– This article originally appeared on Forbes.
There’s no denying that artificial intelligence is rapidly moving from fiction to reality. In marketing, especially, interest in AI has intensified as marketers have realized the potential that intelligently harnessing the ever-growing streams of customer data has on transforming customer experiences.
AI has become increasingly important not only to marketers but to organizations as a whole in order to stay ahead in today’s dynamic market landscape. According to a recent MIT global survey of 600 executives, nine out of ten companies already use AI to improve their customer journeys. More importantly, 70% of those companies have seen it directly improve revenue. Netflix has projected that its AI-powered personalized recommendations save it $1B in revenue annually by avoiding canceled subscriptions through engaging customers with relevant content.
Fueling AI’s adoption has been marketers demanding to see — and receiving — proof that AI delivers what it promises. Early adopters have shown how AI in marketing makes them more efficient, productive, and effective by simplifying, accelerating, and scaling marketing initiatives while removing many complexities inherent in marketing today. Similarly, our recent benchmark analysis of 3.8B marketing interactions across channels and verticals found that AI-powered marketing campaigns increase customer engagement by 7x and revenue 3x by helping marketers be more targeted, more relevant in their content, and more effective with how they engage each individual customer.
Now, as we step into 2019, here are five predictions for what the year holds for AI in marketing.
1. AI will intelligently orchestrate the full customer journey. Marketers’ first venture into AI was at the top of the funnel for audience expansion and audience targeting. Moving forward, AI will increasingly power the full customer life cycle, from customer acquisition to engagement to retention. Forrester recently predicted that “more than 20% of marketing platforms will use AI to optimize midcycle engagement” for B2B marketing. That number will be far greater for B2C. Furthermore, AI will move from influencing just the edges of the customer experience, such as dynamic content insertion, to orchestrating its core.]
- What this means for marketers: AI-powered decision engines can solve the increasingly complex customer journey by optimizing, personalizing, and guiding every aspect of customers’ self-guided journeys with your brand. Yet only solutions with AI at their core that can unify all incoming customer data and use its insights to orchestrate decisions in real time can achieve this.
2. CMOs will challenge their teams to scale, and it will happen through AI. As marketing organizations’ demands and revenue targets continue to grow, CMOs will place increasing emphasis on leveraging technology to meet those demands. CMOs will challenge their teams to run more campaigns, add more personalization, and diversify their strategies by being smarter with their resources. Marketing organizations will quickly realize the only technology that can effectively streamline and scale how they work is AI.
- What this means for marketers: AI can be a partner that amplifies and accelerates your marketing strategies by automating and optimizing hyper-targeted, multi-stage, cross-channel marketing programs. Not only will this allow your team to move faster and produce more, but it will also enable you to find incremental opportunities for growth.
3. Marketers will get creative with how they use AI. As marketers begin to understand how AI can augment and amplify their efforts, we’ll see them leverage AI in innovative ways and start breaking status quo marketing practices. After the initial AI learning curve and period of laying the groundwork with strategy, processes, and people, marketers will start pushing the boundaries of their programs and experimenting with new strategies, taking a bigger leap every time.
- What this means for marketers: Beyond offloading mundane marketing tasks to AI, embrace the opportunity to reimagine your customer engagement strategies. With AI, new campaign ideas can go live in no time without significant resources and be readily optimized and pivoted.
4. Marketers will fully embrace AI because it stops being black box. Marketers want control of their marketing programs and need to be able to explain their marketing investments. But the first generation of AI marketing asked marketers to take a leap of faith. That’s why the recent Business Insider Intelligence report found that “when asked to choose which trending technology they felt most unprepared for, 34% of global marketing executives chose AI.” The growth in AI in 2019 and beyond will be fueled by “explainable AI” in which marketers can see what factors influence predictions and can control the parameters that guide AI.
- What this means for marketers: AI adoption will only accelerate, and it’s important to get started implementing AI now or risk falling behind and being leapfrogged in the future. Look for AI solutions that give you the level of control and the visibility into AI algorithms and workflows you need.
5. Marketing AI companies providing real ROI will emerge from the noise. Last year, Gartner analysts predicted that “by 2020, AI technologies will be virtually pervasive in almost every new software product and service.” We’re already seeing this prediction play out with a proliferation of marketing software providers — emerging and incumbent — adding AI to their product strategy and pivoting their messaging to claim AI capabilities. Yet not all marketing AI is created equal. This year, we’ll see more emphasis on separating real AI marketing solutions from fringe AI solutions. Gartner has already started helping marketers identify noteworthy AI solutions by introducing the first Cool Vendors report on AI for Marketing.
- What this means for marketers: As the “AI” label becomes standard, marketers will find it increasingly challenging to identify real AI solutions capable of effectively solving their problems. Marketers will need to be more vigilant with testing vendors’ claims to weed out masked AI solutions.
Lastly, one final prediction to add to the mix:
2019 will be a pivotal year in which marketers finally realize the ROI of AI. We’ll see AI’s mounting, tangible benefits move it from hype to mainstream. Will 2019 be the year you embrace AI?