By 2021, applying AI to customer relationship management could produce $1.1 trillion in GDP and create 800,000 new jobs.
Marketing has long been recognized as one of the primary targets for sophisticated analytics and AI capabilities, but according to a new white paper from IDC and sponsored by Salesforce, the impact of those activities could top $1.1 trillion in GDP and 800,000 new jobs by 2021. That comes from not just $726 billion in increased revenue, but also $265 billion in decreased expenses. It’s a big jump, one that even outmatches the jobs lost to automation.
Currently, many companies are using AI technology for automating email marketing, providing recommendations for online retail, lead scoring, predicting future trends, opportunity scoring, and creating more customized—and thus more compelling—user experiences. The report states that only 28 percent of companies have already adopted AI for these various use cases and others, but another 41 percent are planning to adopt the technology within the next two years. And it’s predicted that 2018 will be a banner year for AI adoption.
Keith Block, the vice chairman, president, and COO of Salesforce, said in a statement: “AI is impacting all sectors of the economy and every business. For the CRM market—the fastest-growing category in enterprise software—the impact of AI will be profound, ushering in new levels of productivity for employees and empowering companies to drive even better experiences for their customers.”
For one, Salesforce should not be surprised by the survey’s findings. Back in March, the company announced a new partnership with IBM to bring IBM’s Watson and Salesforce’s Einstein platforms together to help their own customers leverage AI.
Artificial intelligence and CRM
Salesforce claims that this jump will come from a “convergence of increased computing power, big data and breakthroughs in machine learning.” How do these three elements come together to create practical and meaningful change for these companies? What are they going to try to accomplish?
From the results, it’s clear that AI is going to be leveraged toward two different, but related, types of use cases: first, navigating the many complex relationships and conversations with customers, and second, understanding customers better in order to deliver more precise and more effective marketing campaigns.
For the former, it’s seen that AI will be beneficial to customer support (43 percent of respondents believing that conclusion), followed by customer billing (41 percent), customer-influenced product designs (40 percent), customer analytics (38 percent). It’s clear that the goal is going to be reducing the overhead and dealing with potential customer issues while also learning as much as possible from their insights. If, for example, a company can use support chatbots to lower the volume of support phone calls, that provides a better customer experience while also reducing costs.
For the latter, companies want to leverage AI for all types of marketing efforts, such as corporate branding (39 percent), product marketing (39 percent), and field marketing (39 percent). These efforts are likely going to come in the form of accelerated sales cycles, personalized email marketing campaigns, predictive sales lead scoring, upselling, and even fraud detection.
The types of AI being invested in most heavily are wide-ranging, but the clear leaders among AI adopters are data preparation and enrichment tools (48 percent), advanced numerical analysis (IoT streaming and machine logs; 41 percent), and voice or speech recognition (41 percent). For companies who haven’t quite invested in AI yet, there is a heavier focus on supporting AI technologies, such as knowledge base curation, dialog management, Q&A processing, and so on.
What should companies be ready for?
First and foremost, IDC says that “AI adoption is about to begin in earnest.” They claim that early adopters will “gain early, critical experience, which should lead to a competitive advantage.” Given that a surge in AI investment is bound to happen before 2020, there isn’t much time for companies to get in on the ground floor. IDC predicts that AI adoption will grow by a factor of 10 between 2016 and 2021.
And, according to the survey results, cloud-based AI solutions seem to be the biggest target for these early adopters, and are a relatively safe bet for companies looking to do some AI experimentation. Cloud AI is preferred by many because it’s easily embedded into existing products and user interfaces, making adoption a little easier and cost-effective—even free—than complex on-premises installations.
IDC claims that “enterprises for which such IT and operational experimentation is second nature will reap benefits others won’t,” which means that between cheaper-than-ever installations, there is no better time to experiment and see how AI could change not only marketing operations, but also the entire organization.