While artificial intelligence is becomes a major new tool for marketers, nearly one in two retailers are missing out on leveraging AI marketing to better understand customer behaviours, according to new research.
The study, conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Emarsys, looked at the growing role of AI in the retail and ecommerce industries.
In an industry that’s thought to be going through a ‘creativity crisis’, there’s some good news for retail marketers amongst the findings:
- Respondents believe AI in marketing will shift the role of marketing toward more strategic work (79 per cent)
- …it will make marketing teams more efficient (86 per cent) and effective (86 per cent)
- …and it will enable them to focus on value-generating tasks as AI automates workflows (82 per cent) and reinventing the way that marketers work (82 per cent)
The study, entitled ‘Building Trust and Confidence: AI Marketing Readiness in Retail and e-Commerce1’, 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 found there are big plans for AI in retail moving forward – and with high expectations:
- AI technology is going to feature in the plans of retailers quite significantly over the next year – 78 per cent of retail organisationssaid spend on AI marketing technologies will increase over the next 12 months by at least 5 per cent or more. That actually goes up to 80 per cent in the UK.
- 88 per cent of retailers agreed AI marketing will reinvent the retail industry
- …whilst 81 per cent of them believe AI marketing will reinvent what their company does
- 55 per cent of retailers describe their AI marketing initiatives as part of a broader business transformation they’re going through at the moment
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 per cent) and make marketing teams more efficient (86 per cent) and effective (86 per cent), as well as enabling them to focus on value-generating tasks as AI automates workflows (82 per cent) and reinventing the way that marketers work (82 per cent). However, it also flagged that 70 per cent 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 personalization 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 personalize the customer journey (54 per cent) and better understand customer behaviors (54 per cent). However, this means that nearly one in two retail brands are missing out on the valuable personalization 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 personalization at scale, is fundamental to successful mainstream adoption. Also, business decision makers who realize the low-risk, high-return nature of AI marketing, as well as how to prepare their organizations for it, will be leaps and bounds ahead of the competition.”
Opportunities for retail and ecommerce organizations 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 per cent of those polled agree or strongly agree that AI marketing will reinvent the retail industry and 81 per cent of them believe AI marketing will reinvent what their company does.
With regards to planning, investment and timelines, 78 per cent of retail organizations polled said spend on AI marketing technologies will increase over the next 12 months by at least 5 per cent or more. On average, three out of five retail and ecommerce firms polled expect to implement AI marketing technologies within the next 12 months, but 63 per cent of all those polled said it will take more than 3 years to fully leverage AI marketing. However, 54 per cent of ‘experts2’ 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 organizations are to embrace AI technologies with the potential to propel them forward as industry leaders.”
Only a handful of retail organizations (11 per cent) are considered ‘experts’ in the AI marketing readiness domain, and they are strategically and organizationally prepared to leverage AI technology innovations to enjoy its business benefits, whilst >25 per cent 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 per cent) and intelligent recommendations (40 per cent)
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.