The emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies has been one of the most exciting developments in digital marketing — but it hasn’t been without its concerns. By now, almost everyone online has been exposed to an AI application, from chatbots to product recommendations, ad targeting and serving, and dynamic content. On the one hand, AI promises a more personalized internet; however, on the other, there is the potential for job losses through automation and the resulting restructuring of our economy.
I spoke with Carl Schmidt, Co-Founder and CTO at landing page software provider Unbounce, to discuss the current state of AI, where and how we’re most likely to see it used in the digital marketing world in the future, and if we should be worried about our soon-to-be machine overlords.
AI in Marketing
AI is a much-discussed topic in general, but its applications in marketing are particularly exciting — both in how it’s already used that you may not realize, as well as its potential in the future. Simply put, AI is technology that mimics human thought; in the digital marketing world, this could mean anything from text and image recognition to machine learning, predictive content creation, and semantic search.
As Robert Allen, Digital Content Manager at CITU, explains, different techniques can all be considered AI in a broad sense, but they generally result in AI applications that “do tasks one would usually associate with a human operator such as answering customer questions or writing new content.”
In fact, a recent experiment conducted by Schmidt and his team shows Unbounce’s machine learning algorithm significantly outperforms humans in optimizing landing page text. At their yearly Call to Action Conference they pitted 437 human marketing professionals against Unbounce’s AI algorithm to try and predict which optimized solution would perform better. Eighty percent of the time, the computer guessed better than the humans.
Not Just for Large Corporations
AI is no longer the exclusive domain of the few large corporations that can afford it. In fact, it’s likely that you’ve already benefitted from AI applications online, either as a consumer of content or a marketer yourself. Hubspot recently surveyed over 1,400 consumers and found that 63% of respondents were already using some kind of AI technology — they just didn’t realize it.
Unbounce is not only making AI technology accessible to small businesses, but they’re also able to share the vast amounts of data from their community of users. By analyzing the content on their customer’s pages, they’re able to identify what contributes to successful campaigns — and to make this information available for everyone’s benefit. Schmidt says that they’re the furthest along with text, but they’ll be able to extend this to colors, images, and other page elements soon as well.
Unbounce takes advantage of AI technology and millions of data points to empower marketers to quickly create, launch and test high-converting landing pages and website overlays without the need for an in-house development team. Currently, this is based on their library of over 125 high-converting templates, but Schmidt has recently carved out a specific team to focus on bringing the ability to automate this process and generate optimized campaigns that Unbounce customers will be able to deploy with the click of a button.
This is hugely beneficial for smaller businesses that wouldn’t otherwise have access to the same data to inform their marketing decisions.
The Harvard Business Review tells the story of the telecommunications provider, CenturyLink, that employed the use of an AI sales assistant to qualify hot leads. The assistant, named Angie, would send out about 30,000 targeted emails per month and interpret the replies to identify who was a hot lead. CenturyLink’s sales reps, who may manage upwards of 300 accounts, became more efficient because Angie would then route the right leads to the right reps. CenturyLink estimates that they’ve earned $20 in new contracts for every $1 spent on Angie.
AI for Conversion Rate Optimization
The Content Marketing Institute reports that highly personalized website experiences deliver better conversion rate optimization. These intelligent algorithms, like the ones used by Unbounce, can help personalize:
- Website experience – by analyzing hundreds of data points about a single user (including location, demographics, device, interaction with the website, etc.), AI can display the best-fitting offers and content
- Push notifications – thanks to behavioral personalization, push notifications can be specific to individual users, delivering them the right message at the right time
As your customers are conditioned to expect increasingly meaningful experiences, Unbounce can automate much of the personalization process. Your website can deliver the most relevant content, notifications, and offers based on data such as location, demographics, and browsing history to capitalize on interest and intent.
Unbounce removes any bias and creates entirely data-driven solutions that will have the greatest impact on conversions. In the future, this type of AI-driven conversion automation will power most marketing activities. Digital interactions will be optimized based on visitor insights and conversion data, creating a personalized experience for each unique visitor that presents the right message at the right time.
In addition to knowing which content to serve, AI can automate the creation of it as well. In fact, Gartner predicts that 20% of all business content will be authored by machines by the end of 2018. We’re already seeing this as more data-based news articles, such as sports scores, weather reports, and real-time stock market reports are being “written” by tools like Wordsmith and Quill, but AI-powered marketing tools like Unbounce can also create what was traditionally creative content, such as landing pages and calls to action.
Leveraging Unbounce’s Data in Your Marketing
Powering Unbounce’s AI is the data they have recently disclosed for everyone’s use in their Unbounce Conversion Benchmark Report. By analyzing the behavior of 74,551,421 visitors to 64,284 lead generation landing pages created in the Unbounce platform, it allows your business to compare your conversion rates that of tens of thousands of landing pages within your industry. With this, you can see how your campaigns compare to your competition.
Some of the study’s findings showed that the words businesses use to market their product and services can have a quantifiable impact on their conversion rates. The study found that the emotion, sentiment, and reading complexity of words can significantly influence a business’ potential to convert their website’s traffic into customers.
Key findings from the study included:
- Words that convey joy can negatively impact a campaign’s conversion rate for businesses in the home improvement industries. Landing pages in the home improvement, vocational studies, and travel industries that contain less than 1% of copy that communicates feelings of joy, show up to 35% higher conversion rates than pages with more than 1% of similar copy. Words such as “safe,” “friendly,” “clean,” “comfort,” “excellent,” “happy,” “success,” and “confidence” are examples of words that can negatively impact conversion rates.
- Copy written at a 6th-grade reading level is more likely to drive conversions in the real estate industry. The study found that within the real estate industry, landing page copy written at a 6th-grade reading level (using simple and accessible vocabulary) correlated with a 200% higher conversion rate compared to copy written at the university level. Six out of the ten industries the study examined showed better conversion rates when the reading level was appropriate for a 9th-grade reading level or lower.
- Words associated with fear and trust have the biggest impact on conversion rates across three out of the ten industries the study looked at. Fear-inducing words used on landing pages in the travel, legal and health industries can negatively impact conversion rates by up to 5%. For example, words used on landing pages within the legal sector such as “problem,” “risk,” “difficult,” “emergency,” “change,” and “worry” were shown to negatively impact conversion rates.
The report shares what you can expect good and bad conversion rates to look like across ten different industries, as well as advice from the Unbounce team of data scientists and conversion marketing experts for how your business can improve your conversion rates by making simple tweaks to your copy.
Handle with Care
All of this begs the question, of course: is AI going to turn on us one day and destroy the world? Schmidt was measured in his response, siding with visionaries like Elon Musk and cautions that “It would be irresponsible to write off the possibility that we would create something that is part of itself”.