What if I told you that you most likely used some type of AI technology already today as a digital marketer?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is not a new phenomenon, but it’s one that has garnered major attention in recent months with the release of ChatGPT and Google’s Bard.
While these new tools have got us talking, the truth is that most of us already interact with AI applications on a daily basis.
This includes web search engines, recommendation modules, and virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa.
However, now that AI is becoming even more prominent in the world of digital marketing, questions and concerns are starting to arise.
In this post, we’ll discuss AI technology and where it currently stands in digital marketing. We’ll then explore the data we’ve collected from 1,000 digital marketers in the US, including feelings on AI usage and current implementation. Finally, we’ll share ways you can begin to use AI in your marketing campaigns.
AI And The Digital Marketing Landscape
So how is AI currently impacting the digital marketing landscape?
Historically, there were three main broad uses for AI in digital marketing:
- Automating repetitive tasks. This includes entering customer data into CRMs or collecting and transforming user data from website analytics platforms.
- Personalizing customer interactions and experiences. Good examples here are chatbots or even your email marketing platform where subscriber segmentation is likely a large part of your email marketing strategy.
- Informing decisions about resource allocation. For example, where and when you should buy advertising space and even how much money you should allocate to each campaign.
These uses are still very much in practice today. With the recent explosion in AI adoption, though, this list has expanded to include broad tasks such as content creation, targeted advertising, and image recognition.
And how about future uses of AI in digital marketing? Are human marketers at risk of being replaced?
The fact is that AI – while useful – can’t fully replace the human element that is so important in digital marketing. After all, humanizing AI-generated content is still a necessity, and it will be for many years to come. With that said, let’s discuss further the current attitudes on AI usage in marketing.
Marketing Attitudes On AI: What Our Data Shows Us
We surveyed 1,000 digital marketers in the industry. We strictly focused on those that actively work in digital marketing, whether they are freelance, have an in-house role at an organization, or an agency role. This survey was limited to only those in the United States.
Before we dive into the specifics, let’s look at some aggregate data from our 1,000 respondents.
First up is knowledge about AI technology and its uses in digital marketing.
Out of our 1,000 respondents, 26.4% felt highly knowledgeable on the topic. Further, 22.8% consider themselves an expert. The remaining 50.8% felt their skillset around AI technology was somewhat knowledgeable or below.
As for how our respondents feel about AI technology, 39.1% are somewhat excited or excited about AI technology and its blossoming role in digital marketing. 36.7% fall into the somewhat concerned and concerned categories. That leaves 24.2% of respondents with neutral feelings.
Now why might almost 37% of digital marketers feel concern about the adoption of AI technology?
Perhaps the biggest reason is concern over job security.
Historically, the introduction of technology in a variety of industries (e.g. retail, finance, manufacturing) has led to a decrease in workforce numbers.
Job loss is a very valid concern for digital marketers, whether they’re freelancers or employees.
Beyond job loss, though, is also the concern over shifting job responsibilities.
While the adoption of AI technology may not eliminate all, or even most, jobs in digital marketing, there will certainly be a shift in what and how human workers are expected to produce.
The above concerns align pretty well with respondents’ optimism about using AI in digital marketing. 36% of people feel optimistic, 21.3% feel cautious, 22.3% feel worried, and 20.4% feel indifferent.
Despite some concerns, almost 44% of those surveyed feel that AI will have a positive impact on their career. 27.5% feel there will be a negative impact, and 28.7% predict no impact on their career whatsoever.
Now, how about comfortability with integrating AI tech into their existing campaigns?
39.2% are very comfortable with the idea of integrating AI tech, while 33.5% feel somewhat comfortable with the idea. About 27% of the respondents feel not comfortable.
And when push comes to shove, how about actual implementation?
Of the 1,000 respondents, 209 people are already using AI in their digital marketing campaigns. A further 291 respondents are very likely to use AI and 199 respondents are somewhat likely to use it. Of the remaining respondents, 152 are not likely to use AI while 149 said they would never use AI in their digital marketing campaigns.
Finally, of those 209 who are currently using AI within digital marketing, we asked what that looked like. The bulk of our respondents said they were using AI for creating partial content (e.g., FAQs, paragraphs) while the second most common answer was for creating whole content (e.g., articles, blog posts).
Now let’s drill down even further into the three groups included in our findings above: freelancers, in-house employees, and employees of digital marketing agencies.
Our research included 229 freelancers.
Of the people surveyed, the majority (45.41%) felt either somewhat knowledgeable or not knowledgeable at all about AI technology. The remaining people felt highly knowledgeable (37.12%) or even felt that they were experts (17.47%).
In terms of excitement, 36.28% of freelancers feel excitement towards AI being used in digital marketing while 27% feel neutral and 36.28% feel some level of concern.
