"That hype leads to misunderstanding and excessive expectations and excessive fear," says Andrew Burgess, author and independent advisor on AI. Burgess helps major organisation develop AI strategies and create a road map for its adoption.
A study by professional services organisation PWC found that 72% of businesses view AI as offering "business advantage". Burgess largely agrees and says his role is "to make AI boring".
"AI is some clever mathematics that can benefit your business," Burgess adds. He says technology marketers need to break down AI to "what it can actually do for you, which is hard".
AI is becoming a necessity for marketeers though. The sheer amount of data that is available to organisations poses a challenge. The Digital Universe study estimates that in the next 12 months there will 5,200 gigabytes of data for every individual on the planet and data levels are doubling every two years. With the rise of connected devices not all of this data is associated to human activity and may not therefore be of use to marketing, but the amount of human generated data is increasing year-on-year.
Analysing an ever rising tide of data will continue to be a problem for technology marketeers. Thus AI will become essential if marketers are to be able to understand customers and anticipate the customer's next move and ensure they are offered the best journey.
"With AI you can never have too much data. The challenge is making sense of it all and this is where the data scientists come in. Otherwise all that time, effort and compute is wasted, so you have to some level of intelligence about what you are going to put into your AI usage," Burgess says.
Driving the increase in data levels is the wider, and increasing, number of data channels open to marketing, including social media, voice activated devices and smart buildings.
The automation abilities of AI gives technology marketers a valuable ally. AI can analyse keyword searches and social profiles. These time consuming tasks are prone to error when human operated and can be time consuming and thus expensive.
With the rising importance of content in the marketing battle to identify customers, the ability of AI to identify and profile a potential candidate ensures organisations are providing relevant content to relevant audiences. Most of us are already aware of, comfortable with and enjoying the recommendation technology used by online movie service Netflix, the clustering algorithm technology used by Netflix is making its way into marketing departments to ensure customers are gaining maximum value from their relationship with your organisation, just as they do their Netflix subscription.
The same technologies can also identify customers about to churn and move to a rival provider. Research by management consultancy Bain & Company found that in financial services a five percent increase in customer retention delivers a 25 percent increase in profit.
AI is present in the cloud computing technologies widely used in the modern enterprise. Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS and Google all provide AI as a core part of their cloud computing offering.
"2019 will continue to see this trend expand, with mainstream businesses building AI into their digital strategies. The biggest uptake will be where businesses apply a level ofintelligence - though not high intelligence - to business processes," says Simon Evans, CTO of Amido a technology consultancy that has helped online retailer ASOS with its use of AI for fashion recommendations to customers.
Industry watchers describe AI as offering technology marketers a way to "amplify human intelligence". Just as computerising the organisation has improved decision making, AI will be the next phase in improved decision making.
With data levels and sources increasing AI offers technology marketers the opportunity to connect up disparate data sets and resources. Once connected the marketing teams will be able to analyse the results to understand the customer journey and increase revenue from focusing on the correct channels to market. For those focusing on customer retention, AI enables the technology marketer to prototype a customer journey and discover where interactions fail and remedy them.
AI will not be a silver bullet that will suddenly profile and personalise every customer interaction, delivering an increased marketing return on investment. Customers are increasingly aware of the way technology captures their data and they are taking precautions. Across the globe a slew of regulations are giving consumers control of their data back to them. This began in Europe with the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) that came into full force in 2018 and is being widely copied in the North and South of the Americas as well as the Asia Pacific region.
10 countries across the globe are passing new regulations that are in-line or in some cases almost identical to GDPR. In 2020 the Consumer Privacy Act comes into force in California and legal experts expect similar regulations to be adopted across the USA, creating in effect a national regulatory framework. As a result, data and information governance is driving security standards and implementations.
"The regulations are good and they are positive for business," says Rich Harper, Vice President Professional Services for NTT Communications.
As ever the regulations are following citizen behaviour. Back in 2015 the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School of Communications in a major study found that 91% of customers don't want organisations collecting their information in exchange for a discount.
Technology marketers also need to be wary of over reliance on the data and technology. Marketing departments have always been seen as the more human side of the sales process. As the custodians of the relationship between a brand and its customer, the teams will have to walk a fine line between analysis and creepy damage.