February 14, 2017

Watson and the Future of Marketing

The potential applications of artificial intelligence (AI) are endless. IBM Watson, the cognitive computing powerhouse, is rapidly growing in popularity – and for good reason. Watson’s unique ability to process massive amounts of data, and intelligently interpret that data to produce relevant insights, recommendations, and designs is presently unmatched. Watson has optimized procedures in hospitals, banks, schools, and businesses, created thrilling movie trailers and unique recipes, and powers an array of futuristic cognitive analytical tools like the Watson Tone Analyzer.

IBM is clearly relying on Watson to shape the company’s future. Enterprise software service offerings are becoming Cloud-based and Watson-powered. The company is transforming as the traditional, on-site offerings shrink and new strategic imperatives – Watson, Cloud, and Blockchain – have grown to represent more than 40% of the company’s revenue.  Investment in block-chain technology, internal infrastructure, R&D centers, and strategic partnerships show the company’s plan to pivot to a SaaS-based model with Watson at its head.

Under the umbrella of Watson Customer Engagement, IBM developed three pillars of offerings to help businesses elevate their customer experience: Marketing, Commerce, and Supply Chain. In this post, I will explore Watson Marketing.

What does the new Watson Marketing Suite mean for marketers?

What does the new Watson Marketing Suite mean for marketers?


What does the new Watson Marketing suite look like?

Watson Marketing aims to build and enhance three core capabilities: campaign automation, marketing insight, and real time personalization. Many marketers may already be familiar with the powerful segmentation, decisioning, optimization, and process management features of the on-premise IBM Enterprise Marketing Management suite, which includes IBM Campaign, Interact, Optimize, and Marketing Operations. These tools will continue to support marketing through key integration points with Watson-powered tools and Marketing Cloud.

IBM Watson’s core offerings are now built around IBM Marketing Cloud. Marketing Cloud leverages the Silverpop digital marketing platform to deliver email, mobile, and social communications through the following tools:

  • Journey Designer: Enables marketers to collaboratively design, test, and implement automated marketing strategies through the lens of the customer journey. Also, offers budgeting and planning tools via partnership with Allocadia.
  • Universal Behavior Exchange (UBX): Leverages pre-existing partnerships with an array of social, CRM, and 3rd-party data collection platforms allow marketers to truly see a unified view of their customer.

Watson-powered add-on modules further bolster Marketing Cloud’s capabilities:

  • Watson Content Hub: Watson analyzes marketing creative to automatically tag assets and images, and guides the marketer in selecting
  • Watson Real Time Personalization: A powerful personalization platform for web content with an easy to use, drag & drop UI and Watson-powered rules advisor helps marketers understand how to use their data to create unique experiences for each customer.
  • Customer Experience Analytics: Watson’s cognitive reporting feature visualizes the customer journey across channels, and analyzes the specific actions that drive customer behavior at each journey stage.
  • Additional Tools: IBM also offers cognitive social and web analytic tools, a weather-trigger add-on for campaigns, and a vast number of 3rd party tools, apps, and services that are “Powered-by-Watson.”

What does Watson mean for the future of marketing?

The goal of AI is to make marketers smarter. Today’s consumer expects to be marketed to on their terms: What they want, when they want, how they want it. And customers are (generally) willing to share data about themselves if it means they will get a better experience. The effort required to efficiently analyze all the customer data that is now available, then draw accurate, actionable insights from the data is enormous. Often, marketing organizations need to dedicate entire teams to the functions of strategy, operations, and analytics – all to keep up with the changing demands of the modern consumer.

Watson-powered analytics look to remove the barriers between data, insight, and action, and the accompanying cloud-based marketing tech makes it possible to respond to new insights in real time. Watson’s content hub serves up AI-tagged images in channel-specific sizes and formats, making it easy to switch messaging content, and perform A/B/n testing, in minutes. While foundational tools like IBM Campaign and Interact will still provide valuable segmentation and messaging management, Watson’s power of insight paired with the ease-of-use and accessibility of IBM’s Marketing Cloud will change the way marketing functions in the following ways:

  1. Dramatically increased speed-to-market: With less reliance on traditional IT and data specialists to produce insights, marketers will be able to make data-driven, strategic decisions quickly and implement them in real time. Sophisticated content management and journey design tools will optimize the communication production process, and potentially eliminate lengthy strategy implementations.
  2. Decline of on premise hardware and support: On premise offerings, will still need client-owned hardware to support their functions, but the rest of Watson Marketing is Cloud based. This means that businesses can access the applications with just a browser and an internet connection – without investing in additional hardware to run it. With no hardware to maintain, organizations will be able to reduce costs with “on-demand” martech administration and support – like Covalent’s Managed Services offering.
  3. AI-driven Marketing Insights: Traditional marketing tools provide all the power, but none of the guidance. It is possible to process loads of business rules in real time, then serve up the resulting optimized offer – but it’s still up to marketers to sift through mountains of data to determine which rules to put in place. Now, Marketers will have the right information at the right time through Watson’s RTP tool, which analyzes campaign and customer data to make smart recommendations about potential segments and business rules, then offers predictive insight into their performance.
  4. Marketers will become Experience Designers: Marketing’s role will evolve to focus on creating customer journey and brand experiences through their efforts. Marketers will be free to focus on the creative elements of their position – storytelling, messaging, and strategy – rather than spreading themselves between strategic, operational, and administrative tasks. Technical skill will still play a role in using and understand the tools available, but intuitive and user-friendly design aims to put the power in the hands of the marketer.
  5. New Discoveries: As it continues to learn from experience with marketing organizations, Watson will unearth previously ‘undiscovered’ customer segments, behaviors, business rules, and more. Because of the vast amount of data Watson can process and its sophisticated learning abilities, the cognitive computer will undoubtedly discover new information that will help marketers – and possibly the world. Already, Watson is credited with diagnosing cancer at a significantly higher success rate than traditional doctors due to its ability to process, interpret, and draw insights from huge stores of data. When that same analytic power is applied to marketing and consumer data, it could completely change the way we look at marketing.

Watson’s achievements and capabilities are astounding. Yet AI will always need humans to guide and act upon its insights. Cognitive computing provides the framework to learn, connect, and store data, but Watson will never replace the human component – Instead, it aims to make it smarter.