Here’s something most people probably don’t know: artificial intelligence actually debuted at a conference at Dartmouth University in 1956. Yep, 11 years after the end of WW2, artificial intelligence was on the scene. Some people at the conference believed robots and AI machines would be doing the work of humans by the mid-1970s. Of course, that didn’t happen — what happened instead was that funding dried up and a period called “The AI Winter” began. That ostensibly lasted into the 2000s, when IBM’s Watson peaked a lot of interest in artificial intelligence again.

Now we’re at an interesting place. Like PCs in the early 1980s or the Internet in the early 1990s, artificial intelligence is “out there” and people know about it — Tom Cruise and Will Smith movies, for one — but it hasn’t impacted businesses just yet. (Well, not most businesses.) Prominent Silicon Valley executives, like Sam Altman of Y Combinator and Elon Musk of Tesla/RocketX, are beginning to do more around AI, despite being scared of its potential ramifications.


Hollywood has a lot to say about potential ramifications of AI. Image

What does this all mean for mobile and mobile marketers in the short-term, though?

The intersection of mobile & artificial intelligence

For one: artificial intelligence and mobile are both ways to bolster customer experience. Mobile does it by reaching customers where they’re already at (their phone), and AI does it through virtual assistance, insight generation, and the automation of manual processes.

Now consider some of this data: in 2016, mobile directly influenced $500 billion in retail sales in the U.S. alone. By 2020, mobile will account for 45% or more of the $632 billion in total ecommerce sales. 80% of consumers turn to a smartphone before a human to make a purchase. There’s a lot of money at stake here, and the integration of mobile and AI helps drive hyper-personalization.

80% of consumers turn to a smartphone before a human to make a purchase.

The No. 1 integration of mobile and artificial intelligence right now occurs in the form of chatbots (which Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently said would “change computing for everybody”), but there are other possibilities to consider.

Other integrations of artificial intelligence & mobile

Mobile ads. At the end of 2016, Forrester claimed artificial intelligence might be the driving force of future mobile ads. We’ve worked with companies such as BreakingSports on the intersection of mobile ads and artificial intelligence, and Facebook uses AI to target segments for mobile ads. (It works faster, and often delivers better results for the ad buyer.)

Virtual assistants. 2017 has been called “The Year of Voice”, and most of the mobile assistant platforms — Siri, Cortana, etc. — are powered by artificial intelligence. While Siri, Cortana, and Alexa come from huge brands, there are actually artificial intelligence-powered mobile assistants from smaller shops that are already pointing the way towards the future. One often-painful real-life example: how many times have you had to exchange 20+ emails with someone just to set up one meeting? (“Oh, Tuesday at 2pm I have a call.. 3:15pm?”) As artificial intelligence continues to progress, one mobile assistant can literally ping another virtual assistant and a meeting can be set up. The time-saving ROI could be immense.


Samsung’s personal assistant prototype, Otto. Otto includes an HD camera with basic facial recognition.

The speed of data-driven decision-making. Every company seems to compete on Big Data right now, but the issue is this: as you collect more and more data, there’s (obviously) more to consider. In a business context, “more to consider” can lead to analysis paralysis, which can make decision-making slower. Artificial intelligence, by contrast, can make decision-making faster because you get intel about a user’s most personal device at the exact moment of interaction. An example: some companies now are designing their sales pitches in the form of mobile apps. The apps capture exactly where the interest lies for the potential client, and artificial intelligence can optimize next steps. If a potential client looks at one part of the app for 10 minutes, AI can note that and grab additional sections of your website about that topic to present to the client. Decisions can be made in real-time (almost) at the intersection of mobile and artificial intelligence, as opposed to waiting for data, scrubbing data, analyzing data, presenting data to executives, and making a decision. If speed is the name of the game in business (some argue ‘tis), this is a competitive advantage.

The artificial intelligence market is supposed to go from $419.7 million (2014) to $5.05 billion (2020), which is a compound annual growth rate of 53 percent.

(Whoa.) As of now, it’s estimated that only about 1,500 North American companies are doing anything with AI; that’s less than 1 percent of all medium-to-large companies. All indications, though, are that AI will get to scale as quickly as mobile did. A large part of how AI gets used by more and more companies is how easily it intersects with other mobile applications.

As more and more companies start experimenting with AI (then handing bigger chunks of their P&L to it), these factors above will be important to watch/consider. As AI becomes “normative”, a whole host of additional factors and potential applications to mobile marketing will emerge. (Don’t worry; we’ll be here to cover those too.)