Smart Data: the data that guide your business

Interview with Alessandro Chessa, Data Scientist and CEO di Linkalab

Alessandro Chessa
Data Scientist & CEO di Linkalab

There’s something under there.

No, it’s not the title of a new second-rate horror series, but it is, in fact, the reality experienced by any company nowadays that goes beyond all expectations.

Indeed, a company manages its own resources without knowing that it has an inexhaustible oil field under its feet that could give its business an incredible boost. And yes, because the data generated by the web (just think about the digital “tracks” left by every user over the course of their navigation!) are the new oil, they have great intrinsic value as a tool of knowledge.

Faced with this data deluge, companies that want to turn themselves into the new sheikhs must manage to understand how to extract and interpret them. In particular, they must be able to set up IT infrastructures that are suitable for archiving the data, which isn’t a small problem.

The solution lies in cloud technology, which centralizes the accumulation of data with relevant economies of scale: as well as allowing for the constant training of the machines that identify statistic and predictive models in the data, storing them in the cloud enables unprecedented efficiency with shared workflows and business models that are finally free from hardware (pay-per-use) costs.

To decodify this complex information, Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms intervene: in fact, the real challenge lies in managing to turn this chaotic accumulation of data into value (from big to smart data). This is why we talk about data-driven digital transformation: companies look at their own business through the data lens. With the insights that are obtained from the data, they are able to speed up productive processes, make better decisions, make more accurate predictions, and measure successes and failures.

Let’s find out more about the topic with Alessandro Chessa, Data Scientist and CEO of Linkalab, and author of the “Smart Data” book published by Egea in the Tag Books series.

 

D: In your book, you write, “Know your data and you will know yourself”. Data represent us. What do you think the advantages are that marketing departments could obtain by adopting a data analytics approach?

R: The opportunities for marketing are truly unprecedented. If the flow of user data goes on at this rate, if we continue to openly declare our tastes on social networks, to like photos with detailed comments, and to share even our most personal feelings, it is very probable that machines will start to get to know us better than ourselves!

The aggressive nature of these policies goes as far as invasive techniques, such as sending us goods at home that are completely free of charge, just to better understand our tastes, and, in the case of clothing, even our sizes!

Besides our preferences, techniques have existed for some time to carry out “dynamic pricing”, based on the study of interactions with e-commerce websites. Our hesitation over a price, returning to a product, and moving the mouse to precise areas of the screen are all micro-actions that represent a kind of “signature” regarding our inclination to buy. Starting out from these analyses, a campaign can be adapted, discounts can be offered, and cross-/upselling activities can be prepared, all in real time.

If we add DMP platforms to all that (those enabled by the famous cookies to you and me), you can catch sight of a potentially idyllic framework for marketing. In a single phrase, the big development is: being able to measure the consumer in all their dimensions and no longer being forced to leverage on an indistinct idea of “mass”.

 

D: An important source of user data is represented by content: from the analysis of how users approach it, a great deal can be understood about their interests. Why do you think it is so important to use AI to measure your content ROI?

R: As already mentioned, the content produced by users is available in abundance. Therefore, to use it effectively, the problem shifts to its analysis. Recently, there have been developments in very sophisticated Machine Learning techniques. They extract the most relevant topics from communications and understand in detail which brands/products are being referred to, until they manage to understand the positive/negative sentiment of the user.

This “user-generated content” very often refers to the comments associated with the content produced by companies from a marketing point of view. The frequency and intensity of the comments, ‘engagement’ in technical terms, as well as the views and transactions produced, determine the content ROI.

Knowing how to measure these phenomena gives companies the huge opportunity of reviewing their own editorial plans, and even informing them. As we say, content is increasingly guided by data, both in terms of our own and that of users who follow brands.

 

D: AI is also revolutionizing content design. There are an increasing number of creative processes that are assisted by PCs. Would you like to share your experience in this area with us? Do you think that it is a virtuous synergy?

R: This is an incredibly new and potentially revolutionary terrain. Instead of thinking of AI as competing with mankind, as a potential entity that could replace us in a dystopian future, why not envisage a method of mutual cooperation?

As has occurred in the past for mechanical and repetitive actions at factories, which are now dominated by industrial robotics, we can imagine that AI, in creative activities, could support us in various tasks.

For example, starting out from a consciousness that we can transfer to the machines, making them read the texts of lots of writers and absorb the styles of various painters, we could ask them to inspire us by producing texts and images that are a kind of guided re-elaboration/reproposal of this material. Obviously, it will be down to us to decide what is attractive and what is functional for the creative activity. This could be, for example, the preparation of a campaign for the launch of a new product.

This new type of AI could fill certain gaps in inspiration that creative people sometimes experience, suggesting new narrative possibilities. We could boldly define these new tools as Photoshops of creativity!

I recently opened a new line of research and education on this topic, in collaboration with Domus Academy for the Interaction and Service Design students. Its title is Co-Evolving Creativity (coevolvingcreativity.com). We expect a great deal from this project, and we are looking for investors for a start-up phase.