A businessman stacking blocks on a desk. The blocks have different images associated with marketing and customer experience
PHOTO: Adobe

The world is changing and businesses can no longer rely on tried-and-true marketing approaches to reach consumers. Nowhere is this more apparent than during 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic radically altered consumer behavior. For years, behaviors were changing — customer engagement with brands increased as personalization efforts evolved. These days, customers can engage with a brand from a multitude of channels depending on a million possible contexts. For businesses to succeed in reaching customers, they’ll need new strategies.

“For many years, the marketing mindset from an artistic standpoint has been about finding the one perfect piece of creative content that customers will relate to,” says John Sandwick, director of CAC personalization for [24]7.ai. “This isn’t the [24]7 philosophy. Our philosophy is combining artificial intelligence with human intelligence to build out a personalization strategy that meets customers where they are. We look for what surprises and delights and drive purchases from those reactions.”

Getting Ready for a Marketing Upheaval

In many ways, contextualized marketing campaigns that incorporate artificial intelligence are perfectly positioned to take over for traditional personalization duties — especially as some tools marketers rely on (i.e. cookies) are going away.

New ways of marketing come with new ways to improve the customer experience. “I’ve had conversations with CMOs who want to better understand, influence and control the customer experience because it’s such a critical component of their brand experience,” notes Sandwick. “And if they can’t control the customer experience, they risk losing out on sales.” Plenty of studies show how customers will give up on a brand after even a single bad experience. In this environment, it’s critical for marketers to be able to deliver a better customer experience.

Many Ways To Get To That Perfect Sale

Today’s marketing isn’t often predictive; it’s done based on what consumers have historically done rather than what they’re going to do next. This can lead to an unsatisfying customer experience. “If I as a customer buy a vacuum cleaner, the last thing I’m going to want to see (at least for a while) is ads for more vacuum cleaners,” says Sandwick. “But with our intent engine, we can target those recent vacuum cleaner owners with more intentional ads. Instead of an ad for another vacuum cleaner, our potential consumer might see an ad for an area rug, or a rug cleaner that works in tandem with your vacuum. By targeting customers with contextual ads, you make for a better customer experience.”

Marketing with contextualization may require a bit more upfront development, but it also comes with the potential to increase sales and deliver a greater return on investment. “What your business needs is much more of a strategic direction up front,” notes Sandwick. “Think about all the different ways a customer might interact with your brand and let the AI build on that. Traditional marketing has heavily featured A/B testing, but what if neither of those options work? Then you’re stuck.”

Sandwick continues. “Our solution is different. The AI learns what customers react to and what they don’t. If our engine shows you an ad and you don’t react, you won;t see that ad again. Instead, the AI will learn from that experience and try to predict the message you will react to. This also makes for a better customer experience because customers aren’t seeing (and ignoring) the same ads over and over. Instead, the AI keeps learning and trying to engage you with the perfect message for that time.”

Picking up a Few More Sales Along the Way

Humans aren’t perfect; they aren’t going to predict every possible scenario where a customer might make a sale. The advantage of combining artificial intelligence with human insight is the ability to learn faster and more quickly realize incremental sales. Sandwick explains. “One of our customers sells a product through shoppable recipes. Now, they weren’t prepared for the surge in home cooking and baking during the summer of 2020. But the AI learned and provided that context to any consumer that interacted with those recipes. The results were staggering; the client experienced clickthrough rates over 1.0, a 17 percent increase in sales lift and millions of incremental dollars thanks to the sales lift. The events of 2020 have shown that AI is essential when trying to predict customer behavior in uncertain times.”

What the World Needs Now Is Empathy

Empathy needs to be baked in to marketing campaigns, especially given the events of the past year. Customers need to feel like your business understands them and understands their problems. They don’t want to be inundated with anything that isn’t relevant to where they are in that moment. Demonstrating that your brand cares about its customers can contribute to product success. A Neilsen study found that empathy was a top contributor to new product innovation success.

Conclusion

The next few years will represent a sea change in digital marketing and businesses need to be ready. By exploring new digital marketing frontiers through hyper-personalization, contextual ads, chatbots within ads and personalization without cookies, businesses will be better positioned to respond to changing customer behavior. “AI allows us to get faster insights into customer behavior,” says Sandwick. “AI is always learning to ensure that your business can iterate its marketing approaches, find out what works and make those incremental sales that will increase your bottom line.

See how [24]7.ai can deliver amazing personalized experiences for your business at 247.ai.