Marketing technology (MarTech) has radically changed the way that we interact, track, engage and learn about customers. Small businesses typically spend about $200,000 per year in time and platform costs to manage their software. A new generation of marketing software is using machine learning and AI to drive marketing automatically with minimal configuration, just like a self-driving car.
The often-heard refrain in popular media around artificial intelligence (AI) is that of a semi-apocalyptic future, where machines do the work while humans are laid to waste, left wondering of their utility.
It’s true that technological advances have created new roles that have sometimes come at the cost of old ones. However, technology has always moved the human race forward, from the invention of the wheel through to the motor car and the Internet itself. These changes invariably expand the economies that these new technologies impact.
To better understand what the future of marketing software will look like and what this means for marketers and businesses in general, we asked two experts for their insight. Dr Anthony Davidson is an Industry Fellow at The University of Queensland (UQ) Business School and VP of Strategy at Engag3d and Roop Bhadury is Founder and CEO of Engag3d, the world's first autonomous marketing platform.
In this article, these two industry experts explain how marketing technology and autonomous marketing have evolved, the impact these changes have on marketing practices, and how much time and money can be saved by embracing autonomous marketing going forward.
What is MarTech (Marketing Technology) and how has it evolved?
Marketing technologies have typically focused on the delivery of marketing content from business to an audience via marketing tools that fall under three categories:
- Advertising management tools
- Marketing automation tools
- Social management tools
These areas have some overlap, but the common underlying trait in each of these tools is the need for active configuration and ongoing management. This creates training and implementation complexities, as well as significant platform and consulting (agency) costs.
Marketing automation, the precursor to Autonomous Marketing, can be traced back to 1992 with the advent of email marketing. Website analytics with customer decision-based email communication emerged in the early 2000s, followed by more advanced advertising and social media management tools.
How has AI-augmented marketing changed MarTech?
Marketing software augmented by AI and machine learning began once the computational cost of analysing vast amounts of data dropped. The affordability of MarTech coincided with the broader recognition of the potential to analyse and interpret data to improve customer acquisition and retention.
The application of AI in MarTech has been in two main areas:
- Advertising: Audience analysis, conversion metrics, programmatic ad buying and some creative testing
- Customer experience: Hyper personalisation, communication journey automation, content curation and recommendation, interpretive analytics and chatbots using conversational AI.
In the last two years, new-age marketing platforms have started a new era of tools categorised as autonomous marketing. Most of the current marketing software options are still largely traditional software as a service (SaaS) tools that require customers to either spend hundreds of hours learning the platform or engage external experts (agencies) to do the work.
Autonomous marketing, however, uses a low-touch approach to platform design where the software uses AI to do 50%-80% of the work. The idea is to utilise human input for the first and last mile, where the most value add occurs.
The focus of this next generation of tools is to empower marketers as well as business owners to drive value in marketing communication using creative content and leave the content delivery to the tool itself.
How much time or money is wasted on marketing activities without marketing automation?
The 2019 State of Marketing Automation survey found that while marketing automation is viewed by marketers as critical to long-term business success, the use of marketing automation is still in its infancy because internal marketing staff do not have the skills to use the technology for advanced personalisation.
Industry reports by vendors and consultants suggest that marketing automation drives up to a 15 per cent increase in sales productivity and a 15 per cent reduction in marketing overheads.
Small businesses (20-50 employees) typically spend about $200,000 per year in time and platform costs, simply managing software. This does not include time and costs relating to creative agencies and content writers.
Autonomous Marketing is set to fundamentally alter these numbers by making sophisticated marketing accessible to the vast majority of small to mid-sized businesses that currently are unable to afford world class marketing.
The math is straightforward. About 60-70 per cent of the modern digital marketer’s time is spent on a variety of platforms, managing tools and ensuring content goes out on time. For a two-person marketing team, this is easily $140,000 of ‘wasted’ time (70 per cent of two people’s wages at $100,000 p.a. on average). Add costs for whichever platform you use and for creative, and you get to a large number very quickly.
What impact will autonomous marketing have on marketers and businesses?
The problem with existing marketing automation solutions is that they are time-consuming and expensive to set up and manage. The functionality is difficult to navigate and often, there is functionality missing that a business requires.
As a result, marketers spend most of their time trying to work out how to use the software, get it to work, and then integrate it with other software they have.
The time saved with autonomous marketing can be used to enrich core communication, which is the critical building block of all marketing. Rather than expending time grappling with the delivery of marketing, marketers can refocus on content, potentially transforming business outcomes.
Autonomous marketing eliminates the need to learn and operate marketing software platforms. This allows businesses to focus on the content creation end of marketing, leaving the now intelligent platform to handle delivery and analysis.
Increased personalisation of communication and promotional offers through various automated marketing platforms recommendations have the potential to make marketing appear more human.
Greater emphasis is placed at the human end on better decision making in terms of scaling content, refining segmentation, enhancing customer experiences, enriching visual content and improving lead nurturing.
“The costs of using an autonomous marketing platform compared to existing marketing automation systems is significantly cheaper because it eliminates the time and staff resources needed to set it up and manage it. This can represent up to a 90 per cent cost saving with 10 x increased efficiency.”
As the ability of AI to amass large amounts of data and learn with minimum human instruction continues to increase, it will be interesting to see what’s next in the evolution of marketing technology and how changes will affect the industry.