Are you already behind the AI curve?

McKinsey recently released a study looking at how AI-powered digital transformation was affected by the pandemic. Their data shows that 25% of almost 2,400 business leaders surveyed said they increased their adoption of artificial intelligence due to pressures they felt during the crisis.

Did you? Do you even have an AI strategy? Are you using AI at all in your marketing? Whether you said yes or no – are you sure? The truth is, we all use AI every day. Amazon, Netflix, Google and Facebook are all powered by AI technology that we interface with on a daily basis. They use machine learning, deep learning, computer vision, speech and image recognition, natural language processing, and natural language generation.

But as marketers, some are falling behind. The benefits of leveraging the power of AI are pretty compelling. When used well, AI will:

  • Accelerate revenue growth.
  • Create personalized consumer experiences at scale.
  • Drive costs down.
  • Generate more significant ROI on campaigns.
  • Get more actionable insights from marketing data.
  • Predict consumer needs and behaviors with greater accuracy.
  • Reduce time spent on repetitive, data-driven tasks.
  • Shorten the sales cycle.
  • Unlock greater value from marketing technologies.

In a recent study done by the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute, 77% of respondents (all marketers) had less than a quarter of all marketing tasks intelligently automated to some degree. Eighteen percent said they have not intelligently automated any functions at all.

Despite their lack of adoption, over 80% of those same respondents believe more than a quarter of their marketing tasks will be intelligently automated in five years. A full 43% think more than half of their tasks will be automated in that time.

The question is, how are these marketers who admit they aren’t really deploying AI today going to get more than half of their tasks automated within the next five years?

They’re asking themselves that same question. According to the study’s data, most are in the “researching” phase (65%), where they are becoming aware of AI. A majority are also in the “understanding” phase (56%), where they are actively exploring use cases and technologies. More than a third (34%) say they have entered the “piloting” phase, which is defined by prioritizing, and starting to run, a limited number of quick-win pilot projects.

Despite some data points showing that AI understanding and adoption are rising, 50% of marketers classify themselves as beginners in their understanding of AI terminology and capabilities. In comparison, 37% identify as intermediate.

Interestingly, it’s not that marketers are afraid that AI will take their jobs or pose a real threat. Instead, it’s ignorance that is keeping them from taking advantage of AI’s capabilities. Most see the potential to improve both capabilities and results through the intelligent automation of data-driven, repetitive tasks.

Seventy percent of respondents said the most significant barrier to AI usage is a lack of education and training.

When asked if their organization has any AI-focused education and training, only 14% said yes. So most marketers believe they are on their own to figure AI out.

Where do you fall on the subject of AI? Have you started researching or experimenting? The good news is if you’ve barely scratched the surface or haven’t even started, it’s not too late. Yet.

Like it or not, the age of intelligent automation is here. We need to learn more about it so we can start experimenting and taking advantage of these tools. We may not be behind today. But it isn’t going to take long.

The next couple of columns will dig into how we can begin to experiment, and what others are already doing so we don’t fall behind.


This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.