’s more, the democratization of these types of software means automations are relatively easy to implement.

The truth? Many brands are failing to migrate beyond even the most basic of marketing automation programs that have been commonplace for at least half a decade. The proof of this lies in dotmailer’s 2017 edition of Hitting the Mark: this annual benchmark report zooms in on the customer and email experiences of 100 retailers, from the likes of ASOS to Fingerhut. It was promising to see that 86% of brands had an email welcome program set up, yet it was surprising to see that 60% failed to deliver abandoned cart emails. Cart recovery programs are definitely not a new concept, and we have years of evidence that the time and cost of putting the automation together is far outweighed by the ROI it brings.

A prime example of automation’s success comes from one of dotmailer’s customers, Forest Holidays, who introduced an abandoned cart program to its ecommerce strategy. The travel company made return on investment from the first booking and in the first 30 days’ implementation, the program rescued £42k of revenue!

If businesses are looking for ways to drive growth, AI is certainly not going to be a cost-effective quick win. I believe it’s time for distracted businesses to revisit the basics because, let’s face it, marketing automation is the foundation of good email marketing in 2017. What’s clear is that, often, the strategies proven to deliver incremental revenue and customer satisfaction are being overlooked.

At dotmailer, we recently worked with ecommerce and tech expert Chloë Thomas to get her thoughts on whether AI is something we should be paying attention to. Chloë’s business, eCommerce MasterPlan, sees her consulting companies on where they need to focus to get more customers and ultimately increase profits.

The whitepaper outlines the four steps any business should consider if it wants to take its first foray into the world of AI. And it’s totally free.

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