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How AI marketing can make the most of CRM data

Find out how enterprises can use CRM data to move from customer journeys toward AI marketing and engagement strategies.

One of the main themes at the 2017 Client Summit hosted by Cheetah Digital was how marketing and advertising are...

quickly shifting with the rise of digital. Traditional marketing channels around mass marketing and customer journeys are losing steam. To achieve a good ROI for their marketing dollars, enterprises need to weave CRM data into an emerging generation of AI marketing tools across channels.

"I think customer journeys are dead," said Gerry Murray, marketing and sales technology research director at IDC. "They are poorly understood and badly implemented. The journey tends to be fairly well-defined, which does not work well if the commerce system is not talking to the analytics system. It does not matter how good the journey is if you cannot keep track of where the buyer is on their journey."

Many companies are starting to implement various flavors of AI marketing to help with this. But this is only the first step. Murray explained, "Don't get carried away just because you have deployed an AI engine. You also have to have continuous monitoring and engagement."

Build a common customer data model

A key component of this process lies in developing systems for aggregating marketing data from cross channels into CRM systems for building a common customer data model. The challenge is that this data can be imprecise, missing information or managed in different formats. Murray said, "The AI marketing and analytics are not going to work well if you have clunky data or data that is irrelevant. You need a consistent way to combine data across departments."

One approach lies in doing an audit of the different data formats across the enterprise. This might reveal 20 to 30 attributes that every department uses. Then each department could create common attributes for billing and customer support. This requires a data stewardship function tasked with managing customization across departments. Murray explained, "You need to start talking about that with your enterprise and get people to understand that data silos will be a roadblock to expanding the customer experience."

Once this is in place, the enterprise will be in a better position to take advantage of new apps for the next generation of AI on mobile and other channels. Online stores will be able to better optimize pricing and improve segmentation for identifying customers with higher revenue potential.

Focus on the strengths of each channel

The ROI of different marketing and engagement channels have vastly different characteristics. It can be challenging to determine the benefit of investing in a new technology like SMS messaging, chatbots or push notifications if the enterprise does not have a way of correlating this data cross channels.

Enterprises also need to use each channel for what they are good at. "It is all about trying to reach customers at the right time in the right way," said Jason Fordham, VP of product at SmarterHQ, a behavioral marketing service. He pointed out that email might be easier to send, but push notifications have a 50% higher engagement rate than email.

Dhoot, VP of marketing & e-commerce at Charming Charlie, a jewelry retailer, said, "We have a lot of data on our customers, and try and predict what they will do next by combining data across channels like email, SMS and e-commerce. Combining data is the best way to get a 50 times ROI on email, and trying to segment as many ways as possible is the best way to do that. But this is not as easy as it sounds."

SMS messaging is one approach, and it works better when it is connected to in-store events. Chatbots are also showing tremendous promise. Dhoot has found that chatbots cost less to build than mobile, which can lead to a better ROI even with limited engagement. Dhoot said, "There are about 10 to 20 things you can do with mobile including SMS, chatbots, mobile advertising, geolocation-based advertising and mobile wallets. Consumer trends have shifted and the technology is behind. The only way to stay ahead is to try a lot of things, see what works and do more of that." 

One good practice lies in applying AI marketing to specific problems. Dhoot explained, "The narrower the swim lane you put AI in, the more effective. AI is just a tool that will deliver ROI from the use case you apply it to. For example, the data sets and taxonomies to build chatbots are different than the milestones for doing analytics and building segmentation models. AI is fascinating stuff, but it can get out of hand quickly if you don't put it in a strict swim lane."

Next Steps

Customer journey relies on contact centers

AI algorithms are a miss

Enterprise AI is a new marketing trend

This was last published in July 2017

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