Information Technology

Retailers are ready for AI marketing but technical skills hamper mainstream adoption

By Emarsys
Information Technology
Published: 12 July 2017

Emarsys has announced today the findings of a commissioned study – conducted by Forrester Consulting – on Artificial Intelligence (AI) Marketing Readiness in the retail and e-commerce industries. The study, entitled ‘Building Trust and Confidence: AI Marketing Readiness in Retail and e-Commerce’, sought to understand if there is still a gap between the readiness of AI marketing solutions to execute on real-time B2C marketing campaigns, and the readiness of marketing tech users and business decision makers to adopt AI marketing technology. Businesses polled across US, UK, Germany, France and Australia had revenues from at least $50m to more than $5bn.

The study highlighted that marketers and business decision makers polled believe AI-powered marketing will shift the role of marketing toward more strategic work (79%) and make marketing teams more efficient (86%) and effective (86%), as well as enabling them to focus on value-generating tasks as AI automates workflows (82%) and reinventing the way that marketers work (82%). However, it also flagged that 70% of business decision makers believe that their marketing team lacks the technical skills to leverage AI marketing technology, and don’t necessarily understand AI marketing, which are both potential barriers to mainstream adoption of AI marketing technology.

What we believe is also clear from the study and other Forrester reports cited is that AI marketing enhances personalisation of omnichannel customer experiences as consumers interact with retail brands across various touchpoints. This is paving the way for retailers to leverage AI marketing to personalise the customer journey (54%) and better understand customer behaviours (54%). However, this means that nearly one in two retail brands are missing out on the valuable personalisation capabilities that AI marketing offers.

“For retailers to harness the value of AI marketing and combat competitive threats, such as Amazon’s growth into adjacent markets, requires a clear understanding of how AI can change the marketer’s role, as well them challenging the misconception that adopting such technology requires technical skills,” said Allen Nance, CMO at Emarsys. “We believe that an easy-to-use AI marketing user experience that is based on tangible business and marketing outcomes and delivers true personalisation at scale, is fundamental to successful mainstream adoption. Also, business decision makers who realise the low-risk, high-return nature of AI marketing, as well as how to prepare their organisations for it, will be leaps and bounds ahead of the competition.”

Opportunities for retail and e-commerce organisations identified in the study include the ability for AI to transform the role of marketers; the ability for AI to drive continuous CX evolution; and AI marketing maturity providing competitive differentiation. 88% of those polled agree or strongly agree that AI marketing will reinvent the retail industry and 81% of them believe AI marketing will reinvent what their company does.

With regards to planning, investment and timelines, 78% of retail organisations polled said spend on AI marketing technologies will increase over the next 12 months by at least 5% or more. On average, three out of five retail and e-commerce firms polled expect to implement AI marketing technologies within the next 12 months, but 63% of all those polled said it will take more than 3 years to fully leverage AI marketing. However, 54% of ‘experts’ believe it will take less than two years.

The Forrester study states: “Expectations for dramatically improved CX are driving retail investments in omnichannel technologies that provide competitive differentiation beyond core products and services. As retailers pursue more advanced capabilities, artificial intelligence (AI) technologies provide innovative opportunities for retail marketers. It is, therefore, mission-critical for retail decision-makers to understand how ready their organisations are to embrace AI technologies with the potential to propel them forward as industry leaders.”

Only a handful of retail organisations (11%) are considered ‘experts’ in the AI marketing readiness domain, and they are strategically and organisationally prepared to leverage AI technology innovations to enjoy its business benefits, whilst >25% are considered ‘laggards’. Top objectives cited for wanting AI marketing included driving revenue (#1) and better serving customers (#2), whilst the top ways retailers plan to use AI marketing were led by AI-enhanced advanced analytics (43%) and intelligent recommendations (40%)

Respondents from 717 businesses surveyed for the study in US, UK, Germany, France and Australia had revenues from at least $50m to more than $5bn.