AI has evolved from a fantastical notion to a game-changer for digital marketers today. It's become the secret engine driving personalized ads, predictive analytics, customer experiences, and much more.
In this article, we'll break down what AI means for digital marketing, examples of its use, challenges and tools (not just ChatGPT!), and consider the skills you need to face it to your advantage.
“AI is a tool, it's a technology. It's as useful as the person putting it to work” Clark Boyd, Founder at Novela & Marketing and Management Professor
AI in digital marketing uses artificial intelligence capabilities such as data collection, natural language processing, machine learning, and data analysis to get customer insights and automate marketing tasks and decisions.
The advantage of AI is that it will help you gain insights into customer behaviors at speed by harvesting vast amounts of data. These can be used to respond to and tailor a customer’s needs depending on their actions and preferences. AI is also able to adapt and improve over time using feedback and new data.
Artificial intelligence offers great opportunities for marketers to be more effective and personalized. This means customers get relevant content that can be triggered by actions on a site, an ad, or a branded message.
But AI doesn’t replace the roles and efforts of humans! It is a technology that complements and enhances those but it requires human skills to use it effectively.
While ChatGPT may be the most talked-about generative AI tool, there are so many more out there that are helping marketers in their daily roles. They can help marketers in a variety of functions from content generation to automation to SEO and design.
Here are some of the most effective AI tools out there:
The power of AI means it can be leveraged across many digital channels. Companies use it for social media campaigns, to automate tasks and processes, and for digital advertising.
It can also be used in any industry. Beauty brands use it to deliver a tailored customer experience such as Sephora’s AI chatbot-powered shopping service, while publishers like The Economist use AI-driven programmatic advertising to target and influence ‘reluctant readers’.
One of the most successful and well-known for using AI effectively is streaming giant Netflix which employs the technology to provide personalized recommendations based on user preferences and behavior.
Check out some amazing examples of AI in marketing to get inspiration.
As AI technologies have become more accessible and easier to use, companies have started to use them in daily tasks such as creating content for PPC ads or setting up triggered email workflows.
When we asked our membership community at the Digital Marketing Institute about AI, over half felt their roles are changing due to the technology while 44% already use it. Of those who use artificial intelligence, 45% believe it has helped increase their productivity.
But what are marketers using AI for?
Marketing teams are often under pressure to create content quickly for many purposes and channels. However, creating good content takes time and effort, and a lot of marketers are time- and resource-poor.
AI software such as ChatGPT and Jasper has exploded because it helps people to generate content: that’s why they’re called generative AI tools! This could be email subject lines, ad copy, landing pages, blogs, or anything else you need for your content marketing. You can also use AI writing prompts to create catchy headlines and customize content for your audience which drives personalization.
Using these tools saves time and money. However, make sure to read over any content before publishing it live to ensure it has personality and fits in with your brand voice.
"People use AI because it's lower cost and highly scalable. But if you don't have a good creative platform and it doesn't come from creative and data-driven insights, then it's just spray and pray really,” says Mischa McInerney, CMO at the Digital Marketing Institute
“44% of marketers have used AI for content production” AI Marketing Benchmark Report 2023
AI-driven chatbots have been around for a while as a way to communicate with and provide information to customers. When people want to get instant answers to simple queries or interact with a brand, they first go to a chatbot.
However, AI has a bigger role when it comes to customers. It can improve customer experience by personalizing content and messaging, anticipating customer needs, streamlining purchasing, and directing queries or concerns to the right department or agent.
48% of marketing leaders say AI is making the most significant difference in how customers interact with them - SEMRush
Customer segmentation and targeting help you identify and influence your most valuable customers. However, doing this manually can be time-consuming and costly.
AI can use algorithms to segment your prospects and customers into groups or segments of people with similar interests, needs, or behaviors.
You can then communicate with and target these segments with relevant and customized messaging that can be adapted and adjusted in real time. Recommendation systems can suggest products, services, or offers that match customer preferences while Natural Language Processing (NLP) can analyze customer feedback and reviews to improve your products, services, or customer experience.
Artificial intelligence has huge potential in the area of search engine optimization (SEO). Search engines such as Google have been using sophisticated algorithms that crawl and index web pages to rank them. Now, AI is becoming further integrated with that process in a way that is changing the world of search even more, through Search Generative Experience (SGE).
