Executive Perception of Machine Learning for Marketing Decisions

Industry executives hear about the buzz and promise of machine learning for solving tough marketing questions. We sought to gauge understanding, perceptions, and future direction of machine learning from a corporate perspective.

Based on the results of 20 in-depth interviews among senior business leaders, three main themes arose:

  1. Analytics leaders seem to believe that machine learning has had a positive impact on their company; however, quantifying the effects is difficult. Distrust and fear of job loss is a concern among some organizations.
  2. Barriers to implementing machine learning include people who do not understand the concept, analysts that are not trained, and data that is not ready for machine learning.
  3. Leaders appear generally optimistic about the future and growth of machine learning. While the exact nature is unclear, there is consensus among those surveyed that that the role of the analyst will change.

Negative impacts and process change concerns include black box apprehension, fear of organizational disruption in who owns and benefits from machine learning, job loss, and hiring changes toward analysts who know machine learning. Positive machine learning attributes were: increased confidence in decision making, mathematical rigor, demand for more data-driven decisions, and general excitement on revelation, discovery, and the future of innovation.

Barriers to machine learning implementation were identified as lack of understanding, poor data ecosystem, lack of talent, and knowledge of where or how to apply, general counter to gut lack of acceptance, regulatory constraints and general beliefs of being too complicated.

Beverly Wright image

Beverly Wright, CAP

Beverly Wright, CAP

Partner – Data Science at RelationalAI

Dr. Beverly Wright has over 25 years leading and executing data science and analytics through corporate, consulting, and academic experiences. Currently, she leads the Data Science Practice for RelationalAI and serves companies in Atlanta with analytics and data science solutions. Over her career, Dr. Beverly Wright has provided guidance to a variety of businesses and nonprofit organizations to frame and solve critical issues using modeling and advanced analytics. In addition to her practitioner experience, Dr. Wright was a professor of graduate analytics practicum at Georgia Tech, marketing research and analysis, business statistics, graduate research for decision making, among other courses at multiple universities. She currently serves as Academic Director for UGA Executive Education, teaches Executive Education at Emory University, operates a nonprofit using data science for good called ATLytiCS, and serves as host for TAG Data Talk.