While Artificial Intelligence was the work of science fiction only a few decades ago, many people now interact with the technology on a day-to-day basis, whether listening to a curated playlist on Spotify, watching a recommended show on Netflix or asking Google’s voice assistant to set a kitchen timer.
And consumers aren’t the only ones benefiting from the technology—according to a 2019 Gartner study, 37% of businesses have implemented AI in some form.
While it may seem like only the most successful companies can benefit, improvements in technology mean smaller-scale companies can also harness the power of AI in their day-to-day operations.
But where to begin in your small business? A 2018 McKinsey report found that out of all company functions, marketing has the most to gain from AI. So, after you create a website, try layering on some of the hundreds of available, affordable AI tools to better understand your customers’ needs, match them with the best products, and reach them at the optimal time to buy.
In this article, we'll further explore both the benefits and challenges of AI and help you figure out how to best use this cutting-edge technology to enhance your small business’s marketing efforts.
What is AI marketing?
Artificial intelligence (AI) marketing is a marketing method that uses advanced computing to analyze data and better understand one's target customers. AI marketing helps improve the customer journey by providing data analysis that can help business owners communicate with their target audience at the right time with the right message.
Additionally, generative AI technologies can help businesses automate and complete otherwise tedious marketing tasks.
AI marketing use cases and examples
When marketing, small businesses want to reach their target audience in the best way possible using the fewest amount of resources. AI marketing platforms can replace manual guesswork and help businesses efficiently use their already-existing customer data.
According to Marketing Evolution, some of the ways brands can use AI to optimize their marketing efforts include:
Providing real-time personalization based upon previous customer interactions
Using chatbots to provide instant customer service interactions with users
Using programmatic ads to help maximize media planning efforts
Automatically pricing items based on supply and demand data to boost sales
Tip: Add LiveChat to your Wix website to help you improve your responses to live queries and adapt the chatbot’s responses to your customer’s needs. Use chatbots as a live agent to transfer you the right chats, pass on help tickets and even integrate it seamlessly on Facebook Messenger to expand your support.
The benefits and challenges of AI marketing
While artificial intelligence is continuously improving and evolving, it's important to be aware of its benefits and challenges.
Largely, AI benefits small businesses by helping them optimize their marketing strategies to move faster and more efficiently.
“When people come to a small business, they come for a specific reason: You,” says Shachaf Rodberg, analyst at Wix, who works to inspire internal teams at Wix with industry news and trends. “Any type of marketing tool will automate manual tasks and allow you to focus on talking with people and creating a good customer experience. You can use AI to scale yourself as a person when you don’t have a large budget.”
While many small businesses have customer data from sales and campaigns, they don’t necessarily always have the time or expertise to sort and efficiently analyze it. But AI analytics tools like Oribi.io can help businesses run tests and identify which marketing platforms and messages work for their needs, which can be optimized and which need to be restrategized.
Tip: Try Facebook Ads by Wix—the AI-powered smart algorithm that helps you identify the platforms, placements, locations and audiences your advertising will have the greatest impact on. Use it to retarget, build lookalike audiences and run A/B tests.
AI can also help small businesses become more competitive using programmatic ads, social media and organic search methods. Small businesses don’t have the time or resources to produce the many versions of ads or personalized content needed to compete with big brands on the same platforms.
However, AI tools help make more optimized content at scale for these platforms at a minimum investment. For example, marketing influencer Neil Patel recommends Copy.ai, a text generating technology for blog and description copy, and Synthesia.io, an AI-video platform that creates hyperrealistic talking-head videos from text.
While AI marketing can benefit small businesses, it’s not always a plug-and-play option. Companies will still need to devote training time and financial resources to make sure they’re getting the best outcome from their new tools.
Privacy can be an ongoing challenge, too, as businesses will need to confirm that they have permission to share customer information with the third-party tools in an ethical and private form.
And although the tools can often offer businesses a starting point, it still requires some human-supervision. For example, Wired reports that copy produced using the text-generating AI technology GPT-3 cannot be published as-is without editing and fact-checking. “You shouldn’t use the output outright, but it’s a starting point to edit and does the boring work of researching things,” Chris Chen, founder of Instapainting, says in the article.
Also, CMSWire reports that because the tools use already-existing data, it’s likely they will reproduce any inherent bias in the dataset, be that racial, gender, ethnic or other social [inequality].
Additionally, it may make time for customers to acclimate to any customer-facing marketing tools. While some customers may feel the uncanniness of an AI-led marketing experience more profoundly in the beginning, Rodberg says as the quality of AI improves, and these tools are more embedded in the culture, it’s likely that more people will learn to live with them. The first step towards that, he says, is simply to disclose to the customer that AI technology is assisting the interaction.
“Human behavior doesn’t change: Technology can change, tools can change, but humans are basically the same,” Rodberg says.