On more than one occasion—including the notorious about-face of AI pioneer and former Google CEO Geoffrey Hinton—the potential danger of artificial intelligence in the hands of unscrupulous marketers has been red-flagged, even from within the industry. And that would-be minefield is emblematic of the biggest cultural obstacle that AI has yet to overcome—building and establishing trust, both in the omniscient capacity of the tech itself and in brands’ and businesses’ ability to wield that level of market power, often (at this point) without the skills or transparency called for.
And as communicators battle that perspective, a new original research series from integrated B2B tech and healthcare agency PAN Communications examines different ways in which the decisions made by brands and marketers impact the customer experience, and by extension their relationship to the brand. The second iteration of the firm’s Brand Experience Report explores the evolving relationship between marketing and AI, comparing the choices marketers are making about how to use AI in their work to the expectations and experience of the customer—and how to ensure brand integrity in the process.
Research and analysis led to five themes about how marketers are currently using AI and how those choices are impacting the CX:
People expect to encounter AI
The study found that most marketers and customers accept that AI does and will continue to play a role in their lives.
There are shared concerns about authenticity
Despite the adoption of AI tools, marketers remain unsure if they contribute to authentic storytelling. A substantial percentage of marketers fear that AI might compromise the integrity of their brand, with some believing it undermines the human connection.
The customer journey holds untapped potential
The customer journey offers ample untapped potential for AI integration, suggesting that marketers need to explore and measure more innovative ways to utilize AI effectively.
AI needs to be tested like any other tool
Like any other tool, AI needs rigorous testing and evaluation to ensure its optimal usage and potential in marketing strategies.
All of this will be different eventually
The research indicates that the landscape will inevitably change in the future, prompting marketers to prepare for evolving AI and CX.
The state of AI for brands
Currently, 80 percent of marketers are employing AI tools in their daily operations, with one in five utilizing more than four such tools, the research finds. Over the next five years, 53 percent of marketers plan to adjust their strategies to incorporate emerging AI, while 15 percent will prioritize seeking out new AI solutions. It’s noteworthy that 38 percent of customers surveyed are already interacting with AI from brands on a weekly basis, and 70 percent expect AI to play a more significant role in their brand interactions in the coming years.
Questioning brand integrity
The relationship between marketers and customers relies heavily on the brand story, and authenticity remains crucial to building that connection. However, despite the increasing adoption of AI tools, many marketers are unconvinced that AI improves authentic storytelling. 60 percent of marketers express concern that AI could impact their brand’s integrity, with nearly half fearing that AI might undermine the human connection. Customers, too, value human-told stories more, as 66 percent believe AI-generated stories lack the same value as those narrated by people.
AI through the funnel
Marketers are actively integrating AI into their workflow (56 percent) to achieve greater efficiency, believing that AI tools save time and money. However, the study revealed that 48 percent of marketers either lack conclusive data on the impact of AI or collect no data on AI at all. This uncertainty presents an opportunity for marketers to explore AI not just as a storytelling tool but as a means of engagement through the customer journey.
Optimizing the customer experience
Only 42 percent of customers believe that AI enhances their brand interactions. When questioned further, 35 percent of customers stated that AI is efficient but less effective than interacting with a person, while 15 percent find AI to be both inconvenient and ineffective. Fortunately, marketers aren’t far off in recognizing this concern, as only 8 percent of them use AI tools because they believe they genuinely improve the CX.
AI potential in the human world
Many marketers (33 percent) are concerned about AI potentially replacing skilled work within their organizations, and another 15 percent are uncertain about what to expect. Nevertheless, 76 percent of marketers acknowledge the potential of AI in supporting better innovation and ideation for their teams. As AI’s role within marketing teams is carefully considered, it is crucial to account for how customers perceive AI and its impact on the customer journey. A significant portion of customers (44 percent) would contemplate distancing themselves from a brand that relies on AI rather than human storytelling, while 26 percent might consider it as well.
While AI tools offer efficiency gains, marketers must prioritize understanding their value and impact on authenticity and customer experience. By addressing these concerns, marketers can successfully leverage AI to optimize customer journeys and build stronger connections with their target audience.