How AI Will Transform the Consumer Journey

Every marketer knows a great story is a relevant story. And a great ad tells a great story. Yet marketing currently depends on a “spray and pray” advertising distribution model where relevance to a given consumer is largely a roll of the dice. However, as a recent eMarketer report shows, marketers are beginning to see artificial intelligence (AI) as a tool for telling relevant and personalized brand stories. The challenge, according to the report, is implementation. Here’s what marketers need to know.

How AI Optimizes the Consumer Journey Around Relevance

What makes a story relevant depends on consumer attitudes and behaviors, not simply targeting criteria like demographics. Men, for example, aren’t all interested in a story about razors. But cost-conscious men who crave convenience are open to hearing about Dollar Shave Club — especially if they’ve demonstrated an affinity for subscription services. For that matter, women who demonstrate similar attitudes and behaviors would also consider that story relevant.

Marketers can optimize for relevance by informing their AI decisions with behavioral and attitudinal consumer data. By leveraging consumer preference, brand affinity or purchase intent, AI can achieve greater relevance by determining which ad each individual should see next in real-time. For instance, marketers can segment audiences who favor the brand from those who don’t, allowing them to serve relevant content to people with very different brand perceptions. So, while one ad journey may aim to drive purchase intent among consumers with positive brand perceptions, another ad journey can help improve favorability among those with negative perceptions.

How Optimization Drives Strategic Brand Goals

As with any tool, AI requires a clear objective; otherwise, you’re optimizing in the dark. So, while AI can help marketers drive more relevant ad journeys, it’s just as important to set clear business and campaign goals to ensure that AI is optimizing the consumer journey toward the right outcome.

To drive sales, a campaign can deploy highly relevant advertisements to intelligently garner further interest in a brand or product, and move consumers down the funnel toward purchase. For example, a consumer who sees an ad for a product of interest can be served an ad that continues the product story with more information, such as stories about specific product features. A consumer who is ready to purchase would see an ad with a call to action and a discount code to drive action and track attribution.

If a given business goal is to drive brand awareness among audiences who are likely to purchase, the ad campaign will need to reach qualified consumers. In that scenario, marketers can determine which characteristics interested consumers share and target more of their advertising toward similar audiences at scale. Not only does this approach allow marketers to intelligently target audiences at scale, but it also redirects advertising spend efficiently toward audiences who are more likely to engage and drive purchase intent. Research show this approach results in 59 percent fewer wasted ad impressions.

If the goal is to improve brand health, AI can optimize the ad journey based on consumer sentiment. Marketers can create and serve ads that speak to audiences with negative views and influence change. Advertisers can also segment out consumers who demonstrate the attitudes and behaviors of someone who will never buy the brand and reallocate budget toward those who are interested.

What Happens Without Optimization?

Failing to optimize means wasted ad dollars. With a growing mandate to drive business outcomes, marketers need to account for every dollar spent. But there’s an even more compelling reason for real-time optimization.

Without AI driving an optimized consumer journey, marketers jeopardize their brand. An irrelevant message is annoying, or even harmful because it can drive negative brand sentiment. It’s time to retire the “spray and pray” advertising distribution model and tell audiences the stories they want to hear — not just for efficiency, but because a brand’s reputation lives and dies with the stories it tells.

Tod Loofbourrow is the Chairman and CEO at ViralGains.

The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Maestros are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.


This article originally appeared on the ANA’s blog, Marketing Maestros.