I was really sad to see that Shoes of Prey ‘has stopped taking orders’. Finding customers I suspect was getting more and more expensive; they are not alone in the challenges faced with the cost of acquiring customers. As algorithms change on social networks almost minute-by-minute, and Google shifts into gear with its advertising offerings, it’s difficult at best for the mere mortals among us to stay up to date and on top of what is required to serve customers.

Shoes of Prey

AI is an almost essential weapon in this era of marketing hyper-personalisation and first-class customer experience expectations. At a time when attention is the new currency, brands must offer something of value every single time they interact with a customer. AI can enable this like never before.

According to the eMarketer Artificial Intelligence Roundup (May 2018), companies worldwide have invested between $26 billion and $39 billion in AI in 2016. However adoption is still lagging in many industries, with McKinsey reporting 31% of companies were “partial adopters”, 40% were only considering employing AI and 10% were at the stage of experimentation. The level of uncertainty about the technology was felt in four out of 10 businesses surveyed, specifically relating to direct benefits and ROI. Meanwhile, according to Forrester’s Predictions 2018: A Year of Reckoning, 51% of companies invested in some sort of artificial intelligence capabilities in 2017.

And while AI has potential uses in many fields and industries – with robots assisting in medicine already more than a virtual reality – it’s particularly well-suited to the world of marketing. Last year, Salesforce’s fourth-annual State of Marketing report indicated that 72% of “high-performing marketing leaders” had already incorporated an AI component into their operations, often to great effect.

Furthermore, 64% of users claimed that AI had “greatly or substantially” improved their overall marketing efficiency, specifically relating to improved customer experience.

This is a view I echo at the Big Red Group after we deployed the Albert AI marketing technology within the RedBalloon business in mid 2017.

What we’re finding is that Albert is able to work from the top of the funnel to the bottom and join those dots, which has allowed us to achieve unbelievable return on advertising spend (ROAS). We don’t know where the ceiling is, and we can’t wait to see how Albert can continue to accelerate and amplify our efforts.

But more than that, we’re finding the customer experience has improved substantially. Albert has been able to deliver the right creative, the right message and the right offer to people when and where they want it. This technology, combined with strategic and informed website improvements has seen conversion and ROAS both increase.

Through the lens of AI, marketers are able to serve more relevant ads to the right people at the right time, but consumers also benefit from the kind of hyper-personalised experiences that machine learning is able to create.

AI can be applied to a staggering breadth of marketing activities, from interpreting consumer trends to optimising customer touchpoints, to creating better customer service bots. That wide range of applications is a testament to AI’s remarkable ability to break down longstanding departmental silos and drive true omni-channel campaigns, aggregating customer data from countless channels spanning the entire digital ecosystem. This is something simply not achievable by humans at the pace required in an economy where customer attention is the new currency.

Beyond all the talk, discussion and ideas – there must be a better way to reduce the cost of finding customers, audiences and prospects. I suspect what Shoes of Prey did almost a decade ago no longer served them today. There is not one online retailer I know who is having an easy time with digital marketing.

Also published on Medium.

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