Artificial intelligence in digital marketing

Discover how AI can help you connect with customers via digital marketing. From data analytics to automation and more.
· 28 June 2024 · 8 minute read

The role of AI in digital marketing

Marketing teams tend to be enthusiastic about the potential benefits of artificial intelligence. A survey of small business marketers by research firm Forrester found 88% believe their organization must increase its use of automation and AI to meet customer expectations and stay competitive.

This attitude is perhaps unsurprising considering that AI-powered solutions are already an established part of the marketer’s toolkit. Platforms such as Google and Meta have incorporated AI algorithms into their ad targeting solutions for many years. AI is also used by many customer relationship management (CRM) solutions.

Automated ad buying, AI-powered chatbots and product recommendation algorithms are commonly used by businesses of all sizes. AI’s increasing accessibility and capability – including generative AI – offers new opportunities for marketers.

It’s a great time to consider how AI can help improve your business marketing efforts for maximum impact.

 

The benefits of AI in marketing

AI tools and platforms can provide valuable support for many marketing activities. They can help you better understand your customers, personalise marketing and streamline your processes.

New generative AI capabilities have the potential to fundamentally change how businesses produce dynamic and personalised content. And they can also help optimise the cost of advertising. This can help make it possible for even the smallest company to produce higher quality marketing and advertising content with limited resources and budget.

 

Understand your customers better

AI-powered analytics solutions can help you gain deeper insights about your target audience. They can help you analyse large datasets more quickly than humans would be able to do on their own. This can help you understand patterns and trends that give you a deeper insight into segments within your customer base.

You might find customers with different characteristics, e.g., locations or age, are responding differently to your marketing activities. These insights can help you focus your efforts on target segments that best fit with your marketing strategy and help optimise cost and maximise return on investment.

Some AI data platforms also offer predictive analytics to help you forecast customer behaviour. For example, you can analyse data to identify:

  • Customer propensity to buy and who’s likely to make a purchase soon
  • Potential customers who are likely to become first-time buyers soon
  • Customers who are likely to spend the most money
  • Customers who are most likely to cancel if you’re offering a subscription-type service.

 

Personalise your marketing to your audience

More accurate and detailed insights on audience segments can help you create more effective marketing messages.  AI can also help you refresh the audience for your adverts over your campaign’s duration to maximise effectiveness.

You can tailor ads, creative and copy to target segments using insight about their behaviours, needs and likelihood to spend. While it’s already possible to use insights to target marketing broadly, AI tools can automate these processes to get even more targeted. This can help you focus your audience to the people most likely to buy.

AI can also enhance retargeting of your advertising. Retargeting involves displaying targeted ads to users who have visited a website or interacted with your content online. The goal is to re-engage visitors and encourage them to take a desired action, such as making a purchase.  AI can help with more refined targeting for who you re-engage.

Understanding what AI smarts are being used to retarget your ads and what works best, can help you maximise the return on investment from your campaigns.

AI can also help you adapt other types of campaigns such as email marketing. By analysing who is opening your emails and clicking on links quickly, you can adapt your campaign to target customers most likely to engage.

You can also use AI recommendation software on ecommerce sites to suggest relevant products or offers to customers. For example, many ecommerce sites have sections on their webpages that dynamically update once a customer has made a purchase. They surface 'related items' or products that other similar customers have bought. This can help drive interest in new products and increase sales.

 

Streamline marketing processes

AI can help you automate routine tasks to free you and your team up to focus on higher value activity. Here we explore some ways AI can support automation in digital marketing to help create efficiency in your business operations.

 

Email campaign automation

You can use AI tools to enhance the automation of some of your common email workflows. Some examples of processes that you could consider automating include:

  • Welcome a customer who has signed up to your newsletter
  • Offer product recommendations when a user has bought from your site
  • Remind the customer to finish their purchase.

These types of automated campaigns typically rely on rules you create to govern which customer receive which email and when. AI tools can help you work more efficiently with large amounts of complex data so you can refine your rules to achieve the best outcomes. 

 

Chatbots

Chatbots can help you manage customer interactions on your website. There are multiple types of chatbots. Rule-based chatbots operate within guardrails you set up to deal with customer enquiries. AI-powered chatbots can manage more complex enquiries as they can learn based on the interactions they have with users.

You can use chatbots to triage high numbers of enquiries or respond to simple questions outside of your usual business hours. To learn more about what to consider when exploring chatbots read our article how customer service chatbots can help your business.

