It’s no secret that Montréal has the ambition to become a—if not THE—worldwide artificial intelligence capital. In May 2017, the Government of Quebec announced the creation of a committee, co-chaired by Pierre Boivin and Guy Breton, to guide the development and direction of this industrial cluster in Quebec. A sum of $100 million has been made available to ensure development over five years following its creation. This is in addition to the money provided by the federal government and private sector.
When Mr. Boivin presented his recommendations in June 2018, one thing struck me. He said that if we are to reach the goal of being the artificial intelligence capital, we have to be the best not only in AI research but also in its applications. In other words, unless we demonstrate our ability to include this science in meaningful areas of application, we will lose this global race.
Business must move into the age of AI
Artificial intelligence is commonly defined as the set of theories and techniques used to create machines capable of simulating intelligence1. So, does this mean that we’re using AI when we use algorithms and customer data to try to predict when customers will make their next purchase or whether they will leave for a competitor? Absolutely!
Google, Facebook and Amazon, to name only a few, are leaders in the field, but it’s a different story for many of our large and medium-sized Quebec businesses. I don’t know whether it’s an issue of vision, budget or size, but one thing is certain: we need to go into catch-up mode if we’re serious about being a frontrunner.
5 ways to improve your marketing activities in the age of AI
1. Develop smart data
We all have customer data. It’s stored in CRMs, cash register systems, enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, email marketing, social media and other digital platforms. But what are we actually doing with the data?
Put to good use, this valuable data is crucial to understanding the customer journey and personalizing the experience we want to provide through various channels. That’s why the data is called “smart.”
In the latest IBM C-suite Study2, 68% of the 13,000 executives surveyed worldwide say the customer experience (CX) is a key driver for enhancing their value proposition.
Focusing on improving the customer experience means leveraging smart data so you can provide services that meet the expectations and needs of your customers. Smart data = your first artificial intelligence playground.
2. Consolidate customer data
If I had to hazard a guess, I’d be fairly confident in saying that over 90% of Quebec organizations, regardless of size, have not yet achieved the well-known 360-degree customer view.
But customer data cannot achieve its full value for an organization unless it’s consolidated, and therefore, fully interpretable. If I have to manually navigate from one system to another to find out a customer’s value and potential for my organization, there’s no way I can consider implementing integrated, automated, consistent and effective engagement strategies that are AI-based.
Without an integrated customer view, you can still establish automatic algorithms (trigger marketing), which some associate with AI. However, this technique, though effective at generating short-term sales opportunities, will never achieve the full potential of an integrated approach that considers all customer knowledge when developing offers and that analyzes the consumer response to our marketing actions.
3. Decide on your vision before the technology
The components on the market for developing successful customer ecosystems have existed for well over a decade and are mature. And the good news is that the providers of these solutions, being aware of major trends, have already started integrating AI features to meet the growing needs of their markets. However, just because technology that supports AI is available doesn’t guarantee its success in our organizations. Gartner reports a 40% failure rate in client system implementations3 that include certain AI components.
One of the main reasons why expectations are not met is that, too often, people acquire technology before thinking about what they want it to do. This is all the more true for AI, which companies are less savvy about. It is therefore important to get the facts straight, establish a target vision of what you want to accomplish and identify the first steps to take. This will keep you from buying a sledgehammer to kill a fly.
4. Accurately rate the maturity level of your organization
It’s normal to want to go all in when you know there’s catching up to do, but skipping steps is not an option. You need a game plan. But as the saying goes, you need to know where you are to know where you are going. That’s why you need to rate your marketing maturity level objectively. That way, you can adopt a process that respects who you are as an organization, what you want to accomplish and within what time horizon.
5. Get management’s endorsement
Every organization has its own marketing mix. It’s the combination of marketing activities that, year after year, are key to the organization’s success and reputation. This mix is sometimes so rooted in the organization’s culture that it has withstood generations of marketing professionals without changing in any significant way.
I have seen, time and time again, that what drives the status quo is usually fear of negatively affecting sales. And because the actual contribution of each element in the mix is not easily measurable, we are hesitant to change them.
Introducing a new ingredient into the mix is not easy, and paradoxically, you have to financially justify adding it to replace elements whose contribution has never been measured. What’s more, investing in artificial intelligence is investing in the unknown, an intangible abstract, a move that’s a lot more difficult to justify than running a high-visibility publicity campaign. Given all of this, it’s critical that you share your vision with upper management so you get their endorsement. Their cooperation and engagement will be essential to a successful implementation.
In a nutshell, the shift to AI is unavoidable for any organization aspiring to stay in the game, regardless of industry. Getting started is much easier than you might first think. You just need good support!
About the author
Jean-Marc Gravel is president of InTgral, which he co-founded in 1990. The firm ’s mission is to support organizations’ development efforts, regardless of their industry, by using and enhancing data. A pioneer in customer analytics, and more specifically in artificial intelligence for business, Jean-Marc and his team have contributed to the training and development of this young and promising discipline.
The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal. As a result, the Chamber shall under no circumstances be held responsible for the content.