Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Marketing, more so than many other disciplines, has been turned on its head due to the impact of digital. Gone are the days of booking a campaign and praying for the best. Instead marketing technology, or MarTech as it is being referred to, is dominating, giving those in charge of campaigns a much firmer grip on outcomes and performance. But, marketing departments will yet again have to step up their game, and be prepared to significantly change their setup, if the upcoming wave of predictive analytics solutions makes landfall.

Though marketing automation is nothing new, programs that can manage – in real time – paid search strategies, are new. This new breed of predictive analytics solutions can adjust bid prices on the fly, based on who else is participating in the auction or what the last five minutes click-through rate has been or, indeed, what the conversion has been of those click-throughs.

The amount of venture capital flowing into MarTech has been remarkable, almost doubling from $7.9bn in 2015, to $14bn last year, according to MarTech Advisor. This has created a new range of software and service vendors that are set to transform businesses’ ability to understand their future customers and market to them far more effectively.

A case in point is Albert, an autonomous artificial intelligence (AI) marketing platform. Albert does it all, starting with taking care of digital media buying, then testing the waters with micro-campaigns to optimise the main one, while also using its insight to expand current target audiences. Hit play and it takes care of cross-channel execution, also offering highly detailed analytics, as can be expected.

In a campaign done for Harley-Davidson NYC, Albert’s figures speak for itself: a 566% increase in website views leading to a 2,930% increase in leads per month, with 40% of motorcycle sales attributed to this AI wunderkind. Impressive might be an understatement, and Harley-Davidson NYC president Asaf Jacobi, agrees: “We have since increased our commitment to Albert by tenfold and are currently building a call centre to accommodate the leads he’s generating for us,” he says.

What then will be the impact of predictive analytics programs, such as the erudite Albert, on marketing departments? There may be a palpable sense of relief from the marketing manager, but those involved in campaign execution need to hear the alarm bells going off.

The landscape will shift radically in the coming years as software starts taking care of campaign execution on a much more efficient level than humans ever can. Yes, there will be an initial learning curve and machines will certainly make mistakes, but as the software becomes more sophisticated, positions in the execution side will fall away. Even though the rise of AI is creating fear that people will lose their jobs, for now there is one occupation that will survive the chop. And that job, which will be sacrosanct in the marketing space, will be – creative.

Whatever the collateral damage, we have faith that the positives of predictive analytics – chief among them far more effective marketing spend –  tips the scales over the negatives. We are moving from a society that creates data, to one that effectively utilises data. Historically, the biggest obstacle to usage and interpretation of data has been human intervention. Now, with venture capital being pushed into MarTech, we’re seeing that predictive analytics will, in the next two or three years, be affordable enough for most businesses to access.

Indeed, that digital wave of change shows no sign of slowing down. But businesses need to start reading up on and familiarising themselves with predictive analytics now, because if they don’t their competitors will and they will certainly lose out.

The big take-out: Marketers and businesses need to become more familiar with predictive analytics or risk missing out on the next wave of marketing.

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