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Artificial Intelligence is marketing’s new frontier, here’s your crash course

(TECHNOLOGY) Marketing is rapidly evolving, and the knowledge required to dominate in the future is changing just as quickly. Time to get up to speed!

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Back in the day, the idea of interacting with robots and computers seemed out of an episode of The Jetsons. But fast-forward to 2018, and some of the most far-fetched ideas back then have become our reality, and you know what? It’s awesome.

In Back to The Future II, they used tablets to get Marty to sign up to save the Clock Tower, and then this massive shark pops out of a sign, which freaked 1984 Marty out. The only thing is – do you remember how pixelated the shark was? Magic Leap is augmenting reality to look like a whale can literally crash into a gymnasium, without so much as a drop of water.

Our cars have precise navigation systems (still can’t fly, though), radio stations from around the world stream into our stereos, our phones can control every aspect of our lives down to how much sleep we get a night. And while it was once thought to be nothing more than fantasy from the pages of a Spielberg script, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has embedded itself into our daily lives, too.

For marketers, there’s much to love about AI: it’s redefining the industry because we can move the chess pieces in ways that previously, we’ve only imagined. AI will change how people interact with data, but also impact how consumers get information much like television commercials and traditional advertising in the analog heyday.

If you’re unaware of what Artificial Intelligence is, it’s the study of making machines super intelligent, and giving them the capability to problem solve. Machine learning creates constantly evolving systems that teach computers to learn organically. Google Photo is a prime example of how machine learning works: photos are fed into Google’s AI and eventually after seeing so many photos of a face, it will eventually recognize the person in the picture.

Artificial Intelligence is marketing’s new frontier

Think about Netflix, how it knows what shows we want to watch, or when a site can predict a new pair of shoes that are exactly your style – that’s AI at work. All of the world’s premier brands are investing in AI. One of the strongest reasons why, is simple – targeted suggestions.

Because of AI’s data collecting capabilities, marketers can collect and analyze swaths of data to enable predictive strategies at every stage of the funnel. We can find ways to move the needle in terms of what a customer wants, and provide different strategies to ensure they’re empowered to make a choice they may have not known about.

All of tech’s biggest players are investing heavily into AI right now. Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Atlassian are all competing against one another, and then against the biggest companies in China, Japan, and Europe – all for the world’s top talent to understand how we make machines do more for us.

But, don’t forget, Target, Walmart, and Zappos are all investing in AI, too.

Everyone is.

Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai said in January that AI was “one of the most important things that humanity is working on” and also went on to double down its importance, stating, that it was “more profound than electricity or fire.”

ROI is everything

When you talk to a marketer, the term ROI (Return On Investment) comes up A LOT.

Running campaigns is somewhat of a science, but with the right data, you can take the ‘somewhat’ out of the equation.

By relying on AI, taking the guesswork on what will hit regarding a campaign becomes clearer, thanks to having a defined understanding of Customer Relationship Management (CRM), social data, and analytics. Machine Learning makes it easier for marketers to identify trends.

By combining AI and marketing fundamentals, teams can create multi-layered strategies that offer customized messages to the user.

According to Adobe, “Forty-seven percent of digitally mature organizations, or those that have advanced digital practices, said they have a defined AI strategy.”

Search like never before

Think about what we used to consider as “search” – yes, we still type a word or phrase into Google and see what pops up, but that’s changing. Search engines are smarter, thanks to AI-infused digital marketing.

AI tracks searches, remembers what you were looking for, what you’ve recently ordered, what sites you’ve visited in the past few months, and then compile all of that data into one powerhouse when it comes time to buy that next fridge or find a new pair of boots.

Because of the continual development, Google’s ability to predict keywords is getting crazy. Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) generates keywords semantically related to a main keyword, which offers a fine tuned search result.

Alexa and Siri might considered “home assistants,” but both can order toilet paper for you or tell you when you need to change the air filter in the house. We use them for everything from asking the simplest way to make an alfredo sauce, to asking what the weather looks like.

While some detractors aren’t too keen on the idea of a robot listening to our personal conversations, the facts are simple – more and more houses will integrate AI into their construction and remodels thanks to their demand and proven ease of use.

