The widespread adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) was once considered a far-fetched notion dreamed up in sci-fi stories, but it’s now a living, breathing part of our everyday reality.
While AI has been proven to enhance our daily consumer lives—with the adoption of autonomous vehicle technology, fitness devices, voice assistants, and smartphones—it has also served to improve the digital marketing efforts of businesses across many industries.
Since erupting onto the scene, ChatGPT, for example, has already made a significant impact in the digital marketing arena, with its innate ability to produce targeted AI-powered content on an ever-expanding range of subjects. A clear indication of how widespread AI is in our current landscape.
To put this notion into perspective, here we explore some quite different but equally inspiring uses of AI in digital marketing.
Understanding the power of AI early on, cosmetics brand Sephora has been using chatbot technology to offer its audience the most personalized, informational customer experience possible.
After conducting consumer research, the brand realized that many customers were overwhelmed by Sephora’s extensive choice of products, having to browse through a host of pages to find something suitable in certain categories.
In response to this, Sephora launched an interactive quiz to help guide its users through the shopping process, led by chatbots which offer tailored tips and suggestions based on specific answers or responses. Due to the success of the initiative, Sephora now offers its very own chatbot-powered shopping service via Facebook Messenger as it continues going from strength to strength.
This ultra-personalized AI-powered Messenger service includes a virtual color match assistant, a reservations assistant, and even KitBot: an autonomous chatty make-up tips and advice expert.
Ada is an innovative AI technology provider based in Toronto that offers a fully-tailored platform designed to plug into a business’s existing tools or tech stack and offer automated customer support.
In addition to automating essential tasks and offering human-like customer support communications, Ada’s AI-powered technology can also adopt a conversational tone to spark more engagement across social media channels.
To date, Ada’s autonomous technology has helped brands including Air Asia, Indigo, and Zoom with their customer experience (CX) as well as social media marketing activities.
Working with Malaysian ride-hailing service Grab, Ada’s AI-powered innovations helped the brand expand its reach into international markets throughout its various social media channels using multilingual chatbot technology.
Not only did the bot-powered help broaden Grab's brand offering (extended to grocery deliveries, bill payment assistance, and ordering takeaways), but it also engaged consumers from six new international markets through Facebook Messenger.
As a result of adopting an AI-powered approach to its social media marketing comms, Grab reduced its customer query backlog by 90% while reducing operational costs by 23%. It is also enjoying growth in each of its six new target markets.
Voice technology is on the rise, and those who embrace its possibilities stand to reap great rewards. Starbucks is no exception.
To offer its audience an additional layer of consumer value, the coffee colossus integrated one its most subscribed apps with Amazon’s Alexa technology. In doing so, its customers can now use their very own ‘My Starbucks Barista’ service to place and modify orders, as well as confirm a pickup location for maximum convenience – a seamless blend of voice and chatbot innovation in action.
Due to the success of its ‘My Starbucks Barista’ app, the brand has broadened its AI innovations by adding AI-powered Mastrena II espresso makers (machines that essentially complement the pre-ordering capabilities of the app) to thousands of its outlets to offer a more consistent and streamlined coffee-making experience to its customers.
Boasting a whopping 31.2 million mobile customers to date, it’s clear that initiatives like this are driving incredible levels of growth and engagement across the globe.
A forward-thinking brand that has successfully enriched its in-store shopping experience, hardware giant Lowe’s introduced its very own AI development – the LoweBot – to offer its consumers personalized suggestions and tailored information as they browse its colossal US stores.
Not only does its AI-driven technology help give its customers a seamless shopping experience, but by automatically tracking stock and inventory in real-time, the store’s rolling kiosks provide its marketers with invaluable insights on consumer shopping trends.
Speaking about the brand’s technological triumph, Josh Shabtai, Director of Lab Productions at Lowe’s Innovation Labs, explained: “We utilize our stores as living labs to rapidly test our prototypes and gather real-world feedback on the new experiences we’re delivering to demystify home improvement.”
Netflix, the world’s leading SVoD content streaming service, needs little introduction. However, not many people know that it’s possible to attribute a great deal of the unstoppable success of Netflix to its cutting-edge approach to AI.
As we know, user experience (UX) is paramount to the ongoing success of any business, regardless of its industry – and when a customer has a positive experience with a brand they're likely to share it with their peers online.
To enhance its overall UX and tailor its service to the individual user, Netflix uses AI-driven machine learning technology to provide personalized content recommendations based on a user’s preferences in addition to what they’ve enjoyed in the past. Moreover, Netflix uses an AI development to automatically optimize streaming quality and avoid any quality or buffering issues.
Over 80% of the shows people watch on Netflix are now based on its personal recommendations platform – a testament to its power in a time where people demand more value than ever from the brands they’re willing to invest in.
The Economist is a widely-respected digital publication but around 2017, its audience began to dwindle.
