Machine learning and AI are expected to be big with retailers in the coming year, as more than 86% of CMO’s say they are planning to invest in it in 2017, according to a study by Persado that was emailed to Retail Dive.
Almost half (47%) of respondents said they plan to invest up to $50 million in the technology, while a quarter plan to spend over $100 million on it. Effective customer engagement topped the list of benefits that marketers hope to receive from an investment in AI, where engagement "is considered foremost as a driver of revenue (37%) and to a much lesser extent, brand awareness (13%)," the report states.
Despite the possibility of using technology to drive personalization, only 22% of those surveyed felt skilled at emotionally engaging customers through their content, something the researchers believe might be a result of data collection that is limited to demographic and location data.
There’s no question that AI is a growing field for retailers. With the increasing popularity of Amazon’s Alexa, and the home assistant market more generally, AI is on the rise.
According to Persado’s study, which surveyed over 100 marketing leaders, we can expect to see much more AI in the future. Even now, 45% of retailers plan to start using AI in the next three years and the technology is already being used for other purposes, such as helping to fight retail fraud.
However, retailers’ aims for the tech seem focused on ways to improve customer engagement by providing customers with relevant and personalized experiences, according to the study. That being said, marketers don’t seem to think they’re very good at it. The study found that — on a scale of 0 to 4 — marketers felt they were least effective at: tailoring product recommendations (2.85), segmentation (2.53), offer personalization (2.49) and personalizing content (2.13).
"Most major retailers have more data than they know what to do with or have the capacity to process," Ryan Deutsch, senior vice president of Global Customer Success at Persado said in a press release emailed to Retail Dive. "AI and machine learning allow marketers to generate insights for sure, but the key is to leverage the machine towards a particular purpose, and to one that actually drives results."
That might be more difficult than it seems for retailers looking to use AI, though. Even with artificial intelligence being one of the hottest tech trends of 2016, and chatbots playing an increasingly important role in how retailers deal with customer service, the tech is not without its flaws. Mobile engagement marketing firm Vibes released a study in March that showed that only 22% of consumers have actually engaged with a chatbot, suggesting that the tech isn’t as popular or effective as retailers might hope.
AI certainly isn’t going away, but in order to see results, marketers will have to put more time and effort into refining and personalizing the experience.