“Robots will eliminate 6% of all US jobs by 2021, starting with customer service representatives” announced one news daily’s headline and “India's IT services industry will lose 6.4 lakh jobs to automation by 2021” screamed another. Fear! Anxiety! WTFishness and suddenly technology and particularly AI is the enemy. Serves the techies right for trying to get ahead of themselves.
Setting aside all the media clutter, as a career marketer, got me thinking what will happen to Marketing as a career in the age of ‘Bots with kick-ass AI’ and I could already imagine the next headline “AI kicks ass and bo(o)ts out marketers”; a chill ran down my spine.
Marketing has always been about data. Much as the visual and graphic elements take precedence, market and customer data was always at the heart of marketing. It was always about understanding trends and patterns in buying behaviour to engage in meaningful conversation with the customer. Marketers of the old world relied more on traditional market research and surveys to gather sample data sets and derived insights from it. But with the advent of Big Data and unimaginable amounts of data flowing in from all kinds of devices and sensors, even traditional statistical methods need severe technology to be able to make any sense of it. AI comes to the rescue here. So there may be some use cases where marketers can still make friends with AI after all.
Bots are taking over the world of customer servicing and unless you hear a sneeze on the other end of the line, be assured that the sweet girl is a bot you are chatting with. Technology had to catch up to be able to process conversational language into machine readable and processable form(NLP). AI definitely plays a crucial role here to assimilate cohorts of consumers and spot sentiment patterns to decide next best action for the brand. This is where perhaps the greatest leverage of AI comes about in not only digesting the humongous data in the present but also marry the same with historical patterns and arrive at insights that make sense even to the segment-of-one.
Another area is the dynamic pricing bit in analysing real-time demand and matching supply to determine price elasticity on-the-go. AI can also help stitch experiences and create new content to suit consumer needs in real-time and we are hearing of examples where entire websites are modified on-the-fly depending on customer preferences as and when she is browsing the site. So in a way the entire continuum of experience is broken into a series of interactions and AI can help provide a continuous narrative of the brand experience which would otherwise be difficult for a marketing program to achieve cohesively.
Video will be all pervasive and the rapidly growing size of video traffic on the internet is only a leading indicator of what is to come. Large systems that have the capability to store, analyse and derive actionable intelligence from these vast amounts of video and image data is a straight case for AI which is almost otherwise humanly impossible. In the area of location intelligence which we play in, just the sheer amount of location data itself can throw up very useful insights for marketers like dwell times, path analysis, zonal heat maps etc. and all this without even without infringing on privacy or getting any personally identifiable information. Infact, privacy can be used as a differentiator by brands that seek to interact only when the customer allows them to, in the time and place of her choosing, thus putting power back in the hands of the consumer. This is a complete re-imagination of the traditional sense of marketing where brand communication is mostly mono-directional and passive.
So does all this mean that marketing as a career is finished and that robots are going to takeover? Well, its the same as answering can robots paint or create art? Marketers certainly consider their craft as one that is about leveraging insights thrown by AI in crafting relevant, personalised and lasting brand experiences, as any marketer worth their salt would say.