With all the buzz about artificial intelligence and the launch of the Facebook bot marketplace, I thought it might be helpful to look at the potential implications for marketers over the next 12 months and provide a relatively jargon-free look at some of the near-term opportunities and tips on how to start to prepare for them. At a high level, it's about using AI to power more direct interactions between brands and people, focusing on faster, smarter responses to their questions and needs.
Here are five ways AI will impact marketing over the next year, and how marketers can prepare:
1. Customer service via chat apps. Yes, Facebook has released the bot store and messenger maps will become the primary channel for digital customer service and inquires. Facebook is not the only one -- Microsoft has a bot API in Skype and other popular messaging apps such as Kik have also released functionality. Brands like KLM have already rolled our messenger bots for accessing your flight data, and airlines are some of the biggest users of customer service via Twitter. Consumers will move many of these queries to direct messenger, except for when it goes badly -- then they will quickly switch back to a public dialog. Check out startups like msg.ai, which are working to help companies deal with this era of AI customer service.
2. Bots that embody the brand. Remember that tone-of-voice document you developed to ensure that your brand had a consistent and authentic voice on social? Well, now you're going to have to teach it to your bots. Rather then just grabbing an off-the-shelf natural language AI, there is a huge opportunity to add flavor to your customer interactions by injecting the characteristics of your brand into your bots. Narrative designers for video games have been doing this for years. Start with a cast of characters that could represent your brand and then add rules around how they would act based on your brand traits. But be careful -- as we saw with Microsoft's Twitter bot Tay, it will become a common game to trick brand bots into saying and doing controversial things.
3. Proactive insights and analytics. Not only will you be able to ask your favorite marketing tools questions like a real human, but they will tap you on the shoulder with proactive recommendations. The days of waiting a week for a report are almost over. Start to look at how faster analytics could help you and talk to your teams about the potential data requirements as fuel for the machines to crunch while you sleep.
4. AI brand experiences. In creative brainstorming sessions around the world, teams are crafting ideas for bringing unique chat bots to advertising. Being able to deliver one-to-one interactions at massive scale will lead to some impressive innovation. The fast-mover opportunities are there for those looking to explore them. The executions may require a newsroom-style team of humans to step in where needed and mitigate risk, but ten years ago the thought of spending the Super Bowl weekend huddled with your agency would have been considered crazy as well.
5. AI across the user experience. Beyond bots for sales and customer inquiries, brands are sitting down to look at how machine learning can add value-add to all points of the customer journey and product experience. Now is the time to lay out the potential opportunities and score them based on your priorities. AI integration will become a huge element of competition and differentiation in all fields.
So where should I start?
If you're not asking how you can leverage AI, then start having discussions on what you can do to prepare for it. It's not a matter of flicking a switch. Now is the time to have honest conversations around your data and technology strategy in relation to machine learning. Deploying a chat bot that can answer real questions requires you to be able to turn human speech into queries that can effectively engage with your company's data. If you want smarter analytics, you will need to make sure your data is stored in a way that it can be accessed quickly and that won't incur big costs or security issues if you need to move it around. AI is an exciting time for the industry, but it's nothing like the time your intern started the company's Twitter account.