The publication leveraged the process of AI-driven programmatic advertising to its advantage, buying and selling targeted adverts autonomously. By using this process to capture data and analyze consumer data in detail, The Economist was able to identify a segment of its audience that it considered to be reluctant readers.
By analyzing web and app usage autonomously, they drilled down into specific reading habits or preferences and, as a result, found better ways of approaching their prospects online. Also, by focusing on matching cookie, subscriber and additional data sets to discover new segments and create lookalike audiences, the publication managed to yield a host of positive results that have served to boost its readership levels once again.
In summary, this forward-thinking campaign encouraged 3.6 million new readers to engage with the publication, achieving an overall return on investment of 10:1 from the initial wave of revenue generated from these prospects. That’s no small feat in an ultra-competitive digital environment.
This new data-driven, AI-centered business model has cemented continual subscriber growth since 2017, with a rise of 9% (90,000 new loyal) subscribers during 2020 to 2021 alone—an impressive feat in challenging times.
Read: Our exploration of the enduring marketing power of customer loyalty schemes for inspiration growing your consumer base.
In the wake of its successful ‘Draw Ketchup’ campaign, condiment colossus Heinz turned to AI image generators to keep the marketing momentum rolling.
To capitalize on the the 1,500% uplift Heinz earned by asking its audience to ‘Draw Ketchup’, the Kraft-owned brand decided to further promote its iconic red stuff by documenting employees as well as fans requesting AI image generators to produce their own artistic interpretations.
In addition to a wealth of amusing content, the brand also ended up with a wealth of eye-catching ketchup bottle designs to use as advertising assets across channels. These visuals earned healthy levels of engagement and showcased Heinz’s creative use of modern digital technologies.
World-leading sports brand Nike celebrated for its mold-breaking approach to digital marketing. As a true innovator in its field, Nike uses AI technology to give its various digital advertising campaigns added emotional depth.
Using AI technology to analyze the emotional intelligence and traits of particular audience segments, Nike crafts its ad content that gets under the skin of its consumers and creates compelling narratives that offer the best possible return on investment (ROI).
The likes of Serena Williams’ sports clothing apparel launch and inspirational celebration of women in sport were developed and implemented with the help of AI-powered emotional analysis technology—which serves as a key driver of the brand’s ongoing success.
“Rather than just simply trying to use AI to churn out content, let's use the AI to build tools that make yours a really valuable site to visit and offer people something that they cannot get easily.” Will Francis, Digital Marketing Expert
Iconic brand Coca-Cola has broadened its AI marketing scope with the introduction of its very own consumer-facing AI-powered creative platform.
Developed in collaboration with OpenAI and Bain & Company, Coca-Cola has taken its AI-driven marketing efforts to the next level by immersing its international audience in the creative process.
Using this innovative new platform, called Create Real Magic, fans are encouraged to interact with the brand on an ultra-personal level by creating their very own AI-powered creative artwork to potentially feature in official Coca-Cola advertising campaigns.
This incredibly immersive use of AI is the perfect intersection between the application of autonomous technologies and the well-crafted use of user-generated content (UCG). A testament to the brand’s ongoing innovation.
Speaking on the subject, Global chief marketing officer Manolo Arroyo said:
“We see many applications of AI — including content creation and rapid iteration, hyper-personalizing content and messaging for consumers and customers, and driving two-way conversations with consumers.”
As a trusted authority in digital marketing, HubSpot usually sits in the front edge of the curve when it comes to new trends or innovations—artificial intelligence is no exception.
The brand uses AI across many key facets of its core digital marketing strategy, including:
As a modern brand, focusing on content creation at scale is important. But, if what you’re producing fails to offer personal value, it will drain your budgets while offering little return on investment (ROI).
To enhance its content marketing efforts and create personalized communications for its audience, global food and beverage giant Nestle used natural language processing (NLP) technology to produce targeted content for various segments of its audience.
In addition to this content-centric innovation, Nestle also uses AI-driven data processing platforms to get well and truly under the skin of its customers (resulting in new innovations including virtual assistants and chatbots)—consistently transforming insight into action—a digital shift that has advanced sales in recent years.
If utilized creatively and with the consumer’s wants, needs and desires at heart, the use of AI in marketing offers incredible rewards in terms of growth, evolution, development, and ongoing success in an increasingly competitive digital landscape.
AI will continue to play an increasingly important role in digital marketing by augmenting human capabilities, automating routine tasks, and providing valuable insights. But, the human element in creativity, strategy, and relationship building is likely to remain indispensable for the foreseeable future.
Article updated 2023
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“This is not another new website or another new social media network. This is a tectonic transitional moment and we have had few moments like this in business history. And so, like electricity did to steam, AI has the opportunity to reshuffle winners and losers, remake businesses, industries, categories, and brands. ” Jim Lecinski, Kellogg School of Management, NorthWestern University