Artificial intelligence has long been used at the periphery of the business. Maybe brands deployed an intelligent routing system on their phones, or leveraged a chatbot for online customer service, but AI solutions haven’t been viewed as mission-critical. There is also some confusion inherent in AI’s lack of adoption in that many brands view automating any manual tasks as artificial intelligence, when the reality is that AI requires a learning component. Viewpoints on AI have started to change as understanding of the technology improves, and also as the pace of commerce increases and customers demand relevant experiences in real time.
AI allows brands to respond to this desire in spades. Artificial intelligence solutions have penetrated industries like retail, financial services, and healthcare to automate manual, time-intensive tasks and streamline operations. As more repetitive and time-intensive tasks, like data cleansing and unification, are automated with AI systems, employees gain the ability to focus more of their attention on deep thinking and more creative output. Likely because of this realization, interest levels in AI have increased, with Accenture finding that 85 percent of executives have plans to invest in AI over the next three years.
Higher executive interest in AI has also led to more spending. IDC recently predicted a 50.1 percent compound annual growth rate in spending on artificial intelligence, with global spending expected to reach $57.6 billion by the year 2021. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. As more executives become aware of the power AI solutions provide, they will spend more budget to deploy those solutions and systems within their organization.
As interest has grown over time, and more artificial intelligence solutions are deployed, it’s become apparent that AI’s position in the enterprise is changing. It may even start to become a mainstream enterprise technology instead of operating on the periphery. Why is this important? Enterprises that apply AI technology more broadly stand to benefit from increased efficiencies and greater responsiveness.
Artificial Intelligence and the Customer Path to Purchase
Artificial intelligence solutions can and do have a profound impact on the customer experience. Applying AI to the customer’s path to purchase is a logical step. The average consumer’s path to purchase is a dynamic, multifaceted and multichannel series of interactions. This shift away from a traditionally linear customer journey to a dynamic path-to-purchase approach necessitates a new flexibility in marketing operations. Artificial intelligence solutions empower organizations with the speed and adaptability necessary to meet the connected consumer with the most relevant message in the most relevant channel.
Chatbots serve as a prime example of automating manual interactions where possible. A chatbot deployed as part of customer service operations can in general handle 80 percent of customer service requests, leaving humans to handle the remaining 20 percent of more complex tasks. Because of their value, Grand View Research expects the global chatbot market to reach $1.23 billion by 2025 with a compound annual growth rate of 24.3 percent. This is huge for AI usage more broadly throughout the enterprise, because chatbots are one of the most visible applications of artificial intelligence in the B2C marketplace. According to Business Insider, 67 percent of consumers worldwide used a chatbot for support in 2017. This number will only grow because Gartner recently predicted that consumers will, by 2020, manage 85 percent of their relationship with a brand without interacting with a human.
Is Artificial Intelligence Becoming Mainstream?
More brands are seeking out artificial intelligence solutions for their operations. Early adopters are already reaping the benefits, with Deloitte finding that 83 percent of the most aggressive adopters of AI and cognitive technologies having already achieved either modern (53 percent) or substantial (30 percent) benefits. The level of benefits accruing to these organizations is important to understand. Brands that automate the low-hanging fruit of manual tasks free up their workers to think more creatively and strategically. By doing that, they become more flexible and better able to adapt to a changing marketplace.
As data volumes increase with the rise of Internet of Things-enabled devices like coffee makers, thermostats, and household appliances make AI’s power even more attractive. Consumers also expect next best offers delivered in real time from their chosen brands; organizations that don’t automate at least some of their operations are at a disadvantage in that environment.
With these market pressures in evidence, brands are clearly on track to greater AI adoption in the future. Whether that comes in the form of machine learning algorithms or intelligent campaign orchestration is an open question, but the reality is that AI will only become more integral to operations over time. Customer demands for a real-time, in-context experience will heighten over time. The power of artificial intelligence to enable the flexibility required for survival in that environment is all too clear.
Artificial intelligence technologies can’t help but move toward the mainstream. Organizations that adopt them enjoy too many benefits at too high a rate for their competitors to not pay attention. With the rise of AI solutions over time, and more brands understanding the benefits, the time of early adopters being the only ones with artificial intelligence technologies is fast coming to an end.
Artificial intelligence technologies are no longer the bleeding edge. They’ve reached into the central core of business operations and altered processes to make them more dynamic and flexible. This change in how business operates will be key for the years ahead, especially as the marketplace remains in flux and customer demands for contextually relevant experiences increase. Artificial intelligence technology may not be mainstream yet, but it’s only a matter of time.