Jack or Jacqueline: What do you know about your customers?

Big data is everywhere.  Information floods organisations constantly, coming from external and internal sources. However, there’s also increasing ability for organisations to extract value from information using AI.

We speak to Jodie Sangster, CMO Lead at IBM Watson, about how AI will support the day-to-day life of marketers.

StopPress: Big data has been around for years and organisations have been busy amassing it – what’s the next big step for data?

Sangster: As marketers, we have been collecting, processing, and analysing large volumes of data and many organisations probably feel they have more than they need.

Data analysis is very time-consuming, daunting and in some cases impossible, if you don’t have the best tools to find the right information.

But with AI we can now extract value much more efficiently, and we can also track patterns and previously undetectable behaviours.

Think of it this way: using current data analysis techniques we know a lot about customers but more as acquaintances. We know their name, age and favourite shops etc. – the superficial stuff. 

With AI we can turn these contacts into people we know very well – more like a good friend.

In this way, AI is helping us to take our customer relationships to the next level and identify that customer Jack is actually Jacqueline, how she wants to be approached, and the best way to present a product or service to her.

In the future, customer profiles will be almost as comprehensive as a Facebook profile, giving marketers the insight they need to personalise each marketing outreach. The days of mass marketing campaigns may soon be over as more personalised techniques are used to achieve results. All of this will be supported by AI.

What are the benefits of AI for marketers?

The overriding benefit of using AI in marketing is enhancing the overall customer experience and making analysis easier for marketers – it’s a win either way.

If we look more in depth, however, we aren’t just gaining commercial benefits.

Through AI we can help make customers’ lives easier, and go well beyond selling a product. For example, AI can spot an unaddressed need, so a solution can be developed. It’s all about getting data on cognitive behaviour, analysing it and then providing a product or service that will solve a predicament.

AI can identify and resolve customer challenges within minutes and take action to improve conversion and provide ROI in less than four months. Journey pattern analysis lets you unearth user behaviour patterns to improve customer experience.

By learning more about the behaviour of our customers (whether Jack or Jacqueline), we can be more personal instead of casting a net in the hope of catching a few interested buyers.

This also saves money and energy. By leaving the task-based activity to AI, more important projects can be assigned to team-members who will then be able to benefit from learning faster, instead of undertaking many of the mundane tasks many of us have had to do in the past. 

Can you provide a case study of AI working now?

There are lots of great examples of AI benefitting our lives in a number of ways, from increasing the success rate of guide dogs to helping diagnose melanoma. Many Kiwis will be familiar with customer engagement and AI-powered digital human stories like Air New Zealand’s “Sophie” and the Ministry for Primary Industry’s “Vai” at Auckland Airport.​

ING Direct in Australia has been using IBM Watson to attract, engage and build brand loyalty among the hard to reach young consumer demographic. With these customers making decisions extremely rapidly, ING knew they had to engage in near-real time to deliver relevant messages at the right moment – which can make the difference between inspiring a customer to switch or losing the opportunity to a competitor. They went from a manual approach to personalised marketing and data processing to automating their processes and enabling a single view of customer interactions.

The shift meant they were launching personalised campaigns 50 percent faster, boosting incremental sales conversion by up to 120 percent and driving increased cross-sell rates, and the marketing team was spending less time preparing the data and more time on value-added analysis.

What is your advice on how to get started using AI?

Before doing anything, it is essential that you map out your ‘AI vision’ and what you hope to achieve. Only then will the exact course of action be clear, including knowing what building blocks need to be put in place.

It may seem small-scale, but it all starts with one customer.

The next step is to identify the biggest pain-point for that customer – these result in lost business and unnecessary energy and time being spent. Artificial intelligence helps predict these so they can be avoided.

My other advice is be very open to change. 

AI will constantly challenge a business so the best approach is to be enthused by an exciting and evolving journey where we will know a whole lot more than Jack

  • Jodie Sangster spoke at the inaugural AIMCON Conference, New Zealand’s AI conference for marketers and digital professionals.

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