Can AI Improve Personalization?

Richard Jones Zero-Party Data

The adoption of AI has been preeminent in marketing buzzword bingo for several years. And many marketers are being seduced by this exciting new tech, shifting budgets to roll the dice on the possibilities that machine learning offers.

But currently, the ‘Holy Grail’ of personalization appears to amount to no more than a fool’s errand, rather than a noble crusade. A recent report from UK-based investment firm MMC Ventures could not find “any evidence based on public information and interviews with executives, of artificial intelligence applications” at over 40% of Europe’s 3,000 AI vendors.

Nevertheless, these vendors are hoovering-up already squeezed marketing budgets to deliver personalization, audience targeting and product recommendations. Even if AI delivered what it purported, machine learning predicts the future based on the past, so however sophisticated, it still amounts to guesswork. And artificial intelligence is just that; artificial…the clue is in the name. If marketers really want to deliver ROI they should be delivering personalization strategies that are borne out of self-reported data, not inferences.

Don’t Guess, Ask

The practice of clustering consumer behaviors to predict future behavior is almost as old as the internet itself. In 1998 Amazon recommended books to customers based on searches and purchase history. At the time it was new and innovative, and although it regularly missed the mark, consumers approved.

But as internet users have matured, the quality of personalization they recieve has not grown-up with them. Personalization strategies are all-too-often derived from past purchases, cookies and click trails.

The most successful purveyors of personalization are digital disruptors like Netflix and Spotify. But their recommendations aren’t based on AI, nor is it guesswork. They ask for preferences in movies, television and music, and base recommendations around this self-reported data. Unfortunately they’re the exception rather than the rule.

The True Personalization Path

Rather than base personalization on guesswork or potentially fictitious AI, marketers should take the zero-party data approach.

Forrester describes zero-party data as a class of data that “a customer intentionally and proactively shares with a brand. It can include purchase intentions, personal context and how the individual wants the brand to recognize her.” Purchase intentions instead of purchase history.

Marketers can collect zero-party data by connecting directly with consumers and gathering the data, insights, and permissions they need to power truly personalized marketing. No AI, but direct, genuine and meaningful relationships. As zero-party data comes directly from the consumer, there are no intermediaries, no guesswork.

How To Collect Zero-Party Data

Marketers can collect the preference insights and purchase intentions they need to power truly personalized marketing through interactive experiences that conduct research, accrue opt-ins and deliver a tangible value exchange to the consumer.

Questionnaires, polls, quizzes or social stories incorporate incentive mechanics that allow marketers to quickly and easily collect zero-party data at speed and scale. Empowering you to stop using guesswork or relying on AI, and arming you with the data you need to make the right connections with your customers.

And by leveraging the right mechanics, and offering a value exchange, your customers will tell you what products they desire, what they look for in a service, and what motivates them to purchase.

The Rise Of The Zero-Party Data Economy

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