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Creating a digital shift

Creating a digital shift

How customer data can help leaders develop new strategies.

This article is powered by Scorpion

Marketing has always been a time-heavy function, requiring lots of time for creative thinking and analysis of previous efforts. It’s an essential part of any business, responsible for the company’s image and drawing customers in to use the services and products a business has put so much time and effort into.

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) in marketing has introduced new possibilities to reduce the amount of time and effort needed for reaching customers effectively. With computers now taking on manual tasks more quickly and accurately than before, human guesswork has been largely removed from the equation. The likes of big data analytics and machine learning mean that marketers aren’t relying on just the intuition of their own insights - objective trends shown in data guide future decisions.

Ultimately, AI improves the return on investment (ROI) of marketing campaigns and increases their efficiency. The use of customer data and data analytics provides leaders with insights into their customers’ behavior, wants, and needs, which they can then tap into when developing new marketing strategies, or tweaking old ones

Visible improvements when shifting to AI campaigns

Today, artificial intelligence is baked into a number of business tools, from social media schedulers suggesting the most effective times for a post to AI management software forecasting sales. Marketing, in particular, has benefited greatly from artificial intelligence, especially when it comes to gaining a better understanding of customers and deploying campaigns more efficiently and effectively.

Consumer insight is the key to locking a customer base down and growing it. Understanding culture, purchasing behavior, and brand sentiment are how franchisors know the ways in which people interact with their brand and products/services. Each franchisee location can be different enough for all three of those factors to differ, so there is a great deal of value in harnessing individual location data to personalize messaging. The right content, directed at the right demographic at the right time, is the holy grail of digital marketing, and AI makes it far more achievable and realistic.

“Pretty much every brand that we’ve worked with that has implemented our automated AI technologies, has experienced improvements through their campaigns,” said Patrick Crawford, senior vice president of strategic marketing at Scorpion.

“Using this technology is one of the only real ways to perform efficiently across so many channels. It would be really, really challenging for a single person, let alone a team of experts to execute this; it’s making campaigns perform much more efficiently,” added Crawford.

Automation offers time saved, but AI offers accuracy and efficacy on top of time savings. This frees up both franchisors and franchisees from poring over customer data to decide on new campaigns, and leaves the legwork to AI with the potential to unearth hidden patterns and trends that can be capitalized on.

The importance of access to historical data points cannot be overstated, as it allows for effective optimization from day one, as opposed to a lengthy period of observation from which to suggest improvements. It can also help a franchise learn what works and doesn’t work in their region or industry, allowing for learnings to be made without mistakes.

“They’re immediately able to utilize it. We have the benefit of having access to millions and millions of data points within an industry that can help us be effective from the jump, so that franchisees can take advantage of this data,” said Crawford.

How is AI data analysis an improvement?

Data analysis is the first step to understanding customers and how to attract and retain them. Depending on the type of business, most companies generate a wealth of useful data. Whether it’s how customers interact with physical locations or navigate a website, there is a lot to be learned. But processing data and acting upon it are separate efforts, with the former being tedious yet necessary for the latter to be effective.

“We’re never going to completely remove the human element from it. So, there are always experts here, looking at everything, making sure that everything is performing well,” said Crawford.

“What we are doing is freeing a lot of time for those employees to focus on the larger picture, so that they can really focus on strategy as well as franchisee and customer relationships.

“And it’s not just time savings either. It’s also the amount of bandwidth needed for all the calculations; it would be almost impossible for somebody to do that on their own.”

“Ultimately, AI improves the return on investment (ROI) of marketing campaigns and increases their efficiency.”

An often overlooked aspect of AI’s ability to digest quantitative data is how well it is presented. Coherent presentation of data is essential to understanding and using it to optimize campaigns for a better return. AI dashboards give employees more and relevant information, in real-time. Since computers never have to sleep or eat, they have an additional advantage of leveraging data at any given minute of the day to make decisions that help campaigns be more effective.

Accurately predicting the behaviors of your customers is essential to retaining them. With the use of historical data, a company can predict when customers are soon to convert or churn. Armed with this knowledge, an AI-powered tool can acquire or retain customers with personalized messages and promotions.

AI also gives franchisors the ability to pull data from disparate locations and understand why one location is more successful than another, leading to improved support and assistance for under-performing franchisees.

It also means franchisees can spend their time on the core operations of their business, and franchisors can focus on support. It allows for their marketing spend to have further reach.

“It’s really making sure that they understand that this is going to take minimal effort from them. In fact, it’s going to really enable them to do a lot more,” said Crawford.

Leveraging data, new insights and tech

The purpose of artificial intelligence in marketing tools is to lead to better performing campaigns, which in turn increases leads, exposure, and agreements or sales.

