Hint: AI, like marketing, is an art and a science.
I just returned from an energizing four days at Shoptalk in Las Vegas. I’m still buzzing from all of the incredible sessions and conversations I had at the event. One thing is for sure—if you get a lot of brands together in person to talk about the future of retail, you’re guaranteed to have at least one conversation about AI.
It definitely feels like a new frontier for marketers, and everyone is trying to get a pulse on how these new tools (including Attentive AI™, which we just launched this week) will transform how they work. I wanted to hear directly from those experimenting with various AI tools, so I attended two key sessions: “New Applications of AI and Machine Learning” and “Leveraging AI and Automation to Enhance Operations.”
Afterwards, I had the chance to speak with marketers from leading brands, including Wayfair, Unilever, and The Bouqs, to hear how they’re thinking about the rapid evolution of AI. Here’s what’s top of mind for them.
We heard: How are brands using AI to solve business problems, responsibly?
The “New Applications of AI and Machine Learning” session opened with a question to the audience: “Do you think that ChatGPT is revolutionary or overhyped?”
I’d estimate only 2% of the room voted for “overhyped.”
Don’t be afraid of AI—treat it like a teammate
When marketers embrace AI and Machine Learning (ML) as tools, they’ll gain a new member of their team. The benefits far outweigh the risks and there’s no reason to be afraid of it, according to Patrick Duroseau, VP of Enterprise Data Management at Under Armour, Barkha Saxena, SVP/GM Shoppers & Chief Data Officer at Poshmark, and Anshuman Taneja, SVP of Product & Customer Experience at Peapod Digital Labs.
The panel identified data governance as the most powerful problem AI can solve. From creating more data rules to building a strong data dictionary, the technology can help marketers unlock new levels of insights and personalization.
That opportunity comes with responsibilities, though. AI has a lot of bias baked in, so human intervention will always be necessary. The panelists noted that not having a large enough sample size, rushing to implement technologies, and making incorrect assumptions based on nuanced data (like shared devices) can throw a wrench into your analyses. But when you can implement concrete processes to account for these biases, you’ll be able to drive an even bigger impact.
Optimizing operations with AI will give marketers the opportunity to get creative—and invest in their people
AI’s potential impact on your business doesn’t start and stop with optimization. Yes, it's a way to create more unified internal processes (think: onboarding team members, updating resources). But, when used well, it’s also a powerful tool for leaders to increase their team’s level of confidence and productivity.
Nordstrom’s Chief Supply Chain Officer, Alexis DePree, and Panera Bread’s SVP & Chief Digital Officer, George Hanson, agreed that driving change with AI needs to be about the people and their processes, not just the technology. DePree and Hanson believe that if brands overdo the technology side of innovation and don’t put the same effort into their teams, they won’t succeed.
When you create new AI-supplemented processes with your people in mind, you can maintain their energy and focus. The result? Marketers who can spend more time on complex, one-off challenges and opportunities to improve the customer experience.
We asked: “What excites you most about the possibilities of AI?
Throughout Shoptalk, I chatted with marketers to hear their own personal AI philosophies. Here’s what they had to say.
Unilever’s Aaron Jones on getting more strategic and creating space for creativity
“While AI isn’t new to the scene, the exponential growth of consumer-facing capabilities and mass-media coverage over the past few months has gotten everyone excited for what’s at our doorstep today—and what will be tomorrow.
The two things I’m most excited about in this space are:
- Automation of the less nuanced, day-to-day parts of marketing roles, which in turn, will enable everyone to think more strategically (and at a greater scale).
- AI-driven intra- and inter-platform media optimization to improve decision-making. Teams will open up more time to focus on creative iteration and personalization.
It’s likely the future of AI will be about removing friction and uncertainty for performance advertisers, and simply allowing the strongest brands to thrive.”
– Aaron Jones, US eCommerce Director at Health & Wellbeing at Unilever
Wayfair’s Jonathan Ma on gut checking instincts with data
“The best marketing is always done with a mix of human artistry and data driven insights. What Attentive is doing with AI is exciting because it brings data to places where many have often been forced to rely on just their gut insights, such as send volume, frequency, and segmentation.”
– Jonathan Ma, Senior Manager at Wayfair
Athletic Propulsion Labs (APL)'s NJ Falk on closing critical information gaps
“‘AI, AI, AI’ was the mantra at Shoptalk 2023. This seismic game changer is making an impact across the consumer, product, online, inventory, retail experiences, and more. It’s quickly helping brands seamlessly close critical information gaps that surround the conversational commerce customer journey.
AI has a far-reaching impact, and the use cases are endless. It can process natural language, and search through mountains of data to better understand and communicate with consumers on a deeper level. It can predict product demand, purchase patterns, and local market adaptations. And, AI can create instantly responsible online and retail merchandising experiences.
AI is here in a powerful, meaningful new way—and there’s no turning back.”
– NJ Falk, Managing Partner at Athletic Propulsion Labs (APL)
GUESS’ Cindy Roath on 1:1 personalization
“I’m most excited about AI bringing the possibility of 1:1 personalization to our customers. We’ll finally be able to speak to our customers how they want to be spoken to while also predicting their next need—key factors in building customer loyalty. I truly believe that AI will help us increase brand loyalty in a way that will feel natural to our customers.”
– Cindy Roath, E-commerce Operations Project Manager at GUESS
The Bouqs’ Allison Axdorff on exceeding customer needs
“Leveraging AI in SMS will bring our segmentation to the next level, allowing us to better meet and exceed our customer needs.”
– Allison Axdorff, Director, Subscriptions & Retention at The Bouqs
Marketers are well-positioned to harness the potential of AI and drive business growth. From automating the repetitive parts of their days to making more informed decisions, AI can help you do what you do best—delivering exceptional customer experiences that keep shoppers coming back.
Want to learn more about how you can use AI to deliver better (and faster) results with SMS? Check out Attentive AI.