When you think of artificial intelligence, or AI, humanoid robots or some kind of computer-generated all-knowing being, like Don Cheadle’s character in the new Space Jam, may come to mind. While artificial intelligence sounds like a far-off concept, it’s actually more accessible than you might think.
Never thought that the villain in Space Jam: A New Legacy would be an AI. But here we are in 2021.
In fact, most of us encounter some type of artificial intelligence every day. It’s how you receive product recommendations while browsing online, it’s that magical skill that understands your voice when you speak to Siri or Alexa, it recognizes the faces in your photos, it automatically moves the spam emails you receive into your Junk folder, and it sends you a text message when it suspects you might be a victim of credit card fraud.
Artificial intelligence is all around us. And it’s making life easier. But what about AI in marketing?
There are practical ways to use artificial intelligence in marketing that are accessible for businesses both large and small. In this post, we’ll discuss
- What AI in marketing is
- Examples of AI in marketing
- How you can use artificial intelligence in marketing right now
So, take my (non-robotic) hand, and let’s learn about AI in marketing together.
What is AI in marketing?
Let’s start off with a few basic definitions. The definition of AI, or artificial intelligence, is “intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast to the natural intelligence displayed by humans.” AI is essentially the science of programming machines to be smarter than we are by making accurate predictions based on large sets of data.
AI in marketing is the practice of applying artificial intelligence to marketing tactics, strategies, or practices.
AI in marketing often happens in:
- Data collection
- Data analysis
- Content creation and curation
- Product recommendations
- Search recommendations
- Ad targeting
- Website chatbots
- Marketing automation
We’ll get into some of these in-depth a little later.
Types of AI in marketing and examples
There are four common types of artificial intelligence applications that are used in marketing: virtual reality, augmented reality, voice, and machine learning.
Virtual reality, or VR, is when you’re immersed in an environment outside of your own reality. Created with stereoscopic sound and 3D computer imaging, VR creates an immersive, believable experience that makes you feel like you are there both mentally and physically. Turn your head and the world turns with you, so the illusion created is never lost.
Examples of virtual reality in marketing
Virtual reality is used in marketing to create experiences, and it’s something that’s becoming more commonplace for businesses.
Take Volvo’s XC90 Experience, for example. Released in 2014 and touted as “the first virtual reality test drive on your phone,” the XC90 Experience allows you to use your phone (with a Google Cardboard VR headset or without one) to, you guessed it, “test drive” the XC90 model.
This use of AI marketing in the form of a virtual reality campaign allowed Volvo to target users who weren’t near a dealership or who may not have visited the dealership prior to the XC90 Experience.
Other brands, such as LiveNation, have also used VR to create experiences for customers—and it’s something that we know will only continue.
Augmented reality, or AR, is the augmentation of your own reality, the one that you’re currently in and surrounded by. AR lets us see the real-life environment right in front of us—my computer screen, my cup of coffee, my dogs sleeping in a chair—and overlays it with digital augmentation. So the real world and the digital world are intertwined.
Examples of augmented reality in marketing
There are some really cool examples of augmented reality marketing campaigns, and brands are getting more and more creative in how they’re using AR in marketing.
One example comes from IKEA. Their app, IKEA Place, allows users to place “true-to-scale” models of IKEA furniture right in their own spaces. Not sure if a rug will work with your current furniture? Try the app. Looking for a new bedside table but want to make sure it will fit? The app helps with that, too.
This genius application of AI marketing in the form of an AR app solves a problem many shoppers have when it comes to their furniture purchases.
Another one of my favorite examples of AR is USA TODAY’s 321 Launch app, which lets you use augmented reality to experience a rocket launch right from your phone on any flat surface.
Through immersive storytelling and creative experiences that solve consumer problems, augmented reality provides a practical and impactful use for AI marketing.
Voice is one of the forms of artificial intelligence that the majority of us are most familiar with. Artificial intelligence powers Siri, Alexa, Google Home, and other voice assistants and uses natural language processing to understand our queries and identify our unique voices.
Examples of voice AI in marketing
Marketers, brands, and local businesses are still trying to harness the power of voice search, even though it’s technically been around since 2010. If your business or brand can be the one recommended by voice assistants after a local search, you can win a large share of the market. It just comes down to how to do that.
There are plenty of examples on how to optimize your website, search ads, and more for voice search, and many brands and local businesses are doing a good job of that.
Related: Get our guide to master voice search for your business.
If you’re looking for a real-world example, just ask your voice assistant for “best restaurant near me” or “dry cleaners open now” and see what results you get.
An example of voice search results from Siri.
Machine learning is a type of AI that means a machine can learn on its own without being programmed to do so by a human. Its system can automatically learn and improve from experience. Sounds a little crazy, right?
AI will gather information like what types of shows you watch on Netflix, the kinds of products you buy on Amazon, how many minutes you leave your refrigerator open, whether you prefer the scenic route or the quickest route in the car, and what kinds of jokes you like. It can then make recommendations based on this data and improve over time.
