Artificial intelligence as a self-learning marketing adviser

Finland's Sellforte start-up and newcomer to Hamburg eyeing international market
03 May 2022
Shopping in downtown Hamburg

Artificial intelligence (AI) counts among the most promising and financially viable technologies of the future. The global turnover of AI-based business applications is expected to hit USD 31.2 billion by 2025, Statista has estimated. The applications can be found in diverse fields from human-machine interaction, automation, medicine to marketing. There, it is used mainly in data analysis followed by optimisation, testing as well as on-site personalisation, i.e., targeting individual visitors to a website or an online shop. The Finnish start-up Sellforte and newcomer to Hamburg has developed a platform for optimising marketing tools and investments based on AI.

Which marketing investments pay off?

Founded in 2017 by Dr Mikko Ervasti, Juha Nuutinen and Teppo Luukoonen in Helsinki, the company now employs 45 people including data scientists, software developers and customer access managers, and serves clients in the retail, consumer goods and telecommunications sectors in 18 countries. Sellforte is now going international from its launching pad in Hamburg. Volkmar Fölsch, who heads Sellforte's branch in the German-speaking region, outlined the idea behind the business model: "Sellforte helps companies better understand the return on investment (ROI) of their marketing investments. That sounds trivial, but it is not. There are multiple approaches each of which has advantages and disadvantages, but most importantly limits." The start-up is now pooling information from three fields for data analysis: "All data from online and offline marketing. That alone results in a large, and above all, unordered amount of data, which we bundle and structure on our platform," Fölsch noted. Then there is financial data as well as facts and figures from the real world. "That includes socio-demographic data and weather data, which has a significant influence on the buying behaviour of customers."

Lake Alster's fountain
© Yvonne Scheller
Weather influnces shopping sprees
Dr. Mikko Ervasti, Juha Nuutinen, Volkmar Fölsch, Teppo Luukkonen
© Sellforte
Dr. Mikko Ervasti, Juha Nuutinen, Volkmar Fölsch, Teppo Luukkonen (from l. to r.)

Tailored growth recommendations in real time

The wealth of data is continuously analysed using data science and AI to identify causalities. Which marketing activity led to how much turnover? How can customised growth recommendations be developed in real time? "Our platform acts like an automatic, self-learning marketing adviser that helps marketers with their decisions,"  Fölsch noted. AI is ideal for that task. "One of AI's greatest strengths lies in pattern recognition within large amounts of data, such as those that we bundle on our platform." But can the technology of the future actually live up to the great expectations? Dr Maik Kleinschmidt, Director of Marketing Europe at C&A with responsibility for the entire European marketing communication and strategy, commented: "We introduced Sellforte in our domestic German market and are so pleased with the results and findings that we will roll out the tool in other European countries over the coming months." Based on Sellforte's findings, C&A revised the distribution of its marketing budget for the next fiscal year. "We are quite certain that this will increase the effectiveness and ROI of our marketing investments compared to the original plan," said Kleinschmidt.


ARIC - transferring knowledge between stakeholders

The telecommunications provider, Sunrise UPC, become Sellforte's most recent client in the German-speaking speaking region. And more are likely to follow soon with the help of the Artificial Intelligence Center Hamburg (ARIC) which bundles cross-application AI skills used in corporations, administrations and science. ARIC has set itself the goal of putting Hamburg on the international AI map through cross-border events and collaborations. Sellforte became the first Finnish company to join last year. "We promote the exchange of AI in marketing on a European level by co-operating with Sellforte. We are looking forward to new German-Finnish projects and linking up both innovation ecosystems," said Alois Krtil, Managing Director and joint founder of ARIC. Fölsch noted: "Hamburg is an attractive location for Sellforte because the business behaviour and mindset is very similar to that in Finland. It is an attractive business centre with industries that represent our target groups. Retail first and foremost with companies like the Otto Group, but also agencies and media companies." ARIC's regular events offer a great opportunity for cross-industry exchange on a high level, he added.