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When you think of artificial intelligence (AI) your mind is naturally drawn to Skynet or Blade Runner. Evolved, sentient beings, often with a desire to rise up against humanity for some reason. While we’re not quite there (yet) AI technology is certainly on the rise. Especially when it comes to AI marketing.

AI has substantial benefits and applications in marketing in fact — so it’s time e-commerce companies got on board to leverage this transformative technology. Learn the top advantages and uses of AI for marketing that you can activate right now.

Chapters:

  1. The benefits of AI marketing
  2. How AI marketing works
  3. Top applications of AI marketing
  4. Drive your marketing forward with AI

Why you should seize the AI marketing opportunity

Aritificial Intelligence (AI) is a technology that some will scoff at. But think about it. In 2010, there wasn’t a huge amount of interest in electric vehicles, even with new and improved models on the market. Now, with the growing demand for renewable energy and luxury status of a little brand called Tesla, there’s more than 10 million EVs on the road. The number of electric cars registered in 2020 alone increased by 41% compared to the previous year.

AI is another disruptive technology that the world has been slow to adopt, the marketing industry included. According to the latest CMO survey, U.S. marketing leaders across a variety of industries, including tech, consumer packaged goods, manufacturing, and retail, only use AI or machine learning 11.8% of the time for marketing. But like EVs, that rate is projected to significantly increase to 37.7% in the next three years.

AI marketing is still in its early stages, but it’s on a steady incline. According to the American Marketing Association’s 2019 CMO survey, implementation of AI increased by 27% in the previous year and a half. By initiating an AI marketing strategy early, you’ll outpace the competition while becoming an industry authority on this emerging tech.

Key benefits of AI for marketers

AI helps create smoother and more efficient internal operations that extend to the customer during the buying process. AI can streamline customer service and product management, and analyze insights for e-commerce companies. As Benj Fein, group project manager at Bazaarvoice, puts it, “AI lowers the cost of your workflows so you can work faster and smarter.”

When it comes to customer feedback analysis, AI achieves quicker and more detailed insights than traditional methods. Using natural language processing (NPL), AI can decipher customer experience and sentiment signals, like keywords linked to touchpoints and activities, and emotions that correlate with complaints or positive experiences. Other tools like customer satisfaction surveys and Net Promoter Scores can’t extract this kind of nuanced data.

AI lowers the cost of your workflows so you can work faster and smarter

The CX insights that AI can unearth have a range of business benefits for marketing professionals. AI can reveal misalignment on customer pain points, expectations, and unmet needs. This information can help treat CX issues in real time, as well as inform ongoing processes, procedures, and strategies. A better understanding of CX can improve staff training to provide better shopping experiences. This, in turn, leads to customer retention, loyalty, and long-term growth.

According to Gartner, “By 2023, the majority of organizations using AI for digital commerce will achieve at least a 25% improvement in customer satisfaction, revenue or cost reduction.”

How AI marketing works

AI marketing uses data to assess customer behavior and intent through machine learning. AI tools can then take action by interacting with customers, or providing predictions and recommendations for the appropriate business departments.

Because AI relies on data, e-commerce companies need to have data resources in place, including customer relationship management (CRM) software, campaign insights, and website data. They also need to establish goals for using AI and have internal or outsourced experts train on the technology. That way you get the desired outcomes based on those goals. Part of AI’s capability is to automatically improve its performance with experience and management.

The companies experiencing the best results from AI are the ones that use advanced data, technology, and models, in addition to core best practices. So, having an internal or third-party team dedicated to AI and data development will yield the best ROI.

Applications of AI marketing

Early AI adopters recognize the technology’s potential for e-commerce marketing innovation. Which explains why marketing and sales are among the departments with the biggest budgets and plans for AI.

In a survey of 2,875 business executives who leverage AI, the top three AI objectives of high-achieving organizations were marketing-focused: 

  1. Improving customer satisfaction
  2. Creating new products and offers
  3. Entering new markets

Another survey of marketing leaders found the primary AI applications also aligned with marketing goals: 

  1. Content personalization
  2. Predictive analytics for customer insights
  3. Targeting decisions.

Here’s a deeper look at some of the top use cases for AI marketing.

