By Rachel Herskovitz
The robots are coming. Okay, not really, but more and more there are stories of how artificial intelligence is becoming integrated into our lives. This is no longer a far away Jetson’s dream, their use is here and wide adoption is around the corner.
But first, what is artificial intelligence? There are a couple of different ways in. One, is a means to understand mass volumes of data, quickly and effectively. The second is both understanding that data and getting smarter from it through something called machine learning. The AI can track patterns and predict answers based on what it is seeing. And the third, and most advanced is the humanization of AI, where it can feel, respond, and react much more like humans based on all of the data it is receiving and much more advanced technology.
The third is where things get interesting because that is partially where the bots live. There are the bad bots (that’s another conversation), but there are also the good ones; the chatbots. Natural language processing and its advancements have gotten us to a place where the use cases are more real life in nature than before. Early Siri sucked, but now the conversations are actually useful. So what happens in marketing and for businesses?
The Chatbots have arrived!
The first wave of bots and their use will be with chatbots, which will be integrated into your favorite messaging app (i.e. Facebook messenger). It’s recent news that the top 4 messaging apps have now surpassed the traffic of the top 4 social networks, which is HUGE (and growing still, with 160 trillion messages to be sent by 2020). Not only is it about the traffic (which is simply as important as impressions, which is to say null as a hard metric), but the retention and usage rates are killing it. You have a conversation with a friend, or you have a question out, you are going to go back, right? And lastly, like text SMS was the communication tool of millennials when they were younger, these apps are the way that the younger generation is communicating.
Bots won’t survive on their own, though. The intersection between bots and humans is where companies and businesses will find the most success. And there’s a few reasons for that – customer service needs a human touch and bots (no matter how intelligent) will solve for that. Bots can help add the human touch to the initial inquiry, and may even make it easier to surface the right next information. I look at it as a 1, 2 punch – Bots come in and the human can seal the deal.
What does this mean for business?
To build on that, this is going to be about a moment for brands. We all talk about the right time with the right message, and this can make that a reality. Bots can be there during a specific question in a way that Google has monopolized but was still a few steps removed. What does that mean? Well, you have a question, you type it into Google and queries are surfaced. You still have to comb through the results and figure out the right next step. Imagine it differently, where you ask your specific question to the brand/expert and are surfaced the answer the way you needed it. This is specifically what I saw from IBM’s Watson at Cannes, covering anything from what the right fashion look is to what can I make from a piece of produce that’s in season. The amount of back and forth is cut down and the brand is positioned as the expert and hero.
So what does this all mean? We have a unique opportunity that lives at the intersection of marketing (push messaging) and consumer needs (pull). Okay, but that’s marketing speak too. Basically, this channel and this opportunity is not only about marketing and pushing a product that is top of mind for your organization. It’s a cross section of loyalty loop/retention, customer service, content marketing, new programs, since at a moments notice we will need to be ready for what the consumer is asking.This means silo’s need to break down. And it also means that digital marketing becomes something completely different. It’s about reorganizing and creating material to market in a digital world.