Machine learning is the reason your Spotify playlists can become so narrowed in on what you like or don’t like—it’s learning from your behavior based on every liked or skipped song.
Dave gets it.
Examples of machine learning in marketing
Machine learning is probably the most common application of artificial intelligence in marketing because it can happen in the backend of a lot of systems and programs. Google and Bing both use machine learning AI to refine search results.
Google even has a name for theirs: RankBrain. RankBrain is “a component of Google’s core algorithm which uses machine learning to determine the most relevant results to search engine queries.”
According to Moz, “the query goes through an interpretation model that can apply possible factors like the location of the searcher, personalization, and the words of the query to determine the searcher’s true intent. By discerning this true intent, Google can deliver more relevant results.”
In layman’s terms, RankBrain is using machine learning to process searches and deliver what it deems as the most useful result to the searcher.
Machine learning is hugely useful in instances where there is a large amount of data to process and has optimized many aspects of marketing for businesses and brands both large and small.
Related: The benefits of artificial intelligence in marketing.
5 ways to use artificial intelligence in marketing
You’re sold on artificial intelligence in marketing now, right? Great! So how do you get started? Here are a few ways your business—no matter the size or budget—can use artificial intelligence to power your marketing.
1. AI and lead management
Lead management is a must for your business if you want to keep track of leads, move them through the sales funnel, and understand what marketing strategies are working to drive those leads.
Many lead management systems use AI marketing to qualify and categorize leads, automate activities like follow-up emails, and record and analyze phone calls to identify trends.
Here’s an example of email templates that use AI and automation to keep contacts engaged after becoming a lead from LOCALiQ’s Client Center.
By incorporating AI into your lead management, you can gather information and data that will improve your marketing, free up some valuable time you may have previously spent transcribing, following up, or categorizing leads, and spend more time focusing on converting your leads into customers.
2. AI and A/B testing
A/B testing has many benefits for your marketing campaigns. By A/B testing your campaigns, you can identify what is resonating with your customers so you can drive better results and maximize your budget.
When AI is used in A/B testing, automatic tests and tweaks can be created and analyzed without you needing to manually isolate variables and create tests. The AI can then select the best-performing ad variation and run that without you lifting a finger.
This combination of AI and automation allows you to A/B test more variations and zero in on the factors that will drive the best results. Plus, with machine learning involved, the AI will continue to learn what’s working best for your campaigns and make recommendations based on those results.
3. AI and budget optimization
One challenge many brands and business owners encounter is distributing their marketing budget across channels. This is often an extremely manual process that requires the use of multiple systems, reports, and calculations to determine the right budget mix. And when it comes time to make changes, you’re going through the steps all over again.
By incorporating AI into your marketing budget mix, automatic optimizations can be made to your budget and bids across channels through a single system.
Often, these optimizations can be made based on the channel and channel-specific factors like targeting, bid strategy, and more, that are driving the best results for your business. This makes your cross-channel marketing more effective and easier for you to execute.
4. AI and ad design optimizations
Similar to A/B testing, there are times when you’ll want to test ad design variations to find out what will drive the best results. One way you can do this is by using AI in your design optimizations.
Each element in the design of your ad—color, font, call to action, images—can be picked apart and given a score. The AI will also take into account metrics like click-through rate and engagement tracking to determine the effectiveness of your ad and what, if anything, needs to be changed or adjusted.
This can result in small design changes, such as shortening copy, changing the color of a call-to-action button, or updating font, which can lead to meaningful results.
Here’s an example of an ad design that was tested and optimized using AI:
You can see that a photograph using real people was swapped in and the copy was updated. Even though the call-to-action button is much smaller in the revised ad, that image change resulted in a 33% increase in click-through rates. A big impact all because of AI!
5. Creating experiences with AI
What’s going to set your business apart from others in your market? Many marketers believe the answer is through creating unique experiences that engage your customers. If you can provide a way for customers to engage with your business in a meaningful and impactful way, you can stand out from the competition and win more than just new business—you can win brand loyalty.
Not every business and brand has the means to host or create mind-blowing in-person experiences like customer appreciation events or conferences featuring the biggest celebrities. But you can think creatively and use AI in the form of virtual reality or augmented reality to create experiences and connections with your customers—no matter where they, or you, are located.
One of my favorite examples is St. Jude’s Hall of Heroes campaign. Using virtual reality, St Jude gives people a way to hear stories from childhood cancer survivors and their families so they can experience something through VR that they wouldn’t get to experience otherwise.
Think of ways you can use AI in marketing to create experiences and connect with your customers—even if it’s something as simple as adding chat to your website or creating automatic email replies when you receive an inquiry after hours.
Artificial intelligence in marketing: An intelligent decision for any business
Artificial intelligence in marketing will only continue to gain steam in the coming years. You can set your brand apart by using AI to deliver a good customer experience, demonstrate value to your customers, streamline processes for your business, and make meaningful optimizations that will drive better results.
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