Use of Robots retail technology

Executives might be ready to embrace artificial intelligence (AI), but disproportionately don’t trust their marketing teams to possess necessary tech skills to realize their vision. A Forrester study, “Building Trust and Confidence: AI Marketing Readiness in Retail and E-Commerce” commissioned by Emarsys reviewed the readiness of business executives to roll out AI-informed initiatives.

The survey was sent to more than 700 retail decision-makers in the U.S., U.K, Germany, France and Australia. All the participants were either directly responsible or had influence over marketing plans at their organization. The executives represented businesses that had revenues ranging from $50 million to $5 billion.

The research found that generally the adoption phase is well underway — the majority of retail executives see the value in AI marketing strategies. Marketers understand the purpose and potential of unleashing omnichannel strategies to reach existing and prospective end-consumers. “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),” said the report.

What complicates matters, however, is that decision-makers aren’t confident in their employees’ skills to execute the tech — though staff feel comfortable with the software.

“[The report] looked at users of the AI marketing tool and their executive counterparts and found incorrect perceptions on the technical skills required to implement AI-powered marketing,” said the report. “Users demonstrated a better understanding of what AI can do, namely, enable and optimize. In fact, only 29 percent of users feel they lack the technical skills. However, more than 70 percent of business decision makers said their staff lacks the technical skills to leverage AI marketing technology.”

Tasked with manually mining insights from overwhelming amounts of data, marketers are charged with accomplishing a near insurmountable feat. “Since the process of applying insights to execution is mostly still a manual one, it is difficult for marketers to take action on analytical insights; it simply takes too long,” the report said. “But AI-powered marketing offers advantages over traditional systems of insight and engagement because of its built-in ability to consume real-time data at scale from a broad range of sources.”

Reaching beyond department lines will be key in order to ensure productive execution. “A cross-functional AI approach will extend marketing’s goals for contextual relevance beyond advertising and marketing channels to ensure CX consistency that spans e-commerce, sales, service centers, and mobile or location-specific operations,” the report said.

As the availability of shopper touch points multiplies, marketers expect to rely on AI to improve their engagement levels. “Only 52 percent of firms said that they’re able to manage real-time customer interactions with the brand,” the report said. “This is no surprise, largely because insight generation and marketing execution exist separately from one another in most organizations.” The survey found that 72 percent of marketers plan to implement real-time customer interactions within the next year — 81 percent of survey participants plan to improve multichannel personalization functionality within the next 12 months as well.

What’s more, survey participants expect AI to transform the retail industry. “Our survey shows that the majority of firms strongly agree or agree that AI will reinvent the retail industry (88 percent) and dramatically change what the company does (81 percent).” They study also found that marketers expect tap their shoppers to improve customer experiences.

The report reiterated the relevance and pertinence of securing c-level buy-in to encourage thorough adoption of the technology among all employees. It also recommended having decision-makers to be educated on AI in addition to the staff actively using it to ensure that the functionality is being optimized.

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