For years, context has been one of the key futuristic buzzwords in marketing. Popularized by Forrester’s digital expert Shar VanBoskirk, contextual marketing promises to meet customers where they are in time and space. Imagine walking into a mall on a bright sunny day. As you shop, the sky darkens and it begins to pour. Your phone buzzes to tell you about a limited-time offer on umbrellas at Nordstrom. That, in essence, is contextual marketing. Taken to a logical extreme, context can include not only location and weather information, but brand preferences, shopping habits, and advanced demographic information like household income and recent major life events. (Naturally, this raises a litany of privacy concerns. To be addressed in another post.)
Machine learning is already doing a lot of the heavy lifting for existing instances of contextual marketing. Citibank exemplifies this with its Citi Price Rewind program. Price Rewind tracks customer purchases for 60 days and, if it finds a lower price, refunds the difference. By collecting consumer receipt data, Citi is able to concurrently display customer-specific offers based on purchase patterns and preferences. AI will eventually be able to take into account vast numbers of variables and quickly make relevant advertising decisions to the delight of customers. One-to-one marketing will be made possible with AI.
Marketing is entering a new era. AI will help marketers automate campaigns, create new and stronger connections with customers, and ultimately lead to a hyper-personalized, delightful experience. As companies introduce advanced statistical tools, machine learning and even artificial intelligence, it's crucial to begin thinking about what fills the gaps. As automation removes menial tasks, how can marketers use their newfound time wisely to consider what customers want and how to deliver it? How can new connections with customers lead to unforeseen connections between businesses? If contextual marketing reaches customers precisely where they are, but they don’t take action, what went wrong?
The important thing to remember is artificial intelligence is a tool. It is not to be feared. It will free our minds so we can eliminate distraction and ponder more deeply. AI will do wonders for marketing. The logic is undeniable.