Chatbots and artificial intelligence? What the future holds for marketing and the consumer

The below is an extract from #7for17 – seven views on the future of marketing. Click here to download the full paper.

The age of big data is here and we are already reaping the benefits. I’d like to look a little further ahead and consider what’s on the horizon and how these new concepts (such as chatbots) and technologies could affect businesses in future.

But to do that we need to take a short step back. As we know, marketing, and digital marketing in particular, is characterised today by a proliferation of consumer data. In many ways we are only really scratching the surface. The problem with big data is that it’s, well, big. The undeniable fact is that there is too much data for any human to sensibly absorb, synthesise, process and act upon. And although we have tools to assist us in these endeavours, the truth is that we are fundamentally limited by our own capability.

Over the next few years I predict one significant development that will help marketers in particular, and business more generally – truly realise the value of their data: the synthesis of artificial intelligence with automation.

Now, it’s highly unlikely that you’ve not heard of at least one in a marketing context, after all people have been banging on about automation in marketing for years. However the two being used together is what will really have the greatest impact.

Consider the case of artificial intelligence. We may still be a few years away from a fully functional AI such as you’d see in a science fiction film but building block technologies, such as natural language processing, machine learning and evolutionary algorithms, are already widespread, and getting more powerful.

Data aFor example in March of last year Google’s AlphaGo beat the world’s top Go player, in a game that is widely considered to be one of the most difficult to teach a computer to play. These AI technologies are simply far better than humans at processing and making sense of vast data sets, and producing evidence supported data sets.

Automation will be the output of artificial intelligence. We are all familiar with the concept of ‘algorithmic automation’ (if not just think of everything from robot hoovers to real time media trading). Over the next few years we can expect to see these algorithms – really just codified heuristics – replaced by AIs, making decisions based on larger, more complete data sets than any human could consider and allow for in any algorithm.

We can already see this happening with the increasing adoption and proliferation of artificial conversational entities, or chatbots. The ability to ask a computer a natural question (rather than contort it into Google-speak) and have it respond intelligently, greatly improves the consumer experience. The ability of the chatbot to then act on any request automatically can drive significant operational efficiencies.

Of course, this is just the beginning, and AI and automation have some way to go before they realise their full potential. Getting there will require large, high-quality data sets, advanced technical skills, and most especially creative insight: the universal recipe for innovation.

It’s going to be a fun journey.

This article is an extract from #7for17 – seven views on the future of marketing. Click here to download the full paper.