NEW YORK – As brands look to compete in today’s market, identifying ways to connect with audiences is critical – especially since growth relies so heavily on the marketer’s ability to find better ways to meet the needs of customers, said Christi Olson, head of evangelism at Microsoft Advertising and Bing, during a keynote session at SMX West on Wednesday.
“Consumers want brands to help them, anticipating their needs and making their buying experience frictionless,” said Olson. “Our [Microsoft’s] goal is to help retailers become more competitive and deliver more engaging customer experiences that unlock new revenue and fuel future growth,” she added.
Customer journeys are also getting more complex and less linear, which means it’s more imperative than ever for advertisers to understand the advanced technologies and innovations that drive meaningful brand engagement.
Delivering value with AI
According to Olson, Microsoft is leaning heavily on artificial intelligence and machine learning to create better experiences for customers. One example is the Seeing AI app, which has helped over a million people with vision impairments read a menu in a restaurant or count out money when making a purchase. Another example includes the integration of AI into Microsoft Dynamics 365 products to help our customers manage information and tackle common business challenges. Moreover, AI can now help service teams quickly identify and resolve equipment issues remotely, or empower HR teams to land top candidates.
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“Creating better experiences for your customers, people you engage with is not about handing off your advertising to machines. At a time of advancing automation, creativity remains the essential differentiator of greater value than at any other point in human history,” Olson said.
To help organizations adopt AI-driven capabilities quickly and easily, Microsoft aims to integrate intelligence with the products and services that consumers already use daily. Olson said that Microsoft will be launching a new class of purpose-built Dynamics 365 AI solutions aimed at delivering out-of-the-box insights from unified data. That data can then be infused with advanced intelligence to support integrated team actions across sales, customer service, and marketing.
Personalization at scale
In our connected world, a user’s device is the key stepping stone to understanding the consumer, Olson said. Devices provide context, which helps marketers better understand what matters to a consumer in a particular location and at a particular time. The right message at the right moment is the next level in customer service and can turn intent into action.
Context also allows retailers to better than ever anticipate what a customer might need based on when, where and how they arrive at their site and help them decide how to respond to them. Consumers are always on the hunt for product information, deals, local availability and local discounts online. Retailers who don’t make efforts to supply the right, personalized information at the right time will lose out.
“As we think about this enormous opportunity, we at Microsoft see four key areas of opportunity for retail,” Olson explained. These include:
Know your customer. Deliver unforgettable customer experiences that make your brand stand out from the crowd.
Empower your employees. Provide your team with the tools that enable extraordinary customer service.
Deliver intelligent supply chain. Improve agility to reduce costs and drive customer satisfaction.
Reimagine your business. Stand out in today’s competitive retail environment by reinventing your business model, starting with the customers and working backward.
Uniting the Internet and the Intranet
One of the biggest challenges facing organization is the difficulty of finding and accessing company information through company intranets. Earlier this month, Microsoft introduced the new Microsoft Edge and Microsoft Bing for business.
Olson said Microsoft’s ambition is for Bing and Edge to deliver the best search and browser experiences for businesses and consumers alike. With enhanced capabilities like deep intranet integration, improved people search, and features that support business resources, Microsoft aims to make employee productivity more efficient and impactful.
Olson said Microsoft will be introducing even more features for the consumer audience in spring 2020.
Microsoft’s redesigned UI
The redesigned UI, explained Olson, enables advertisers to manage campaigns more easily with the following improvements:
Improved usability and navigation. The new online navigation includes more intuitive features for greater integration with Google Ads, saving advertisers more time when it comes to campaign management. Advertisers can use the new global menu to switch accounts, quickly access tools and settings like ad preview, shared library, conversion tracking, Google Import, and more.
Better organization of features. The new vertical page menu includes Ads & Extensions, Audiences, Experiments, and other features to deliver more streamlined access for advertisers. As advertisers navigate campaigns, page menus will adapt to only display the pages and data that are applicable to each campaign.
Modern look and feel. The new online experience is now more up to date and consistent with other Microsoft products.
Intelligent audience solutions
Currently, Microsoft Advertising offers intelligent audience solutions designed to help advertisers reach a target audience with a personalized ad experience at the right time.
These solutions include AI-driven targeting capabilities such as location, device, in-market audiences, Google Import, campaign-level associations, and more. Microsoft is currently piloting LinkedIn Profile Targeting, product audiences, similar audiences, and customer matches.
Eventually, Olson said, Microsoft plans to roll out customer combinations with “or” and “and” logic.
Amping up for new retail solutions
“For retailers to power great experiences on their website, search is critical,” Olson said.
With Intelligent Search, Microsoft aims to bring advertisers closer to understanding shopper intent with scale, intelligence, and AI. To do this, Olson pointed to Bing’s index that retailers can embed on their sites to grow visibility. Bing technology allows marketers to understand consumer behavior and trends while leveraging the power of machine learning and AI to help automatically optimize to boost conversion rates, Olson said.
As part of Microsoft’s vision to further unlock search for retailers, Intelligent Search will deliver personalized product recommendations through deep learning algorithms. Experimentation and custom rankings will help businesses achieve goals and drive up consumer satisfaction. Additionally, advertisers will have an improved ability to analyze transactional, behavioral, and demographic data from the sites.
Microsoft PromoteIQ, a vendor marketing solution that enables retailers to generate high-margin advertising revenue with their own advertising experiences, will become fully integrated with the Microsoft advertising platform. Currently in private preview, the PromoteIQ Network will allow retailers to scale commerce advertising revenue using an expanded integration with the Microsoft Advertising platform and sales teams, providing access to new channels to help retailers maximize monetization.
The age of digital marketing is
behind us, and our new reality—though it may at times seem daunting—is
marketing in the digital age. One in which marketers simply cannot find success
customers through single, traditional channels. Instead, brands must engage
with them on new and meaningful levels, wherever they are.
As Olson stated during her session, Microsoft is setting out “to help reimagine how [advertisers] serve customers and grow your business, deliver more engaging customer experiences that unlock new revenue and fuel future growth.”