Marketing trends in 2020: Has AI reached businesses yet?

At the end of March of this year, more than 400 individuals from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland (DACH region) who are interested in AI met virtually at the “AI for Business” conference. They were there to learn about the latest developments in marketing and artificial intelligence (AI) in business. The software company BSI, together with ai-zurich, drew on the many experts in attendance to conduct a survey on 2020 marketing trends and to examine whether the attendees use AI in their daily work, and if so, how.

Thanks to AI, everyone talks about automation and (hyper-)personalization, but have these trends actually arrived at companies in the DACH region?

1. Personalization and automation finish first

48% of those surveyed felt that the most critical marketing trends of 2020 are automation and personalization, followed by customer orientation and omnichannel (24%), and by purpose, meaning authentic and meaningful customer communication (16%). Only 4% of respondents regard the active involvement of customers in marketing (participation and co-creation) as the most important trend.

When comparing SMEs with up to 250 employees to large corporations, interesting differences emerge: In large companies, a majority of 61% consider automation the dominant trend, while in SMEs, that number is at only 35%. On the other hand, meaningful, authentic communication is more important to SMEs than it is to large companies (22% vs. 11%). Here is a possible explanation: SMEs might be under the impression that automation initiatives are too expensive for them or that the effort is not worthwhile.

62% of surveyed professionals consider hyper-personalization to be an “exciting trend that we need to respond to,” but only about one-third of them have their content, services, and products tailored to individual customers (28%). 23% of companies have not even dealt with this trend yet. This means that there is some catching up to do in this area.

2. Proponents count on AI to benefit the workplace

Three out of four experts from the marketing and IT areas believe that artificial intelligence adds value to their businesses (73%). A little less than one third do appreciate the opportunities AI offers (27%), and 13% feel that there should be stricter regulations around AI.

AI already has a presence in everyday life: 72% of respondents confirmed that they use AI tools like DeepL, Alexa, and facial recognition on their smartphones; for 23% of the surveyed professionals, AI is even an integral part of their work. Only 7% stated that they use no AI applications at all. 9% of respondents answered the question of whether AI would change their work in the next ten years with a “No.” They believe that AI will not be able to do their job. Only 3% fear that their job will no longer exist by then. The vast majority of respondents (88%) are optimistic and actually expect AI to benefit them in their work.

“Only one-fourth of those surveyed already benefit from AI in their work today. This number confirms my mission to make, with ai-zurich, an important contribution to the use of artificial intelligence at companies in the DACH region. My team and I want to show professionals from all areas of their companies how they can use AI profitably. It is exciting and challenging, and will remain so,” says Sophie Hundertmark, founder of ai-zurich, regarding the results.

3. A reality check: Marketing automation is anything but established

Merely less than one-third of respondents (29%) already use marketing automation in combination with a CRM solution. 38% stated that the interaction between CRM and marketing automation makes sense, but that it does not yet exist in their companies. 15% use neither a CRM nor a marketing automation solution, and 14% said that they don’t use marketing automation. If we consider the company size here, too, the following becomes obvious: About one-third of large companies use CRM and marketing automation combined (37%), whereas the percentage is clearly lower (22%) in SMEs. While 24% of SMEs use neither CRM nor marketing automation, only 7% of large companies must manage without either of these solutions in lead and customer management.

“A professional data management system and a 360° customer view are critical for automated, personalized, and data-driven customer communication. You cannot get there without a CRM system. However, to bring your customer and lead management up to date, you need to combine the CRM with marketing automation and an omnichannel approach,” comments Claude Schuler, Marketing Automation Specialist at BSI, on the BSI trend analysis.

Sample information

n = 92; 28% marketing/communications, 25% IT, 23% management, 7% sales, 4% service, 12% others