Despite the near ⅓ of respondents feeling concerned about AI, 55.4% of the 229 respondents think AI will have a positive effect on their career. This is in contrast to 20.52% who feel there will be a negative effect and 27.07% who say there will be no impact at all.
This is perhaps the greatest difference between freelancers and non-freelancers (i.e. agency and in-house employees) when it comes to the use of AI in digital marketing.
55.4% of freelancers feel AI will have a positive effect on their career, while the same can be said for only 42.39% of in-house employees and only 40.05% of agency employees.
Why might that be?
For one, the use of AI in digital marketing will likely look different for the freelancer vs an employee. What I mean is that freelancers can adopt AI technology as they see fit. That’s not the case for employees who may have strict guidelines for AI tools to follow from their employers.
Employers may adopt AI technology in order to save money and time in the long run. This could be a hardship for employees who may see their workload dwindle and, in some cases, disappear.
That’s not to say that freelancers won’t have to compete with the AI technology on the market. More clients may turn to AI instead of freelancers for their digital marketing needs. However, freelancers have more flexibility there since they can alter their services to meet those changing needs.
So, what are freelance attitudes on usage?
Of the respondents, 22.71% of freelancers said they were already using AI technology in some capacity within their digital marketing campaigns. As for future usage, 34.06% are likely to use AI in digital marketing campaigns, and 14.41% are somewhat likely. The remaining 28.82% responded they were unlikely or never going to use AI technology in their work.
Let’s see how employees with in-house digital roles feel on the topic of AI technology in digital marketing. They make up 394 of our survey respondents.
The in-house employees had a high self-proclaimed knowledge with 50.25% feeling highly knowledgeable about or an expert on AI technology. Of the remaining respondents, 17.01% feel somewhat knowledgeable and 32.74% feel they have no knowledge of AI technology at all.
The majority (39.59%) of the in-house respondents feel some level of excitement about using AI in digital marketing. 25.89% are neutral on the topic, while the remaining 24.52% feel some level of concern.
Interestingly, in-house digital marketers stand out as the least concerned about AI technology adoption. Their 24.52% of concerned respondents pales in comparison to both freelancers (36.28%) and agency employees (39.26%).
One reason for this may be departmental autonomy.
While freelancers are fully autonomous, they do have to strike a finer balance when it comes to meeting their client’s needs. This isn’t the case for in-house departments that serve just one client – i.e., their employer.
This is a similar case for digital marketing agencies. They also have a portfolio of clients who may soon begin to adopt AI in place of their digital marketing services.
When it comes to levels of concern, then, it makes sense that in-house employees would have the lowest levels. They have just one “client” to serve. Also, as they’re the professionals in digital marketing within their company, they’re unlikely to be forced to adopt AI in a way that would eliminate their positions. After all, what outside department would have enough knowledge to dictate AI adoption on a mass level?
So, what about impact on their careers? We talked about this above, but let’s delve deeper into the stats for in-house employees alone.
According to 42.39% of the respondents, they think AI will have a positive impact on their careers. 29.7% say there will be a negative impact, while the remaining 27.92% say no impact in either direction.
With all of that said, 20.81% of in-house digital marketers are already using AI tech in marketing campaigns. 28.68% are very likely to start using it, while 21.07% are somewhat likely and 29.45% are not likely or never going to use AI.
Digital Marketing Agency
Our last group of digital marketing professionals is those who work for a digital marketing agency. They make up 377 people of the 1,000 people total that we surveyed.
Along the same lines as freelancers and in-house marketers, the majority feel either highly knowledgeable (16.81%) about or were experts (28.65%) on AI technology in digital marketing. The remainder felt somewhat knowledgeable (18.3%) or felt not knowledgeable about or had no knowledge (36.87%) of AI technology.
Of the 377 agency respondents, 37.05% feel some level of excitement toward the use of AI technology in digital marketing. 20.69% felt neutral. The remaining 39.26% feel somewhat concerned.
Despite having higher levels of concern, 40.05% marked that they feel AI will have a positive impact on their career as a digital marketer. In an almost even split, 29.44% feel there will be a negative impact and 30.5% feel there will be no impact at all.
So, who’s already using it?
According to our agency respondents, 19.89% are already using AI in their digital marketing campaigns, while 26.53% are very likely to start. The remainder is split between being somewhat likely to use it (22.02%) or not likely or never going to use it at all (31.57%).
Interestingly, it appears digital marketing agency employees are the slowest to adopt AI. They are also the least likely to use it in the future (31.57% vs in-house’s 29.45% and freelance’s 28.82%).
A likely reason for this is size.
While the size of digital marketing agencies and in-house departments can vary, it’s probably safe to say that many agencies are larger (both in operations and in employee numbers) than in-house departments.
The more people and established processes there are, the slower it can be to adopt new tools and technology in a set, uniform way.
What We Learned From Our Data
The biggest insight to take away from this data is that digital marketers are still trying to figure out where AI will fit into their campaigns, if at all.
