There was huge excitement a few months ago when Google announced the launch of Google Assistant. Much noise was made about its features and ability to chat and assist you with many tasks. It can bring you relevant information, send messages, book events, save reminders, change the lights and… well, the list of features goes on and on. There will undoubtedly be upgrades and improvement to its ever expanding capabilities over the coming year.

OK, so now that Google has our attention, what does this and all the other AI platforms available mean to marketers? More specifically, how does this impact on marketing across mobile.

A recent article in Internet Retailer considered the following scenario. Imagine that you’re searching for something on your mobile but instead of going through the usual search process, you just tap on images of products that you’re interested in. The AI checks them and provides similar options based on those images. AI learns very quickly what we like, not just brands, but much more sophisticated detail like styles, colours, high or flat heels and so on. You’d just tap the next image you’re interested in and the AI gets to understand what you want and what you like. This is real personalisation. Just imagine how powerful and valuable this information would be to marketers.

We know that AI is already being used across mainstream marketing channels, but it is now starting to filter down to mobile video ads. Instead of relying on clicks to judge the impact of campaigns, AI is already being linked with third party research to enable greater targeting of people likely to move across the purchasing funnel. So AI should provide much greater ROI figures.

Let’s just go back to the Google assistant for a moment. AI is a big part of the next generation of mobiles and giants like Samsung are investing heavily in their digital AI assistant offering. Already, Siri is starting to appear clunky compared to its rivals like Alexa and Cortana. This is exciting because with added competition and the race to have the best AI assistant the implications for mobile marketing are endless.

So, just what will this technology mean for marketing? Imagine you’re in a shop looking for washing tablets and the shelves are full of different varieties all offering discounts. This is a typical shopper’s dilemma and at this point most would probably just go back to their usual brand. However, imagine if your assistant can tell you which product best meets your needs. Your very own personal shopper in your ear with real rational thought. So where does that leave the marketer. Well, their job would now be to fight for the non-rational decision making processes such as image and box design. So, you see where this is leading?

AI and programmatic

AI is suited to using big data to identify behaviour patterns and determine the needs of specific customers. As such it sits well with programmatic buying. AI can pull out the right messages to send to the right customer using their algorithms then learn from the data enabling advertisers to fine tune and change their messages making better predictions and pre-emptive decisions for ad campaigns. In the US the iconic brand Harley-Davidson ran an ad campaign using AI. Combining algorithms with an AI platform the company was able to merge existing data to identify potential buyers that had a similar demographic and behavioural profile as their highest-value customers. The AI system identifies what it considers the lookalikes and their behavioural patterns then learns what these individuals do and don’t respond to. It has worked for them, especially during their “48 bikes in 48 hours” campaign.

Let’s get real for a moment

As the platform becomes more sophisticated, the level of detailed understanding based on our conversations will generate plenty of untapped rich data on consumers, and this information will have a huge impact on programmatic ad buying across mobile.

I haven’t mentioned the big issues of data privacy and ad blocking. AI could potentially raise the issue of data privacy – a contentious issue in mobile marketing as in all other forms of digital marketing – and AI technology could exasperate concerns around privacy. We’ll see soon enough if this becomes another bridge to cross.

As marketers, the question that most of us are asking is will AI technology ever match the insight, creativity and intuition of the human approach? After all, aren’t we all becoming more technically competent? Isn’t this new found skill making us even better at understanding and connecting with customers? As modern marketers, part of our remit is to understand campaign statistics then turn them into messaging that resonates with customers. This kind of sophistication cannot be created by artificial intelligence. So, as we stand, people and technology remain mutually reliant to ensure they are working productively. We are not yet at a stage where companies can rely on autonomous marketing. This is especially true in comparison to the quality level of functions handled by people, who still have a vital role in managing the automated marketing tools.

Human marketers add emotional insight, strategy, and knowledge and AI software cannot yet perform these functions as well as us.  However, as the technology improves and becomes more advanced, maybe one day machines will be able to learn to emulate human behaviour and preferences effectively enough to remove the need for human intervention.

We’re at the early stages of this new revolution but there it is clear that the new rich data and consumer insight would enable the process of automated ad buying on mobile devices to become extremely accurate. It’s another step closer to that Holy Grail of marketing but if you’re still unsure you can always ask Siri.