Emerging technologies are creating some dynamic new business opportunities for brands in the B2B space with tools like advanced chatbots, visual AI (artificial intelligence), and virtual reality experiences. Taking what’s new and fresh from this technical toolset can put into motion some really exciting possibilities that make a customer experience more personalized and powerful.

And while shiny new things always hold excitement and promise, they can’t be the sole tactic that drives marketing success. The integration of advanced technology tools, data, and strategy need to be done with care and purpose. In other words, in a way that elevates an already well-developed marketing strategy.

Brands also have to consider the customer and their basic understanding or desire to interact with new technology. As the machines and tools we use are able to collect and interpret data for a more personalized experience, the exchange needs to remain human at its root. It’s essential to instill trust and a higher level of service when connecting with a customer, and that comes down to purposeful marketing that inspires a need and emotional connection.

So as we enter into an age where chatbots regularly leverage predictive text to support customers on a more sophisticated level and visual AI can identify and make text, images, and video clickable, brands need to make a choice.

How can you use visual AI and other advanced technology tools to boost a marketing strategy while building a personalized experience that feels natural for customers?

Dipping a Toe into the Visual AI Pool

So what exactly are we talking about when we say visual AI?

Visual AI is the ability for software used by computers to understand, process, and interpret text and image data.

This type of data processing is already in play with commercial facial recognition software, apps like Snapchat, automatic recognition and photo tagging done by mobile phones, and virtual reality effects used to sell customers and prospects the experience of trying before you buy.

In these cases, it’s seamlessly integrated into our everyday lives.

Yet, the reach of visual AI is more powerful than we realize simply because of the way human brains are wired.

According to the article, “The War Over Artificial Intelligence Will be Won With Visual Data” from Tech Crunch, computer vision expert at Cornell Tech, Serge Belongie says, ‘“A majority of the human brain involves processing of visual data, for purposes such as scene interpretation and spatial navigation. Visual data is central to the way we learn about the world, and it follows that the pursuit of intelligent machines will require substantial advances in our ability to process and interpret visual data.”’

With that idea in mind, it turns each device connected to the cloud into a portal for marketing potential, especially when it comes to content marketing. Potential customers can search for a topic of interest that easily guides them towards similar topics, products, and services using images that create an emotional connection at just the right moment.

Keep in mind that visual AI works just like content in terms of data mining. Online traffic is tracked and recorded, showing what types of contextual marketing are most effective, and how to improve on it.

With the power of context on the side of what makes visual AI so useful, it also plays right into the same key trend of future marketing. It’s all about context and connection with potential customers on their terms in the ways, and on the devices, they desire.

Visual AI’s Impact on Upcoming Marketing Trends

Creating an effective marketing strategy requires focusing in on a specific purpose and finding the best tools, timing, and content to deliver it to a target audience. In the advent of visual AI as a marketing tool, that is still true, but brands have new aspects to consider and balance.

Purpose Marketing Is Still the Heart of All Marketing

No matter what type of AI tools marketers use, they still need to appeal to the human, emotional side of their customers and make their efforts appear as seamless as possible, almost like a ghost. Potential customers want to focus on the benefit and value created by visual AI that makes what they want to do or buy easier—not focus on the AI itself. The newness of the tool not only loses luster over time but can also make the buyer experience seem impersonal or too disconnected.

In addition, any outreach shared with current or potential customers needs to have a specific purpose for them—and still come from relevant content based on buyer personas and customer relationship dynamics. Pay attention to what customers want. Create content that enables them to access it. Then choose the appropriate visual AI tool that allows them to experience it fully in a more immersive way. Amazon already uses visual AI quite well—and it’s easy to cross-reference Amazon products on other online platforms or any sites that allow you to “try on” outfits or experiences before buying them.

Chatbots Will Level-Up

Today’s basic chatbot leverages predictive text while taking into consideration customer history and patterns. The more deep learning a chatbot can do with specific data through each customer interaction, the easier it is to predict needs and be of service in the more nuanced ways customers desire. Then, collected data can be used as a building block to improve customer service over time as internal teams make a point of reviewing and leveraging data consistently.

