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Leveraging Artificial Intelligence in the Age of the Consumer

With the world — both  people and things — making online connections today, marketers are increasingly leading the process of bridging the gap between marketing, sales and customer service. Today’s marketing leader is hyper-focused on taking the vast data generated from this new level of connectivity and creating a single view of the customer so they can deliver personalized experiences across all their interactions with the brand.

According to Salesforce’s recent 2016 State of Marketing report, 65 per cent of high-performing Canadian marketing teams surveyed say they’re already driving customer experience initiatives across the business. However, only half (56 per cent) rate their ability to create personalized omnichannel customer experiences across all business units as excellent or above average.

This needs to change. It’s no longer just enough to deliver personalized customer experiences — those experiences need to be smarter, faster and in the right context, geared to a segment of one. Considering that a Forrester Research survey found that less than a third (31 per cent) of consumers said companies consistently deliver personalized experiences in multiple communication channels and that 40 per cent said most promotions have little value or are irrelevant, marketers need to step up their game.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is crucial in delivering these personalized experiences for customers, and as the conductor of the customer experience, marketers need to embrace it in order to succeed. It’s no longer a projection for what the future will look like: AI is here now and needs to be integrated into all facets of marketing.

A More Intelligent Marketing Strategy

The customer experience goes well beyond marketing — it is building the most personalized journey possible across customer touchpoints. But the next-gen customer experience requires a next-gen customer relationship management — a smart CRM platform that allows businesses to manage relationships and the data and information associated with them, powered by AI.

This kind of smart CRM platform must have highly integrated sales, marketing, services and communities capabilities, can analyze customer engagement, determine positive, negative or neutral customer sentiment, and can automatically adapt customer journeys. It will also significantly optimize the role of community managers, marketing automation specialists, social media content publishers, customer service front line staff and more.

This same logic could apply to marketing lead scoring and management. Customer service insights like customer satisfaction or net promoter scores (NPS) can determine lead scoring algorithms. Social listening, analysis and reporting logic powered by AI can recommend adjustments to marketing campaigns, the outreach program for inside sales, and publishing calendar and content makeup based on customer personas and industry needs.

AI for Marketing

Research by Deloitte of 300 CMOs and heads of marketing departments across Canada found that harnessing data analytics is one of the most important challenges marketers say they face (71 per cent). And while two-thirds (66 per cent) use analytics in making key decisions related to marketing, over half (51 per cent) don’t have the in-house skills to harness data.

For marketers, AI is a shift from relying on backward-looking analytics and stale data to leveraging all of the disruptive technology forces that preceded it — cloud, social, mobile and IoT — and harnessing them to recognize patterns, recommend next best actions, predict outcomes and automate processes to become smarter about their customers, their communities and the journeys they’re on.

It also empowers them to apply automation and data science in place of gut instinct and manual processes. And finally, it enables them to be proactive in their engagement with each customer on their terms and at every touch point along the journey.

We are in the age of the customer, and Canadian marketers who embrace AI will have a significant advantage in delivering the next generation customer experience.

Vala Afshar is chief digital evangelist for Salesforce.

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