Is Now The Time To Consider AI For Your Business?

By Dan Gingiss, Persado VP of Content Marketing

ai for business

It’s sometimes hard to distinguish between the latest popular buzzword and a real business game-changer, and the result is often that many companies wait and see what everyone else will do before acting themselves.

This is true of artificial intelligence (AI), an innovative yet often misunderstood technology affecting many facets of the business. 

“There is a big gap between companies that believe they should be using AI and those that actually have developed a strategy,” said VP of Salesforce’s Einstein Product Philip Cooper during a session at Dreamforce this year. Cooper cited an MIT Sloan and Boston Consulting Group study which found that 84% of enterprise executives believe AI will help them create a competitive advantage, yet only 38% of those same companies have a strategy for the technology.

Why the gap? Because “AI is unique, complex and nascent, making it difficult to successfully adopt,” Cooper said.

It’s unique because machines don’t always think like humans, which can result in misunderstanding and mistrust. It’s complex because massive amounts of data are used as inputs, and many people still don’t know what an algorithm is. And it’s nascent; the technology is still in its early stages, so it doesn’t have a long track record of success.

Cooper offered six steps to getting started with AI:

1. Approach it deliberately – define a specific use case and learn as you continue to experiment
2. Engage the business – educate and include your peers, so they are invested in the project’s success
3. Set achievable goals – start simple and make sure that the project is measurable
4. Invest in user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) – make sure customers understand any new interface that is presented to them
5. Bake in ethics rules – build models that are transparent and explainable, and double-check data integrity
6. Measure the impact – establish a baseline and then measure gains against it

Related: What to Look for in an AI or Machine Learning Company as a Marketer 

Getting AI right is critical because companies don’t just sell products anymore, they sell experiences – think Apple, Tesla and Amazon.

“The value proposition is not the product itself, but the universe that surrounds it,” said Forrester’s Vice President and Principal Analyst Joe Stanhope at Dreamforce. Stanhope added that the key to memorable brand experiences – and where intelligent marketing plays an important role – is understanding the context as viewed by the customer.

“Consumers expect that they can get exactly what they want in their immediate context,” Stanhope said. “Brands must win in customer moments…We have to be ready in the moment to engage when context dictates.”

These “moments” used to be static – a birthday, a change of address or a new child. Then customers gained the power to control some of the moments – choosing preferences, using a coupon, opening the mobile app. Now, decisions can be made in a dynamic context, including location services, biometric data and even emotions. With all this new data comes the need for AI and machine learning.

So what’s stopping companies from jumping aboard the AI train? Stanhope said it’s the fear of added complexity. According to Forrester, 36% of companies say their existing marketing technology portfolio is already too complex and 40% say there is redundancy in capabilities. The answer, he said, is to be strategic about MarTech.

“Not all MarTech is created equal,” he said, adding that companies should “accelerate AI exploration” because “it’s going to be hugely important to customer experience and marketing.”

The best way to begin is to “start using AI in bite-sized ways,” Stanhope said.

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