MELBOURNE: Marketers may find the concept of artificial intelligence (AI) daunting in terms of understanding the technology and the investment required, but a leading innovation executive believes 2017 will be the year when AI will take off.

Erik Hallander, Regional Mobile and Innovation Director at Isobar, the digital marketing agency, said an increasing number of brands are testing the waters and finding that small and targeted outcomes can be surprisingly easy.

In an article for Campaign Asia, he explained how apparel brand North Face, for example, is using AI to recommend better products to its customers.

Similarly, Facebook is drawing on deep learning to improve its automated system's analysis of users' behaviour, traffic and trends to recommend related content.

AI is also seeing more use in the fields of product pricing, which has moved on from plane tickets to areas like entertainment and taxi rides, as well as data analysis, sales forecasts and automated reporting.

"Data governance is something big brands are still struggling with, and it's no surprise to see AI being used to help," Hallander writes.

"But perhaps the most rapid to adopt AI has been customer service. Through chat bots and other forms of communications, AI is starting to make a real dent in the art of answering questions from customers. Much of this has happened almost invisibly, behind most marketers' backs."

For example, it is becoming increasingly common for consumers to interact with a bot when they first visit a website's conversational interface, or through Facebook and Facebook Messenger. And if the engagement gets too complicated for the bot, then the consumer is simply routed through to a human being.

"We can expect a much more sophisticated 2017. A more tuned, automated and accurate 2017," Hallander concludes. "To me, next year will be the year that no one in this industry can choose to ignore AI any longer. We will go from 'seems interesting' to 'how did my brand get so far behind?'."

Data sourced from Campaign Asia; additional content by Warc staff