Tags: Strategy

By: Ed Dunn

Are AI and VR the Next Big Advancements in Digital Marketing?

Having a digital footprint means much more than just creating a website or social media pages. As consumers get pickier, businesses need to come up with innovative ways to not just get more leads but also convert them. Businesses around the world realize this and are adopting the best digital marketing practices to get new consumers and engage the existing ones.

Over the years, many businesses have started experimenting with the idea of using AI and VR technologies in digital marketing. Experts believe that both these technologies have huge potential to dramatically change the digital marketing landscape. In the not so distant future, chatbots will replace their human counterparts to resolve customer complaints. Leading digital marketing firms are working on voice search that will help consumers save time when looking for a specific product or information.

As technology improves in the coming years, more digital marketers will start using AI and VR to improve their customer experiences.

Prove Virtual reality at work

What is AI?

Simply defined, Artificial Intelligence or AI, sometimes also known as machine intelligence, is a branch of computer science that focuses on the creation of machines (or software) that can perform tasks requiring human intelligence. These machines can simulate human intelligence processes that involve acquiring and using important information, self-correction, and logical reasoning.

From speech recognition and visual perception to language translation, AI technology can recreate a completely human experience. Even though AI as a concept is in its infancy, it already impacts our everyday life. Some examples of AI in everyday life include email filters and smart replies in Gmail, chatbots that deliver customized content to our social media feeds, Google predictive searches, and apps that provide directions.

VR: An introduction

Virtual Reality (VR) is the simulation of highly-realistic experiences in a virtual, three-dimensional environment. Here, the user uses special VR technology to interact with objects, animals, and people built into the VR environment. When it comes to improving your customer experience, VR can be the gamechanger. Businesses realize the promise that VR holds and are leveraging the technology to wow their customers.

Some of the most recognizable businesses such as Volvo, IKEA, and the North Face in their industry are using VR to serve their customers better. While Volvo uses the technology to give a virtual test drive to potential buyers who don’t have a dealership nearby, IKEA has an app that allows customers to virtually place and view furniture in their homes. The North Face has partnered with a VR company to give its customers a virtual tour of different tourist hotspots such as the Yosemite National Park and the Moab Desert.

Today, AI and VR have become two of the most discussed topics among brands and marketing agencies. This includes the world of digital marketing. 2016 alone saw global giants like Google and Baidu spend between $20 billion and $30 billion in the integration of AI and VR into their businesses.

How AI and VR are changing the way digital marketing works

Here are some amazing ways in which VR and AI are making big advancements in digital marketing:

They offer end users a personalized experience

As customers get more demanding, the need to offer personalized experiences has never been more critical to success. Both AI and VR hold immense promise and can help marketers come up with ways to improve their customer experience. Many businesses use virtual assistants and chatbots that can deliver answers, updates, and tasks in a fraction of the time of their human counterparts. Many companies are using VR to simulate experiences. Many real estate companies, for instance, uses VR to offer homebuyers virtual walk-throughs.

A prime example of AI-driven customized personal service is Netflix’s image personalization that shows users images based on their viewing preferences. If, for instance, you frequently watch movies from a certain genre, the personalized recommendation system will show images related to that genre.

Artificial intelligence helped the multi-million dollar entertainment company personalize movie/soap recommendations to customers based on their viewing behaviors. This allowed Netflix to save more than $1 billion in marketing and operations expenses. Additionally, this highly-personalized and customized service has given Netflix an edge over its competitors.

They are drastically improving media delivery and performance

Data management platforms (DMPs) are increasingly in use by brands leveraging digital marketing. DMPs centralize large customer data sets and create highly customized segments so that marketers can reach a highly targeted audience to deliver the right message at the right time.

DMP’s are also assisting companies in other ways, like customer profiling, ad targeting, audience analytics, and predictive analysis.

Of all these benefits, predictive analysis is probably AI’s biggest contribution to digital marketing. Predictive analysis involves the use of historical data to create a mathematical model that can predict events by analyzing data. Companies around the world use predictive analytics to reduce operating costs. Many fleet management companies, for instance, employ predictive analytics that issues a warning before a vehicle goes kaput, helping the operator reduce their downtime. Typically, a predictive analytics application involves the below steps:

  • Sourcing data
  • Removing outliners and combining data from different sources.
  • Using different tools to develop a predictive model.
  • Integrating the model into a forecasting system.

Predictive analysis can help companies serve their customers better by predicting their behavior. In 2004, Walmart stumbled upon the idea. The retailer analyzed data from its store to realize that strawberry Pop-Tart and beer sales in its stores increased drastically before hurricanes hit. Since then, Walmart started the practice of stocking its stores’ shelves with strawberry Pop-Tart before hurricanes.

