Article

Dan Telling
Dan Telling 20 April 2017

It’s time to get practical with A.I and cognitive computing

Everyone is excited about A.I and cognitive computing – the boundless opportunities, the raft of applications in development and the promise of a new era ahead for marketers. I’m excited too, especially by how these technologies are already being used, but I see many businesses falling into a trap.

In the rush to embrace A.I and cognitive computing, many of the practicalities around its implementation are being overlooked.

Truly understanding the technology

A large part of harnessing the opportunities cognitive computing and A.I can bring is in truly understanding how these technologies work and how they can benefit an organisation. There’s still a lot of confusion around this.

Many organisations mix up predictive systems and cognitive systems, for example. Predictive marketing is based on analysing huge amounts of data and automating responses. True cognitive computing is teaching a system to think like a person and learn as you train it. It can take data (which does not have to be personal) and learn from this. This, in conjunction with A.I technology opens up a huge range of new ways to reach and interact with customers.

Importantly, although cognitive computing is designed to learn and run independently, it will always work best in partnership with people. For example, cognitive technology can run automated tasks such as reporting or email campaigns, freeing up people to focus on creativity and delivering better customer experiences, such as Augmented Intelligence.

Don’t be seduced by gimmicks

Whilst organisations are keen to stay one step ahead of their competitors, they do need to look beyond a ‘gimmick-led’ application of these technologies and instead investigate how it can be applied to actively improve personalised customer experience.

To do this, organisations need to step back and start with the customer. Understand how customers are interacting with a brand and what kind of experience they are looking for. People don’t necessarily want a relationship with a brand, they just want a good experience.

The North Face is one example of where cognitive computing is being practically applied to deliver this kind of experience. Users visiting The North Face website can have a similar experience online as in-store, thanks to intelligent natural language processing technology that helps customers choose a jacket by asking a series of questions and learning from the answers supplied. Powered by IBM Watson cognitive computing technology together with Fluid XPS, the retailer can provide customers with outerwear suggestions tailored to their needs, creating a more engaging, relevant and personalised shopping experience.

Getting your house in order

Perhaps more fundamentally though, businesses first need to get their own houses in order before embarking on implementing new technologies such as cognitive or A.I.

Innovating and pushing the boundaries of what is possible through the use of exciting technologies is of course great. However, in order to gain value from groundbreaking technology and turn it in to something that will deliver significant improvement to their customers, it is vital that organisations strike the right balance. As Kevin Kelly, author and founder of Wired famously said “perfect what you know”.

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