Irish businesses open to AI in marketing but need a clear strategy

AI For Business


Companies believe that artificial intelligence and data will be transformative, but their early approach to the technology has been cautious, writes Jason Walsh.

Senior executives of Irish businesses are optimistic about the prospects of artificial intelligence (AI) enhancing their digital marketing activities, according to the latest Marketing Pulse Survey, commissioned by marketing and digital transformation agency Core Optimisation and conducted by Red C Research and Business Post.

A June 2024 Marketing Pulse survey reported that three-quarters of marketers are confident about the role of AI in marketing, with only one in ten having a negative view.

Caroline Danley, CEO and co-founder of Core Optimization, said that at its roots, this is a recognition of the transformative role data already plays in digital marketing, but that it's clear there is more change to come.

“There's obviously a lot of changes happening in terms of marketing,” she said.

“Everybody's talking about AI right now. You can't help but hear people talking about it now and you're really seeing great advancements in this technology.”

However, the adoption of AI in marketing has been slow so far, exposing a gap between aspiration and capability.

Just over one in five companies have agreed on a strategy, half have at least begun developing a strategy, and more than four in five are at least planning to develop a strategy.

Interestingly, the survey found that smaller companies were more likely to agree on a strategy.

Danley said that because data-driven decision-making is a critical part of all business operations today, the slow adoption of AI strategies indicates that more companies need to adapt to changing behaviors, including consumer preferences.

“The consumer is large and evolving quickly, so you need to stay aware of what the consumer wants when developing your strategy,” she said.

“One of the biggest challenges is not knowing where to start when developing a strategy for implementing AI in your business. Your initial focus will be exploratory, and then you'll look at areas where you can introduce automation to streamline processes.”

Danley said that in the long term, these small steps will lead to deeper uses of AI, including data analytics.

“Our research shows that currently executives are unsure of how this aligns with their business processes and there is some resistance to adhering to existing processes.

“But I truly believe that AI will create many more opportunities for companies and potentially change business models. I think it will provide a tremendous competitive advantage to companies that really embrace it,” she said.

of investigation

Red C carried out the research on behalf of Core Optimisation and Business Post.

112 senior Irish marketers participated in the survey.

The fieldwork took place from May 8th to June 11th.

The objective was to survey Irish marketers to determine their behaviour and views on:

The future of business

Confidence in the Irish economy

Key areas of spending, budget projections and business priorities

In-house and external agency services

Trust and approach to the role of AI in marketing

It is intended to be a resource for all marketers and businesses in Ireland.

Further research will be conducted and key indicators will be tracked over time.

Key findings and outcomes will be published in the Business Post and also released as a resource for Irish marketers and businesses.

The survey found that businesses are realizing the benefits of data-driven decision-making: More than half (55%) of companies surveyed said they have a first-party data capture strategy in place, and businesses with 50 or more employees are more likely to have a first-party data capture strategy in place.

AI runs on data, so for businesses to use it effectively, it's important they can collect the right data, and store and use it in a compliant way, Danley said.

Marketing agencies have a responsibility to not only help their clients with their AI and data strategies, but also to quantify the return on investment, she said.

“We believe in being a trusted partner that aligns with our clients' business objectives to deliver maximum return on investment. We want to make impactful business decisions that drive growth.”

While only one in six businesses expect their marketing budget to increase next year, there was broad consensus that budgets are unlikely to decrease. Mid-sized businesses are the most likely to expect their marketing budgets to increase, according to the survey.

In these situations, government agencies will need to demonstrate the benefits of AI and data, Danley said.

“Tracking performance, setting clear KPIs and benchmarking are all essential,” she said.

Danley said overall the outlook for digital marketing is positive, with companies eager to bring in specialist experience in areas such as advanced analytics, social and search advertising, and to learn from the experience of agencies in other industry sectors.

“They still see digital marketing as the fastest and most effective route to customers. Digital remains the most transparent and visible in understanding spend metrics and market impact,” she said.

“I think the next 12 months will be very interesting as we'll see what sticks. From my perspective, the customer should come first. We need to adapt, listen to them and act as a conduit for these new tools and technologies, as a guide and support to drive the best outcomes for their business.”

The survey also found that business leaders overall have a positive outlook for the future. However, confidence in their own business outweighs confidence in the national economy as a whole. While seven in ten are confident in the Irish economy, nearly nine in ten say they are confident in their own company's future. Furthermore, larger businesses expressed more confidence in their own businesses than small and medium-sized businesses.

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