A part of data collection is segmenting a customer base into the smallest groups possible to produce the most targeted advertising. Today’s artificial intelligence should be able to factor in hundreds of consumer characteristics, such as geographic location, age, motivations, desires, purchase history, and many more.

“The system starts learning in real-time too, to the point where it only improves and optimizes and gets better and better,” said Crawford.

“We already have so many insights into their industries, their geographies, what the right target audience should be for them.”

Paid marketing campaigns are an area which draws significant leads, but placing ads in front of that demographic most likely to interact with them based on past data is what AI provides in real-time. The effect of this is either producing many more leads, or the ability to spend less on advertising since targets can be reached more effectively.

Converting leads into sales or agreements is the endpoint of the marketing process, and is what every marketer aims to do with every campaign. Data can show the path potential customers take through a website or physical location before they convert their interest into a sale or agreement.

Machine learning algorithms, the process by which computers learn by using experience and data, can identify customer pathways and funnel others down that same road. This is a product of AI analyzing customer journeys and identifying the most successful pathway. Not only this, but that same algorithm can be used to find correlations with other data sets from other parts of the business to deliver unique insights that would not have been seen without AI.

Responding to and learning from this data is key - as well as leveraging it into more effective campaigns in real-time. Understanding data across campaigns and channels is key too. For example, understanding a customer’s motivations, desires, and pain points coupled with purchase history can allow a business to forecast individual segments’ buying patterns. Without artificial intelligence, it would be much more difficult for franchisors to draw correlations across various channel reports.

For many franchises, this learning can come in the form of a trend in one location that can be learned from and potentially replicated in other locations.

“We want to make sure that those trends and real-time learnings that we’re seeing in one location and across a region are available to others,” said Crawford.

“With our technology, we’re taking advantage of trends that can only be seen at a macro level. It’s very possible for other franchisee locations and their campaigns to make better and smarter choices by learning from others.”

Dealing with any resistance to AI

Terms like AI and machine learning are becoming ubiquitous, and it also means they’re being applied loosely. As a result, it increases the perceived complexity of the terms and at the same time, reduces them to buzzwords that are used to describe any new, automated marketing technology. This has the potential of putting off marketing executives and franchises from delving into AI-powered marketing, especially if they are succeeding with their current formula.

Even marketing executives can struggle with understanding exactly what is and what isn’t AI technology, since so many different tools have the term ‘AI’ in them. The popularized terms around AI are similar to the ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ buzzwords that dominate the food industry, without a clear definition for what it is.

The other fear of AI comes from its perceived complexity, the level of knowledge, and hands-on work needed to operate it. This is where franchises can benefit from having an experienced and knowledgeable partner who is familiar with the technology and can explain and implement it to produce real returns.

“Any resistance we have is typically from a lack of understanding or thinking that it’s going to be extremely difficult to implement, that the heavy lifting is going to be on them to make this happen. That’s not the case and it can just be that fear of the unknown,” said Crawford.

Marketing professionals may feel that they are relinquishing control over their own job, so it’s important that the benefits of AI are both explained and should be presented as another step on the path of progress. It’s also important to dispel the notion that there is a massive learning curve with AI technology, or that the workload significantly increases. Marketing companies with experience in practically implementing such technologies are in the best position to do so, and should always be a franchise’s first port of call.

“With our technology, we’re taking advantage of trends that can only be seen at a macro level. It’s very possible for other franchisee locations and their campaigns to make better and smarter choices by learning from others.”

The risk of delaying adopting new technologies is that your competitor will, if they haven’t already. With advantages in customer insights, competitive intelligence, and ad purchasing, it’s only a matter of time before franchises unwilling to adapt to a new landscape dominated by artificial intelligence lose customers and revenue to competitors. Gartner has predicted that 75 per cent of organizations will shift from piloting to operationalizing AI by 2024. If a franchise doesn’t keep up, it will be left behind.

AI is the here and now

AI-powered marketing isn’t the future, it’s the here and now. Any company that isn’t already employing AI to sort data, optimize campaigns, or produce personalized messages will be far, far behind their competitors in the near future if they aren’t already.

AI speeds up the marketing optimization process and improves its efficacy. It’s become the standard in the world of digital marketing. This is especially relevant for franchisors and franchisees, who can often find a degree of disconnection between the two. It gives you more bang for your buck, as you can spend less and achieve the same number of quality leads.

The world has gone past digital and is becoming more artificially intelligent.

By virtue of the model, franchising stands to gain significantly from AI-powered marketing. Locations spread across geographic regions can lend to an arduous scaling-up process, but AI connects the locations of various franchisees to continuously run more effective campaigns with less input and time required from marketers.

Global Franchise Meets.

An inspirational new web video series where we meet the business leaders and influencers in International Franchising.

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