Top 5 challenges CMOs will face in 2018 and how AI can help

Key Points:
– AI is not only helping enterprises empower customers, it’s making the omni-channel experience, personalization and self-service competitive imperatives
– Only about 7 percent of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) surveyed found their digital transformation initiatives were exceeding their expectations
– AI can help companies to get better insights from a multitude of applications, and enable their employees to better serve customers, and understand their buying behaviors


The Hunt for Extraordinary Customer Experience — a Never-Ending Journey?

As the calendar flips from 2017 to 2018, Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) continue to witness a paradigm shift from traditional vendor-led customer experiences to ones where clients are firmly in the driver’s seat. Building and executing strategies that empower customers, including mobile, personalization, customer self-service and omni-channel commerce, has never been more important — and AI is helping to make it not only possible, but a competitive imperative.

More than any other factor, rising customer expectations are driving change at an almost unimaginable scale. Early adopters of artificial intelligence (AI) are helping CMOs not only meet these challenges but also gain an edge over their more pragmatic, “wait and see” competitors. That could spell the beginning of the end for laggards, and the end of the beginning for leaders in the application of AI.

Why AI?

If you have to ask that question, then you’re already behind. Don’t worry though, we’ve gathered and published great resources to get you up to speed on the opportunities that AI insight engines offer customer-centric companies.

1. Intelligent virtual bots can assist prospects through online chats or when your sales and services teams aren’t in the office. Customers asking questions in conversational language, may complete a full interaction without ever knowing they weren’t talking with a live agent

2. Consider all of the work your marketing team does to create meaningful, compelling content, inspiring e-mails and clever product and service descriptions on your website. How much of that content is going unseen, or those emails are going unopened, or those e-commerce products are being passed over?

A recent Forrester TechRadar™ report describes how marketers and customer interaction (CI) professionals can leverage AI to make educated decisions on the sorts of content, messaging, product and service offerings that will enhance content marketing efforts.

3. Many businesses, across all industries are adopting AI platforms to discover new business opportunities, and better serve their customer base. Companies are extracting valuable data from their own repositories, and from the mountains of unstructured dark data that were previously out of reach.

An IDC report shows that many companies, in North America and around the world, are moving beyond AI proofs of concept and business case research, and are adopting augmented intelligence to accomplish strategic business goals.

The reason is simple: traditional business applications can’t meet the expectations of business-to-business and business-to-consumer clients.

Today’s customers are already accustomed to doing business with companies that provide them with experiences that:

1. Are consistent and seamless across all of a supplier’s lines of business and their channels

2. Are available wherever they are in the world

3. Offer channel and/or device flexibility

4. Are based more on the customer’s terms, not just the vendor’s

5. Offer tailored experiences based on a client’s preferences and vendor relationship

AI, or as IBM’s CEO, Ginni Rometty calls it, Augmented Intelligence offers CMOs scalable, innovative ways to better serve their customers from the beginning of the customer journey — wherever, and whenever it leads.

Let’s dive deeper into these five challenges, and explore how AI can enhance human intelligence more effectively, and drive better return on investment.

Seamless Customer Experiences

Today’s empowered consumers and prospects are increasingly willing to exchange private data for benefits such as convenience, cost savings and more personalized service. These private details include contact information, their shopping behaviors, and their product or service preferences. In the case of mobile device geolocation, many consumers are even willing to share day-to-day travel patterns with companies they do business with.

From a CMO’s perspective, prospects and clients who yield this data to businesses expect a lot in return. They look for targeted promotions, convenient purchases and frictionless customer service. They want to be recognized as more than an account number, whether they are shopping online, in a bricks and mortar store or interacting with a chat agent.

Customers who are loyal to a brand expect to have that loyalty rewarded, with marketing messaging in context to past business interactions and hassle-free customer service.

Connect Globally, Interact Locally

CMOs at companies with mobile or geographically dispersed customers and employees often find it challenging to send the right message, at the right time via email, social media and online. Synthesizing data about customers like their devices of choice, what their buying patterns are, and even what the weather is like on a specific day requires a lot of segmented data processing.

Marketing campaign automation powered by AI helps marketers to better design customer journey maps, storyboards, and campaign targeting to personalize messages based on location, demographics and buyer behaviors. CMOs can monitor campaign performance, and make decisions confidently based on reliable data.

Give Customers the Freedom to Choose How and Where

If a customer tries to access their account information on a mobile banking app, and it takes over three seconds to access their data, they may well abandon their connection attempt and dial into telephone banking. If, while on hold, they access their accounts on their laptop and get a live (or virtual) agent on the phone, they expect the information on their screen to be consistent with the voice from their device.

Several years ago, companies dictated most of the terms of a customer purchase — pricing, payment, shipping, returns and exchanges. With the expansion of online sales, companies that offer multi-channel product sales and fulfillment have been compelled to offer their customers more options to buy, and receive their products. Large retail chains are increasingly offering Buy Online, Pick-Up In Store (BOPIS) and Buy Online, Return In Store (BORIS) terms. Some multichannel merchants have implemented intelligent solutions like Watson Customer Engagement to eliminate silos between online sales operations and those of their physical storefront.

By tracking customer experiences like navigation through an online catalog, and through the shopping cart process, AI platforms like Watson Customer Experience Analytics can detect if a customer is struggling with a step in their online purchase, and proactively offer chatbot assistance, or introduce the option of live agent assistance.

Customer experience on their terms, not supplier-mandated

A 2016 IBM survey of 200 CMOs in the CMO Council found that only about 7 percent of those surveyed found their digital transformation initiatives were exceeding their expectations. AI can help companies to get better insights from a multitude of applications, and enable their employees to better serve customers, and understand their buying behaviors.

Bernhardt Furniture Company, based in North Carolina was able to increase sales by 20% by implementing traffic beacon sensors in their showroom, and they further improved customer experience by developing a virtual showroom iPad app for their sales reps to better engage with retailers at high-profile product showcases. By replacing antiquated paper processes, they improved customer engagement, which led to higher sales for the year.

Whether this data is collected by sensors connected to the Internet of Things, chatbots, browser cookies, form submissions or digital certificates, insight engines collect a great deal of data points. When analyzed, these data points add up to comprehensive profiles of a customer’s behaviors, preferences and motivations. When a business customer searches a vendor’s website, they expect to find content which is tailored to their industry, their role or characteristics

Personalized Content, Product and Service Options

In the B2C arena, online shoppers have come to expect recommendations for products based on previous purchases, products they have interacted with, and loyalty programs they have opted into.

Marketing content personalization and has extended in the B2B arena over the past several years, across email marketing campaigns, on a company’s web portal, and even at conferences. SMS messages might be sent to an attendee’s phone as they walk by a booth, much like retailers and quick service restaurants are doing to promote their products and meal promotions.

An office products retailer partnered with IBM to enhance their customer service with Watson. Customers can order products on the phone, and by interacting with the Watson Conservation service. Product offerings are tailored to customer buying behavior, which enhances the buying experience and increases loyalty.

Better marketing results, enhanced customer understanding

Is your business looking to generate more leads, enhance the level of service you offer to customers? Are you overwhelmed by the sheer volume of marketing applications, and how to integrate functions like campaign management, online sales and CRM?

Industry analysts agree that marketing professionals, including content strategists and customer interaction experts, attain better results when AI is implemented across digital and traditional marketing channels. The coming years will determine which companies are willing augment their marketing operations for competitive advantage, and which businesses will resist, and lose market share to those who embrace AI.