An intelligent approach to marketing

AI is finding a role in marketing, notably as part of a wider digital transformation in the tourism and hospitality sector

Laughlin Rigby, digital transformation and AI director, Core Optimisation

Is generative artificial intelligence (AI) now a mainstream technology, or is it one still on the cusp of integration into organisations?

Company Details

Core Optimisation

Year founded: 2015

Number of employees: 55

Why it is in the news: As AI becomes a mainstream technology, not least in marketing, organisations are seeking assistance on strategy and implementation.

Looked at a certain way, both are true, said Laughlin Rigby, digital transformation and AI director at Core Optimisation. The technology cycle is speeding up and AI has made an enormous impression, but businesses are still trying to develop strategies for implementation.

“Everything is moving faster in terms of plans to integrate AI. So, while you still have the adoption timeline, it’s shorter. A year and half ago what GPT 3.5 [from OpenAI] did was start a revolution. It was on the cusp, but in the last six months it has become mainstream.

“For most organisations, it’s still at the experimental stage, but you’re seeing a real adoption.”

Tasks to which AI is proving particularly suited include customer service and content creation.

This is not surprising, Rigby said: “AI has underpinned digital marketing for years, with Meta and Google. However, generative AI is novel as it can be used to create content.”

Everything is moving faster in terms of plans to integrate AI. So, while you still have the adoption timeline, it's shorter

Rigby, who as AI director may well be one of the first in his field hired specifically to guide AI adoption, said that a significant part of his role involved working with clients to help them understand the technology.

“Learning and education are a big issue and that is something we do and are ramping up,” he said. However, Core Optimisation sees AI as part of a wider digital transformation, one that is relevant to businesses of all sizes.

“We work with SMEs and with large semi-states, in areas including tourism and hospitality, retail and e-commerce, but our model and approach can be applied across other industries,” he said.

While few businesses need to be persuaded of the potential of AI, concerns about data and governance need to be addressed, said Rigby.

“Once customers can be satisfied that their data is going to be safe and secure, you will see even more use of AI. I say to businesses: ‘There are three things to look at. First, form an internal AI committee and get a group together, then develop an AI policy because you need to see some guardrails in place, and, third, develop an AI roadmap’.”

The committee does not need to be packed with expert data scientists, he said. In fact, many businesses will find that they have talent in-house and from there a demonstration of effectiveness can drive company-wide buy-in.

“You will likely find someone in your business who is passionate about it, quite likely in marketing or IT.”

One way to get started is to use AI for internal processes, rather than customer-facing ones, such as interrogating documents. This reduces risk and can make the case for further use of AI.

“It allows you to run things in a secure environment. It can demonstrate to senior leadership how it is improving even the most routine tasks, streamlining operations.”

One of Core Optimisation’s key areas is tourism and hospitality (the company counts Failté Ireland among its clients, for example). In this sector, the company has found an interesting niche for AI: while the accommodation sector and larger players in other parts of tourism can afford full marketing spends and either internal or external teams, small businesses stand to benefit as much from digital transformation.

“What we’re doing is trying to transform other parts of hospitality and visitor attractions, helping them to get up to the same level as accommodation,” he said.

This means supporting smaller businesses by helping them to digitally transform, including by using AI, getting their level of digital maturity to a level customers increasingly expect.

“We’re working with small ‘mom and pops’ alongside the big attractions. We have a proprietary digital maturity model, and have it down to a granular business level.”