The Current State of AI
First, we can check in with the current state of artificial intelligence (AI) in the workforce.
In 2020, the McKinsey Global Survey on AI found that “organizations are using AI as a tool for generating value. Increasingly, that value is coming in the form of revenues… companies plan to invest even more in AI in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its acceleration of all things digital… And while companies overall are making some progress in mitigating the risks of AI, most still have a long way to go.”
In a nutshell, we’re far from the robot apocalypse. COVID-19 has accelerated the use of AI but the vast majority of companies are behind. AI’s theoretical purpose is to play the role of either generating revenue, or reducing costs (sounds like what we do with marketing at Refinery Lab). Reducing the cost of labor is where the controversy of “being replaced by a robot” comes from. The problem with this conspiracy is that it makes the assumption that robots can run themselves, the intelligence part of artificial intelligence. This may be more likely in the high-tech or telecom industries, with manufacturing (especially automotive) coming up behind, but for most other industries the robots still need human power to do the heavy lifting.
What we’re seeing more of now is “cobotics”, where humans and robots cooperate. I can give you a very simple example. Pre-COVID, if you happened to frequent any big box fast-food chain you may have noticed the introduction of “mobile ordering”. The idea was to have consumers place their own orders, and avoid the 2 line system, wait in line to place your order, and wait in another to pick it up, “Skip the Line”. This was the beginning of what we see incredible amounts of today, post-COVID, with restaurants having their own apps, and other on-demand apps like SKIP, Grub HUB, Uber Eats, Postmates, DoorDash, Instacart, etc. Behind this push towards automatic ordering, we have to keep in mind the jobs in these on-demand services are increasing, and the companies with their own apps now all need to have new jobs in app development and tech, they need to train their employees how to use the systems and devices. They also need to have tech/app troubleshooting operators in their customer service departments. AI is creating different opportunities, not taking them away entirely.
What happened to all the cashiers that used to take those orders? Now, they’re behind the line, making your orders. Companies like McDonald’s and Starbucks report having to hire more employees to keep up with the demands of mobile ordering, new roles in expediting or delivering orders, and more production line workers to fulfill the orders that are coming in faster and more frequently than ever. We see the same thing for e-commerce businesses, if orders can be placed by the consumer, and transact with an AI, then that leaves more human power to manufacture, fulfill, and deliver the orders.
Marketing and AI
In marketing, AI plays the same role. Marketing automation is more than a buzzword for scheduled emails, it allows for consumers to interact through AI, to get concierge-level service without the butler in a tux. Your reach becomes far greater because when you have humans servicing other humans you start to run out of humans. With AI you can reach an infinite number of people with your products and services until the consumer reaches a critical point where the personalized touch is absolutely necessary. In marketing, robots can handle transactions, emails, social media, and site maintenance; while humans can take on the roles of strategy, analysis, creativity, consultation, and genuine human connection, which require human intellect.
After all, marketing is about appealing to people, not robots. If you are interested in learning more about how AI and Cobotics can disrupt or accelerate your business- contact us today.