 

Get a head start with content creation

Generative AI is a type of artificial intelligence system capable of generating text, images, or other media in response to prompts.

You can use generative AI to draft marketing copy or visualise creative ideas.

AI-powered capabilities are becoming more widely accessible, and a range of solutions exist. When considering options make sure you ask the right questions to devise the right approach to adopting AI in your business.

Generative AI may help save you time as you get started on content development. But you will want to check the results for errors and edit it to ensure it fits with your business' brand identity and tone of voice. 

 

Considerations when using AI in digital marketing

AI and automation can bring lots of benefits for digital marketing programs. Yet there are some key things you should be aware of when using AI tools.

 

Privacy and data

First is the need to safeguard your customers’ privacy and data. Familiarise yourself with regulations around consumer privacy and consent to use or disclose customers’ personal information, particularly in relation to marketing activities. Be aware that these regulations may change from time to time.

AI tools find valuable insights and trigger activity based on data. Many AI solutions require you to upload or input data into their platforms to provide results. These platforms may store this data in their data centres, which may be offshore.

Such hosting may create operational, regulatory and legal considerations for you around the protection and use of your customer data. If you are disclosing personal information to third party providers, ensure that you have a complete understanding of:

  • Where the data will be stored
  • What controls are in place to protect it
  • How long it will be retained
  • Whether it will be used to ‘train’ or become part of the third party’s model
  • How it will be securely destroyed once no longer required.

 

Ethics principles

There are also ethical considerations, including the possibility of biases in algorithms. In some areas of AI, particularly generative AI, the culture and best practice surrounding its use is still developing. These considerations highlight the importance of a people-first approach to AI.

The Australian Government developed a set of 8 AI Ethics Principles, which Telstra played a big role in shaping, to help organisations adopt AI use responsibly. The eight principles cover areas such as human rights, fairness, privacy and security and are a good reference to help you formulate your own responsible AI practices.

Another handy guide for businesses is the GSMA AI Ethics Playbook [PDF, 3.7MB], which Telstra co-authored, which is full of practical advice and includes a questionnaire designed to help organisations identify ethical risks with AI.

 

Strategies for successful AI-enabled marketing

Every business should have its own approach to AI. If you’re thinking about how to use AI to help maximise your digital marketing results, here are some tips to get started.

 

Set clear objectives

Consider your motivations for using AI in marketing. What do you want to improve? Do you want a better understanding of your customers? Are you trying to reduce the amount of manual work involved in generating business leads? Or are you trying to get more impact from your ad spend?

Setting clear objectives will help you shape your use of AI in digital marketing to your wider business plan.

 

Review your data

Consider what data you have and whether you can use it. How easy is it to access? What is its quality like? Is it structured like sales figures, or unstructured like free text comments?

You should also consider how you will balance using AI solutions while protecting your customers' data, being transparent about its use and respecting any customer preferences.

 

Evaluate solutions and experiment safely

With a clear idea of what you are trying to achieve, you can consider what tools and practices might be right for you.

If you are starting out with AI, you may want to consider using narrow applications. For example, a simple, rules-based automation to trigger an email to a customer.

If you want to try out some of the new AI capabilities – including generative AI – experiment in a safe, sandboxed environment.

It's also important to understand how your chosen AI tools work. How do they produce results? And what do they do with your data?

 

Ensure you have oversight and guardrails in place

AI works best to support people performing tasks. This is the sweet spot because it offers the power of AI with the input, control and expertise of the person.

Consider issuing clear guidance for your staff. Set your expectations about when and how you will use AI solutions in marketing and where you choose not to use it.

 

Communicate with customers

Being clear about how you use AI in marketing activities can help build trust and address any concerns customers may have about data usage and privacy. If customers are interacting with an AI system, such as a chat bot, you should ensure that they are aware of this.

 

Seek support if you need it.

You don't have to do it all alone. Many major software providers have built AI-enabled capabilities into their solutions. Such tools often have tutorials and guidance on how to use them.

If you work with a digital marketing expert, talk to them about how they can use AI to improve the outcomes for your business.

 

Invest time to understand the potential of AI in your business marketing

AI-powered solutions can bring significant benefits to digital marketing for businesses of all sizes. They can help you understand your target audience better and craft more targeted marketing messages. They can also help create efficiencies in how you communicate with customers at scale and develop new campaign assets.

As AI tools become more accessible and their abilities grow, they’re becoming a more essential part of modern digital marketing. So, it’s worth spending time to consider how these tools can help you improve marketing results for your business.

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