Want a piece of the millennial pie? Just add AI

Reaching the tech-savvy younger generation with relevant content at the perfect moment is the holy grail of digital marketing.

Reaching the tech-savvy younger generation with relevant content at the perfect moment is the holy grail of digital marketing. But as Rocket Fuel’s David Gosen explains, this is an audience that’s ready and waiting for artificial intelligence in advertising 

Marketing has become faster and more direct as a result of the rise of the internet, but there are still many challenges when it comes to reaching - and impressing - audiences. We may have left the one-size fits all mass-messages behind, but we’ve entered a new era in which the media landscape is fragmented, the channels available are abundant and the attention span of consumers? Limited at best. 

No more so is this the case than for millennials. Multiple screen and multiple channel users by nature, communicating with this generation in a way that is relevant and convenient for them is the holy grail of modern marketing. And yet time after time brands are found making rookie mistakes, failing to deliver personalised, relevant advertising that delights, rather than annoys, at the right moment. 

The difficulty could lie with the broad age range of those we consider to be millennials. The estimated 25 to 35 demographic includes people who are different not only in age but in interests, behaviour, and lifestyle choices. As a result, any attempts to reach, attract or appeal to this audience are flawed because - much like marketing to any demographic -  no message is going to resonate with everyone.

Targeted, personalised, appropriate connections

What this generation does have in common however is the expectation to be spoken to in a personalised way and an acceptance that businesses will anticipate their needs in advance. Netflix queues up TV shows they might like to binge watch. Google identifies when they should leave home in order to beat traffic. And the likes of Nest learn their preferences when it comes to the temperature at home. Now it seems this acceptance of technology that anticipates their needs extends to advertising. Research released by Rocket Fuel on Consumer Perceptions of AI proves that younger generations are open-minded when it comes to brands using artificial intelligence to inform their buying decisions. A clear majority of millennials (80 per cent) said they prefer brands to provide personalised advertising and offers. 

This is great news for marketers who advertise online. It shows us that younger generations have become so accustomed to businesses using artificial intelligence to make their lives better that they also understand it may be used to present them with their ideal promotions, products and services. They seem not only accepting, but expectant, and understand the data exchange that takes place now between brands and consumers - they provide information about themselves in return for interesting, entertaining and, most importantly, relevant content. The challenge for brands now is to achieve this in a way that creates targeted, personalised and appropriate connections rather than a blanket approach that attempts to speak to them as a group. So how do businesses organise and utilise oceans of data to identify the right consumer at the perfect time and in the right place, regardless of the age bracket we assign them to? The answer lies in advertising that’s less programmatic and more predictive.

Many brands are sitting on a goldmine of data, but are they using it effectively - or at all? By combining owned, first party data and artificial intelligence, brands can now identify customer patterns or behavioural traits in real time and use this information to discover new, near-infinite consumers across the internet. Rocket Fuel’s Predictive Marketing platform for example uses artificial intelligence along with first and, if required, third party data to score trillions of touch-points and attributes before predicting the individual who will be receptive to advertising from a particular brand. This flips the traditional marketing funnel method on its head and allows technology to discover the consumer at the perfect time, regardless of the device they are using. After all, smartphones don’t buy things, people do. It dispels the myth that segmenting potential customers into categories (whether it’s age, gender or socioeconomic groups) is the most effective way of reaching and communicating with customers in a meaningful way. Segmentation by its very nature is backwards looking, while AI allows us to deliver insights in a split second. 

Depending on smart data

Successful advertising that delivers relevant messaging is dependent on smart data and the right technology to help organise and utilise the information. With artificial intelligence, we can use owned data, not bought, to learn the behaviour of customers, then search near-infinite profiles of people who display the same characteristics online. 

This transformation changes the way marketers and their agencies will think about their business and develop their marketing strategies going forward. For the end user it means brand experiences that anticipate their frame of mind and the moments in which they’re happy to respond. Meanwhile, organisations and marketing teams gain more control, enjoy more engagement, reduce wasted ad opportunities and make that all-important connection with their customers

The online spending power of the millennial generation and those who follow is only going to grow. This means there is now an opportunity for brands to create lifetime value customers, if they choose to make the connection. Continual fragmentation in media and audiences, as well as the swift rise in different devices and platforms, is making marketing at scale increasingly complex. Advertisers have more consumer data at their fingertips than ever before. This presents an opportunity to make advertising a much better and more relevant influence in our lives, helping brands to understand customers in the moments that matter.

The brands that succeed in understanding and reaching these customers in the future are the ones that discard the ‘consideration to purchase’ funnel and focus on the journey, discovering potential customers wherever they happen to be. They worry less about age ranges, gender or perceived stereotypes and focus on finding individuals who show specific behaviour patterns at the perfect time and on the ideal device before delivering the right creative messaging.  Most importantly, millennial consumers will receive advertising so personal, relevant and timely that - much like checking their iPhone every two minutes - they won’t be able to resist.

David Gosen, GM Global Platform Solutions and SVP International, Rocket Fuel
Image Credit: John Williams RUS / Shutterstock