Artificial intelligence

Is artificial intelligence revolutionising marketing?

Have traditional newspaper ads, direct mailings and newsletters nearly had their day? Artificial intelligence (AI) is creating digital, personalised content that is much more effective.

Text: Ladina Camenisch, Image: © Alamy Stock Photo

Today, Facebook and Google are among the world’s most successful companies. And there’s a reason for that: they have redefined marketing by analysing their customers’ every click. They focus heavily on data and use AI to draw meaningful conclusions from it. The strategy is working: the two giants have captured most of the world’s advertising business in a very short space of time. The losers are companies that don’t yet use AI.

AI as a lifeline in the data flood

Swiss companies are now only just beginning to take their first hesitant steps with AI. Intelligent systems already have a huge diversity of uses, varying from medical applications such as X-ray analysis to answering customer queries. “Slowly but surely, people in Switzerland are beginning to realise how AI can help with marketing,” explains Michael Baeriswyl, Swisscom’s Head of Data, Analytics & AI.

AI enables marketing experts, for example, to analyse more data more quickly and thereby gain insights into customer behaviour. A company can then tailor its marketing campaigns to its target groups and make them much more effective. Newsletters are no longer sent to general mailing lists, but AI collates individual content based on customer’ clicks, making it much more relevant to readers. Another example: in order to understand a customer’s buying intentions even better, algorithms can analyse billions of searches or their website activity. The intelligent system can then recognise when a decision to buy is imminent. The relevant product ads are then displayed at exactly the right moment. These changes mean that marketing experts, rather than focusing most of their attention on targeting, can concentrate on content development.

Virtual assistants are making the use of AI almost obligatory: Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Siri, for example, are changing users’ search behaviour and influencing the way search engines work. Adapting their own content to these new, constantly changing parameters has become simply impossible for individual employees. Baeriswyl says: “A human being can’t analyse this quantity of data. Artificial intelligence, on the other hand, can carry out such tasks easily.”

People want people

AI works best when humans and machines work together. The system may be able to carry out simple tasks such as changing a customer’s address or subscription on its own. But when it comes to more complex processes, it needs human experience and empathy. Because there comes a time when a person wants to speak to another person – and not to a machine. “Companies would do well not to forget this,” warns Baeriswyl. “I am sure that marketing experts will not be replaced by AI. But AI can help lighten the load with certain repetitive tasks or decision-making processes.” This gives us human beings more time to do the things that machines can’t, such as be creative or communicate with customers in an empathetic way.

Hand with smartphone


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