Improving product discovery

AI analyzes data to deliver personalized marketing messaging, especially in the shopping discovery stage. A big part of that is product recommendations on e-commerce sites, apps, and social selling channels. AI uses customers’ purchase history and other shopping behaviors, like product page views and abandoned cart items, to showcase relevant product recommendations. Personalized product recommendations are particularly helpful for those brands with extensive product catalogs.

There’s a lot of examples of how AI strengthened product discovery for large, prominent brands. IKEA leveraged Google Cloud’s Recommendations AI to create a better search experience for their customers with personalized product recommendations. Implementing this technology delivered accurate recommendations to customers in a quick, user-friendly fashion. The result was a 400% increase in relevant product recommendations, a 30% increase in click-through rate, and a 2% increase in average order value.

Better search means a better overall e-commerce experience, which the majority of consumers and website managers say leads to a high likelihood of repeat business. Not delivering relevant, helpful content to customers has consequences. Customers who can’t find one item they’re looking for will abandon their entire cart, and three out of four will give up and go to a competitor after an unsuccessful search.

Staples Canada significantly enhanced their product discovery performance with AI. With more advanced search results and personalized product recommendations, they’re able to show many more customers the products they’re looking for that also match their interests. This implementation led to a significant increase in conversion rate.

Likewise, Wayfair uses a multifaceted AI system to produce precise yet thorough search results on their e-commerce site. They train their algorithm to detect visual elements, like design features, color, material, style, and more from customer, supplier, and rendered photos. They also manually tag their products with relevant keywords, so the algorithm produces broader search results based on keywords and visual elements. This feature led to an increased add-to-cart rate and completed purchases.

Pinterest also uses visual identification to expand their product discovery opportunities. Their AI tool can identify multiple products in a photo in addition to the main featured item. So, when a user is viewing a Pin, they can click on secondary or background items and even go further and find similar items made with the same materials or in the same color.

Presenting product reviews

It’s well understood in e-commerce that product reviews are an effective tool for converting shoppers into buyers. AI can manage, organize, and display your product reviews from customers, which is essential for large-scale businesses with lots of products and reviews to wade through. “In the purchasing stage, AI can help showcase reviews that can convince consumers to make the purchase,” says Fein. Bazaarvoice’s reviews tools have a range of features powered by AI, like highlighting the most helpful reviews from a large volume of reviews and displaying them strategically throughout your e-commerce site.

AI can also scan your entire product catalog and identify items gaining traction that have few to no reviews. Fein says this automated process enables you to identify which products need review coverage or other content that adds value for customers, like visual user-generated content (UGC).

Insulated water bottle brand Takeya leveraged Bazaarvoice tools supported by AI to increase sales on their own site and their retail partner site, Target.com. They were able to display reviews for all of their products on both sites and automatically add visual UGC sourced from social media to corresponding products.

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AI marketing
Takeya increased its sales by 30% on its Target partner site by syndicating reviews and linking visual UGC to products.

Enhancing the customer experience

A primary function of AI for marketing is to support CX teams. With the help of AI, they can handle customer interactions on a much larger scale and gain insights to refine their processes.

Chatbots

Chatbots are a classic example of AI in action. When interacting with customers, chatbots can provide personalized responses that go beyond the typical FAQ answer. A survey of high-level operations and CX professionals concluded that companies that invest in advanced conversational AI tech will reap benefits, including decreased operational costs, more productive agents, and more satisfied customers.

Conversational AI is instrumental in capturing and guiding customers during the research and discovery stage. It can quickly answer questions with live chat, enable purchasing via a chatbot, use NLP to correspond with users, and offer hands-free voice assistance. AI bots can also respond to user actions with prompts designed to inspire purchases, like validating their cart item by announcing that another customer just bought the same thing. This kind of messaging can increase conversion rates by 5x or more.

Some types of conversational or chatbot AI can also offer guidance to the human reps on the other end of the screen. They can analyze the customers’ tone and recommend different responses for the best resolution or suggest that a supervisor step in to manage the inquiry or issue.

