How AI Will Change PPC in the Next Two Years
In late 2016, information technology research company Gartner revealed its top 10 predictions for IT organizations and users over the next coming years, a couple of which caused a stir amongst those in the digital industry. The predictions left them anxiously wondering what the future held and how it could affect the everyday processes they currently implement. Artificial Intelligence (AI) was at the heart of these predictions, and it was proposed that the technological capabilities may be more advanced and ready to “take over” than we initially thought. But beyond that, they forecasted that consumers in the US were already willing and positioned to take advantage of these new technologies, forever changing the way they ask questions, interact with a brand, and shop for products.
More specifically, Gartner’s two major predictions were:
- By 2019, 20% of brands will abandon their mobile apps
- By 2020, 30% of web browsing will be screenless
AI will be the driving force behind this transition. It’s what has allowed technologies like Personal Assistants and Chatbots to spring up over the past few years and get consumers used to interacting in new ways. Gartner predicted that these technologies will be so much more advanced in the coming years that businesses will start to turn to these resources over things like landing pages and apps. If this is true, this means that as a business, you have the potential to lose 30% of your website traffic, and if you don’t know how to properly funnel the other 30%, you may end up missing conversion opportunities and see a decline in performance over time.
Chatbots and Personal Assistants
Chatbots and Personal Assistants have already hit the market in many different ways. People message each other to communicate all the time, whether through their phone’s messaging app, Facebook Messenger, Slack, or the many other messaging/social platforms. Within most of these channels, there are already Chatbots that you can set up. There are also many Personal Assistants that have already broken through to mainstream use such as Cortana, Alexa, and Siri. We’re beginning to see the real benefits of how businesses are learning to implement chatbots and personal assistants in order to better guide consumers through the conversion funnel.
Chatbots are still in their infancy in the west but are gradually becoming more popular. Studies show that there are real learning gaps and user experience issues with apps. Chatbots will start to become the new app. More people will get what they need through a chatbot because it is much easier and faster to get what you need to know versus searching through an app. People already have more of a comfortability with messaging that they don’t have with apps. Because of this, the reach is much larger. One example of this is WeChat that has exploded internationally. WeChat has 960 million monthly users and almost half of them have used the app to set up a pay account. They can order food, buy shoes, or book an appointment all with the same app that they use to chat with their friends. This is why businesses are starting to notice the scale opportunity and will gradually abandon their app investments.
According to Gartner, “many brands are finding that the level of adoption, customer engagement and return on investment delivered by their mobile applications are significantly less than the expectations that underpinned their app investment. New approaches are emerging that have a lower barrier to discovery and install, and offer levels of engagement that approach those of applications at a fraction of the investment, support and marketing cost.”
Chatbots in Customer Service
Chatbots will also take over a lot of human interactions and customer service processes. Ovum came out with a study that said that 53% of people in the US prefer chat apps over phone calls to communicate with businesses. Gartner says that 85% of relationships with a company will be managed without human interaction. Chatbots are going to be there to take care of the redundancy of customer service. Most FAQ can be turned into a chatbot and save the time it takes to find what you need, thus improving the customer experience and education and hopefully driving that customer closer to a conversion.
AI is becoming smarter and smarter as we have tested and received more data over the years. AI is now learning to read human emotion, voice tone and will show empathy and build rapport. Users in the US seem to be positioned well to accept this as a replacement for human interaction because of the convenience and efficiency. People are willing to engage with technology if it can make us forget that it’s not human.
Chatbots in Research Stage of Funnel
In the same way that chatbots can help with the customer service processes, it can also assist in the research stage of the Sales Funnel. If I was on a website, browsing and am unsure about which product I wanted to buy, I will usually go into exploration mode which would involve me going to a search engine and researching more information. This is an interruptive experience because you have to stop what you’re doing and go somewhere else to find the information you need. This is where a chatbot would come in. If I was on a website and looking for more information, a chatbot could ask me what I’m looking for. I could say that I’m looking for fishing rods. That chatbot would then ask “What kind of rod? Spinning, Casting, Offshore” I could then type “What is a casting rod?” and the chatbot would use a search engine to get the answers. So chatbots will use the power of search but just embed it in a platform that’s easy for us to use.
In the same way that chatbots are the new app, Personal Assistants are the new browser. Personal Assistants are the voice versions of Chatbots, using the same AI. With Alexa, it’s
easy to order something from Amazon without ever going to Amazon’s website. Voice searches will lead to answers and content that may not be coming from the same landing page that is at the top of SERPs on a screen. This is where it gets tricky and can become scary for some PPC professionals when it comes to a loss of impression share for core keywords and search terms.
How Will Affect PPC and How to Adapt
This technological shift is inevitable but will come with new ways to promote your products or services.
1-on-1 Interactions at Scale
As chat bots become smarter and smarter, this will allow a user to have one-on-one interactions and engagements at scale. You could create anad that says “Message me for 10% off” and then send to your company’s Facebook Messenger bot or any other bot that you may have. This bot could walk the customer through a purchase or answer any questions that they might have. That chatbot could be doing this with thousands of other customers at the same time. This is something that could not be duplicated with human power or the clunkiness of an app.
Lead to Better Audience Targeting
The more intelligent that AI and personal assistants get, the better audience targeting will be. If you currently use lookalikes and similar audiences, the advancements in AI will further optimize these types of audiences. AI and Personal Assistants/Chatbots know what kind of food I like, what exact meal I always order and what time I usually eat. So if I usually order dinner around 7:30 and I often order Mexican food, 7:30 would be a good time to ask me if I want Mexican food and then send a coupon for 10% off a meal. It also knows where you are location-wise. So you could target a lookalike user that is driving through your area that may also like Mexican food.
There are many possibilities for digital marketers to leverage AI and the new technologies that we will become more and more dependent on in the coming years. Though it may seem like a scary situation, it actually creates an opportunity for better user experiences and can result in better conversion rates and better return on investments than what we previously knew. It is something that we will have to adapt to and stay creative with but is definitely something that we better be prepared for if we want to maintain digital market share in the next 3 years.