- A survey of business and technology professionals found that while AI spend today is comparatively low, marketing and sales lead nearly 50% of these initiatives, per a Forrester Research report, "The Promise and Potential Peril of AI," that was made available to Marketing Dive. Product management and customer support closely follow in spend, showing that projects are mainly focused in customer-oriented areas.
- Improving customer experience and support was named as the biggest benefit of AI by 57% of respondents. Other high-ranking benefits were developing new products and increasing customer satisfaction.
- Only a small number of organizations have already implemented AI and are expanding its use, while more than half of companies said they intend to invest in AI in the next 12 months.
While AI initiatives such as IBM Watson, chatbots and digital assistants have garnered much attention over the past year, the current applications only scratch the surface of the technology's potential. For companies, AI will be used to predict customer needs in near real-time, helping them retain customers. The importance of AI to customer interactions is reflected in Forrester's findings, such as that 37% of companies plan to implement intelligent assistants in the next 12 months, and 35% have their sights on cognitive product launches for customers.
Some of the other ways AI will be used going forward include leveraging speech recognition for customer interactions, machine learning for making predictions, image recognition in combination with machine learning, robotics and self-driving cars. Already this year, there are signs that robots in stores could revolutionize the customer experience.
However, because AI comes with a number of ethical, political and social issues attached, it will be important for companies to develop a plan and have foundational elements in place as they test and learn, per Forrester.
"The greater the degree of unpredictability in an AI-powered system, the greater the likelihood that unforeseen negative outcomes will occur. That's why humans — and their ability to reason — will remain an essential part of the equation for the foreseeable future, possibly forever," the report said.
Of those who have invested in AI already, 55% told Forrester they have not seen any results yet, suggesting it is still early in the process for adequate measurement. However, of those who have seen results, 25% said they achieved business process efficiency, 21% an improvement in customer satisfaction and 18% cost savings, numbers that are likely to encourage more marketers to dive in.