Survey: AI use grows among marketers, in spite of privacy concerns

Few are satisfied with the ability to balance personalization tools with privacy, according to a new survey from Salesforce.

The portion of marketers using AI to connect with customers is growing, a new survey shows, even though few are satisfied with the ability to balance personalization tools with privacy.

In 2018, 29 percent of marketers used AI, according to the fifth edition of the Salesforce State of Marketing report, which surveyed more than 4,100 marketing leaders worldwide. By comparison, just 20 percent of marketers used AI in 2017. The 2018 AI adoption rate was higher, at 40 percent, among "high-performing" marketers -- those who said they are completely satisfied with their overall marketing performance and the outcomes of their marketing investments.

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At the same time, only 30 percent of marketers are completely satisfied with their ability to balance personalization with privacy.

The survey results illustrate how businesses have reached a critical juncture, where they must learn how to leverage AI tools to learn useful, personal details about their customers -- without losing their trust. Salesforce found that 51 percent of marketing teams say they're more mindful about balancing personalization and privacy than they were two years ago.

Today, marketers typically use AI in two different ways, the survey found, such as powering real-time next best offers or predictive marketing journeys. By 2020, marketers are expected to typically use AI an additional four ways.


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The allure of AI isn't surprising: Real-time customer engagement ranks as marketers' top priority, as well as their top challenge.

AI tools are becoming more accessible from a variety of vendors -- as is customer data. The median number of data sources -- defined as any source of personally identifiable data on customers that can be used to inform marketing strategies -- creeped up from 10 in 2017 to 12 in 2018, the survey found. It's expected to reach 15 in 2019.

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