Interview: Current State of Artificial Intelligence for Marketing Professionals

I was recently interviewed by Los Angeles-based technology journalist Tom Samiljan on the current state of artificial intelligence (AI), in particular from a marketing professional perspective.

What types of tasks are machines best suited for vs humans? Conversely, what are humans better at? How does this translate into a marketing context?

There is an interesting contrary between humans and machines. Humans are typically better in doing things where machines struggle and vice versa. Observe how a robot moves, not very human-like. And all the things that make us human, like show feelings, being social, decide with our gut instinct etc. On the contrary, machines are better in processing things. A machine will beat a human any time when it is about to search through a lot of information or quickly identify anomalies in a manufacturing plant.

How will marketing professionals and AI/machines work together in the future? What jobs will be replaced and what jobs will be augmented/aided by AI?

AI offers marketing professionals the capabilities to get a much better understanding of their customers. By connecting various data sources, created by customers and analyzing the coherences, an AI will extract more insights and thus let marketing professionals engage even deeper with customers. Leveraging AI also means to serve the customer based on analyzing his data, location and behaviour with a better experience via a digital touchpoint at the point of sales or even better at the point of presence. Regarding jobs, not AI is replacing jobs but automation and the more unique the job skills are the less it is replaceable by automation.

What kinds of skills and insight/intelligence will marketing professionals need in the future to work with AI and machines?

Creativity and a better understanding of what types of data can be used to let it analyzed by an AI. Creativity is crucial since AI allows to engage in a more fancy way with customers. Today we still use our smartphones and typing in our commands. However, Alexa and Siri already show us a lot of potential for customer interaction (eg. enhancing user experience). And even if Jarvis (Iron Man AI) is still far away. That’s the way to go.

What sorts of tasks or solutions is AI offering marketing professionals already and what is still missing that’s needed in the future?

Chatbots via Facebook Messenger already try to enhance the user experience by giving the customer the expression that there is a call center agent 7/24/365 exclusively available. Personal virtual assistants like Amazon Echo (Alexa) or Siri are the next evolutionary step to equip a chatbot with a human-like voice. Netflix and Pandora are leveraging AI techniques by recommending movies respectively songs based on the own watching/ listing behaviour but also considers the network of friends etc.

Where do you see the role of AI in marketing in one year, 5 years, and 10 years?

AI will not only become an essential part for marketing but for any single department within an organisation. However, the more various data an AI gets and the more it is able to connect these data sources, the smarter it gets. In doing so, it is important that there is not an AI exclusively for the marketing department but a general AI that is connected to every single part of the organisation having access to any data source of a company. This is part of an AI journey organisations have to walk through to become an AI-enabled enterprise.

By Rene Buest

Rene Buest is Gartner Analyst covering Infrastructure Services & Digital Operations. Prior to that he was Director of Technology Research at Arago, Senior Analyst and Cloud Practice Lead at Crisp Research, Principal Analyst at New Age Disruption and member of the worldwide Gigaom Research Analyst Network. Rene is considered as top cloud computing analyst in Germany and one of the worldwide top analysts in this area. In addition, he is one of the world’s top cloud computing influencers and belongs to the top 100 cloud computing experts on Twitter and Google+. Since the mid-90s he is focused on the strategic use of information technology in businesses and the IT impact on our society as well as disruptive technologies.

Rene Buest is the author of numerous professional technology articles. He regularly writes for well-known IT publications like Computerwoche, CIO Magazin, LANline as well as and is cited in German and international media – including New York Times, Forbes Magazin, Handelsblatt, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Wirtschaftswoche, Computerwoche, CIO, Manager Magazin and Harvard Business Manager. Furthermore Rene Buest is speaker and participant of experts rounds. He is founder of and writes about cloud computing, IT infrastructure, technologies, management and strategies. He holds a diploma in computer engineering from the Hochschule Bremen (Dipl.-Informatiker (FH)) as well as a M.Sc. in IT-Management and Information Systems from the FHDW Paderborn.