But, for marketers, these machines are active ways to search something without touching a keyboard, and an effective way to market an idea, if the user is open to new products when it comes time to tell Alexa to buy a certain brand of dish soap, and another is on sale.

User experience drives everything

If you’re looking for support for a product, most sites have a chatbot ready to answer questions. Instead of a human having to find a query and search endlessly through knowledge bases for an answer, a chatbot can recognize patterns in questions and hone in on a few keywords to make a suggestion that’s based on data versus a human’s best guess.

Chatbots are based on the AI principle of storing information and self-learning.

Tools like Wit.ai, IBM Watson, and Api.ai, incorporate language processing and learning faculties.

But, aside from customer support or online ordering, we can also tailor websites and the buyer journey to what a user’s needs are. Because of the collected data, website personality can hone in on a specific product type or suggest things based on a past history of browsing.

This is an opportunity for a marketer to run specific campaigns based on someone who’s looking for old-school Adidas and see if they’d be interested in a new streetwear magazine that’s launching this fall. The partnership opportunities are endless thanks to a fluid AI-based UX experience.

Social media giants Facebook are all in when it comes to investing in artificial intelligence, too. Yann LeCun, Facebook’s chief AI scientist, and an early machine-learning architect, told the Washington Post that boss, Mark Zuckerberg told him to press down on the gas pedal and make Facebook more AI-inclusive.

“AI has become so central to the operations of companies like ours, that what our leadership has been telling us is: ‘Go faster. You’re not going fast enough,’” LeCun said.

What else will AI drive in marketing?

For marketers, AI is a massive win, we can track, improve upon, and watch AI evolve. According to TowardDataScience, marketing’s next significant trend is consumer personalization (29 percent), and then AI (26 percent) – data via BrightEdge.

We’ll soon be able to offer deeply personalized website experiences, change how we use PPCs (Pay Per Clicks), and we’ll start seeing data collection for traffic, and budget in ways we never thought considered.

Because of how we concentrate PPCs, AI will help target ads with thousands of variations on ad copy or swap out a photo for greater impact, based on user data.

Writers will create boilerplate copy and then updated snippets that will automatically move in and out or rearrange, depending on the user.

We’ll also have a clearer idea of when to run specific ads for a high click through based on emotional data and reactionary times, which will calibrate the fight against lowest priced clicks for lead conversion.

MemSQL surveyed 1,600 marketing professionals, and 61 percent, regardless of company size, named machine learning and AI as their most significant investment for next fiscal year. These numbers will only increase as in-house teams and agencies alike will adopt AI as a new tool to get the customer excited and clicking.

Artificial Intelligence is like the wild west in marketing – there’s so much to explore, and to experiment with. We could see gains like never before because we’re dedicating the experience to the customers’ wants and needs, which is a new tactic. We’ve always tried, but armed with this level of data, we can now be precise in regards to the the buyer’s journey.

The future is bright for AI and marketing. We’re standing at the forefront of a technology that will change the world. Talking houses are a slice of the next wave, and it’s exciting. Personally, I’m waiting for a robot best friend or a Delorean – I’ll take either.

Robert Dean is a writer at ScaleFactor, Umuse, and The American Genius. He is a writer, journalist, and cynic. His most recent novel, The Red Seven is in stores. Currently, he’s working on his newest novel, Tragedy Wish Me Luck. He also likes ice cream and panda bears. He currently lives in Austin. Stalk him on Twitter.

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Slack video messaging tool for the ultra lazy (or productive) person

(TECHNOLOGY) Courtesy of a company called Standuply, Slack’s notable lack of video-messaging options is finally addressed.

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Slack — the popular chat and workflow app — is still going strong despite its numerous technical shortcomings, one of which is its notable lack of native video or audio chat. If you’re an avid Slack user, you might be interested in Standuply’s solution to this missing feature: video and audio messaging.

While it isn’t quite the Skype-esque experience for which one might hope when booting up Slack, Standuply’s video messages add-on gives you the ability to record and send a video or audio recording to any Slack channel. This makes things like multitasking a breeze; unless you’re a god among mortals, your talking speed is significantly faster than your typing, making video- or audio-messaging a viable productivity move.