They help create unique and experiential customer experiences

Virtual Reality recreates special experiences which act as marketing hooks for customers. Now, customers don’t need to purchase the product/service to experience its benefits; they can get a taste of the product/service through VR-generated experiences and know what to expect when they make their purchase.

Take, for instance, Oreo’s 'The World of a Flavored Cookie 360°Wonder Vault,' which gives customers a virtual realistic tour of a whimsical cookie land, where different flavors are conceptualized. Then there’s the Volvo XC90 Test Drive VR which allows people to “drive” the newly released automobile and experience it firsthand.

The interactive nature of VR games generates emotional reaction and better brand recall than traditional formats. Unlike traditional experiential tactics like trade shows and events, VR isn’t limited to attendees. Will VR replace experiential marketing someday?

They are bringing products & services to the customer much faster

Service delayed is service denied. One of the major reasons why customers abandon a brand is a delay in service delivery. To address this problem, many businesses use AI to predict their customers’ service needs. In ecommerce, AI is helping companies plan deliveries better by optimizing delivery routes. Many companies use chatbots that can work round the clock to answer customer queries and resolve issues as soon as they arise.

Amazon uses AI to manage warehouse operations. The retailer uses Kiva, an AI-powered robot in its warehouses and fulfillment center to move packages from one location to another for sorting and delivery.

Kiva robots take less than 15 minutes to pack and ship products. Comparatively, a human takes up to 75 minutes to perform the same task. This investment helped Amazon reduce its “click to ship” by 225%, improving customer satisfaction and the likelihood of future orders.

They make customer service more responsive

The modern consumer is impatient and impulsive and hates to wait to get a resolution to their problem. An unsatisfied customer will not only switch to another brand but can also badmouth you to competitors and other customers, hitting your business where it hurts the most.

To ensure their customers get a resolution when they need it the most, companies now use chatbots that, unlike their human counterparts, can work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A study suggests that around 69 percent of consumers prefer interacting with a chatbot to get swift answers to simple questions.

So responsive are chatbots that many customers interact with companies solely on chatbots and not on any other channel. This has made more than 67% of companies believe that AI-enabled chatbots will replace conventional digital marketing tools like apps and certain forms of social media by 2024.

How can you implement technologies like AI and VR into your marketing efforts?

New technology can often feel overwhelming, but sometimes, experimenting with ideas is critical to the success of your marketing and bottom line. So, how do you go about making sure your business is future-ready?

Use AI in curating and creating content

AI collects and uses data from different sources to help predict consumer behavior. Several marketers use AI to automatically generate content for their target audience. Chatbots are utilized to send promotional content to buyers based on their preferences. Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter use AI to customize their users’ news feeds. Visual AI identifies products from videos and photos in real time. Content marketers can use different tools to find out which topics are trending and then create stories around those topics.

AI starts collecting data when a prospect enters the marketing funnel. Marketers use data collected at different stages of a customer’s journey to find their preferences and questions that they have. Based on their findings, content creators create content that addresses specific customer problems.

Top companies such as Reuters, The New York Times, and BBC are just some organizations that have integrated AI into their content creation strategy.

Make VR part of your social media strategy

Today, there are already 171 million VR headset users in the world. Almost 77% of these users complain of a lack of content for VR devices.

One of the best ways to boost VR engagement is to give these users more opportunities to use their devices in a dynamic environment. Nothing fits this bill better than social media.

Over the years, several players have launched VR headsets. FB’s Oculus VR headsets, for instance, provides an immersive experience by mimicking different environments. Additionally, users can use Oculus to browse through their FB feeds. Oculus even has different rooms where you can hang out with your friends. As VR headsets go mainstream, more businesses will start leveraging the technology to improve their customer experience. In the not so distant future, it will become a norm for travel companies and real estate companies, for instance, to use VR headsets to give their clients a virtual tour of their next house or holiday destination. As technology advances, social media websites will use VR to create online avatars of their users that they can use while attending events and playing games, helping social media platforms engage their users better.

Help with lead scoring

AI and machine learning can help with predictive lead scoring. Many marketers use intelligent algorithms that analyze trends and recognize patterns to create a prediction model. Sales teams can use this model to make relevant offers to customers. AI can help predict which leads are more likely to convert. Equipped with this data, your sales team can determine which prospects deserve their attention and time.

Combine AI and VR to improve website design and UX

As we’ve seen, AI and VR make the entire digital experience more personalized and engaging. This feature of AI and VR can be tapped-into when developing the website. Based on your target market, you can include immersive videos and personalized content and use chatbots to engage your visitors.

Interested in how you can start using AI and VR to improve your marketing? Call Prove today.