In 2018, AI isn’t a nice-to-have feature in your marketing technology stack. Rather, it’s a must-have to give your organization a competitive edge.

We sat down with Dr. Sid Reddy, chief scientist at Conversica, to learn more about what could happen in the coming years for AI in marketing. Dr. Reddy shared his thoughts about AI’s growing popularity and what it will mean for businesses.

Prediction #1: Conversational AI will out pace apps

For years, AI wasn’t conversational. Reaching a level where AI could be conversational was a challenge; it meant that the AI interface had to not only understand what the user said, but also predict what the user wanted and then respond in a convincing way. And it’s not a one-time response—the AI must continue conversing for as long as the user interacts.

Today, with the widespread popularity of Alexa, Siri, Cortana, and so on, the once impossible dream of conversational AI is everywhere.

Conversational AI chatbots are so popular, in fact, that when you ask marketers at enterprise-level organizations about where they are investing their departmental budget, there is a debate going on between pouring resources into conversational AI versus apps for smartphones and tablets.

Yet, in Dr. Reddy’s mind, there is no contest. People find apps burdensome as there is a great deal of information you have to enter in order to get a desired result. Conversely, conversational AI is easier to use—all you have to do is either type or speak, and the AI will quickly find the answer to your question or perform a particular task.

Conversational AI’s advantage over apps will make it even more popular in the coming years, and Reddy predicts that the adoption of technology such as Alexa and Google Home en masse.

Prediction #2: Alexa will tell you “sponsored” results first

Conversational AI could even replace search within the next few years. All a person has to do is type a phrase or talk into a speaker to get search results from conversational AI.

As advances in the field make the technology even better, the use of conversational AI will continue to grow. When conversational AI reaches a mass-adoption tipping point for search, marketers will no doubt recognize the opportunity and seize it.

“Big companies will look into how to market through a virtual assistant, and technology developers will want to monetize it,” Reddy said. A possible scenario: A conversational AI platform could provide sponsored search results first, helping users find what they want while giving firms greater visibility.

Prediction #3: Hyper-personalized messages through the integration of systems

The current state of marketing for many organizations is through static online ads and email campaigns. Although marketing automation software has enabled organizations to customize some elements of marketing communication, there is a tremendous opportunity to take this even further with conversational AI and the integration of additional systems.

A conversational AI solution can draw information about a customer from a firm’s CRM application or other data sources (such as Facebook or other vendors). This integration will make these data sources even more valuable than they already are. As a result, once conversational AI adoption increases, Dr. Reddy predicts a rise in hyper-personalized marketing.

Prediction #4: Regulations will increase

As conversational AI grows more popular, regulators will take more notice. “There will be concerns about privacy as companies get more creative about sharing marketing messages,” he warned. “It’s already happening in Europe with GDPR.”

The AI industry is already responding to the concerns of regulators with countless organizations to assess potential AI issues and to promote the safe use of AI technology. Among them are Elon Musk’s OpenAI; the Partnership on AI, created by Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM to develop and implement AI best practices; and the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Fund, which was started by the Knight Foundation Omidyar Network and LinkedIn founder REid Hoffman to fund initiatives that explore the ethical issues surrounding AI

AI solution providers, as well as marketers, will have to navigate more stringent regulations with an eye toward using AI in a way that enables customers to perform tasks while not overstepping the bounds expected by users and regulators.

It’s an exciting time for AI in marketing and—with AI technology evolving daily—the future appears to hold both exciting and unpredictable outcomes.

For more information about how AI is changing the face of marketing, download 8 Ways Artificial Intelligence Is Supercharging Marketing.

8 Ways AI Is Supercharging Marketing