As technology continues to advance, the role of artificial intelligence in our lives will continue to grow. According to a Gartner survey, by the year 2020 customers will conduct 85% of their interactions with an enterprise without human involvement.
When it comes to technology, mass disruption is only a precursor to mass adoption, so the employment of artificial intelligence by your competitors is inevitable. Widespread AI adoption can have a multitude of benefits for a business if used correctly.
Therefore, it’s important to not only understand the ramifications of AI, but how best to apply it to your business. Not every automated process is right for every industry. It’s about knowing which functions you can utilize that will best drive engagement and ultimately, your return on investment.
What Exactly is Artificial Intelligence?
A marvel of modern sales and marketing, artificial intelligence is a computer science that encompasses the creation of intelligent machines and programs that work and react like humans. These tasks run the gamut and can include jobs like:
- Customer service and chatbots
- Speech recognition
- Marketing automation
- Email and social media management
- Social metrics and analysis
- Predictive analytics
Artificial intelligence is not exactly a new concept, but many of its applications are.
There are a few core problems that AI aims to address through smart programming. These are comprised of ideas like:
- Problem solving
- Manipulation of objects
Think of how long you have been using a calculator. That is AI in its simplest form. Every lead generated and nurtured through AI provides more valuable data and deeper insight into your customers’ wants and needs. This results in greater operational efficiency and a sharper competitive edge.
As consumer expectations are at an all-time high—and the population continues to grow, people seek personal attention. It’s just a fact of life in the marketing world. Blanket campaigns are no longer effective. Gathering big data isn’t just about gaining insight into your customers, it’s also about the ability to personalize your message.
Artificial intelligence is a great help when it comes to customization because it’s the driving force behind collecting the data that will guide you. You no longer need to target a specific sector or demographic of your audience. AI will do that for you. Instead, you can focus on targeting large business entities and allowing AI to choose the proper data.
Personalization not only improves conversion rates, it increases sales. In fact, a 2015 survey by Marketo found that 79% of consumers are likely to use a brand’s promotions if they are tailored to their previous interactions. Salesforce found that by the year 2020, 51% of consumers expect that companies will anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions before they make contact. Artificial intelligence can solve all these problems. It drives smarter sales intelligence through hyper-personalized marketing opportunities.
2. Lead Generation
Artificial intelligence helps refine the lead generation process in a variety of ways. It provides the data that allows sales teams to nurture the leads that truly qualify. AI is the tool that can sift through large amounts of raw data to extract the exact information you need. It can easily pinpoint the leads that are most likely to convert. AI helps to refine the sales funnel and directs sales teams in the best direction to focus efforts. The technology creates actionable insights for businesses small and large.
In fact, lead generation is one of the primary reasons why businesses are investing in AI. A study by the Aberdeen Group demonstrated 61% of respondents as citing ROI as their reason for AI adoption. 62% of companies have increased their budget for artificial intelligence over the past year as well. This means competition is on the rise and soon AI will be an essential tool to stay in the race.
Marketing automation is also another brilliant way in which AI can enhance human efforts. Setting up an email drip campaign can help you get to know which customers are interested in which products. AI can study the open rate of your emails and send follow-up content accordingly. If someone is disinterested, there is no need to waste more efforts in that direction. AI can help a sales team focus on the leads that truly qualify, saving time and money in the long run.
Once you have a sound AI system in place, it can also help you predict future product development and sales. By studying consumer behavior, AI allows deeper insight into true customer pain points. A company can then use this social data with predictive analytics to better “guess” how to campaign next. So, not only does AI address current problems, it can help predict future ones too.
3. Customer Service
Artificial intelligence has also been an incredibly useful solution when it comes to customer service. Chatbots and canned responses save smaller business costs on labor and keep customers happy and heard. A recent survey by Sprout Social found that 48% of respondents value a quick response on social media above any other action a brand can take. A business won’t even receive a “quick response” badge on Facebook unless they are addressing consumer questions within 15 minutes.
Additionally, most modern consumers don’t need much help when making a purchasing decision. In fact, they prefer to be left alone. Three out of four B2B buyers claim to find buying from an eCommerce site more convenient than engaging with a salesperson. Even after deciding on the item, 90% of people will still prefer to follow through with the purchase online. Automated bots can facilitate this process and answer any common questions a consumer might have. At this point, there really is no need for human intervention at all.
4. Reduced Overhead
Although some AI systems can be costly, the return on investment is often two-fold and more. AI means fewer labor costs. Menial jobs can be completed by the robot. Low-level cognitive tasks can better be performed through automation. This can include tasks like:
- Emailing and review
- Food orders
- Calendar invites
AI can also be used for more high-level tasks like:
- Identifying connections
- Marketing automation
- Analyzing correlation
- Assessing conclusions
- Determining social data
All of these actions can help to reduce overhead costs for a company.
AI is not meant to replace humans but rather, allow them the time to focus on tasks more suited for their specialty. If a salesperson can focus on their core strengths—like closing a deal, rather than sending out hundreds of emails, you’re bound to see an increase in ROI.
Sometimes the magic in AI doesn’t lie in the ability to enhance, but rather, what it can reduce. According to a recent report, companies that have introduced some form of artificial intelligence in their business strategies have experienced cost reductions between 40 and 60%. AI is an ideal tool for dealing with repetitive administrative tasks and reducing overhead costs.
The only true obstruction to artificial intelligence is the lack of understanding. At present, many companies don’t fully comprehend how the technology works, and thus avoid it. This can be a big mistake, as not only can it greatly aid in sales and marketing efforts, but it is more than likely that your competition is already employing some form of AI.
A recent survey by Demandbase found that out of 500 B2B marketing executives, only 26% of the respondents stated they were confident with how AI works in relation to business marketing. You shouldn’t be afraid of artificial intelligence. There may be a learning curve but isn’t that the case with every iteration of technology? Think about how many people avoided the computer at first. Then it became so vital to business that those companies who did not adopt the technology, fell to the wayside.
Fortunately, things are starting to look up. In the year 2017, almost two-thirds of enterprises harnessed AI and adoption grew over 60% in the past 12 months. People are jumping on the bandwagon faster than ever. That means that the need to adopt artificial intelligent will rise as will the pressure to compete.
Artificial intelligent may take some time to set up (think email drip campaigns) but once it’s in place, the technology practically runs itself. If you’re smart about AI and integrate it according to your business needs, it’s sure to promise not only an increase in ROI, but an enhancement of human efforts and an overall peace of mind. That’s the beauty of automation. You just wind it up and let it go.