Why (and how) marketers should fast-track their AI strategies

When it comes to digital transformation, it’s change or be left behind. This is especially true for today’s marketers and artificial intelligence (AI). To better adapt to 2020’s constant market changes, organizations and their marketing teams have been hitting the gas on their AI projects – speeding up efforts from years to months, for many.

It makes sense. With so many people staying at home due to the pandemic, digital engagement has increased correspondingly. In August, for example, consumers spent a total of $63 billion online in August (up 42 percent year over year). In addition, 60 percent of retail website visits came from mobile devices, accounting for 40 percent of online sales.

For marketers, all this digital engagement means a wealth of data and real-time insights about the end-to-end customer journey, making now the right time to begin your AI journey as a marketer. Below, we look at ways AI can help marketers, what TikTok can teach about AI’s potential, and a few brands that are putting AI to work.

AI unites sales and marketing

One of the biggest opportunities with AI lies in its ability to unite marketing and sales. Through the insight it uncovers, AI can accelerate revenue through delivery of a quality sales pipeline and smarter lead nurturing through prioritization and personalization.

Marketing teams should always be asking, “How will this project help us increase sales?” Insight from AI can help marketers make better decisions about how to optimize their campaigns to boost conversion rates, make more sales, and realize better ROI. AI can also be combined with marketing automation for a multichannel approach to reach customers quickly and more personally.

For example, Zenefits, an HR and payroll provider that was struggling to keep up with massive spikes in traffic and demand, knew it needed to change the way it interacts with buyers. Zenefits switched from manual lead qualification—which was time-consuming for the sales team and was frustrating for potential customers because of long delays for follow-ups—to automated, AI-powered lead qualification alongside live chat for fast response times. This change shortened the sales cycle from six months to as few as 12 days.

AI lessons from TikTok

Interestingly, understanding the difference between TikTok and Instagram sheds light on how AI can impact revenue. TikTok, the widely popular video-sharing social media platform, can credit its meteoric rise to its sophisticated use of AI. TikTok users are shown content from accounts they aren’t following and are given suggestions based on their interests. Instagram, while also popular, primarily shows content from accounts and hashtags that the user follows.

Consider what this means for marketing. Without AI, the team is only able to make decisions and take action based on what they already know. But with AI, marketers can uncover new insights and take action at scale. This was the case for small-business software provider Keap, which used an AI-powered lead qualification bot to discover qualified website visitors they didn’t know about. As a result, the company quickly increased its sales pipeline by 50 percent and used chatbots to convert leads at a higher rate (27 percent versus the sales team’s 21 percent).

Using AI strategically

Marketing teams that are already structured around data-driven decision making are best positioned to implement AI today. But they shouldn’t use AI just for the sake of it. Rather, they should identify a pain point they want to solve, such as identification of quality leads or increasing personalization and engagement—and use AI to solve for it in a more relevant, natural way.

If there’s one thing we’ve all learned this year, it’s that there’s never a “perfect” time for anything. The ability to grow revenue hinges on connecting marketing and sales with unified data, goals, and outcomes. With that foundation in place, AI can do its best work and ultimately help an organization grow.