And although the technology is still rather new, the list of tasks it can complete is steadily growing.
At that Marketing AI Institute, we track more than 1,500 AI companies with combined funding of more than $6 billion.
As the institute's director, I’ve spent years studying the AI market while working with some of the brightest AI minds in marketing. Aside from researching and consulting on AI strategies, I've also used AI tools throughout my marketing career. Through these experiences, I've gained insights into the opportunities that AI could realistically provide for marketers now and in the near future.
While AI has already subtly crept into the day-to-day lives of many marketers, it's likely to have even more of an impact on them in the future. According to McKinsey, AI is expected to have up to $2.6 trillion worth of business impact in sales and marketing alone.
Despite all of the positivity around AI, many marketers are still might be skeptical about which technologies are actually useful, and which could turn out to be overpriced hype. After all, in the past, there have been a number of outlandish and inaccurate AI predictions or claims. These false statements -- which many AI experts call "snake oil" -- have made it hard to distinguish which AI facts are actually real and which are lies told to gain media attention.
To determine where the true opportunities lie with AI in this stage of its development, it's important to do research to learn more about the tools and current strategies that other marketers are using. You'll also want to look at research-backed trends to keep certain tactics on your radar in case they might be beneficial to you in the future.
To help you better understand where AI is going and how you could leverage it to build a competitive strategy in the future, I've used my research and professional experiences in the AI space to compile a list of four key trends to watch in the next year.
4 AI Predictions for 2020
1. Content marketers will have to adopt artificial intelligence.
No. Artificial intelligence can't write compelling long-form content just yet. But, although bots aren't able to create long narratives, books, scripts, or detailed online articles, AI can still streamline a number of content marketing tasks. According to Jeff Coyle, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer of MarketMuse, this trend will only continue in 2020.
“This will be the year that brands begin to seriously use artificial intelligence to build a competitive advantage,” says Coyle. “Right now, many companies are still exploring AI and its potential. But the technology is already having a huge impact on content marketing.”
“The brands using AI tools are already seeing outsized benefits, like huge traffic gains and better search rankings,” Coyle adds.
As a marketing professional who's done much research on the topic of AI, I believe him. In our own report on the top 25 AI use cases marketers value, analyzing existing content for gaps and opportunities tops the list.
While it was once extremely hard to create these experiences with older marketing techniques and technology, AI has opened the door for more pin-pointed personalization opportunities.
Right now, AI is primarily used "to help us get tasks done," says Nick Edouard, Chief Product Officer at PathFactory, an AI-powered B2B marketing platform.
While AI helps marketers "scale faster, write better, and find or mirror target audiences more easily," Edouard says that he expects leaders in 2020 to say, "That’s great, but how can we use AI to enable our buyers? How can we use it to help them find what they need at every stage of the customer lifecycle? How do we make this about our customers and not just us as marketers?"
“These are increasingly important questions to ask, especially for B2B companies, as people already expect relevant, personalized, always-on experiences in every aspect of their lives,” says Edouard.
We're already seeing heavy AI personalization in the marketing industry. For example, many tools allow brands to send marketing emails with names and personalized information in them based on contact list information. In retail, consumers regularly get emails or ecommerce site recommendations for certain products based on what they've already purchased.
With evolving technology and our ability to capture data on prospects and customers, it's not shocking to think that AI-based personalization trend will grow stronger in the near future. In 2020 specifically, expect AI to start being used more and more to create solid one-to-one personalization,
3. AI is going to continue to enable and help SEO strategists.
“AI is not only transforming how marketers take business impact to a whole new level. It’s also helping them elevate and advance their careers,” says Krish Kumar, COO and CRO at BrightEdge, maker of BrightEdge Autopilot, which uses AI to automate SEO tasks.
Kumar predicts that marketers are going to reap huge benefits from AI in the coming year, thanks to its ability to automate time-consuming SEO tasks.
“For example, this type of self-driving technology can automatically self-connect website pages, self-optimize mobile pages, and auto-fix duplicate content,” says Kumar.
One example of a company that's majorly leveraging AI for SEO is Campbell’s. Kumar notes that the soup company uses AI-powered SEO automation to compress 75,000 images in a single day. This allows the brand to rank on page one of SERPs for 4,000 keywords within just a few weeks.
The best part?
AI is helping human SEO marketers, rather than making their jobs obsolete. At companies like Campbell's, AI technology allows SEO experts to get results that aren't possible without machines. Not having to worry about this mountain of SEO-related tasks frees them up to work on more intensive projects.
Because it is so beneficial to web traffic and results, expect the investment into AI-powered SEO tools to grow.
4. AI will fit more naturally into the daily lives of marketers.
While AI and automation have already yielded results, cut time out of marketers days, and streamlined a number of outdated processes, small to medium-sized businesses are still hesitant to use these technologies because they worry that working with them and getting up to speed on how each technology or tool works will be added work in itself.
However, as AI technology and tools evolve, they're getting easier to access, providing smoother user experiences, and becoming a more natural fit into the every-day marketer's life.
In 2020 and beyond, “The best AI-powered tools are going to interact with marketers in a way that feels more human,” says Bart Frischknecht, VP of product strategy a Vennli, an AI-powered content intelligence tool.
While many AI tools currently collect data and offer insights that the marketer then has to dive into, Frischknecht says that AI will eventually shift to just offering a marketer a list of improvement suggestions or solutions.
One area where we're already seeing a shift in AI's capabilities is PPC advertising. Some AI tools will just collect data about how a PPC ad is doing and provide predictive analytics to the marketer, who can then adjust the budget. However, other more advanced AI tools can now analyze how the ad is doing, offer marketers suggestions on how to prevent wasted spend, and then allow them to choose one of those solutions directly from a dashboard.
“It’s going to feel more human when AI automatically takes care of tasks so that marketers can focus on marketing, rather than on wrangling the tool,” says Frischknecht.
In 2020, expect AI-powered marketing tools to start becoming so natural to your work that you don't even know they're AI. As John McCarthy, one of the fathers of AI, once said, “As soon as it works, no one calls it AI anymore."
Navigating AI in 2020 and Beyond
Want to make these predictions actionable? We recommend you take the following steps in 2020 to navigate AI in the new year.
Understand the basics of AI. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand AI and its impact, but you should develop foundational knowledge about AI in order to help you vet new opportunities. To get started, check out this glossary to find simple definitions of common AI terms.
Start looking for use cases. When it's time to start thinking about AI-based projects, you can use use-cases to see what's already been done with the technology. To find the right use cases, you’ll need to evaluate all the tasks you do in a day, then assess which ones are valuable to automate with AI.
Experiment. There are plenty of AI technologies you can start getting your hands dirty with, starting today, and experimentation is one of the best ways to develop your knowledge. Google’s free AI tools are a good place to start.