The majority of retail executives will be using artificial intelligence for their marketing efforts this year, a new survey has found.
56% of respondents picked marketing as the big area in which they say they're investing in AI efforts in 2024. However, it's not the only retail business area that AI might be taking over this year: Also on the list are financial forecasting, customer service, user experience, and more.
Retailers are making a big push for AI, in other words. It's an early sign of businesses putting their money-saving where their mouth is for the technology, which has been highly hyped for several years now. But will it pay off?
The Stats on AI for Retail
In addition to marketing, a majority of execs are using AI for financial forecasting, with 52% saying they'll be using the technology for this purpose in 2024.
After these two areas of interest, homogenity drops off a bit. Almost 40% say they'll be using AI for customer service and user experience (39.2%), while about one in three say they'll use AI in their supply chain management efforts (34.4%).
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These results are all from a survey sponsored by Carl Marks Advisors, which notes plenty of optimism for the new year on the whole. As the report puts it, “Retailers are optimistic heading into 2024, with nearly 90% of survey respondents expecting their sales to remain the same or increase in 2024.”
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Artificial intelligence certainly can't do it all, and the same survey respondents have a host of other areas they say are among those they are “most focused on investing in to enhance customer experiences” in 2024. Here's a quick list of the top areas, and how many retail execs who are focusing on them.
- Buy now, pay later programs: 37.2%
- New innovative storefronts: 36.4%
- Same day delivery: 35.6%
- More employees: 34.8%
- Automated services: 29.6%
- Self-checkout: 27.2%
Particularly of note to many workers will be the focus on adding more employees: If 34.8% of retailers are hiring to a greater extent in 2024, that's a change in direction. Despite single-digit annual retail sales growth in recent years, retail sales employment is expected to decline 2% between 2022 and 2032.
Will AI Work for Marketing?
AI tools face some challenges in the battle to carve out their place in the modern workplace. A top concern is their habit of “hallucinating” incorrect information, which could make AI a potential liability in sensitive business cases such as customer service.
However, provided AI tools always have human handlers to keep an eye on them, they can help cut down on hours worked to produce certain simple results, crafting basic marketing copy or images.
A greater concern for marketing AI efforts might be the unique look that a lot of AI images tend to share. If AI ads stand out as clearly AI — as many people who've spotted them on Instagram or Twitter in recent month claim that they do — then they likely won't have a long shelf life as a marketing feature. The industry will always shift away from cheap and easy options, simply because they become overused and overexposed. Let's hope AI ads can hold out through the end of 2024.