In this series of blogs, Daniel Pitchford investigates the ways AI investments can help successfully scale up a business.
AI has already shown itself to be hugely effective in customer service, targeted advertising strategies and data analysis, resulting in increased sales and customer acquisition. When it comes to 2020 budgeting, business leaders wanting to scale up must embrace the technology to deliver results for their growing businesses.
The customer (service) is king
Customer service should be central to any start-up business – especially as it scales. However, with growth comes increased pressure and workload on customer service and support teams, all while the business needs to establish itself in a crowded market. Customer service is regularly the defining feature of a start-up competing against an established company in the same space, meaning it’s vital to get it right.
Chatbots have emerged in abundance over the past couple of years – and offer a compelling proposition to effectively support customer service departments. Chatbots are excellent for providing a quick and effective contact point for both new and existing customers. Already, 85 percent of customers expect to manage their relationship with businesses without interacting with a real human by 2020 (Gartner). The application of AI doesn’t stop there, it can be used to analyse data from customer conversations to understand what works and what doesn’t – and make practical changes to improve the experience for everyone.
This is an invaluable insight for businesses on the journey of expansion, when getting it right for the customer is essential. Where possible, brands should use AI-enhanced data analytics to provide a personalised stand-out service that leaves customers feeling more valued than they would by legacy businesses. The real benefit is to not only create process efficiencies, but to actually enhance the customer’s journey and overall experience.
Companies know the value in being able to market themselves as leaders in customer service within a sector. Travel company Trainline recently launched a voice app for Google Assistant which can search for live journey information when it’s asked a question by the user. The application uses machine learning to become more accurate the more commuters use it. Trainline sees voice interfaces and voice-enabled devices as the future of brand interaction – and is also standing out in a crowded market by using AI for customer service requirements.
Policy Expert is another fast-growing company that has invested in AI to improve its customer service offering. The home insurance provider has repeatedly proven its market leading abilities with trendsetting business initiatives. Policy Expert uses big data, APIs, algorithms and artificial intelligence to better understand its customers, generating accurate and realistic pricing. Businesses incorporating AI in this way can decode their customers and predict potential customers, and therefore deliver solutions that maximise customer engagement, loyalty and overall satisfaction.
Navigating the marketing minefield
Businesses particularly benefit from the use of AI to maximise technical skills of existing employees. Marketing a business can prove a minefield, and one that companies can waste a lot of money on if they do not have the correct skillset. AI is instrumental in transforming a start-up’s marketing strategy if this is the case.
A particularly beneficial use is programmatic advertising and personalised emails to target existing customers, and AI can reach the most relevant audience. BrandAlley is an interesting example of a business that, due to being a purely online retailer, needs to get every aspect of its digital marketing approach right.
The company does this by using AI marketing to scale its customer engagement strategy, using CRM ads to acquire new customers, as well as sending out frequent and highly personalised emails to current customers. This use of AI is proving highly effective, with millions of personalised emails sent every month and unique visitors increasing due to the strategy. Results show the business has seen a 26% increase in revenue and 16% increase in conversions.
There are various marketing tools start-ups can use here, such as Albert AI, which handles a wide range of the core digital marketing activities for a company, including media buying, audience segmentation, and customer insights to name a few. Such analysis often results in new market or prospect discovery.
The use of predictive intelligence is highly valuable for marketing teams. While it’s unlikely AI will ever replace people in this capacity, the time saved in analysing data, finding the right audience and personalising marketing activity, frees up many hours which can be spent elsewhere.
Increasing customer acquisition and boosting sales
With the right data, AI can transform how sales teams interact with customers and positively impact the rate of customer acquisition moving forward.
AI has greatly improved the process of lead generation by engaging more qualified leads. Finding new potential customers can be a hugely time-consuming process, but AI-based sales assistants can efficiently reach out to huge numbers of leads in a fraction of the time normally required, expanding reach and ultimately acquiring more customers. AI can also be built into sales platforms such as Salesforce, allowing leads to be more optimally filtered and followed up on.
The upfront cost and steep learning curve associated with implementing AI can discourage executives from adopting it in their business, a reluctance that needs to be overcome in order to reap the ultimate financial benefits. Forrester found that investing in Salesforce Einstein created $2.95 million in productivity savings from improved business user experience and actionable insight as a direct result of an investment by a leading US bank in the programme.
Salesforce is one the of the earliest adopters of AI capabilities and technology, as well as the largest CRM software vendor, owning 19.5% of the CRM vendor market (Gartner). Launched in September 2016, Salesforce Einstein has become a major sector player as one of the first CRM vendors to have AI capabilities. The tool integrates AI technology with Salesforce’s Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) CRM, using data gathered on each user action to provide predictive analytics, natural language processing (NLP) capabilities and machine learning to Salesforce customers. Salesforce Einstein has been able to take full advantage of its increased user base by analysing every action taken to continue to improve its capabilities, providing users with more accurate analysis as it continues to learn.
While Salesforce is a major vendor in the CRM market, there are various new companies emerging to offer similarly effective services. Azure Machine Learning, the cloud-based predictive analytics service, is widely praised for its ease of use, while TensorFlow, the open software library for numerical computation using data flow graphs, is also popular because of its consistent efficiency. Companies don’t have to look far to find a range of similar AI Platforms software on offer – the hardest part is choosing the right software for that company. Once a business has found the best fit, the opportunities for growth are substantial.
AI implementation in marketing and sales has the potential of long-lasting positive effects for a scale-up and it should be considered essential for 2020 strategies. The value that this technology can bring to a business wanting to scale up is clear. AI is quickly finding its place and its ability to discover and engage new customers more efficiently than ever before. Applied across the entire spectrum – it offers businesses of all sizes to become truly customer centric – enhancing all aspects of the experience to ultimately generate increased loyalty, higher AOV, and CLTV.