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Marketers — your customers don’t think your AI and machine learning plans will work

(Image credit: Image Credit: Sergey Nivens / Shutterstock)

We’ve all heard the stories about how artificial intelligence and machine learning are both going to change our personal and business lives. And virtually every person and every industry is set to benefit. From the world of pharmaceuticals where machine learning can potentially slow the ageing process, to the world of food where machine learning can become the secret sauce to food replenishment, and education where artificial intelligence can serve as virtual tutors, the old way of working is rapidly coming to an end.

The marketing world is no different. In fact, research by Acquia in the company’s inaugural annual global report entitled Closing the CX Gap: Customer Experience Trends Report 2019, which assesses the state of customer experience, found that 2019 is going to be a breakthrough year for artificial intelligence and machine learning in marketing in the UK. The report found that 82 per cent of UK-based marketers are planning to involve these technologies in their strategy in the next 12 months as they look to improve the experiences they give customers. Nearly half (42 per cent) of marketers are actually saying that they’ll play a “big” part in strategies in 2019, highlighting just how keen they are to turn to technology to make their lives easier.

You can hardly blame them — especially when 87 per cent of marketers feel brands are behind the times with how they interact with customers online and offline. Machine learning promises to change all this. It promises to give marketers a true 360-degree view of their customers by pulling disparate datasets on those customers together, enabling marketers to develop stronger segmentation based on customer value. Machine learning promises to give deeper insights into the maturity and behaviours of customers, enabling sales teams to sell more confidently and in a more proactive manner. And machine learning promises to finally turn lacklustre personalisation efforts into wonderful, truly personal experiences where brands treat their customers like the individuals they are.

There’s just one small snag — consumers are sceptical that artificial intelligence and machine learning will actually improve customer experiences.

Have chatbots ruined consumers’ perceptions of artificial intelligence?

At the moment, where we have low-level penetration of artificial intelligence with chatbots, for example, customers are already putting up some resistance to the idea. Where chatbots are concerned specifically, the research shows the experience thus far is not good — with nearly half (45 per cent) of UK consumers finding chatbots ‘annoying’, and as many as 1 in 5 consumers wishing brands would drop chatbots altogether. The reason? Consumers are saying that the problem with automated experiences is that they’re too impersonal.

And considering that 80 per cent of CMOs say they already use chatbots or are planning to use them by 2020 and the fact that the chatbot market is expected to exceed £1 billion by 2024.

Chatbots are only the tip of the iceberg though — customers are finding it difficult to interact with brands online full stop. According to the same Acquia research report, 47 per cent of consumers find it hard to find the information they need on brand websites. Moreover, 53 per cent of consumers feel brands don’t meet their expectation and 68 per cent of consumers say their experience with brands needs to be made simpler.

And while marketers are pinning their hopes on artificial intelligence and machine learning to solve these customer experience issues, only 48 per cent of consumers are looking forward to artificial intelligence making interacting with brands a better experience, hampered in part by poor executions of artificially intelligent chatbots.

What marketers can do to change the perception of artificial intelligence

These findings are a major wake-up call for marketers. Consumers only become aware of technology and processes when they see them not working, and the brand they are interacting with fails to offer a truly personalised experience.

When things are working properly, and the experience is good, consumers don’t care how things work — they’re just glad that they do work. Therefore, it is vital that marketers get to grips with how their martech stack operates together throughout the buyer’s journey, and focus on integrating artificial intelligence and machine learning as invisibly and seamlessly as possible with their existing infrastructure to deliver a better overall experience.

And given the wide variety of artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques available, marketers should ideally focus on how they can solve specific challenges within the customer journey — and only deploy artificial intelligence and machine learning where it will actually help deliver the seamless experiences customers want. Adding technology for the sake of it and not doing it well is only likely to damage the customer experience rather than enhance it.

Marketers must be careful here because integrating new technologies is never easy. In fact, 65 per cent of marketers admit they struggle to deal with complex technologies to create good customer experiences, and 73 per cent of marketers admit to struggling with regards to bring new customer experiences to market.

Getting the basics right

The key is to get the right foundational base. For most brands, their website is the hub of their digital activity and the one of the most critical assets marketers have to engage customers. It’s likely that much of your artificial intelligence and machine learning plans will heavily involve your website. And, without the right infrastructure in place — infrastructure that was built with the future in mind — your plans are likely to stall.

Drupal is one example of a foundational technology that enables marketers to embrace new and innovative technologies into their martech stack to create amazing digital experiences. Where artificial intelligence is concerned, Drupal works by giving you the freedom you need to deploy the technologies effectively. How? Drupal is an open-source technology that operates on an integration model with future generations of technologies through open APIs. Should any new technologies arise that you want to take advantage of, Drupal makes integration easier than traditional, proprietary, content management systems (CMSs).

So, if you’re going to get your customers on board with artificial intelligence and machine learning, consider using Drupal at the core, and getting it right from the word go.

Sylvia Jensen, VP of EMEA marketing, Acquia
Image Credit: Sergey Nivens / Shutterstock