Last updated: The robots are coming – and it’s not all bad news for marketers

The robots are coming – and it’s not all bad news for marketers


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Fair warning: I’m a long-time fan of stories like those in Blade Runner, Brave New World, and The Handmaid’s Tale. Though it may seem that I’m getting all dystopian-future, and painting a picture of doom for marketers, the reality is that marketing in the future is going to change.

And, yes, it’s going to include robots – though maybe not the kind of robots you think.

The robots are coming!

As customers increasingly expect personalized, timely, and relevant messages, it’s no longer good enough to spend time writing a campaign brief, pulling a data set, and building your campaign in a system before it goes through multiple approvals and finally goes out the door, triggered by no more than the recipient’s action on the last step or email they received.

This is where the robots come into play. They won’t replace people, at least in the medium term, but they will bring a level of machine learning and AI to marketing – using all that data that everyone is generating to predict customers’ behaviors (in real time) based on their history, demographics and actions, and put the right offers in front of them – on mobile, web, in-store, or whatever platform the customer prefers.

In 2017, 43% of customer engagements in Australia happened across five or more channels – meaning that consistency and timely experience are critical.

In this brave new world, customers will also expect you to prove that you’re using their data the right way. Whether or not GDPR – or legislation like it – applies in your market, using data responsibly and respectfully is now key to customer relationships. In Australia, 78% of consumers told us they would stop buying from companies who misused their data – and that was before the recent Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Do better: Technology will improve marketing

The technology to do all this isn’t far away, and elements of it can be done today. I was told recently about a financial services company who traditionally delivered 50 triggered campaigns a year, and now use intelligent marketing platforms to deliver 300 concurrent campaigns a year.

The interesting thing is that this automation hasn’t been viewed as a way to reduce headcount – they have the same size team running this much larger number of activities, but their roles have changed: they now focus on campaign optimization, outcomes measurement, and development of new campaigns required to fill gaps rather than process driven campaign build.

Not only does this make their roles more interesting (and change the skill sets required to make up the team), but their effectiveness ROI is so much higher in this new world that marketing is now perceived across the organization as a revenue centre. It’s easy to demonstrate the fantastic value marketing adds to the business.

Don’t be scared that an army of Cybermen is going to march in and demand everyone upgrade (a la Doctor Who), but, on the other hand, don’t imagine for a moment that marketing won’t see more robots in the future.

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