“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”
This quote by T.S. Elliott, despite being published 85 years ago, could not ring more true today. Consumers create an endless flow of data and information every single second: Using phones to update their social media status, posting reviews on product review sites, or asking Alexa to play a particular song or to find the best deal on an item.
These pieces of data can be of great value for businesses as they enable us to create knowledge and insights about our current and potential customers – what they like and dislike, what their interests are and what they do. However, a key challenge remains how to extract insights from this constant stream of data that is growing so rapidly? A possible answer is ‘artificial intelligence’ (AI).
What Makes “Artificial Intelligence” so Intelligent
There are two key elements that make AI well-suited to deal with the vast volume and variety of data. First, AI can make sense of the large amount of non-numerical data, such as everyday language consumers create in written (social media posts, product reviews) or in spoken language (videos, real-time conversations). This is ‘natural language processing’ and allows AI to understand what was said, how it was said and the context in which the words or phrases were used. For example, AI can understand whether a review post discussed apple (the fruit) or Apple (the tech firm) and also discern the sentiment and emotions expressed by the creator of the review.
Second, AI uses a process called ‘machine learning’ which enables AI to learn by itself. Through remembering and storing everything it has analyzed previously, AI continuously improves. The more data and information, the ‘smarter’ AI gets, meaning the more accurate and insightful its analyses become.
How AI Can Benefit Marketing
There are many ways how AI can help find the knowledge and wisdom we seem to have lost in data and information.
- Building rich customer profiles: With AI, it is possible to understand customers’ emerging wants and needs in real time—as consumers express them online—and build and continuously update these profiles.
- Better targeting: Using these rich customer profiles, AI enables more accurate targeting of different customer segments. For example, AI can identify the most valuable segments based on purchase intent and provide offers, discounts or other marketing communications that are most likely to resonate and convert leads into sales
- Product and brand monitoring: With AI, it is possible to understand what consumers are saying and how they feel about brands, products or ads. This knowledge can then help detect product performance issues, determine when a brand refresh may be needed or when to eliminate ad executions with low customer engagement.
In summary, AI helps us make sense of customer data and information by better understanding and anticipating what customers are doing, and how and why they behave in the way they do. In the past, AI was often unattainable for small businesses because it required more money, effort and know-how to build and maintain it than most could afford. Currently, however, AI as a Service (AIaaS) is becoming increasingly popular, and some experts expect a broad breakthrough of the technology in 2020. Essentially, this will let businesses access AI ‘off-the-shelf’ as per their individual needs, and realize the benefits of AI at a fraction of the previous cost and resource requirements.
About the Author
Jeannette Paschen teaches Marketing and Business courses at the School of Business at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Prior to teaching, Jeannette held various marketing management roles in Europe and Canada. Jeannette is a PhD candidate with an interest in understanding social and organizational implications of emerging technologies. Jeannette holds an MA in Economics and an MBA and you can follow her work on LinkedIn and google scholar.