How far are brands from conducting AI-driven marketing in China?

Having a good grasp of your first-party data is the first step to success.

In the world of digital marketing, tech giants in the West have been launching vigorous AI initiatives to promote brand safety, combat fake news and fight ad frauds with impressive initial results. Brands across multiple industries have also started adopting the technologies in their digital marketing initiatives. Can these be translated into success in China – the media landscape well known for its fragmentation and complexity?

The Chinese government’s conviction in developing robust AI capabilities with widespread applications – including in the realm of marketing – is obvious, as proven by frequent mentions of the topic in its nation-wide reports and strategies including the magnificent “One-belt-one-road” plan.

AI technology application in digital marketing is not something new in China indeed. Take our own marketing technology platform as an example. The platform’s core capabilities – including audience tracking, audience profiling, contextual data analytics, natural language processing and more – are all driven by various AI technologies like deep learning, predictive analytics and real-time matching. Albeit the strong AI technological capabilities, effective applications won’t be possible without the multi-dimensional, attribute-rich data at our platform, which size is growing every milli-second.

With the rapid progress made in AI technologies in the Chinese martech industry, I believe AI-driven marketing solutions will become more end-user-friendly in the not long future in China, accessible by marketers without the need of having expert knowledge or skillset in the field. Weaving AI technologies into marketing execution would be the way to go for brands and businesses, regardless of their size and scale.

Below are a few immediate benefits marketers can expect following AI technology adoption:

  1. Higher accuracy in decision making – by adopting AI technologies like predictive analytics, you can more precisely predict the interest and intent of your target customers in an intelligence-driven manner, leading to more effective and accurate marketing decision making.
  1. Higher efficiency in trend and mood monitoring – with the huge and ever-growing number of digital media and social media, monitoring news as well as shifts in trends and moods manually is no longer viable. With AI technologies, brands can algorithmically collect and analyse brand-related information in a real-time manner. This also helps develop actionable insights which would drive marketing decision making in a highly timely manner.
  1. Smarter interaction with target customers – supported by the rapid development in AR and VR technologies, we expect to see AR and VR applications in digital marketing, ecommerce and online retail very soon, leading to evolutionary changes in the way brands interact with their target audiences.

Before adopting AI technologies in full gear, brands and businesses should first get well prepared in the following realms:

  1. Having a solid foundation is key.

AI technologies won’t be helpful without a database of quality data, so start building it up today. The first step would be collecting and accumulating your own first-party data across online and offline. This includes data collected from target customers’ interactions with your website and social media accounts (such as like WeChat, Qzone, QQ and Weibo), data collected from your online and physical stores (if you have them in China), and so on.

  1. Learn from industry best practices

While you are advised to employ a capable DMP (data management platform) and analytics team to make sense of your first-party data collected (so to ensure data quality), consider hiring help from martech or data companies with local know-how and expertise. They can advise on how you can adopt AI in your marketing effort, from employing the technologies to actual marketing solutions.

  1. Keep calm and give it a try, backed by prudent strategies

While AI is now the hottest buzzword in digital marketing, it is not wise to just follow suit. Have prudent thoughts on the strategy, tactics and ROI measurements before pouring dollars in.

Dr. Jian Tang, Co-founder, CTO and COO, iClick Interactive

Nationally renowned specialist in ad tech, martech and big data in China with close to 20 years of solid academic and hands-on experience, whose focus has been the theory and practical application of AI technologies throughout his doctoral study and career life. Jian holds a Doctoral Degree in Computer Engineering from Tsinghua University. He frequently publishes articles in academic conferences and journals, and was named by Campaign Asia as one of the industry leaders in its Digital A-List in 2016.


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