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The people tasked with setting marketing strategy and artificial intelligence (AI) applications at retailers with at least $50 million in revenues are very confident in its transformational potential, according to an Emarsys-sponsored survey [download page] conducted by Forrester Consulting. In fact, 88% at least somewhat agree that AI marketing has or will reinvent their industry.

Not only will AI have a macro impact, but it will also change the way entire companies are run, per the survey. Among the 717 marketing decision-makers surveyed, 81% agreed to some extent (with almost half completely agreeing) that they are using AI marketing to reinvent what their company does.

What’s to be Excited About?

Marketers’ excitement at the potential for AI makes sense given the level of consensus about its potential benefits. Roughly 8 in 10 or more agree that AI will:

  • Make marketing teams more efficient (86%);
  • Make marketing teams more effective (86%);
  • Allow marketing staff to focus on value-generating tasks as AI automates workflow (82%); and
  • Change the role of marketing toward more strategic work (79%).

Moreover, 8 in 10 agree that AI marketing will revolutionize the marketer’s role.

Planned Use of AI Marketing Technologies

In investigating retail marketers’ plans surrounding these technologies, Emarsys and Forrester Consulting found that AI-enhanced advanced analytics (43%) and intelligent recommendation solutions (40%) lead the way in planned use.

The use of AI for recommendation engines has already begun, per separate research from Sailthru. That survey found that recommendation engines were the second-most used application for AI in retail marketing, behind only search.

Returning to the Emarsys research, marketing decision-makers’ most imminent AI plans relate to leveraging customer insights to map customer journeys, improving custom retention and loyalty using customer insights, and identifying or recognizing customers across channels or touchpoints. It’s easy to see why they will be turning to AI for advanced analytics…

Technical Skills Found Wanting

The biggest impediment to executing an AI marketing strategy right now is a lack of technical skills among internal staff. This is a challenge for two-thirds of respondents involved in setting the marketing strategy and AI, including more than one-third who deem it very challenging.

Similarly, close to two-thirds feel challenged by AI technologies being designed for data scientists and therefore not offering marketer-friendly UX capabilities.

Worth noting, however, is that while executives feel that internal skills are lacking, AI users themselves were far more confident in their ability to use the technology: just 29% felt that they lacked the necessary technical skills.

The full study can be downloaded here.

About the Data: The results are based on a survey of 717 retail business decision-makers in a marketing role involved in setting the marketing strategy and AI.

Respondents are from the US (42%), UK (15%), Germany (14%), France (14%) and Australia (15%). All respondents come from companies with at least $50 million in revenues, and 61% are from companies with at least 1,000 employees.

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