A chatbot in action

Airlines are examples of companies that get a lot of customer service activity. And for a rapidly growing airline, that can be overwhelming. Before adopting an AI approach to customer service management, AirAsia relied on localized call centers to handle inquiries from international locations, which meant up to hour-long wait times and time zone conflicts. To resolve this problem, AirAsia implemented a 24-hour, multilingual chatbot that could check flights, book flights, answer questions, update passenger information, and add bonus products to bookings. The ROI included a 98% wait time improvement, an 8x increase in upsells, and significant live agent relief.

Translation technology

With machine translation, NLP, and other capabilities, AI can automatically take your marketing efforts global. This is more than just translating basic small pieces of web content in other languages, which often doesn’t produce the most accurate or natural results. AI can pick up on tone and context to provide quality translation and communication on a larger scale. As with other AI applications, this does not replace professional human staff but makes their job easier and more efficient.

The translation technology industry is in demand and thriving because it can provide significant support in translating documents, software, and websites in multiple other languages. This is crucial for meeting brand, communication, and legal standards for all pertinent audiences.

Analyze customer feedback

AI can mine through all your customer touchpoints — from website comments and messages to product reviews and social media interactions — to synthesize all kinds of customer feedback. These insights keep you up to date on any service or product issues that need resolving and let you know what customers are liking. So you can give them more of it. AI tools can organize this info by customer, making robust customer profiles by tracking positive or negative experiences, questions, product reviews, and more.

AI algorithms can understand vocabulary that expresses a range of emotions and perspectives that “can directly shape both short-term and long-term actions to retain customers,” according to Harvard Business Review. And it can deliver this analysis in real time, so staff across departments can all be aligned on customer behavior and pain points.

 

Customers aren’t shy when it comes to making their grievances or exceptional experiences heard. That’s why Bazaarvoice’s customer sentiment analysis tools give you the full rundown on what customers are saying using advanced machine learning and NLP. Not only that, but our Premium Network Insights, left, can categorize sentiment by topic and product and compare that feedback against your competitors.

Boost efficiency and strategy optimization

AI supplies you with insights and goes the extra mile to recommend what actions to take in response. Fein considers this one of AI’s best functions. “The most effective features in AI for marketers are ones that are built with data personal to marketers, [so] the system is saving time making recommendations similar to what the marketer would choose if they had more time themselves,” he says.

An example of this is using customer reviews as a resource to inspire product and messaging improvements. The toy manufacturer KidKraft uses Bazaarvoice Insights tools to evolve their brand according to customer demand. These tools provide KidKraft with, “an automated way to understand what customers are saying about its products and see recommended actions the brand can take to improve its marketing strategy and design better products.”

This extends to social content as well. Fein says part of Bazaarvoice’s AI can, “highlight trends in your social strategy so that the content you are spending time pushing to your discovery path [is] more likely to receive engagement.” That capability includes recommending the types and timing of content that are likely to perform well based on your past content.

AI can even predict the success of partnering with different influencers. “We have AI to help estimate the value of content generated by your influencers to help you gauge the ROI of those relationships,” says Fein.

AI tools can scan product catalogs to reveal product pages that require content coverage like reviews and visual UGC to display that would enhance the product’s presentation. Customers who interact with this type of UGC on e-commerce sites are twice as likely to convert. To that end, Bazaarvoice uses AI to save time tagging UGC with the right products in clients’ catalogs. This simplifies an otherwise time-consuming, tedious process.

“AI can benefit e-commerce brands by [reducing] the amount of steps in scaling their business. When managing a full catalog and ensuring it’s properly covered in the tons of channels out there, AI can help step in and help automate some of the steps in that process,” says Fein.

Drive your marketing strategy forward with AI

Don’t you wish you could go back in time and invest in Tesla? Back when everyone else was still scoffing at the idea of a luxury electric car? Well, that’s the current situation with AI, and specifically AI marketing. Keep an eye on AI developments and grow with the technology as it evolves and expands. Here’s some examples of how top brands are using AI, for your inspiration. And remember: AI doesn’t replace your marketing department. It complements and enhances it. Get in touch and see how you can future proof your business.

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