Retail CMOs to Invest Up to $100M in AI this Year, Improving Audience Engagement to Drive Revenue a Top Priority

August 8, 2017 – NEW YORK – Today, WBR Digital and Persado released the results of their study “Building Lasting Consumer Relationships in Retail.” The report, a survey of 100+ marketing leaders including CMOs from prominent retail brands headquartered in the U.S. and U.K., explores plans and priorities for marketing investment this year.

The findings show that 86% of retail marketing leadership have planned to invest in AI/machine learning solutions in 2017. The majority of respondents (47%) are looking to spend up to $50 million on AI, but a quarter are budgeting as much as $100 million. For marketing leaders surveyed, effective customer engagement is expected to be the primary benefit of implementing AI, where “engagement” is considered foremost as a driver of revenue (37%) and to a much lesser extent, brand awareness (13%).

Retail marketers look to improve engagement by providing more relevant experiences but continue to struggle with personalization. On a scale of 0 to 4, with 0 as least effective and 4 as most effective, marketers find that they could do a better job with personalization techniques: tailoring product recommendations (2.85); segmentation (2.53); offer personalization (2.49); and personalizing content (2.13).

Even with an onslaught of tech innovation giving retailer marketers deeper insight into what motivates audiences on a personal and emotional level, their ability to activate this insight is stunted. For example, only 22% of respondents believe they are skilled at applying emotion to content. Furthermore, retailers’ personalization techniques are typically limited to the basics of demographic and location data.
“Most major retailers have more data than they know what to do with or have the capacity to process. AI and machine learning allow marketers to generate insights for sure, but the key is to leverage the machine towards a particular purpose, and to one that actually drives results,” said Ryan Deutsch, SVP of Global Customer Success, Persado.

“Building Lasting Consumer Relationships in Retail” shares the results of a survey of 100 CMOs and other senior marketing executives, conducted by WBR as in-depth individual interviews in March 2017. Headquartered in the U.S. and U.K., participating retail brands include Best Buy, Marks and Spencer, Williams-Sonoma, Urban Outfitters, and Nordstrom, among many others. The full study is available for download from