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Artificial intelligence (AI) is being hailed as one of the top trends impacting user experience over the next few years. How can AI be applied to retail? As it turns out, about two-thirds of retail marketers are using AI for marketing purposes, according to a new report from Sailthru [download page], with these marketers most commonly using AI in search.

Indeed, of the 66% using AI, more than one-third (37%) reported using it in search. Though the study doesn’t delve into further details on AI’s use in search, the importance of site search for retail site user experience suggests that it can be leveraged to improve site search capabilities.

AI also has applications for recommendation engines, with one-third of respondents who use AI noting that they’re using the technology to power recommendations for products and content. These can have significant influence in influencing purchases, according to earlier research.

Other currently-used applications for AI in digital retail include programmatic advertising (26%) and data science (26%), with fewer putting AI to use for marketing forecasting (14%) and chatbots (13%).

Most Exciting Innovations

AI has a seat at the table when it comes to the areas of innovation that retail marketers are excited for in 2017, cited by 11% of respondents as their most exciting area.

However, it takes a back seat to personalization, indicated as the most exciting area by twice as many respondents (22%). Indeed, a new study from Listrak [download page] argues that personalization has gone mainstream, noting 7 in 10 retailers studied served display ads featuring products that the analysts had browsed.

Other areas that retail marketers are excited about include data (11%), cross-channel (8%) and mobile (6%).

Interestingly, when respondents were asked separately about innovation in email, virtually all indicated that there is either lots of room (51%) or some room (45%) to innovate.

It makes sense that retailers would focus on making the most of email, considering that they expect it to be far and away the most effective channel for retaining existing customers this year. Not to be outdone, it’s also tied at the top (with digital advertising) of channels considered to be the most effective for driving new customers this year.

About the Data: The results are based on a survey conduced in January 2017 with 202 marketers, primarily representing brick-and-click retailers, e-commerce companies, and online marketplaces.

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