Recent Investments From Oracle And Salesforce Signal AI May Be Ready To Impact Marketing

Published: September 28, 2016

Recent pushes by both Salesforce and Oracle into the artificial intelligence (AI) space have stirred conversations around its potential in the B2B landscape. Both companies are expecting AI to provide users technology that can continuously learn and adapt to enhance how marketing and sales teams produce and execute campaigns.

With the ability to make intelligent decisions based on data and behavior triggers, Oracle states that it will help users streamline business tasks and provide them with individualized recommendations for engaging with prospective customers. The announcement, named Adaptive Intelligent Applications, was made at the company’s annual OpenWorld Conference and came shortly after Salesforce unveiled its Einstein project, which will incorporate AI into its core cloud offerings.

Both moves highlight the growing importance of analytics within B2B organizations, and advancements in technology position users to maximize the data they are gathering from target accounts and buyers.

The moves may also be connected to buyer needs. In a study conducted by Marketing ID (a sister publication to Demand Gen Report), one-third (33%) of marketers surveyed say their top budget priority will be predictive tools, slightly more than CRM integration (31%) and campaign reporting and metrics (31%).

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Industry experts noted that AI will provide users with insights into customer activities they haven’t had access to previously. Denis Pombriant, Managing Principal at Beagle Research Group, LLC, said it will help marketers identify “moments of truth,” which are points in the buying process when customers have legitimate reasons to expect something from a brand, product or company.

“Moments of truth are specific to a situation such as making a return, a purchase or getting assistance,” said Pombriant, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “They are also idiosyncratic. For instance, the expectation of ease of use is nebulous and defined by the customer, not the vendor. But vendors can accumulate customer data (i.e. big data) and [analyze] it to discover moments of truth, and also develop metrics to help them assess how well they’re performing within those moments.

Pombriant noted that the payoff for brands and marketers is improved customer experience and customer satisfaction. “This happiness spreads and turns to better engagement, loyalty, advocacy and profits,” said Pombriant. “So, as you can see, this is not a small advance.”

Now that tech providers such as Salesforce and Oracle are moving into the AI space, B2B marketing and sales teams will “finally see the realization of how analytics can assist with faster decision-making, better A/B testing and campaigns, and improved market intelligence,” according to R “Ray” Wang, Founder of Constellation Research, a strategic advisory firm.

Wang highlighted seven factors that make AI more possible in today’s B2B tech landscape:

  • Large corpus of data;
  • Massive computing power;
  • Recommendation engines;
  • Time;
  • Awesome math talent;
  • Industry-specific expertise; and
  • Natural user interface and experience.

Many of these factors rely heavily on one another, such as the amount of time it takes to compute all this data.

“We see seven factors, but keep in mind, in the 1990s, a simple optical character recognition of just the letter A would take a week. That’s just capital A. The lowercase would be another week,” said Wang. “Now, with the power of the cloud, we can get there.”

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