There is overall trepidation toward AI technology. When should AI be implemented in digital marketing? How? A fair number of marketers feel worried or concerned with AI technology yet feel there will be an overall positive impact on their careers.
Instead of dwelling on the anxieties, you need to harness the positive aspects of AI technology. There is no doubt that AI can benefit many, if not all, digital marketers in some capacity. The anxiety comes from not knowing how to use it and how far to go.
The only way to combat that anxiety is to dive in and see that you are still in control, even when using AI to complement your skills. We share a few ideas for implementing AI in the next section.
As for what we learned about when AI is used, it is for parts of an overall marketing strategy and not for running the entire strategy or campaign. AI will never completely replace human marketers. The human element is too critical. However, we are seeing some level of change in the marketing industry with AI replacing some jobs or some parts of job roles.
Perhaps the greatest example of this is in the use of AI chat technology to replace human chat workers. AI chat enables customers to connect with companies 24/7 at a fraction of the cost. As such, many companies are adopting AI chat as a supplement to their workforce.
Notice that I said supplement, however, and not replacement. We are a long way away from chatbots and other forms of AI completing replacing humans in the workforce. So, if that’s your greatest anxiety, we’ll show you how to use AI in a more measured way in your own work.
How Should You Use AI In Digital Marketing?
So perhaps you’re like one of the 50% of our survey respondents who are already using AI or are likely to adopt AI in the future. How should you use AI in digital marketing?
There are a few ways to use AI, and some of them may not be what you think.
When you think of AI use in digital marketing, you probably don’t think of its use in customer engagement and retention. However, chatbots have been used for years across numerous industries.
Why consider chatbots over human technicians? Well, chatbots are available 24/7 and they can handle more than one customer interaction at a time. They also learn how to better interact with your customer base the longer they are in use.
When you think of AI in digital marketing, you probably think of AI designed to create content. This applies to AI bots that can bust out an 800-word essay in seconds or paragraph rewriters that use AI.
The fact is that AI can touch content at all stages of the process – from brainstorming topic ideas to crafting topic sentences to completely rewriting old content to make it relevant for today’s readers.
Just check out some of the best AI writing tools, like Ubersuggest AI Writer above, to see what AI can do.
Perhaps you’re not ready to use AI to write your next white paper or blog post. That doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from AI in marketing.
One area that AI has been involved in for years is personalization. From Customer Relationship Management (CRM) programs to email marketing platforms to on-site recommendation modules, AI is a great tool when it comes to customer personalization.
By collecting and analyzing audience and segment data, AI personalization tools can be the best way to enhance your reader’s experience. Just consider modules, like the Lowe’s Regularly Bought Together section above. These use customer behavior and purchase data to offer the best recommendations to their customers as a way to increase order value.
AI doesn’t only create; it can also optimize. An easy way to get started with AI, especially if you’re unsure of its benefits, is to use it to find weaknesses or areas in need of improvement.
For example, you can use AI to inform your overall SEO strategy. The goal is really to use AI to find gaps in your current SEO implementation.
AI subfields such as Natural Language Processing (NLP) and machine learning can enable you to optimize meta descriptions and meta titles, run A/B tests with your audience, and conduct extensive competitive research.
AI SEO tools can be used to find keywords you should be targeting, link building opportunities, and even competitor content gaps to exploit. Commonly used tools like Grammarly and Hemingway also use AI to help refine and edit content, so you may already be using some AI in your work without even knowing it.
Do you have more questions about AI technology in digital marketing? We have answers to some frequently asked questions on the topic.
There are three main ways that AI has historically helped in marketing. One, it automates repetitive tasks. Two, it helps to personalize customer interactions. Three, it informs decisions about the allocation of resources. As technology improves, though, the list continues to grow. In recent years, content creation, targeted advertising, and image recognition have been added to the list, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
While AI is a helpful tool, it’s just that, a tool. There is still the human element that is required for successful digital marketing campaigns. So, while the role of AI may continue to grow, the need for human digital marketers will never fully diminish.
AI is opening up a world of new possibilities for digital marketers. It takes complicated and time-consuming tasks and makes them easier. This gives human marketers the ability to explore more meaningful projects.
The biggest advantage of AI in marketing is the freeing up of time and resources for more meaningful, and hopefully more revenue-driving, tasks. The biggest disadvantage, as with any technology, is overreliance. We can lean on AI for many things, but it should never be the core of our digital marketing strategy.
While there is certainly trepidation about AI use in digital marketing, there is no reason to fear.
We tend to be more afraid of things when we don’t understand it, so I encourage you to learn more about AI technology and its implementation in digital marketing.
The fact is, there are more benefits to AI implementation than there are drawbacks. You just have to find a way to implement it in your digital marketing strategy that makes sense for your needs.
Do you currently or plan to implement AI in your digital marketing campaigns? Let us know the details down below.