Day: Monday, January 22, 2018

Interactive Bots Leverage Machine Learning to Provide Progressively Better Digital Experiences

Posted by on January 22, 2018

ai-machine-learning

Artificial intelligence has been floating around as a topic since the 1950s, so why it is suddenly coming to prominence in the language of marketers? Massive companies such as Microsoft, IBM, Apple, Facebook and Google’s parent Alphabet are making significant investments in the field in the hopes of garnering the additional market share promised by more intelligent user interactions. While messenger bots are still in their infancy, marketers everywhere are starry-eyed with the potential of offering instant self-service to customers in a way that feels very customized — and might even result in larger purchases and more consistent interactions. Are these automated systems a hit or a miss in the eyes of consumers? That all may depend on how well systems are integrated and the bots are programmed.

Types of Artificial Intelligence

Many of us are familiar with AI from hearing about chess matches between human masters and computers, as computers attempted to anticipate our next action. After years stuck in labs at MIT and Stanford, the field of artificial intelligence began to branch to natural language, with computers attempting to recreate the way humans select language to be used in a more conversational tone.

Machine learning is a particular type of AI that involves providing a computer with a vast quantity of data, and asking for predictions based on new data. As computers continue to aggregate information, this process becomes much more instinctive for machines. Another type of artificial intelligence involves programming artificial neural networks, an advanced concept that requires multiple layers of features in order to make better predictions. Machine learning that goes to this level is considered deep learning and it can require a high level of resources to execute it effectively.

Data-based Learning

The timeline for useful AI has accelerated in recent years, with Google and others making leaps in the field by feeding millions of images into a complex neural network, initially programming it to recognize cats within an image. From this breakthrough, Google has been a continued leader in AI by leveraging the functionality to bring enhancements to everything from Gmail to Street View and Google Translate. Google’s research scientists help fan the flame of AI interest by regularly publishing papers on their learnings, which in turn encourages others to continue their work in the field.

Amazon is another top organization utilizing AI in both their distribution center and on their website for enhanced recommendations. Consumers may not realize it, but Amazon’s Alexa uses the data from the millions of daily interactions to continue learning and improving both speech and intuitive customer recommendations.

The Rise of the Chatbots

The focus on AI as a marketing tactic is relatively new, and the explosion of chatbots in the last several years bears out the value that organizations are seeing as customers begin to record positive interactions. Most companies are still in the trial and error stage, but others are leveraging technology that is more mature. For example, the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas hotel now “employs” an AI named Rose who interacts with hundreds of customers on a daily basis via text message — even tossing in kiss emojis when the situation demands. This sassy robotic lady helps extend the brand with customers while quickly solving everyday challenges such as concierge and housekeeping duties.

These chatbots appeal to individuals who are already using Facebook messenger or other programs such as WhatsApp to chat with friends, as they more seamlessly integrate to the tasks that customers need. Facebook now boasts over 100,000 bots that are actively chatting with customers and the continued innovation helps drive market interest and adoption. While interesting for basic needs where the conversation is unlikely to branch, AI is still in its infancy and many organizations are simply in beta testing or playing with chatbots instead of relying on them to perform critical business functions.

Integrating Chatbots with Your DXP or CMS Platform

Chatbots are not only exceptionally cool, but they can also integrate with your Digital Experience Platform (DXP) or website Content Management System (CMS) to deliver the ultimate in personalized experiences. This is especially true of organizations with an eCommerce component, as businesses are seeing double-digit sales and conversion rate improvements from chatbots versus social ads, for instance.

It’s important that chatbots are not treated as a siloed part of your marketing strategy, but instead are fully integrated into the overall experience. Chatbots are another channel for the dissemination of information, and should be fully integrated just as your email marketing and SMS messaging channels are. This is where a thorough knowledge of structured content comes into play. Instead of creating a separate grouping of content for your chatbot, a skilled partner will help you understand how to leverage the content you’re already creating for this fascinating new distribution channel.

Better Experiences?

There may still be some question about whether or not the chatbots offer a truly improved customer experience as opposed to working with a human customer service representative, for example. While chatbots are still relatively limited, they are able to quickly offer status updates, provide balances, let you know of special offers, detail which newsletters you wish to sign up for and complete purchases. As app downloads continue to decline and mobile-first websites grow in prominence, bots are an opportunity to reach customers where they already are: Facebook Messenger with 1 billion users per month, SMS texts and programs such as What’sApp, Slack and Kik. Chatbots do provide the one thing that it can be difficult to deliver in human-to-human interactions: personalization at scale.