Marketers see an intelligently automated future in marketing AI, but understanding and adoption are slow to take hold.
While the total numbers vary, every major report on artificial intelligence seemingly agrees that its annual financial impact will be in the trillions.
- McKinsey Global Institute estimates up to a $5.9 trillion annual impact of AI and other analytics on marketing and sales.
- PwC sees a truly global effect from AI, with an estimated 14 percent lift in global GDP possible by 2030, a total contribution of $15.7 trillion to the world economy, thanks to both increased productivity and increased consumption.
- In 2021 alone, Gartner projects AI augmentation will create $2.9 trillion of business value, and 6.2 billion hours of worker productivity globally.
- IDC states that efficiencies driven by AI in CRM could increase global revenues by $1.1 trillion this year, and ultimately lead to more than 800,000 net-new jobs, surpassing those lost to automation.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated AI-powered digital transformation across businesses. Additional research from McKinsey cites that 25 percent of almost 2,400 business leaders surveyed said they increased AI adoption due to the pandemic.
But, what does this all really mean for marketers?
- How will AI impact brands?
- How will marketing jobs evolve?
- What are the most valued marketing AI use cases?
- How many marketing tasks will be intelligently automated?
- What impact will marketing AI have on accelerating revenue growth and reducing costs?
- Are marketing teams ready for AI-powered digital transformation?
These are just a few of the questions we set out to answer with the 2021 State of Marketing AI Report.
Marketing AI Institute and Drift teamed up in fall 2020 to gain unparalleled insights into the awareness, understanding, and adoption of AI throughout the marketing industry.
Using Marketing AI Institute’s AI Score for MarketersTM assessment, marketers had the opportunity to answer 13 survey questions, and rate the value of 49 sample marketing AI use cases. More than 400 marketers answered portions of the survey, and 235 completed all questions and use case ratings.
What we learned is that the marketing industry is on the cusp of the next frontier in digital transformation. Marketers believe that AI-powered solutions will intelligently automate dozens of common marketing tasks, and drive value through revenue acceleration and cost reduction.
But, we have not reached the tipping point, yet.
1. The majority of marketers know AI is very important or critical to their success this year.
When asked how important marketing AI is to their success over the next 12 months, the majority (52 percent) said it is very important (37 percent) or critically important (15 percent).
2. Marketers believe widespread intelligent automation of the industry is inevitable in the next five years.
The vast majority of marketers are just getting started with intelligent automation, which, in the survey, we presented as applying AI to improve the efficiency and/or performance of a task.
Today, more than 77 percent of marketers have less than a quarter of all marketing tasks intelligently automated to some degree, and 18 percent say they have not intelligently automated any tasks at all.
Yet, a similar majority (80 percent) believe more than a quarter of their marketing tasks will be intelligently automated in five years. A full 43 percent believe more than half of their tasks will be automated in that time.
3. Marketers are seeking to understand AI, and pilot smarter solutions.
Respondents were asked which stage of marketing AI transformation best describes their marketing teams, and could choose multiple options.
Most are in the Researching phase (65 percent), where they are becoming aware of AI. A majority are also in the Understanding phase (56 percent), where they were actively exploring use cases and technologies.
More than a third (34 percent) say they have entered the Piloting phase, which is defined by prioritizing, and starting to run, a limited number of quick-win pilot projects.
4. Some are seeing an impact from their marketing AI investments, specifically in revenue acceleration.
For marketers who are applying AI, accelerating revenue (41 percent) and getting more actionable insights from marketing data (40 percent) are the two most common outcomes that respondents say they are achieving.
Across all marketers surveyed, most (89 percent) said their marketing team’s highest priority includes accelerating revenue. Only eight percent adopt AI in marketing exclusively to reduce costs.
5. Half of marketers are still at the beginner stage of understanding AI terminology and capabilities.
Despite some of the data points that show AI understanding and adoption are on the rise, 50 percent of marketers classify their understanding of AI terminology and capabilities as beginner, while another 37 percent identify as intermediate.
6. Marketers lack confidence in evaluating AI-powered marketing technology.
The deficit in understanding and experience means that the majority of marketers lack confidence when evaluating and purchasing AI-powered products.
When asked to rank their confidence in evaluating marketing AI technologies, 40 percent chose medium, 24 percent selected low, and 5 percent said none.
Simply put, if marketers do not understand the underlying technology, and what it is capable of doing, they will struggle to identify smarter, AI-powered marketing solutions that can drive efficiency and performance.
7. Few marketers are successfully scaling marketing AI in their organizations.
Only 17 percent of marketers said they were in the Scaling phase of marketing AI transformation, which means wide-scale adoption of AI that is consistently producing efficiency and performance results.
It is encouraging to note that 19 percent are actively in the Humanizing phase, which is defined by, “Seamlessly integrating AI and human capabilities, and reinvesting the time and money saved from intelligent automation into listening, relationship building, creativity, culture, and communities.” We hope to see this number jump significantly in future studies.
8. Fear is not really a factor when it comes to barriers to adopting AI in marketing.
There is a common belief that fear of AI, and the unknowns it presents to the workforce, is an obstacle that must be overcome to achieve widespread adoption. Our research does not support this idea.
In fact, the majority (56 percent) of marketers believe AI will create more jobs than it eliminates over the next decade.
And when asked specifically about barriers to adoption of marketing AI, only 16 percent chose fear of AI as a contributing factor.
9. It is the lack of education and training that is holding marketers, and the marketing industry, back from adoption.
When asked about their barriers to AI adoption, marketers gave the most resounding answer of all.
It is a lack of education and training, as reported by 70 percent of respondents. To further this point, when asked if their organization has any AI-focused education and training, only 14 percent said yes.
Two other common barriers include lack of awareness (46 percent) and lack of resources (46 percent).
10. The future is marketer + machine. And the future is now.
The great irony of marketing automation is that it’s manual. Marketers write all the rules. They build the plans, produce the creative, run the promotions, personalize the experiences and analyze the performance. Traditional marketing is all human, all the time.
But, the landscape has changed. Leading marketers know that in order to deliver the website personalization and experiences modern buyers expect, marketing must become smarter. It must become marketer + machine.
Marketers do not believe AI will replace them. Rather, they see the potential to augment their knowledge and capabilities through the intelligent automation of data-driven, repetitive tasks.
We have entered the age of intelligent automation. The time is now for marketers to seek the knowledge and resources to understand, pilot, and scale AI in marketing.
The opportunities are endless for marketers with the will and vision to transform the industry, and their careers.