Machine Learning: What Will it Mean for Marketers?


The next wave of computer technology is upon us – and it’s Machine Learning. And if businesses want to succeed in the marketplace of tomorrow, they had better understand what machine learning is and how it can be applied to their business.

The danger of waiting is that your competitors, or some future company that does not even exist yet, will use machine learning to disrupt your industry and drive you out of business.

What is Machine Learning

Machine learning is a field of computer science that gives computer systems the ability to “learn” with data, without being explicitly programmed. It is an extension of artificial intelligence, which uses pattern recognition and computational learning to help solve problems better than humans ever could.

To most of us who are not actively studying or working in this field today, it might sound a little like science fiction. But computer technology is racing forward, with very real applications of machine learning already in place today.

Why Machine Learning

The reason that machine learning is so popular right now is a combination of the technological progress made in recent years and the potential it holds for a large swath of fields. For companies who are going to lead the way on innovation, the opportunities to deploy machine learning across their organizations is enough to excite everyone from board members, to executives, on down the line.

Machine learning will make decisions – both day to day and long-term strategic decisions – faster and better than humans. It does this by analyzing all of the data available to it using algorithms that get smarter over time.

What Does This Mean for Marketers

For marketers, machine learning will mean that some of the most complex parts of our job will get much easier. Machine learning might be used to:

  • Optimize who we target with our advertising, by analyzing who is most likely to become a paying customer on an individual basis
  • Write promotional copy that speaks directly to each person in our marketing funnel, by understanding the right combination of persuasion and emotion to use to convert new customers
  • Identify customers who are most likely to become repeat buyers and intervene with special offers at the right time to advance their loyalty
  • Intervene with users who we are at greatest risk of losing to competitors with a promotional offer that keeps them coming back
  • Recommend new products and services that our customers are most likely to purchase from us based on customer behavior and competitive offerings
  • Determine the appropriate price of everything we offer to maximize sales or profitability, including when and where to use promotions to spur greater levels of activity and address local or seasonality slowness

The above list just scrapes the surface of what might soon be possible with machine learning. To take full advantage, companies need to invest in research, data collection, training for current staff, and hiring experts. The time to start is now, because the sooner you can make strides in this field, the larger your advantage over the competition will be.