AI has been a hot topic among loyalty marketers in recent years, and even more this year.

Can AI transform and elevate a loyalty marketer’s approach to customer experience?

A new study from Emarsys, conducted by Forrester Consulting, examines Artificial Intelligence (AI) marketing readiness in the retail and e-commerce industries. The study, “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.

The study surveyed companies in the U.S., U.K, Germany, France, and Australia that each had revenue of at least $50 million upward to $5 billion.

Although the study reveals that retailers are ready for AI marketing, 70 percent of respondents indicated that they regard technical skills as a barrier to mainstream adoption.

“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 Sean Brady, President of Americas 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.”

Foremost among the study findings is the notion that marketers and business decision-makers polled believe AI-powered marketing will shift the role of marketing toward more strategic work (79 percent) and make marketing teams more efficient (86 percent) and effective (86 percent), as well as enabling them to focus on value-generating tasks as AI automates workflows (82 percent) and reinventing the way that marketers work (82 percent).

Still, a large majority of business decision-makers believe that their marketing teams lack the technical skills to leverage AI marketing technology, and don’t necessarily understand AI marketing.

According to the study, “AI marketing enhances personalization of omnichannel customer experiences as consumers interact with retail brands across various touch points. This is paving the way for retailers to leverage AI marketing to personalize the customer journey (54 percent) and better understand customer behaviors (54 percent).”

More than three-quarters (78 percent) of respondents said spending on AI marketing technologies will increase over the next 12 months by at least 5 percent.

“Expectations for dramatically improved CX are driving retail investments in omnichannel technologies that provide competitive differentiation beyond core products and services,” the study notes. “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 11 percent of retail organizations 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, while 25 percent are considered ‘laggards’. 

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