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January 7, 2019

How Marketing Is Better With AI

By Ariella Brown, Zylotech

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It is a truth nearly universally acknowledged that a comprehensive marketing strategy must include AI. Most marketers know that AI is the wave of the future. Yet a disconnect persists between that aspiration and the actual number of AI users. Nevertheless, current trends indicate that CMOs and CIOs will have a meeting of minds on the benefits of committing to AI, and businesses will soon reap the benefits.

Recent research from the IBM Institute for Business Value found that the overwhelming majority -- 91 percent -- of marketers at successful companies believe AI plays a central role in their continued success. Yet, the same research shows that only around 25 percent say they currently make use of it.

While a quarter falls far short of the 91 percent, it still is better than four percent, which is the number that appeared in Gartner’s 2018 CIO Agenda Survey. The survey found that only four percent of CIOs have implemented AI in 2017.

However, that pitifully low number does not tell the whole story. The same survey reported that 46 percent of CIOs said they have plans to implement AI. So adding up ones who already have it with the ones who are indicating a commitment to adopting AI yields 50 percent getting on board for the tech in 2017.>

That number appears to grow on the marketing side to 60 percent in 2018, according to a BrightEdge survey of enterprise marketers. Clearly, interest in AI is on the rise both for the CIO and the CMO at forward-thinking companies that have demonstrated that it contributes directly to their success.

In fact, the McKinsey Global Institute Study, Artificial Intelligence, The Next Digital Frontier devotes a full 80 pages to exploring the different ways in which it can be implemented in various business operations. It found that many businesses have already reaped the advantages and pointed out “that serious adopters have significantly higher projected margins than others.”

What’s key to the improved profitability, though, is a full commitment built on “a strong digital starting point,” the report warns. This is why it is necessary for the CMO to get the CIO to embrace the digital transformation that needs to be in place for effectively leveraged AI.

What’s holding them back? McKinsey’s survey found that 41 percent identified “uncertain return on investment” as the most significant obstacle they faced in getting their firms on board for AI.

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But if done right, the return is not uncertain at all, and it’s up to marketers to demonstrate their business case. They can cite some of the figures in the report, for starters.

Sales will go up with AI-enhanced marketing. “Insights-based selling, including personalized promotions, optimized assortment, and tailored displays, could increase sales by 1 to 5 percent,” the report says. Even more impressive is the potential 30 percent growth in sales that can result from “this kind of personalization, combined with dynamic pricing” for internet sales.

The McKinsey report cites the example of Stitch Fix, the personal shopping service that can figure out what a customer wants even if they fail to describe it. Its algorithm reviews the images they favor on Pinterest to get a sense of their taste.

Even retailers who sell in physical stores stand to benefit from AI-enhanced marketing. The report anticipates that “virtual assistants could identify repeat customers using facial recognition, analyze their shopping history to make suggestions, and communicate in a conversational way using natural-language processing and generation.”

Some establishments are already exploring these possibilities, tapping into the power of machine learning and computer vision to deliver responsive, personalized experiences to virtual assistants presented as holograms or to dynamic shop windows. With AI, it’s possible to tap into digital data while presenting an impressive in-person experience that’s a far cry from the static setups associated with old-school retail.

Whether a business faces its customers primarily in-store or online, AI can effectively turn out data in real time making its marketing a lot more personalized and a lot more effective. With the CIO and CMO both on the same page about full commitment to AI, they are set on the path to greater profitability that all successful companies will be taking.

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