Jeremy Waite, Evangelist at IBM Watson, kicked off speaking at a recent DMA event by highlighting the fact that by 2019 there will be 1m new devices coming online every hour.

With so much smart tech in the hands of consumers, will we end up marketing to machines or algorithms? 

He asked the audience to think about how we can use AI to create more meaningful relationships with our customers and use the power of marketing to make a difference.

While it is easy to get overexcited about technology, we still have situations where 85% of enterprises are not sharing data within their own sales teams. 

Furthermore, the Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies indicates that two of the top trends over the next five years will be cognitive expert advisors and machine learning. As such, Jeremy suggested that the future of marketing might build itself.

IBM Watson is able to process and analyse 10m records a second, which offers huge potential across all industries.  

Gartner Hype cycle

The new Econsultancy/IBM Watson Marketing report revealed that only 6% of companies think that dark data (unstructured) and dark social are barriers to building a joined up view of the customer journey. Yet Jeremy highlighted that 88% of consumer conversations are happening in private messaging apps, meaning brands and marketers are largely left in the dark.

AI has the power to analyse huge amounts of data from numerous sources, including human behaviours and emotions. This can then be used to create more meaningful customer experiences.

Take, for example, the first social robot for the home, Jibo, designed to help you with a range of tasks. It connects to your calendar and other devices as well as the internet in order to act as a personal assistant.

Jibo uses artificial intelligence technology to learn your habits and serve you accordingly, as well as using emotions to react and relate more effectively. 

Whilst showing how helpful and cute Jibo can be, it was also quite scary to see the relationship a robot can start to have with humans. Another concern is people's lack of awareness around the amount of personal information they are handing over.

We are also seeing companies such as Hilton Hotels looking at how robots can assist with their customer service experiences. Connie is a concierge robot who interacts with guests and answers their questions in a friendly and helpful manner. The more guests that Connie interacts with, the more she learns about how to assist customers.

Connie utilises IBM Watson technologies to understand natural speech and provide guests with a comprehensive view of local attractions. 

Another example is The North Face's bot which is trying to recreate the experience of a store where you are asked ‘Hi can I help you shop for a jacket today?' The bot then asks where and when you will be using the jacket, before coupling that information with weather predictions and other data to help you select the best jacket. 

With the challenges of personalisation and getting customers to give over data, Jeremy saw a trend towards ‘personification’. Giving a person the right message at the right time when you don’t know that person by using AI. The use case for AI in marketing will be an emphasis on predicting what will happen.

While a big question among the audience was around AI replacing jobs, a key benefit highlighted was how it would free up time for people to focus on the more creative elements of their role. You can find out yourself via the BBC website's article, ‘Will a robot take your job?’.

Jo Coombs, CEO of OgilvyOne UK, followed by emphasising that AI is poised to revolutionise marketing, but there is a lack of understanding around adoption within organisations. The challenge is around the integration of AI and how it interacts with their data and where to start. 

Marketers need to think who is the customer and take them on a journey, address their fears and concerns on AI, particularly around privacy concerns, otherwise there is a danger of a technology rejection from consumers.

We are already hearing of technology making mistakes with the example with Amazon’s Alexa accidentally ordering a load of dollhouses after it was mentioned on TV.

There is a need to think about emotional connections – these create brand value, advocacy and collaborative values. In ‘The new science of customer emotions’ Harvard Business Review says that when companies connect with customers’ emotions, the payoff can be huge.

Consumer behaviour is driven by hundreds of 'emotional motivators'. There are 10 that can significantly affect customer value:

Jo finished her talk by providing her thoughts on five top tips for companies thinking about AI within their own organisations and using AI to deliver great customer engagement. 

1. Define the role of AI within your organisation

AI will create more insights and can help with cost savings and efficiencies, but it is then about enabling people to use resources in a different way to focus on customer experience. 

2.  Complement not substitute

AI works best when it is used as an enabling tool to help marketers engage with customers.

3. Champion incrementalism

The use of AI in marketing doesn’t have to involve huge risk and cost. Focus on the small things that can help improve the customer journey.

Map out the customer journeys then use AI to analyse data to help identify key areas to focus on, e.g. using chatbots to help with minor pain points. 

4. Manage expectations

The world's major tech companies have set high standards for what AI can achieve. Other companies therefore need to manage expectations around anything they create.

SwedBank is using an AI system with its chatbot, but the business manages expectations by setting out what it can help with and what it can answer. 

5. Be transparent and build trust

Make it clear when a customer is talking to a bot and the reasons behind this.

It seems as though AI robots will soon also have human rights. The European parliament has urged the drafting of a set of regulations to govern the use and creation of robots and artificial intelligence, including a form of “electronic personhood” to ensure rights and responsibilities for the most capable AI.  

We may soon be marketing to machines that also have human rights. 

For more on this topic, read:

Lynette Saunders

Published 24 January, 2017 by Lynette Saunders @ Econsultancy

17 more posts from this author

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Comments (6)

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Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

That EU report is not not about machines that also have human rights. Rather the opposite as it recommends that they must *not* have the most important human right - the right to life.

"Designers should make sure any robots have a kill switch, which would allow functions to be shut down if necessary, the report recommends."

The proposed legal status for robots would be analogous to corporate personhood, which allows firms to take part in legal cases both as the plaintiff and respondent. “It is similar to what we now have for companies, but it is not for tomorrow,” said Delvaux. “What we need now is to create a legal framework for the robots that are currently on the market or will become available over the next 10 to 15 years.”

over 1 year ago

Lynette Saunders

Lynette Saunders, Senior Analyst at EconsultancyStaff

@Pete, thank you for your comment and for clarifying the position around the debate for what rights robots have. The statement made was in reference to a comment at the event I attended and in the article referenced. I appreciate that this is a much more complicated area.

over 1 year ago

Kirti Khanna

Kirti Khanna, Content Strategiest at The Real PBX

A good post, Lynette!!

I think speech recognition combined with voice assistants is a boon for companies to improve customer service experience. Many forward-thinking businesses are now adopting this new technology in order to intake a large increase in calls without having to increase the staff. Many customers find it a more comfortable interface. Really a worthwhile read!! To know more one can refer

over 1 year ago

Kirti Khanna

Kirti Khanna, Content Strategiest at The Real PBX

When a customer just speaks, speech recognition program will get to know what he needs. Speech recognition not only translates words but applies artificial intelligence to understand customer intentions.

over 1 year ago


Vadim Voronovskiy, Business Analyst at Iflexion

E-commerce business owners rightly ask “what effect will AI have on my business and how can AI change my business?” I recently read an article about AI and I have opinions similar to what the author wrote about. I think that e-commerce will benefit from the development of artificial intelligence. It will help your business adapt to the needs of customers and AI can occupy most workflows. It makes your online e-commerce business more convenient and comfortable. AI can evolve searching capabilities and navigation, and improve conversational processes with the help of chatbots. Nowadays there are a lot of AI applications which can revolutionise retail and e-commerce.

about 1 year ago


Courtney Raaz, Community Manager at Obzervant

I agree that one of the largest benefits of AI is how it will free up time for people to focus their efforts elsewhere. AI is not the enemy. It won’t “destroy” our jobs. Instead it will push marketers in a different direction that will require a different skill set. Marketers shouldn’t be wary of the unknown challenges that this new technology brings. Instead, we should be celebrating the opportunity to make our lives simpler and to make our campaigns more profitable.

This article provides some pretty valuable insight into how AI will affect the future of marketing if you are looking for something more in-depth.

11 months ago

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