AI can automate and improve keyword research and content optimization by analyzing user behavior, along with creating meta tags and headings. Marketers can also use it to predict SEO trends, user behavior, and algorithm updates through predictive SEO.
Voice and visual search are becoming more important ways for people to find information, and AI can help optimize both. This can be done by focusing on NLP and long-tail keywords and including relevant metadata on images.
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is a form of advertising where you pay when someone clicks your ad. As a strategy, PPC marketing is important as it can attract new customers through targeted campaigns, get quick results, and be easily tweaked and optimized.
AI can be used to enhance your PPC campaigns by optimizing:
As the technology continues to evolve, marketers can see new ad formats, targeting techniques, and measurement tools for PPC. This is why it’s so important to keep an eye on developments and stay up to date.
With so much data available from a wide variety of channels, marketers can often feel overwhelmed. However, artificial intelligence can process vast volumes of data at speed. This can help marketers gain insights from data, along with using historical data to predict trends and behaviors.
AI can also be used to detect anomalies in data and uncover patterns. The combination of AI and data analysis can help drive hyper-personalization. The more you know your customers better, the more targeted you can be in your messaging and approach. In retail, for example, it can be used to manage inventory and optimize customer service.
ChatGPT has excellent data analysis capabilities, especially if you use its Advanced Data Analysis plugin. This enables you to feed a spreadsheet to ChatGPT, and it then helps you to unearth deep insights above the data in your spreadsheet.
Ultimately it’s about using AI technology in data analysis to drive better business insights in a way that works for you.
Email marketing is an important part of any marketing strategy as it continues to be an effective way to convert prospects and engage customers. Using AI tools in your email marketing can save you time and improve performance.
By using AI in emails, you can:
AI can also curate your email lists by comparing metrics to determine the value of an email address or email list. You can also get insights about your email schedule by tracking the value generated by each email and analyzing the frequency.
Did you know? 63% of users trust AI email-generation tools but double-check their work, while 25% fully rely on AI-generated emails - Selzy
As with any evolving technology, there are advantages and disadvantages to using artificial intelligence. There are also ethical implications to take into account in terms of data privacy, bias, and discrimination.
“AI is no longer a niche topic for a few tuned-in geeks. It’s an area that all marketers need to become knowledgeable about; quickly.” Jim Leckinski, Associate Professor at Kellogg School of Marketing, Northwestern University.
The key to using AI technology effectively is to make it fit in with your role. It's not enough to know how to use artificial intelligence. You also need to know why you're using it. Does it align with your business and career goals? Will it help you deliver organizational objectives more efficiently?
You need to understand the basics but also take a deep dive into AI to use it to meet your goals whether that be generating leads or improving customer service.
Here are some of the key technical skills you should consider brushing up on to improve your broader competency with AI tech:
Developing these technical skills may alleviate some of the fear you might feel when dealing with AI. The more familiar you become with the models and technology, the less intimidating it becomes!
But it’s not just about hard skills like coding or content marketing. Companies seek marketers with outside-the-box thinking and skills that make them solution-focused.
“I speak to a lot of people in ad agencies and learning and development at big companies and they often talk about hard skills. I want to see people learn how to code. I want to see them apply this and get ROI,” says Clark Boyd on the DMI podcast.
Four areas that are important to focus on for broader or soft skills in the context of AI are:
These critical professional skills will perfectly complement your digital and technical skills as you prepare for the AI-driven future of marketing.
Read more about digital skills for AI.
We know that artificial intelligence can be daunting and it’s difficult to see where and how it fits into your role. But it shouldn’t be seen as a threat. AI can become an invaluable ally as you look to effectively meet your goals.
After all, AI tools are great for looking after mundane, predictable, and labor-intensive tasks. This frees you up to focus on the more creative and strategic aspects of your job.
Understanding and mastering AI will also give you a personal boost. You will gain new skills and real-life experience in a generative technology that’s going to become more widespread and an area that companies look for to recruit or promote.
“Awareness is the first step to change. The question is, are you going to sit on the sidelines and let this evolve or are you going to dive in with two feet and try to understand it, learn it, try it and apply it?” concludes Lecinski on the DMI podcast on getting started in AI.