And last, but not least, brands must utilize chatbots in a way that fits into their overall marketing strategy. Incorporating them as a way to minimize customer wait time and limit the number of inquiries is one option. Speeding up specific interactions dealing with damaged products by submitting pictures of damage is another.

Opportunities to Deepen Marketing Automation Capabilities

While customers benefit from the simpler, more automated and personalized experience that visual AI can offer, sales teams benefit, too.

According to a Fortune Magazine article, “Why Deep Learning is Suddenly Changing Your Life,” sales teams are already using neural nets (a computer system modeled on the human brain and nervous system) to recommend which prospects to contact next and what kinds of product offerings to recommend during a sales call. The computer teaches itself based on what it’s already learned, so it becomes highly skilled at addressing unique brand needs. And that’s worth a lot for improving overall customer satisfaction.

By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator, according to Frost & Sullivan who were featured in the article by Martech Today. In turn, that makes the biggest challenge for MarTech companies and digital marketers to understand is exactly how their brand consistently communicates and engages customers with personalized experiences across multiple channels, formats, and devices.

To enhance the power of visual AI further, take buyer personas to the next level by allowing data inform the customer voice. Create a language of loyalty with your customers based on what you understand about them as individuals and peer groups. Experiment with new digital experiences and marketing campaigns crafted around understanding customer behaviors, test them, then see what can be automated within the process.

And according to CMS Wire, organizations will begin applying the lessons learned from these customer-facing AI capabilities into back-end processes, using the technologies to streamline and automate. In addition, those brands can further explore the power of coupling AI and machine learning with other tools, such as the internet of things, augmented reality, and more to further enhance front- and back-end functions.

Maintaining a Positive Public Image with AI

As brands rely more on visual AI, they also need to leverage the same tools as a way to stay more engaged with their public image overall. Using the tools to track keywords and conversations is one way, but more important is staying participatory and present in the process. Automation cannot manage crises on its own or figure out the best way to handle unexpected twists and turns in the market.

Customers want to engage with a brand that’s run by real people, and visual AI is a very new (and market transforming) tool. People want to know they can trust you as a brand with their information and choose to actively engage with any AI that’s part of a brand’s marketing efforts.

Do your best to be transparent. Participate in the process and tell customers how their information is being shared and used, and why. The more active a brand can be with what’s happening, the easier it is for customers to trust how brands are using important data about them for a better, more empowered customer experience. Not to mention faster, too.

Deepen the Buyer Experience and Internal Processes  

With visual AI, customers get more options and choices for their purchase path. And that’s great news for brands who can use data to provide those options quickly and easily.

As a brand, if you’re interested in learning more, start small. Introduce a chatbot and see what happens, or look at the data you are already collecting. How can you improve internal processes for sales or customer service by using AI before jumping to big tools that change things up for customers in a big way?

If you are already engrossed in testing and have the data to prove it, use visual AI as an opportunity to partner with like-minded brands. Partnerships created through matching data can be powerful, especially when brands can co-mingle and market to a highly refined target market between them.

Already using visual AI and rocking it? Why not look at ways to leverage it across platforms (content, social, video) to show up in various aspects of a customer’s personalized buyer’s journey seamlessly?

No matter how you choose—or not—to leverage visual AI tools, your focus as a brand should always be on improving and specializing the customer experience and helping make internal teams more agile in how they collaborate and align communication. The capabilities with visual AI are just beginning to emerge, making it essential to understand how it can be used as a tool to improve internal processes—and as a customer-facing tool that allows them more power over their unique shopping experience.

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Katrina Pfannkuch

About Katrina Pfannkuch

Katrina Pfannkuch is a creativity consultant specializing in writing, editing, strategy & coaching. She's a bit of a data nerd & loves seeing how pieces of the informational puzzle come together to paint a creative picture. Catch Katrina & her insights on kick-starting creativity at @creativekatrina on Twitter.