Salesforce: Email Still Works To Drive Consumer Connections, As Artificial Intelligence Emerges

“Personalization” is the primary focus of marketers in the Age of Amazon, but to actually achieve that one-to-one relationship with consumers, a Salesforce report highlights the value of one of the older forms of digital marketing: email.

Email seems like an odd touchpoint for marketers’ success as social media and messaging apps emerge as key entries for personalized campaigns. On average, the 3,500 global CMOs surveyed by Salesforce in its Fourth Annual State of Marketing report say 34 percent of their budget is spent on channels they didn’t know existed five years ago — and they expect that to reach 40% by 2019.

The reason for email’s continued relevance, even as Saleforce’s survey shows growth for video, texting/sms, and AI, is that email works well to amplify all those channels.

“Over the past two years, we’ve seen an explosion in the use of newer channels like video advertising, SMS, mobile apps, and native advertising/sponsored content,” Salesforce says. “The percentage of both B2B and B2C marketers using video advertising, for example, has risen by triple digits over the last two years.”

Despite its well-established presence in the B2C marketer’s toolbox, email is still growing at a significant rate, Salesforce notes. Email’s number two ranking among marketing professionals surveyed indicates that marketers may be testing new channels in conjunction with proven ones to find combinations that work for their consumers.

The three biggest benefits cited in the report are improved awareness, higher rates of customer engagement, and improved customer acquisition.

“Email provides a window into customer behavior — such as which emails they open, what device they use, and which offers they redeem — making it a natural candidate to leverage alongside other channels to boost personalization and engagement,” the report states.

While email, when combined with other channels, can help reinforce a message and extend reach, using the data available to craft the message can have a bigger impact.

“This is a missed opportunity for most marketers who aren’t evolving messages between email and other channels based on customer behaviors or actions,” Salesforce concludes. “About half (51 percent) of the emails they send are identical messages to what they’ve broadcast in other channels.”

AI’s Coming Impact

The Salesforce State Of Marketing report notes that 51 percent of marketers surveyed are already using AI.

A separate IDC/Salesforce analysis buttresses that report’s view that that AI will be the fastest growing channel in the next few years.

AI-powered CRM activities will drive new efficiencies in how companies sell, service, and market, ultimately expected to create more than $1.1 trillion in new GDP impact worldwide by 2021.

The IDC/Salesforce report says 2018 is poised to be “a landmark year for AI adoption.” More than 40 percent of companies said they will adopt AI within the next two years.

In addition by 2018, IDC forecasts that 75 percent of enterprise and ISV development will include AI or machine-learning functionality in at least one application.

Salesforce has made a particularly big bet on AI with the release of its Einstein project last fall. With Salesforce Einstein, AI capabilities are embedded with “every Salesforce Cloud,” the company has said. Einstein leverages all data within Salesforce—customer data; activity data from social media chatter, email, calendar entries, and e-commerce; social data streams such as Tweets and images; and even IoT signals—to train machine learning models.

“AI is impacting all sectors of the economy and every business,” said Keith Block, vice chairman, president and COO, Salesforce. “For the CRM market—the fastest-growing category in enterprise software—the impact of AI will be profound, ushering in new levels of productivity for employees and empowering companies to drive even better experiences for their customers. For companies embracing AI, it’s critical that they create new workforce development programs to ensure employees are prepared for this next wave of innovation.”

Among the key findings from the IDC report on the economic impact of AI on CRM:

  • AI associated with CRM could boost global business revenues by $1.1 trillion from the beginning of 2017 to the end of 2021.
  • This global business revenue boost is predicted to be led primarily by increased productivity ($121 billion) and lowered expenses due to automation ($265 billion).
  • The types of AI companies are planning to use, or exploring, range from machine learning (25 percent) and voice/speech recognition (30 percent), to text analysis (27 percent) and advanced numerical analysis (31 percent).
  • New jobs associated with the boost in global business revenues could reach more than 800,000 by 2021, surpassing those jobs lost to automation from AI.
  • Underpinning the adoption of AI, 46 percent of AI adopters report that more than 50 percent of their CRM activities are executed using the public cloud.
  • The United States is predicted to lead the way in new business revenue growth due to the economic impact of AI ($596 billion), followed by Japan ($91 billion), Germany ($62 billion), the U.K. ($55 billion) and France ($50 billion).

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The Future Of Car Talk: The Weather Company Runs First ‘Cognitive Ads’ For Toyota

The Weather Company, an IBM Business, is taking another big leap in connecting artificial intelligence and advertising with the launch of what the company claims is the “first cognitive ads” for the auto industry in a campaign to promote the Toyota Prius Prime.

The Watson Ads for the Prius Prime will run in The Weather Channel App and on weather.com.

The campaign follows recent uses of Watson Ads by the Campbell Soup Company, Unilever, and GSK Consumer Healthcare, respectively began their first foray into marketing that promises to understand and respond intelligently to consumers’ voice-activated and written queries.

The most recent effort involved Watson Ads being aligned with the annual return of the GSK Consumer Healthcare’s Allergy Tracker digital tools to promote relief through its Flonase brand.

And now, with Toyota, the Watson ads invite consumers connect with brands with a personalized, one-to-one conversation via voice and text.

This Watson Ads experience is primarily focused on driving awareness and brand engagement, says Sarah Ripmaster, head of automotive sales at The Weather Company. “Toyota’s goal with this campaign is to reach and engage consumers who are interested in the Prius Prime.

Text or voice queries are answered directly in the ads, which can also send local Toyota dealership information.

The cognitive ad format combines machine learning, natural language understanding, and integrated dialogue tools designed to deliver on the promise of a personalized user experience.

IBM Watson can discern a user’s intent — as opposed to reacting to a keyword search — to best respond to the consumer, The Weather Company says.

Using Watson Ads, Toyota is employing the power of AI to “engage and educate” consumers about Prius Prime. Consumers are invited to ask questions like, “How can I be a better Prius driver” or “Can you tell me about the Prius’s new features?”

By connecting one-on-one and offering a consumer the new car information they specifically ask for, the effort can guiding decision making during the purchase consideration stage, Ripmaster says.

“Watson Ads put the consumers in the driver’s seat,” she says. “Instead of passively experiencing a brand’s message, consumers are actively engaging with the ad to learn more about car on their own terms. This means the experience empowers consumer to ask the questions that truly matter the most to them during their auto shopping journey, and can ultimately help impact brand consideration.

“On Toyota’s side, they are able get deeper insight into the types of questions that consumers are asking during the decision-making process, which can then influence future creative messaging and media strategies,” Ripmaster added.

The Toyota Watson Ad includes several additional features that extend the interaction, including exploring different Prius models, branded video content, and a Toyota dealer locator.

“In the competitive automotive market, the ability to showcase a helpful and beneficial customer experience is invaluable,” says John Lisko, executive communications director, Saatchi & Saatchi, Toyota’s creative and media shop. ”

We are entering the next frontier of marketing, with cognition and AI poised to take consumer engagement to the next level, and Watson Ads is a prime example of that shift and the great potential we have,”Lisko adds. “We have leveraged IBM Watson in other areas of our business such as the programmatic video campaign of 300 custom pieces for Toyota RAV4 and most recently, the Mirai campaign on Facebook in which the tool wrote thousands of ads and we continue to uncover valuable insights.”

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