For Better or For Worse? What Does Artificial Intelligence Mean for my Marketing Career?

Reposted from MarTechAdvisor

Is artificial intelligence coming to take your marketing gig? Jon Epstein, CMO at AI startup Sentient Technologies, doesn’t think so. Find out how AI will change your career–for the better

It’s not as if marketing careers are a safe haven for the risk-averse.

With its constant demands for reinvention and relentless pressure for results, your marketing career, like mine, is like walking through a minefield towards a pot of gold. Not up on programmatic? Pow! Too late to Instagram and Pinterest? Kapow! A little slow on your uptake of account-based marketing? Boom!

For the first time in a decade, the average tenure of a CMO has gone down.
Now, along comes artificial intelligence. What’s a marketer to do? All this talk of AI replacing jobs is, well, a little scary.
And no wonder. There’s a Chicken Little-esque tone in the artificial intelligence think pieces coming out these days. Smart people like Elon Musk and the folks at Gartner fret over the possibility that AI will lead to mass automation and technological employment.

Is the end near? Are all of us marketers bound to be replaced by some neural network that will work for a few kilowatts, attended by its army of bots?

I think not. My younger daughter is going to college next year, and asked me about what career areas she should look at. Being in the AI industry, I looked at it through the lens of – which careers are the ones that will be helped, instead of replaced, by AI.

Sales and marketing are top on the list. When human Uber drivers and customer service jobs are but distant memories, talented and adaptable marketers and sales pros will be as needed as ever, and more important than ever.

Provided, that is, they are able to leverage the power of artificial intelligence to enhance their innate creativity, emotional intelligence, and ability to communicate. Fail to do that, and, well, consider this a divorce.

AI isn’t some kind of job-stealing boogeyman. It’s just a tool. In the hands of smart marketers, it’s going to make us more effective, more successful, and indispensable.

So, if the goal is to learn about how AI is helping marketing (we’ll leave sales to another piece) what are the opportunities today? How can we get ahead of the curve, and advance our careers? How can AI help us solve some of our most vexing marketing problems?

Let’s start by naming a few of these problems. According to a recent eMarketer survey, the top two priorities for client-side marketers are “targeting and personalization” and “content optimization.” In other words: getting the right stuff to the right people, be that products, recommendations, messaging, you name it.

Today, most companies rely on legacy solutions like cohort personalization and A/B testing to address these issues. But they really don’t get us that far. After all, if they did, those wouldn’t be the top two challenges marketers are facing this year. Let’s look at how we can use AI to solve for these problems now, with better, smarter solutions.
Can We Get Personal For a Minute?

We’ll begin with personalization and targeting. Much ballyhooed for years, personalization technologies have failed to deliver on their core promise. And that’s understandable. It’s a really hard problem.

Most current personalization solutions are based on approximations like cohort analysis. Think of ecommerce shops that show you products that “users like you” also liked. That’s better than nothing, of course, but this kind of bucketed “personalization” fails to account for a whole host of important factors like seasonality, changing preferences, and the fact that, while “users like you” may enjoy a lot of the same the things, they aren’t actually you. They just like some of the same things.
Getting to true personalization is the goal; halfway personalization and using a customer’s first name in an email blast don’t cut it. Artificial intelligence can really help here. Instead of getting greeted with products that “people like you” purchased, AI can intuit a user’s preferences from every click he or she makes. This clickstream can be used in countless ways, from presenting better product recommendations in-the-moment, to showing truly personalized advertisements to sending personal emails – all based on that user’s unique preferences.

Say a shopper hits your site and searches for a product. They see something they like and click on it. Once they do, the AI can get to work. Leveraging both its awareness of each product, including its looks and relevant metadata, it can surface products that the user’s first action suggested they might want to explore. As the shopper continues to browse, each subsequent click further trains the AI on that user’s preferences.

Us marketers will then have that information to better market to that specific user. Want to get them back to the site for an upsell, or repeat sell? We can send them truly personalized recommendations, selected by the AI, over email, in ads, however we’d like, all based on a handful of actions they’ve taken onsite. Instead of getting generic recommendations in their inbox, they’re greeted with products that match the similarities and styles that they love. In essence, they’re receiving the sort of white-glove service they’d get from an engaged salesperson instead of wandering down an aisle with pseudo-similar choices. Nordstrom’s vs. Costco, in other words.

Does this type of AI take our jobs away? Hardly. It makes our websites and marketing campaigns more effective, and even more importantly, deepens our relationships with our customers.

Personalization is just one of the challenges AI can solve. Content optimization is another goal that’s squarely in artificial intelligence’s wheelhouse.

Why Flip a Coin?

Right now, optimizing your website’s content is mostly done by A/B testing. One idea at a time, marketers test ways to improve their revenues and conversions. Whether the idea is small–changing the color of a button or the copy on your homepage–or big (a whole-scale reimagining of your funnel), the current solutions require time and traffic to offer any meaningful insights.
Multivariate testing, based on the same core principles as A/B testing, just requires more time, and more traffic, not to mention a herd of expensive data scientists.

Here, again, artificial intelligence brings more power to bear against the same core problem of what content makes your site visitors buy more, sign up more, or spend more. AI has the ability to much more effectively, and efficiently, listen to the signals your users are giving you, and make decisions about the content, design and flow changes which will move the needle.
Does this impact marketers’ careers? Yes it does, but for the better. The new AI-based testing and experimentation solutions allow us to test many more ideas – 10-20 more ideas (which is hundreds of thousands or millions more potential designs). What this requires is more ideas! By automating and accelerating the entire testing process, AI lets marketers concentrate their time on the highest-value area of creativity.

A/B testing is throwing a dart at a board and hoping you will hit vs. miss the board. AI optimization is like throwing handfuls at the same board…some may hit, and some may miss, but most likely you’ll get more wins, and more results. If you use AI, the odds are simply in your favor.

We’re approaching a point where AI is going to be everywhere. It already powers your Facebook feed, your Google searches, the answers Siri gives you when you’re searching, and on and on. Chatbot technology is getting better every day, driven by AI. Automatic audience segmentation is on its way. Predictive sales lead scoring walks among us.

AI’s not going to take your marketing gig away (unless you put your hand in the sand and hope it goes away, that is). If you embrace the opportunities, starting by getting up to speed on the potential for AI in your marketing efforts, AI will help you attain better marketing results, more efficient use of your resources, and act as a force multiplier for your best human instincts.

Sounds like a promotion to me.