Artificial Intelligence is taking over the world, period. And yet, despite the explosive impact that it is having in various industries, there are still many who don’t yet fully understand its significance and importance. What is certain is that it constitutes one of the most promising technologies of our time. It has the potential to make the whole of humanity take a “quantum leap” in terms of resolving various problems in the fields of energy, medicine, management of the planet’s resources, etc.
In obtaining an overall picture of the focus areas of AI in business, we asked ourselves how it is applied to marketing, in particular to Content Marketing, and, more generally, to customer relationship processes. Nicoletta Boldrini, Digital360 Group Journalist and Director of AI4Business, a magazine dedicated to topics relating to Artificial Intelligence, virtual reality and robotics, kindly put herself forwards to answer our doubts. Nicoletta could not have been a more appropriate speaker: she is also the author of the book “AI Artificial Intelligence. Come è nata, come funziona e come l’Intelligenza Artificiale sta per cambiare il mondo, la vostra vita e il vostro lavoro” (AI Artificial Intelligence. How it was born, how it works and how Artificial Intelligence is about to change the world, our lives and our jobs), published by Class Editori and offered as an insert to the readers of the economic daily newspaper Milano Finanza.
Indeed, as a journalist and tech blogger, Nicoletta has experienced and lives “on the front line” of Artificial Intelligence. She has the opportunity to see its technological developments in advance and examine them up close, reproducing them for us day after day in the form of journalistic “stories”. And, today, those of us at Content Intelligence Network can also benefit from them, handing over the floor (or rather, the pen!) to Nicoletta.
D: How can Artificial Intelligence improve the quality of the customer experience and, above all, how does it manage to integrate its digital activities into its customer relationships from an omnichannel point of view?
R: I would start out from a wider perspective, that of the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems in the world of marketing. AI systems have been seen in this industry for some time now, employed in different activities and with various objectives. The most important undoubtedly concerns the management of user relationships (an aspect where the experience concept takes on a decidedly critical value for business), which have always been “make or break” for any brand (also in the B2B world). The most widely used technologies nowadays range from vocal/virtual assistants (chatbots and systems such as Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Google Home) to the most sophisticated engagement mechanisms. The first category takes advantage of Artificial Intelligence algorithms for natural language recognition and to learn and analyze user habits and behaviors. The latter envisage the real-time analysis of large amounts of data to understand people’s “sentiments” and needs with activities that drive towards the prediction of purchasing behavior, from which communication strategies and/or service proposals are developed.
A real discipline, Artificial Intelligence Marketing (AIM) has been around for several years now. It is a branch of marketing that takes advantage of the most modern technologies in this field such as Machine Learning and NLP – Natural Language Processing. These are integrated with mathematical/statistical techniques (such as those of Bayesian networks) and behavioral marketing (behavioral targeting). In practice, this is the use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning algorithms with the aim of persuading people to carry out an action, purchase a product or access a service (in other words, to respond to a “Call to Action”).
Today Artificial Intelligence solutions allow for enormous amounts of data to be analyzed, useful knowledge to be extracted and customer journey “support” mechanisms to be activated. All this with people’s needs and the customer experience at the center. We are talking about behavior analysis solutions, upon which membership programs or personalized promotions can be based; intelligent customer care systems that support users; and, even, advanced analytics for supply chain management thanks to which the distribution and delivery of customized products can be organized. Indeed, let’s not forget that how you pay and how you pick up an item or service is also part of the customer experience and, in particular, of the omnichannel concept (any point of contact between a person and a brand/company must always be operated while taking into account the experience that such a service/touchpoint will leave the user with).
D: In the Age of the Customer, why is it so important to gather and analyze data? How can they be useful for business?
R: By now, we have read and heard from various sources that we are in the so-called “experience economy” (an evolution of the Age of the Customer where the user is undoubtedly the focus, but where the experience the user has is the distinguishing element that makes them choose a brand or a service, or encourages them to carry out an action).
As mentioned previously, nowadays the customer experience is a business driver that does, however, require vision (and management) from an omnichannel perspective. This is because people (whether they are final consumers or B2B supply chain professionals) want to have immersive and memorable experiences that are consistent with their needs, responding to their desires and suitable for the time and channel being used. And, it is from these experiences that the decision-making purchase journey is developed.
Therefore, the main challenge is to have useful data available. This does not mean having as much data as possible and large amounts of data that, in our contexts, are “useless”. These only “make noise”, “tarnishing” useful data and making decision-making processes more difficult. Collecting data from different sources is now fundamental, while constantly enriching and feeding them becomes a duty. However, to be able to best use them for business purposes, we must be able to analyze them, meaning that we must be able to extract that layer of knowledge that is useful in making decisions (such as the launch of a new service, the analysis of a competitor, etc.).
The most advanced analysis systems, equipped with Artificial Intelligence features, simplify and accelerate decision-making processes. This is because they return valuable information from huge volumes of unstructured data and, in particular, because they are able to automate decision-making operations too. Staying in the marketing mold, let’s think about recommendation engines in e-commerce platforms: nowadays, content is configured automatically on the basis of the user, their habits, their “history” and their tastes. It intertwines not just “internal” company data but also those that come from forms, social networks and all those “indirect channels” that do, however, contribute to building the customized user experience that many brands will depend on for their businesses more and more.
D: Do you think that Content Intelligence, or rather Artificial Intelligence applied to content, from which strategic data on user interests can be obtained by measuring its performance, could be a new frontier for marketing?
R: In some ways, I have already answered this by speaking about the importance of building an immersive user experience. The same goes for content: using content is an experience in itself. Users read articles and books, they watch videos, view images and “stories”, browse e-commerce platform catalogs, and use social networks as search engines on the basis of their personal needs and interests (curiosity regarding a topic, need to find out more, need to investigate, understanding before making a purchase or information before a decision, etc.).
Knowing what a person is looking for, how they use content and what kinds of actions they perform after having used the information is certainly a step forwards that marketing can take thanks to Artificial Intelligence systems (in this specific instance, I would say cognitive systems in general, based on Machine Learning). For companies, competition will be played out on the ability to offer people – in an automated and simple way – exactly what they are looking for. It is not by chance that we are talking so much about the importance of content and the need for companies to become media companies, regardless of their core businesses: giving people what they want is the best way to make a Call to Action work (or rather, to turn those people into customers).