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Most Marketers Say They Understand AI, but the Details Are Hazy

Very few consider themselves experts

September 19, 2017

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been invoked by everyone from Elon Musk, who warns the technology could spell the end of humanity, to labor analysts, who caution it could bring an end to most jobs. But what, exactly, does the phrase mean to marketers?

AI firm GumGum polled marketing and advertising executives in North America in June 2017 to take their temperature on how the technology was being incorporated into their efforts. GumGum’s survey used an admittedly broad definition of AI, one that included programmatic advertising.

Nonetheless, the firm reported that 61% of respondents were either generally aware of AI or had an understanding of its potential applications. But only 3% considered themselves experts in the area.

The survey also found that chatbots had the deepest level of adoption among those polled. Twenty-seven percent of respondents said their companies used the conversation programs “a lot,” while 28% used them “a little,” with the remainder not using them at all.

Usage of Select Marketing Technologies at Their Company According to Advertising and Marketing Executives in North America, June 2017 (% of respondents)

Marketing and advertising executives also said their companies had dipped their toes into both automated personalized content, used “a little” by 62% of respondents, and predictive analytics, used “a little” by 60%. But fewer respondents were using either of those technologies with the same high-level frequency as chatbots.

Advertisers and marketers are understandably focused on aspects of AI more closely related to carrying out campaigns. GumGum’s poll found that 58% of respondents said their companies expected to deploy automated personalized content next year, while 52% planned to do the same with predictive analytics.

In theory, AI might have a stronger appeal among groups like retailers, who can find more practical applications for it. Chatbots, for example, could be used as a customer relationship management (CRM) tool to provide a range of services, such as giving consumers product information during the research phase or helping to resolve problems after a sale has been made.

But there’s data to suggest that many decision-makers in retail don’t think AI technology is developed enough for widespread deployment. A Linc survey of US retail executives from May 2017 found that only 7.7% of respondents said AI plays a regular role in their customer service efforts.

A variety of reasons were given in the Linc survey for why uptake of AI remained slow. More than a third said AI conversational interfaces, such as chatbots and voice assistants, were not yet sophisticated enough to serve their needs. Some said they lacked the technological resources to support AI, while others felt consumers were not yet ready to adopt such services.

Rahul Chadha


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