Article

Dan Telling
Dan Telling 16 October 2017

Survival of the fastest: How A.I can help meet every changing customer demands

In a business environment where being fast, agile and responsive to ever changing customer demands are more important than ever, businesses are vying for ways to harness technology to offer increasingly personalised and speedy customer journeys.

The majority of organisations are drowning in customer data – first party and third party, structured and unstructured. This data often holds the key to meeting evolving customer expectations, but organising and wading through it is a hugely complex and time consuming job.

Yet by mining data quickly and efficiently, marketers can make fast and accurate decisions on campaign planning, drive customer insight and be freed up to focus on creating excellent customer experiences.

Intelligent marketing assistants

Intelligent technology is emerging to help realise big data by taking on the ‘heavy lifting’ of data analysis and market research. One example of this is Lucy, the ground-breaking cognitive companion for marketers, powered by IBM Watson and developed by Equals 3. Lucy collects, reads and remembers all the marketing data across an entire business to make fast and accurate decisions for campaign planning.

Working as a member of the marketing team, Lucy can hunt down facts about a potential market, pull together customer profiles from social media or draw up media models in moments. She performs previously time-consuming tasks in an instant, empowering marketers to do much more in far less time, and the more she does the more she learns, growing and developing according to a campaign’s needs. A global media agency that added Lucy to new business development pitches – a process that consumed a lot of time in data compilation – finished the job 15 times faster.

Another example is Phrasee, email marketing language generation software that uses artificial intelligence to generate compelling email marketing language.

The next big thing

While there has been a limited amount of practical applications of A.I technology to date, there is no doubt that the concept is set to dominate the landscape for some time. However, many organisations are still struggling to get to grips with what A.I and cognitive computing can offer. While there is much fascination with its potential, there is still an element of nervousness from many organisations.

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 is often some confusion between predictive systems and cognitive systems, and in many cases people mistakenly refer to clever applications of machine learning as A.I. A good way to think about the application of A.I is as an intelligent assistant, helping to streamline processes, and gain audience insight quickly.

In reality, the evolution of A.I is no different to the introduction of campaign automation in years gone by. It is another way to make marketers’ jobs easier and allow them to create more value for their organisations. Of course, there will be a learning curve and with new technology always comes disruption. However, A.I will always need a human touch to teach and guide it.

A large part of harnessing the opportunities A.I can bring is in truly understanding how these technologies work and how they can benefit an organisation. All too often, we see organisations either rushing to buy marketing and data technology, or investing in new technology, which does not then deliver on its promise or expectation. At the other end of the spectrum, some businesses allow their nervousness to hold them back, sitting on the fence until they join in too late!

Think big, start small

There is no denying that A.I has the potential to revolutionise the customer experience and it is definitely something businesses should be thinking about now. However, in order for it to deliver on its potential, organisations need to step back and start small.

Technologies such as Lucy and Phrasee are so successful precisely because they tackle a specific problem.

Before embarking on any A.I strategy, businesses need to ask themselves some key questions:

  1. What is the business problem we are trying to solve?
  2. What value will this bring to the business?
  3. What changes will it bring?
  4. Do we have the necessary skillsets to implement and manage it?

A.I has an almost endless amount of applications, but it is advisable to focus on a few specific areas such as reducing inefficiency, speeding up processes or freeing up people’s time. In addition, organisations need to build in the time as well as ensure they have the right skills in place to ‘teach’ the A.I.

By starting small, businesses can also better prove the value of any investment in A.I technology, as well as better communicate this value to the senior leadership team, who may well be the ones most nervous about this kind of technology.

Innovating and pushing the boundaries of what is possible through the use of exciting technologies is of course great. A.I can certainly help reshape the customer journey, allowing organisations to treat customers as individuals again – something that is generally very hard for businesses that operate at any scale to do. 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 take a practical approach to adding value.

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