We all know someone that always talks a good game but never comes good on their promises. Unfortunately, if our latest research in the retail sector is anything to go by, many marketers seem to be guilty of this when it comes to investing in new technology.

While the benefits of innovation are widely discussed in marketing circles they are not being fully realised, with future investment in new technologies remaining modest. Our report, based on interviews with over 70 senior industry executives, found that four in five retailers plan to invest less than £1 million on introducing new technology. Almost a quarter (22%) said they intend to invest less than £50,000.

This is happening despite clear industry recognition of the growth opportunities presented by disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence (AI). Rarely out of the headlines, AI is already having a profound impact on the economy and society, and its influence is only set to grow. Research firm IDC has predicted that cross-sector adoption of AI will drive global revenues from nearly $8bn (£6.4bn) in 2016 to more than $47bn (£38bn) in 2020. They also predict that marketing spend on AI is set to rise to more than $2bn by 2020.

So it’s no surprise that more than four-fifths (82%) of those we surveyed believed that machine learning, the form of AI most are familiar with, will have an impact on their sector. Yet less than half currently use machine learning in their own businesses, for example, to better understand individual customers’ preferences and purchase triggers so they can serve them highly persuasive, personalised ads, prompts and offers. With more consumer data available than ever before, having the right technology to make sense of this and turn it into actionable insights is becoming a fundamental part of any marketing strategy.

Naturally, it would be a mistake to blindly pursue technology for its own sake. To achieve long-term success, marketers must direct investment to the appropriate tools and put all the right foundations in place. Here are some additional considerations for marketers:

Do I have the right data?

Just like you can’t make a delicious meal with bad ingredients, AI is useless without the right data. To get the best insights, you must provide the right data for the problem you are trying to solve or the behaviour you are trying to understand. The more consistent you are in the way you select, collect, and process your data, the better the results.

Is it scalable?

Data is king, but ultimately scale will rule the AI battlefield. Truly persuasive personalisation for every customer can only be achieved by processing retail data at a monumental scale that is far beyond the capabilities of human analysts. Ignoring AI simply means that the vast majority of your data is worthless – by the time human analysts get around to interpreting it, it’s probably too late.

Tools that work for your team, not the other way around

One of the biggest benefits of AI is that it gives time back to marketing teams so they can focus on where they can add most value - the creative process. For example, it would take a human analyst more than 800 hours to replicate what our own platform does in 24 hours. AI is generating insight they can use tomorrow while they dream up the next big idea to take the brand forward.

Data has become the world’s most valuable resource, we’ve entered the era of the AI gold rush. The businesses that will triumph will be those that maintain their obsessive focus on the consumer whilst harnessing the power of AI to deliver even more relevant and innovative customer experiences that keep them coming back again and again.


By Geri Tuneva, head of marketing EMEA at Qubit

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