I have written a little bit about artifical intelligence in recent months. Enough to improve my superficial knowledge of its application in marketing.
What seems obvious is that much like most martech, AI will not endanger many jobs in the medium term. It merely creates more sophistication and more jobs, perhaps.
AI isn’t about to write a convincing poem or a convincing marketing email. Okay, deep learning has got recommendations in its sights (e.g. Netflix), but keeping on top of ‘quality’ of content, cultural considerations, languages etc. is still incredibly difficult.
However, leaving more sophisticated implementations of AI aside, machine learning’s chief benefit to the marketer is its relentless feedback, a.k.a. the pursuit of incremental improvement.
Algorithms can determine optimum product pricing, or optimise cost per acquisition in advertising (and target a user likely to click), or forecast sales, or aid segmentation.
AI a natural fit for conversion optimisation?
One area where machine learning would seem a good fit is conversion rate optimisation (CRO).
The assumptions of marketers are often confounded by A/B or multivariate testing, so allowing your website to quietly tweak itself based on machine learning would seem to make sense.
And, who’d have thought it, there are companies offering this very product – a SaaS-based CRO solution that uses AI. Sentient Technologies launched a product (called Sentient Ascend) in September 2016.
Using a slightly specious analogy, Sentient’s website explains: ‘Our patented AI solution mimics biological evolution, enabling it to quickly learn, adapt and react to determine the best performing design from the building blocks you provide.’
The case studies are compelling though. Underwear brand Cosabella has used the software to test 15 different changes to the homepage header, category page, product page and cart layout.
Colours, headlines, button placement, and new layouts were being tested. You can see the changes being primed in the screenshot below.
If one were to use strict multivariate testing for this number of changes, 160 tests would be required, and a whole lot more traffic.
In around a month, Cosabella had hit on design changes which generated 35% more conversions than the control.
Changes include button colours that match brand identity and highlight the checkout (presumably the shocking pink you can see used for buttons on the website at time of writing).
Branded messaging above the header was also changed and found to impact conversions.
What place for the conversion expert?
There’s no doubt that, ultimately, software such as this will eventually eliminate a lot of the headache of conversion optimisation.
The consolidation of marketing tech and increasing sophistication of ecommerce platforms will mean that more and more marketers will be using machine learning in SaaS solutions, rather than utilising the precious services of a data scientist.
However, even as this tech allows testing at scale that’s quick to set up and run, deciding what to do with it is still the job of someone with experience in analytics and web design.
Machine learning can only help if marketers have a hunch about where gains can be achieved. This comes from web analytics acumen and experience.
And for all the donkey work that can be eliminated, the marketer must still have the vision to suggest design changes that can be tested. If the change can’t be envisioned, the software cannot test it.
Some of the changes made with AI powered CRO software
It’s also worth noting that as personalisation of web communications and websites becomes possible, the scope for conversion optimisation increases, too.
Many might argue true website personalisation is not necessary in ecommerce, but when you split website traffic even fairly basically by nationality, landing page, search terms etc., all these characteristics impact on conversion.
Planning how to segment website visitors requires more testing and more expertise in analytics and conversion.
The conversion agency/consultant may, if anything, become more relevant than ever as powerful CRO technology becomes easier to implement and more widely available.
Conversion consultants, machine learning experts, tell us what you think…