Worldwide spending on cognitive and artificial intelligence (AI) systems is predicted to increase 59.3% year-over-year to reach $12.5 billion by the end of 2017, according to an International Data Corporation (IDC) spending guide. That number is forecast to almost quadruple by 2020, when spending on AI is predicted to reach more than $46 billion.
If "personalization" was the marketing buzzword of 2016, then 2017 is the year of "artificial intelligence." As more cloud vendors tout their own AI systems, however, could AI be over-hyped?
Joe Stanhope, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, says a cultural dissonance exists with AI, thanks to science fiction, and that many people have a preconceived notion about what artificial intelligence really is.
"A lot of people are talking a big game about AI and how it will change the world, but today it's only applied in extremely discrete ways," says Stanhope. "There's a lot of hype around it."
Stanhope says this overexposure creates a dissonance, compounded by marketers' trust issues with AI.
Marketers have a right to be skeptical about artificial intelligence, says Stanhope, adding that it is imperative that they begin to educate themselves about AI, since it is highly complex and difficult to understand without a doctoral degree in statistics, math or engineering.
Stanhope recommends that marketers become "educated about AI techniques and algorithms" to develop a "functional understanding of how it works." By educating themselves, marketers can be more critical of vendors' AI-driven applications.
"AI gets thrown out quite a bit, but marketers need to get to the point where they can ask, 'what can your AI do for me now'?" says Stanhope. "You need to be able to ask, and they [vendors] need to be able to define and validate that question."
Although it may not be as exciting as changing the world, Stanhope says there are very realistic applications for AI today. Humans have become the bottleneck in marketing, he says, and AI has the potential to make marketers and marketing better.
"AI is an efficiency play," says Stanhope, describing how it helps marketers manage data, experiment with segmentation, and "takes out the human drudgery" of menial tasks. He recommends that marketers dip their toes in AI by applying it to one existing use case first, and then broadening the scope when new use cases become available and trust is built.
"You're not turning over the whole marketing team to a computer," says Stanhope.
Stanhope also recommends that AI marketers investigate whether their ESP offers some sort of AI function, as it is easier to evaluate an add-on solution than find a completely new product.