This article was updated in April 2023.
Artificial intelligence (AI) started as a concept decades ago. In the early days, only scientific researchers and maybe handfuls of engineers spent time thinking about the value of AI. These days, most of us hear about AI daily—a quick Google search of the term yields over 1 billion results. But what does AI mean for digital marketers, and how can we use it to create compelling experiences that attract customers?
A new forecast from the International Data Corporation (IDC) shows that 2023 global spending on AI-centric systems will reach $154 billion, an increase of 26.9% over the amount spent in 2022.
Research from WP Engine and Dr. Chris Brauer from The University of London set out to answer that question. Their research combined perspectives from subject matter experts, with survey results from 200 UK enterprise respondents and 1,000 consumers in the United Kingdom. The resulting report, The Value of Values: Building better digital experiences with AI, makes it clear that success requires brands to balance personalization with privacy. Company values and the value of AI itself are directly linked to one another.
The Value of AI
There’s reason to be excited for the potential that AI brings. It’s clear it will continue to help marketers derive more insights from ever-increasing volumes of data. But AI comes with some inherent risks. While 57.6% of survey respondents believed AI will ultimately have a positive impact on the world, 41.8% expressed concern about bias. Other reasons for concern include an overreliance on AI, and many concerns for how customer data is stored and used.
The human component of AI and its implementation, however, will play an increasingly important role in helping to address bias and to mitigate those concerns. It’s also why trust between brands and their customers will reach new levels of importance.
Besides trust, privacy and security are key components of the discussion around the value of AI. A growing number of digital marketers are wrestling with how best to use AI in their quest to create more personalized, meaningful experiences for customers. WP Engine’s research makes it clear that to be successful, brands need to balance the power of AI solutions with the level of trust they build with their customers. Doing it right means making progress in each of the following ways:
Digital marketers know they can maintain a sustainable advantage over competitors by offering personalized digital experiences. In addition, relevance and resonance are key personalization drivers. Personalized experiences aren’t just key to reaching Gen Z; they encourage repeat visits and often play a key role in driving long-term brand loyalty across age demographics.
AI also enables new levels of personalization. In the survey, data accuracy clarity around the intent of personal data are two core values that customers care about. It’s why 92.7% of customers surveyed expected businesses to be transparent about how they use customer data.
In practice, Amazon paved the way for other companies with their product suggestions based on what you’ve searched for or purchased in the past. Now they offer that machine learning technology to AWS customers via Amazon Personalize. Netflix is another example of a company that does a really good job providing viewing recommendations.
Streaming music services like Spotify use sophisticated algorithms to surface new music based on your listening habits. Pandora lets users change its algorithm for curating music via Pandora Modes. Popular WordPress plugins like Bibblio Related Posts and Jetpack Related Posts both surface content related to topics that customers express interest in.
Digital marketers have long understood the value of attracting customers to a brand’s digital outposts, from company websites or blogs to social media sites. Over time, customer interactions on those sites provide a glimpse into purchasing intent and to the behaviors leading to that point.
That’s why marketers spend so many resources better understanding the before, during and after of a customer’s journey.
- Before: What search terms did they use? What ads convinced them to click through?
- During: What information pages do they visit? How far do they get in the purchasing process?
- After: Why did they leave? Was complexity the problem? Were they unable to find relevant information?
In years past, marketers have employed numerous methods in hopes of answering these questions. But the sheer volume of data has served as a barrier. Many companies today use that data to train AI-based systems in an effort to expand personalization capabilities.
Historically, many customers have been open to sharing personal data in exchange for a product, service or some level of value. While that’s still the case for a lot of us, it’s starting to change due to privacy concerns. An ever-increasing number of security breaches have made data privacy and trust top-of-mind issues for many. Protecting customer privacy is central to Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation. It will also likely be at the heart of any future data regulations we implement here in the United States.
Privacy represents a core platform for Apple. Microsoft continues to build on a solid user privacy track record. But many users would argue Facebook continues to struggle with getting data privacy right. Google, meanwhile, continues to delay certain privacy measures. While data exchange will continue to evolve, no question data privacy is an important topic to customers. For example, 92% of UK consumers surveyed agreed that protecting user information and meeting established security standards are both top priorities.
According to the survey, customers want to visit websites that are 1) fast and efficient; 2) offer useful information when the customer needs it; or 3) help them learn something new. Building meaningful experiences starts with being customer-centric and creating emotional connections. Apple and their digital efforts are a strong example of this. According to 65.7% of respondents in the survey, the most useful way to create emotional engagement is to teach them something new.
It’s important to think about since 40.3% surveyed indicated they would return to sites that provided a sense of emotional engagement. Artificial Intelligence’s potential extends well beyond how we’ll market to customers.
To dive deeper into the values that drive the discussion around AI and digital marketing, download the report.