Marketers often see artificial intelligence (AI) as an opponent. After all, as AI evolves, it may be able to orchestrate marketing and ad campaigns more efficiently than humans.

However, for the foreseeable future, the power of AI is best directed at mundane tasks, rather than the creative ones, which is likely why 88% of marketers say that AI will enable them to be more effective in getting to their goals.

With that in mind, here’s everything marketers need to know about AI and machine learning (ML), including how it can complement their existing workflows.

What is artificial intelligence (AI)?

Artificial intelligence is the simulation of human intelligence in machine form. AI combines external data and internal algorithms to essentially make decisions by itself.

Artificial intelligence systems often fall into three different types:

  • Narrow AI: Also known as machine learning, narrow AI is goal-oriented and designed to perform relatively straightforward tasks. Facial recognition and autonomous driving are some examples of narrow AI.
  • General AI: This form of AI attempts to mimic human intelligence and behaviors and is capable of learning and applying its knowledge to solve new problems as they present themselves.
  • Artificial superintelligence: This level of AI has not been demonstrated, only theorized. It exceeds human intelligence and has greater memory and faster ability to process data and stimuli, making it effectively better than humans.

What is machine learning (ML)?

Machine learning is a form of Narrow AI. It uses algorithms to parse large amounts of data, learn from it, and then use it to make a mathematically sound determination or prediction.

Machine learning can help marketers enhance their work by analyzing data at scale, automating workflows, and enabling them to test more hypotheses and campaigns faster.

Why marketers need AI

As consumers become more accustomed to seemingly unlimited streams of content, all of which is mere clicks away, marketers need a way to engage and delight audiences that become harder to please by the day.

Personalization is one way to facilitate that delight. Studies show that 84% of customers say being treated like a person, not a number, is very important to winning their business. The only problem is, personalization at scale is difficult. Marketers need to segment their audiences accurately, and then have enough tailored content to serve each persona, channel, and moment in the customer’s journey. That’s an awful lot to manually juggle, which is why we refer to this problem as the content crisis.

Funneling more funding and person power into the marketing team is one way to make that juggling manageable. However, in today’s challenging business environment, budget, and people are already stretched thin, and you have to make do with less. Even in cases where there is ample budget to invest, there comes a point where automation just makes more sense financially, as well as faster and more accurate.

Now that the ‘why’ is clear, let’s delve into the ‘how’.

Content marketing & personalization: AI is a friend, not a foe

Without AI, marketers pursuing a personalized experience for their customers have mountains of manual work to do.

With AI, tasks can be automated by data-driven, human-less decisions, allowing marketers to focus on what humans do best – stellar content creation and creativity.

Here’s how AI can revolutionize marketing:

  • Automated customer segmentation: AI can understand website visitor behavior and place customers into existing audience segments based on their browsing patterns. It can also identify new customer segments based on the behavior it sees.
  • Automated personalization: With data-driven generation of customer segments taken care of, AI can then selectively deliver the content that marketers have created for each segment, delivering it only to a designated segment, and only at the right time in the customer journey.
  • Automated A/B testing: AI can A/B test content to discover which banner or image converts better, further optimizing the customer experience behind the scenes.
  • Automated content tagging: AI is able to understand what an image or video portrays, so when a marketer uploads images to a digital asset management system, AI can automatically tag those images with “beach”, “car”, or “skyline”. This relieves marketers of yet more manual work and helps break down content silos.

AI and marketing in action

Microsoft has benefitted from AI-powered marketing. The Microsoft Partner Network leverages Sitecore AI to identify visitor segments through AI and personalize content through machine learning algorithms.

Using AI, the MPN team can better understand their visitors’ behavior and goals. As Sitecore AI analyzes this data, its ML algorithms deliver the right content to the right visitor at the right point in their journey. Differentiating content for developers and marketers is one example of how this works in reality.

According to Microsoft, test results indicate visitors are “already benefiting from improved personalization and driving higher engagement with target audiences who are receiving greater value and more relevant content.”

Sitecore AI enables the Microsoft Partner Network team to “be more effective at delivering guided experiences for their visitors, delivering content that is useful and actionable, and meets partners wherever they are in their journeys”.

The potential of AI and marketing

We’ve already discussed how AI products such as Sitecore AI, an auto- personalization solution, can automate tasks like customer segmentation, browsing pattern analysis, personalization, A/B testing, and content tagging.

But this is only the beginning. In coming years, we can expect to see AI and ML improve, with potential features including tone detection in audio content, mood detection in visual content, as well as sentiment analysis, intelligent up-selling and cross-selling.

Products like Sitecore Cortex™, which is a toolkit rather than a ready-to-run application, is paving the way for such innovation. With Sitecore Cortex, developers can build their own AI applications with algorithms that can analyze massive amounts of data, extract insights, spot patterns, and recommend actions to marketers.

Whether your brand takes the route of turnkey AI applications or DIY toolkits, there’s no doubting that AI and ML are here to empower marketing teams like never before.

Want to learn more about how artificial intelligence and machine learning can empower marketers? Read our free guide for CMOs, “AI alone is not enough”.

Jose Santa Ana is Product Marketing Director at Sitecore. Find him on LinkedIn.