As the hype around artificial intelligence (AI) is ramping up, businesses have started to look for ways to put this technology to work to improve their business results. But for now, the implementation cost and lack of understanding have been major barriers to adoption.
There is much confusion in the business and marketing world around AI technology and the terminology used to describe it. Terms like machine learning, deep learning, and cognitive computing are often used interchangeably, although there are slight differences among them. In reality, AI is applied math and statistics.
Although businesses are beginning to implement AI technologies, many business owners and executives still think of AI in many different ways. In its most broadly understood definition, AI involves the ability of machines to emulate human reasoning, human thinking, and decision-making. And when advanced natural language platform Narrative Science asked US business executives how they define AI, 31% said it is “technology that thinks and acts like humans.” Other conceptions included “technology that can learn to do things better over time,” “technology that can understand language” and “technology that can answer questions for me.”
Machine learning can be defined as a form of AI that gives computers the ability to learn and adapt based on large amounts of incoming data or signals, and then apply algorithms to them to identify trends or common occurrences. This allows computers to predict or identify insights or common responses to topics so one can better learn the likelihood of that occurring again.
Getting Ready For AI
As AI becomes more widespread, a larger number of enterprise companies and small businesses are looking for ways to acquire AI and put it to use to achieve better business results. Some companies are using in-house R&D to develop AI/machine learning capabilities, others are employing consultants, participating in innovation hubs and incubators, and even pursue mergers and acquisitions to obtain the technology.
AI is being tapped for a growing array of core business functions, including predicting market and customer behavior, automating repetitive tasks and providing alerts when things go wrong. When Salesforce Research, in December of last year, surveyed 300 small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMB’s) that were using or exploring AI to automate businesses functions, 36% said they intend to use it for predictive marketing, one-third (33%) was planning to use it to automate email marketing, another one-third (30%) was considering to automate recommendations for customers. If given the option, 20% of SMB owners said they would likely replace a portion of their staff with robots.
Another survey, by Narrative Science, among companies in the US that were using AI, revealed that nearly one-third (32%) of the survey participants were using AI for voice recognition and response solutions, 24% for machine learning and 15% for virtual personal assistants.
Benefits Of AI
The core promises of AI-driven business solutions and tools are very valuable to enterprise businesses and SMB’s. The key is finding the areas were the implementation of AI-driven solutions can be justified. The benefits of AI-driven marketing are very attractive to marketers, according to a recent report by Forrester Consulting titled: “AI: The Next Generation Of Marketing”. The report data revealed that 94% of marketers who participated in the survey said that a tool that provides continuous, autonomous optimization across channels would be appealing to them. 91% said a tool that enables their teams to review, analyze, and act upon customer and marketing data in a continuous and real-time fashion would be valuable for their organization. Furthermore, 88% said that reducing the time spent on preparing reports and analysis, thereby granting more time for strategy and focusing on customer interactions, would be valuable.
Barriers To AI Adoption
But for many SMB’s (61%), participating in the Salesforce Research survey, AI is a cutting-edge technology currently not on the radar for serious implementation. While nearly one in five SMB’s is interested or actively exploring artificial intelligence, only 6% said there are actively using AI tools to automate business processes.
Participants in the more marketing-focused Forrester Consulting survey also had reservations about adopting AI-driven marketing. Their concerns ranged from cost, technology selection and integration challenges to not knowing enough about how AI works to make an informed decision.
One of the major barriers standing in the way of AI-driven marketing adoption is the perception of what AI-driven marketing really is and what it isn’t. For instance, 40% of marketers participating in the Forrester Consulting survey said they thought they were already using AI-driven marketing as part of the Ad Exchange and DSP platforms they are using for media buying.
Participants in the Forrester Consulting survey also expressed concerns about a number aspects regarding AI-driven marketing tools, ranging from customer privacy (67% said it was a concern) to a lack of transparency (62%). 59% said they would be held back by the technological complexity involved, and 58% were concerned that adopting an AI-driven solution would lead to a loss of control over marketing decisions and strategy.