Machine Learning and AI Marketing Trends to Watch for 2018

From more sophisticated metrics to a next-generation customer experience, machine learning and artificial intelligence are raising the bar on what marketers can do to enhance customer relationships. While many marketing organizations are still struggling to make the jump from ‘doing digital’ to ‘being digital,’ some are getting ready to make a quantum leap with machine learning and AI.

Here are the marketing technology trends every marketer should keep their eye on as we round the corner to 2018.

Image Recognition on Social Media

Thanks to big data, we already know that visual media is a powerful tool for social media engagement. On Twitter, tweets that include visual content receive 150 percent more retweets than text only. On Facebook, posts with images are 2.3 times more likely to get any action. And, of course, social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are built upon visual engagement.

The challenge for marketers has been to pin down the images that social media users are sharing and responding to. Sifting through Facebook, trying to chase down the most compelling visual images or to gain important information based on shared pictures with manual methods requires more time and four-leaf clovers than most marketing organizations have access to.

But, these ‘golden’ images offer a lot of valuable insight into consumer behaviors and preferences. They are also the ones brands need to be responding to to help build brand awareness and consumer trust.

The solution comes in the form of image recognition software. These AI-based tools automate the searching process, comparing a goliath-sized number of photos to vast image libraries, looking for specific scenes, objects and characteristics.

The potential for what is possible in terms of insight and better-targeted marketing is perhaps more mind-blowing than the tech itself. For example, a business could learn the most common location their product is consumed, such as at the gym, the office, a park, etc., or how people are responding to a specific marketing decision such as product placement. As AI-based image recognition starts being used more widely in 2018, it will be fascinating to see how far creative marketing teams will be able to push their new technology.

Machine-Mediated Customer Conversations

As marketers strive to deliver relevant content in order to build a more solid bridge with consumers, machine learning has come in and given marketers incredible tools to make communications (way) more customer-centric. Alex De Simone, CEO of Avochato, calls it a shift from traditional content marketing to machine-mediated conversational marketing. This technology will make it possible to determine ‘what the content of conversations should be.’ It will empower marketers to deliver content to the right people and at the right time – at scale.

In 2018, we’re looking way past the traditional chatbox and voice/text communications. Companies like Microsoft are already exploring the possibilities of creating a multi-sensory communication. Sight, sound, touch – even gestures and a person’s gaze can potentially be a part of the company-consumer conversations of the future.

Robot Content

Not exactly – but in 2018, the potential involvement of artificial intelligence in content creation is huge. Machines may not be up to the challenge of crafting high quality content just yet. But, with tools like generation analytics and predictive analytics, AI will be taking over a larger chunk of the creation process, and in some cases, will be generating content. Associated Press is already using AI to create some of its news content.

The benefits of AI for content marketing are immense: help with research, outcome tracking and microtargeting. As artificial intelligence is getting better at editing content, it will also help to streamline the process of content creation and reduce costs. The help – and competition – from AI may also force content creators, from copywriters to videographers, to perfect the human elements of content – weaving the brand story, evoking emotion and pushing the boundaries of the imagination.

A Personalized Customer Journey

Marketing technology innovators have come a long way with marketing personalization tools. It’s about to get even more personal in 2018. Blueshift, for example, has just launched an evolution of their platform with more sophisticated AI. Now, instead of offering personalization techniques in bits and pieces – channels like push notifications on consumers’ mobile phones, email messaging, and content recommendations on social media and websites – machines are able to build upon learned data about an individual. This means not only can an interaction or campaign be personalized, but the actual customer journey can be tailored to the individual.

The platform uses a predictive point system to determine when a customer starts a specific journey. It then walks with the customer along that journey, offering personalized content at each point along the way.

The Evolution of Marketing Has Only Just Begun

Autonomous driving, sophisticated financial market predictions, the potential of drone technology. AI is permeating our lives in more ways than most people are aware of. In marketing, the pace is picking up much faster than many marketing organizations can keep up with. And, unless you had the foresight to combine your marketing degree and work experience with a stint in computer science, it can even be difficult to wrap one’s mind around. But, the truth is, what we’re seeing now is only the beginning.

Long time marketer, Clay Stobaugh, the current CMO for publisher John Wiley and Sons and a guy who’s been around since the ‘Mad Men’ times, illustrates this idea well. In the mid to late 2000’s, when marketing data capabilities went as far as analyzing email click-through rates, Stobaugh says there used to be around 100 marketing technology companies. Three years later, there were about 500. Now – there are closer to 10,000.

The marketing industry as a whole may still be working to master digital marketing and is trying to adopt methods, namely agile and its derivatives, which allow them to integrate and leverage AI in digitial marketing as well as the most relevant martech tools quickly. But, the horizon of what is possible and what may be at our fingertips tomorrow is breathtaking. Those who figure out, not just how to ‘use’ machine learning, artificial intelligence, and the other technologies once reserved for science fiction writers, but how to create and innovate with these tools, are going to change everything.

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.