THINK Contributor

The rise of AI in omnichannel marketing

By , March 2, 2017

This post is part of our Cognitive College series where the industry’s brightest minds explore different ways cognitive will revolutionize the way that we work and engage with customers. 

For decades, when one thought of the future, they thought of intelligent, thinking machines, be it Robby the Robot from Lost in Space, supercar KITT from Knight Rider, or the human-appearing Cylons from Battlestar Galactica. Today, if one mentions the words “artificial intelligence,” many will think of IBM’s Watson beating its human counterpart in a game of Jeopardy!. But where are the day-to-day thinking machines we assumed were right around the corner and promised to us from our Jetsons-viewing childhood?

Unbeknownst to many of us, artificial intelligence (AI) is already all around us and interwoven into the fabric of our human lives – yet we don’t recognize its presence because machine intelligence has not yet taken on the human form we had fantasized it would become. From my own research, as well as professional experience working with the C-Suite of many Fortune 100 firms, leadership in the AI field is becoming a prerequisite for success, not just a demonstration of technological prowess.

By 2018, AI systems will become a necessity of successful marketing organizations. AI, data analytics, and machine-learning capabilities are driving a new age of omnichannel marketing. A marketing department which can now accurately measure and report on its contribution to the business bottom line while harnessing the power of new technologies to drive growth.

A recent report from eMarketer entitled Artificial Intelligence for Marketers: The Future Is Already Here not only tackles marketing executive beliefs on the future of AI, but addresses how it is being used today. The late 2015 survey found 30.4% of respondents planned to use, or were already using, machine-learning techniques for campaign and sales program optimization. In fact, 26.8% were using machine learning for dynamic price optimization. Additionally, almost a full quarter planned to implement the use of AI in cross-channel analytics, ad targeting and selection, as well as market and customer segmentation.

The use of AI, particularly in campaign and dynamic price optimization, is ramping up at an extremely rapid pace. AI can react faster and much more efficiently than human beings can respond to changes in the marketplace. Dynamic price optimization is an extremely effective and efficient use of machine-learning technology. By monitoring competitor’s pricing of similar products, dynamic pricing systems, like those driven by IBM Watson, can make instantaneous adjustments to take advantage of opportunities arising in the marketplace.

Some of the areas primed for a significant shift to AI oversight in the next two years include:

  • Customer journey analytics
  • Omnichannel marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Lead generation
  • eCommerce and content personalization
  • Social listening
  • Social media marketing

One area we are already seeing a takeover by AI is in the realm of chatbots. This virtual customer digital assistance uses natural language processing systems to interact with human beings in such an elegant way that humans are not cognizant they are interacting with an AI system.

In fact, Gartner says not only will chatbots be able to interact with human beings through a prompt and response, but, by the end of 2018, “customer digital assistants” will recognize customers by face and voice across channels and partners – not only enhancing customer engagement, but streamlining the omnichannel marketing experience.

Imagine the possibilities of a system which can not only recognize you anywhere at any time, but is enhanced by an enormous database containing all your previous purchasing tendencies. The era of a truly autonomous AI and robotics-driven retail experience is upon us.

Does the overtaking of many roles from human beings by AI and machine-learning systems mean the end of work? Will our jobs be replaced by our robot overlords sooner than we think? Not likely, say many experts.

Erik Devaney, a brand marketer at Drift, shares, “For marketers…advancements in AI could help us unlock deeper customer insights, help us communicate with prospects and customers more effectively, and help us eliminate the more monotonous, impersonal aspects of our jobs.”

In their recent article in the Harvard Business Review entitled “How Artificial Intelligence will Redefine Management, Vegard Kolbjørnsrud,” Richard Amico and Robert J. Thomas summarized, “AI will bring new criteria for success: collaboration capabilities, information sharing, experimentation, learning and decision-making effectiveness, and the ability to reach beyond the organization for insights.”

In essence, at least in the foreseeable future, AI in marketing will offer us greater opportunities to tackle the jobs which are not only more interesting, but more rewarding. AI is ushering in a world where we can perhaps move beyond a job of monotony to one of higher service, increased rewards, and deeper interests.


Tamara McCleary is the CEO of Thulium, a social branding and thought leadership company. An IBM Futurist, Tamara is ranked by LeadTail as a Top 5 CMO, Top 15 CIO, and Top 20 B2B Tech CMO Influencer. Onalytica ranks her as a Top 100 IoT, Top 25 Artificial Intelligence, and Top 5 Robotics Influencer, and B2B Marketing named Tamara the #1 Woman Martech Influencer in 2016.


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