Generative AI Causes Consumer Search Patterns To Change, Study Shows

Generative artificial intelligence (GAI) platforms have gained favor with marketers, with more than 80% in the United States reporting they have experimented with the technology.

Sitecore, a digital experience software company, released the AI & Composable Marketing Software Survey on Tuesday.

The study found many marketers are reallocating budgets away from planned investments toward GAI. More than 400 brand marketers took the survey online, from March 17-30, 2023.   

Many changes made to search will follow consumers. Two-thirds of U.S. respondents have noticed changes in customer search patterns, particularly increases in direct-to-retail, social, and voice searches. 

Some changes include:

  • 57% -- more direct to retail search
  • 64% -- TikTok, Reels or other social channels
  • 55% -- voice search
  • 41% -- more searches coming from Bing
  • 38% -- fewer searches coming from Google

Are marketers investing in new platforms to meet changing search needs?

  • 70% -- have invested in AI powered search
  • 23% -- have not, but plan to invest in AI powered search
  • 23% -- plan to make investments in traditional search
  • 3%   -- have no plans to invest now

Some 95% of respondents say their companies support investments in AI technology. Three in four marketers are considering -- or currently invest in -- AI to support marketing and the customer experience, with 78% stating that GAI will bring them closer to consumers.

Some 75% believe GAI will provide greater personalization, and 74% believe it will help provide a deeper understanding of customer needs.  

Most survey respondents believe GAI will create more or new jobs, including a chief AI officer:

  • 78% -- marketing AI specialists
  • 71% -- GAI specialists
  • 54% -- content management
  • 52% -- content creators
  • 47% -- graphic designers
  • 44% -- chief AI officer
  • 27% -- copywriters
  • 1%   -- other

Analytical and technical skills are lacking, according to U.S. respondents, but nearly all believe AI can help support these skill gaps.

When asked what skill they feel their marketing team lacks, here’s what U.S. respondents said:

  • 49% -- analytical
  • 42% -- technical
  • 35% -- experience delivery
  • 35% -- design
  • 34% -- management
  • 24% -- copywriting
  • 15% -- none
  • 1%   -- other

Budgets will come from a variety of places. The metaverse prompted marketers to look to virtual worlds to connect with consumers in 2022.

Findings reveal that 56% of marketers had invested in metaverse-like technologies. This year, marketers allocated budgets to the metaverse and to field marketing are most at risk when needed to fund GAI projects.

Some 38% will come from metaverse projects, with 37% from field marketing, 28% from content creation, 27% from website creation, 26% from demand generation, and 20% from search projects. About 20% said they would not remove budgets from other divisions.

Most respondents feel the company’s technology is equipped to leverage GAI, but those who don’t lack internal knowledge, resources, or budget. Some 55% lack internal knowledge, 40% lack resources, and 39% lack the budget.

While 77% of marketers said they were confident their marketing technology stack is equipped to leverage GAI, concerns remain. Among them—45% cited the cost of implementation, 41% cited data privacy vulnerabilities, and 26% said required system modernization.

It's interesting to note that Reality Labs, the division housing metaverse projects, recorded a cumulative loss of nearly $24 billion in 2021 and 2022. Of that, $13.7 billion was last year alone.

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