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The simplest definition of predictive marketing is fairly obvious – predicting future consumer wants and needs to ensure you’re always delivering and staying ahead of competitors.

And here’s a more clinical definition: “Predictive marketing is the strategic use of existing customer datasets to identify patterns and anticipate future customer behaviors, sales trends and marketing outcomes.”

But what are those customer datasets? And how much can they really tell you? It depends on the tools you’re using.

People Are Complex – Are Your Tools Up to the Task?

Can you imagine catering to consumers based on the demographic structures of yesteryear? (We really hope not!). Assuming every man, or woman, or Millennial, or Baby Boomer, or mom, or schoolteacher, or Wall Street trader each shared the same interests based on those titles alone would be a quick trip to the bottom of your industry.

Today’s consumers expect brands to know them on a personal level – and they know technology and social media make it possible.

At the same time, they don’t want brands to come across as pushy or intrusive. That’s a fine line to walk.

Sentiment analysis of social media and other consumer data is how modern brands uncover the information consumers expect brands to have – as well as the unexpected insights that delight them. But even sentiment analysis tools require a certain degree of sophistication to bring next level results.

Here’s what brands need to stay ahead of consumers’ always shifting preferences and trends:

Natural Language Processing (NLP)

Though this isn’t new technology, NLP’s capabilities have expanded with the help of Next Generation AI technology, inspired by consumers’ expanding expectations.

We’ve moved far beyond simply knowing whether social consumers are conversing in English, French, or Farsi. We’ve also shot past the idea that sentiment only comes in two flavors: positive or negative.

What NLP does today is far more nuanced and rich – taking everything from text, language, emojis, and images into consideration, to produce a complex emotional portrait of social audiences.

Next Generation Artificial Intelligence

And what AI Analytics offer is a layered approach designed to deliver a layered result – by combining the strengths of three AI technologies to cover every bit of ground.

Bringing expert systems, machine learning, and deep learning together allows for more meaningful data extraction – without losing time, accuracy, or control of your data. In fact, with best-in-class tools (like NetBase’s), the data is still transparent enough to zoom in to the single-post level for precision understanding of your customers.

So where older, outdated tools might identify surface insights like, “Moms care about quality and price when shopping for their families,” AI-boosted analytics would bring you an array of specifics speaking to the true passion driving this audience. For example:

  • Moms are grateful for healthy foods that don’t contain harmful chemicals or added sugars
  • Dads demand recognition for often fulfilling the traditional “mom” role in modern families
  • Parents and grandparents feel joy in providing priceless experiences for their charges – not just material gifts

The italicized words are just a few of the many emotions that indicate passion – which is far more informative than simple likes or dislikes.

Part of predicting the future desires of your target audience is performing emotional triage. Are you going to throw all your resources at creating a product they talk about apathetically? Of course not.

If you’re going to pave a new road for consumers to walk down, you need to get dialed into the things they crave. You want to create things they can’t imagine living without once they have them. And you want them to be amazed that you heard them when they made an innocent wish on social months ago.

Here’s a look at Sentiment Attributes for a search on Qdoba, Chipotle, and Moe’s Southwest Grill:

Looking further at these attributes reveals awesome competitive analysis – like how psyched some diners are for the new vegan options at Qdoba, while others are turned off by wage theft issues being mismanaged by Chipotle.

If you’re a restaurant brand in the fast casual space, this is the kind of sentiment that should have you thinking ahead to whether your own audience would appreciate a similar move (vegan options, obviously) – or something entirely different, but just as innovative.

Predict and Lead

Predictive marketing isn’t about joining the ranks after everyone else has done something. It’s about leading the way – delighting the audience you have while attracting a new one as well. Predictive marketing brought us the iPhone – and no matter how many competitors have emerged with their own versions, only one gets to claim putting the first smartphone on the market.

They couldn’t have done that with outdated analytics, or a semi-reliable understanding of what motivates consumers. And whatever your goals, you won’t achieve them that way either. That’s not a prediction – it’s a guarantee.

So upgrade your analytic power and meet your audience where they want to be – they’ll be thrilled you beat them there.

For more on Artificial Intelligence Analytics, check out the rest of our AI Series:

Want a closer looks at our AI Analytics tools? Schedule a customized demo and we’ll show you everything they can do!