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10 things marketers need to know about AI

James A. Martin | Feb. 24, 2017
AI-enabled marketing isn't just about cute chatbots. Here's what CMOs, CIOs and others need to know to make the most of AI in their marketing initiatives in 2017 and beyond.

3. Chatbots and virtual assistants -- 'the face' of AI marketing

When it comes to consumer-facing AI that brands can use for marketing purposes, chatbots and virtual assistants like Siri are getting most of the attention - both from consumers and marketers.

"Bots generate a lot of excitement because they're very science-fiction-like, and virtual assistants attract attention because of their human interactions," says Ed See, a principal with Deloitte Digital's Digital Marketing and Customer Analytics group.

They're generating a fair amount of spending, as well. In 2017, marketers will collectively spend more than $250 million on these types of virtual agents and other "conversational technologies," according to a November 2016 Gartner report.

Gartner also predicts that mobile search queries performed via virtual assistants will grow from 20 percent to more than 50 percent by the end of 2017. Screenless devices such as Amazon's Echo will be in more than 10 million homes by year-end 2017 and "account for a growing share of commercial traffic," according to the report. And by 2020, Gartner projects that virtual agents will participate in most commercial interactions between people and businesses.

4. A glut of AI marketing technology, but integration lags

Aside from chatbots and virtual assistant platforms from Google, Facebook and others, AI-assisted marketing technology entails software with machine learning models designed to automate, target, and personalize marketing initiatives.

In a report published late last year, Forrester highlighted the efforts of vendors like Adobe, Google, IBM, Persado, Salesforce and Squirro for "embedding cognitive computing capabilities into their solutions."

"This isn't just technology for technology's sake," Forrester wrote. "AI will drive faster business decisions in marketing, ecommerce, product management and other areas of the business by helping close the gap from insights to action."

Salesforce notes that its Einstein AI technology is "built into the core of the Salesforce platform." Meanwhile, IBM's Watson AI technology is being put to work in various marketing campaigns and products.

 For example, last year, global communications company Havas Group announced a technology partnership with IBM called Havas Cognitive to help "brands tap into artificial intelligence data and use it more effectively," according to an Adweek report. TD Ameritrade, an early adopter of the technology, created what Adweek called the "first cognitive marketing program," which was targeted to football fans.

Examples of these types of pilot projects are proliferating, but experts caution that these are still the early days in terms of AI-enabled marketing technologies. While nearly every major marketing technology vendor offers "some flavor" of AI, the integration and orchestration across the various offerings simply "isn't there yet," See explains.

But it's coming. "In the next few years, we're going to see AI and machine learning become part of the core 'fabric' of software platforms in the marketing industry," says Dharmesh Shah, co-founder and CTO of HubSpot, an inbound marketing and sales software provider. "In the coming years, artificial intelligence will feel a lot more intelligent and a lot less artificial. It'll be a natural part of many of the technologies we use."

 

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