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Marketing to Machines: Understanding Purchasing Decisions

Lindsay Tjepkema
Lindsay Tjepkema , Global Head of Content , Emarsys

Machine-to-machine transactions have been around for a number of years, and mainstream industries such as Fin-Tech and Supply Chain Management have greatly benefited from the evolution of these transactions. Now, it’s consumer marketing’s turn to adopt artificial intelligence marketing (AIM), which will play a role in marketing to machines and machine-to-machine transactions going forward.

The Rise of Personal Digital Assistants

Consumers have a massive number of choices when it comes to buying, and they are increasingly too busy to sift through the ocean of brands and products. Consumers will depend on personal digital assistants (PDA) such as Siri, Cortana or Alexa to make their lives simple and easy. These PDAs will eventually become gatekeepers of consumer data. With an in-depth and pre-programmed view of their ‘virtual’ masters, they will be best placed to make the right choices. A true 360° view of the consumer starts here!

The Start of a Revolution

We are witnessing a shopping revolution, and every business needs to invest in AI or risk being left behind. However, AI is not a magic bullet, just as neither marketing nor purchasing decisions are black and white.

Online shopping

In reality, we have two types of purchasing decisions:

Essential buying – Common, basic necessities, such as cleaning products or groceries. For essentials, we will happily let the machines make the decisions for us, as long as they comply with our parameters regarding price, delivery time, or other special requirements. Machines based purely on the parameters set by the consumer will order these types of items without any input from their masters. The Internet of Things (IoT) has been around for a while, now it’s in our households. For example, very soon, Amazon Alexa will be able to order without consumers having to slap an Amazon Dash button whenever your roll of toilet paper runs out!

Emotional buying – Highly personal purchases that require an ‘emotional investment’, such as holidays, special items of clothing, home appliances, or tactile items. Consumers will set certain budgetary and time frame requirements, and PDAs will be able to create a short list for the customer based on their requirements, but the final decision will sit with the consumer. For example, buying a holiday requires legwork, scanning tons of websites comparing flights and hotels, all of which can now be taken care of by the PDA. Based on their emotional reaction as they review the PDA’s shortlist, consumers will choose their preferred destination. In this context, the machines complete 50% of the transaction; a human does the final 50%. This is where good old marketing messaging plays its part!

An Art and a Science

Marketers have to recognise the fact that they will increasingly be marketing to machines one way or the other, whether they like it or not. Hence, in a 100% machine-based transaction, such as “essential buys”, nice images and emotional content are not going to cut it. The best algorithm will win!

On the other hand, “emotional buys” will never be based on 100% machine transactions.  Therefore, you need AI to get you shortlisted, and then a marketer’s touch and creativity will be a crucial factor in influencing the purchase decision. This will be the perfect combination of art and science.

Final Thoughts

Similar to the IoT a few years ago, the opportunity for brand owners and leadership teams is to understand and harness AI marketing ahead of their competitors. The opportunity for marketers is to shift the burden from them to AI, make engagements with consumers a truly personal interaction, scale it to a wide audience and deliver on the objectives that the business has set them.

Interested in learning more about how Emarsys utilizes Artificial Intelligence Marketing Services in our B2C Marketing Cloud? Head here.

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