The way you’ll record and send the video or audio message is a bit convoluted: using a web browser and a private Slack link, you can record up to five minutes of content, after which point the content is uploaded to YouTube as a private item. You can then use the item’s link to send the video or audio clip to your Skype channel.

While this is a fairly roundabout way of introducing video chat into Slack, the end result is still a visual conversation which is conducive to long-term use.

Sending video and audio messages may feel like an exercise in futility (why use a third-party tool when one could just type?) but the amount of time and energy you can save while simultaneously responding to feedback or beginning your next task adds up.

Similarly, having a video that your team can circle back to instead of requiring them to scroll through until they find your text post on a given topic is better for long-term productivity.

And, if all else falls short, it’s nice to see your remote team’s faces and hear their voices every once in a while—if for no other reason than to reassure yourself that they aren’t figments of your overly caffeinated imagination.

At the time of this writing, the video chat portion of the Slack bot is free; however, subsequent pricing tiers include advanced aspects such as integration with existing services, analytics, and unlimited respondents.

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This phishing simulator tests your company’s (lack of) readiness

(TECHNOLOGY) Phishero is a tool which tests your organization’s resistance to phishing attacks. Pro tip: Most companies aren’t ready.

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In the wake of any round of cyberattacks, many organizations question whether they’re prepared to defend themselves against things like hacking or other forms of information theft. In reality, the bulk of workplace data thievery comes from a classic trick: phishing.

Phishing is a catch-all phrase for a specific type of information theft which involves emailing. Typically, a phishing email will include a request for sensitive data, such as a password, a copy of a W-4, or an account’s details (e.g., security questions); the email itself will often appear to come from someone within the organization.

Similar approaches include emailing a link which acts as a login page for a familiar site (e.g., Facebook) but actually stores your account information when you sign in.

Luckily, there’s a way for you to test your business’ phishing readiness.

Phishero, a tool designed to test employee resistance to phishing attacks, is a simple solution for any business looking to find any weak links in their cybersecurity.

The tool itself is designed to do four main things: identify potential targets, find a way to design a convincing phishing scheme, implement the phishing attack, and analyze the results.

Once Phishero has a list of your employees, it is able to create an email based on the same web design used for your company’s internal communications. This email is then sent to your selected recipient pool, from which point you’ll be able to monitor who opens the email.

Once you’ve concluded the test, you can use Phishero’s built-in analytics to give you an at-a-glance overview of your organization’s security.

The test results also include specific information such as which employees gave information, what information was given, and pain points in your current cybersecurity setup.

Phishing attacks are incredibly common, and employees – especially those who may not be as generationally skeptical of emails – are the only things standing between your company and catastrophic losses if they occur in your business. While training your employees on proper email protocol out of the gate is a must, Phishero provides an easy way to see how effective your policies actually are.

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Could Amazon’s new augmented reality app replace auto mechanics?

(TECHNOLOGY) Augmented reality has been gimmicky at best, but Amazon plans on changing that with their new step forward in auto parts. But could it threaten mechanics’ market share?

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amazon augmented reality for auto parts

During its brief time in the mainstream spotlight, augmented reality (AR) technology has been used to measure objects, disappoint crowdfunding audiences, and catch Pokémon.

However, its most recent iteration (by Amazon) might have you rethinking your last trip to the used auto parts store (and your aforementioned disappointment in AR).

While Amazon has explored augmented reality applications in the past, the uses have generally revolved around projecting things such as furniture representations into rooms.

In theory, a user could select a specific model of furniture and, using their smartphone, see what the room would look like with the piece of furniture in it. Their new augmented reality service plans to extend that same technology to encompass a smaller-scale setting: automobile parts.

The app is still in its early stages of development, and they’ve only recently been granted the patent, but the concept sounds incredibly promising.

amazon augmented reality patent application

To use the app itself, a customer would point their smartphone’s camera at the vehicle’s engine. The app would feasibly start by identifying your vehicle’s model information and displaying different modular points, after which point you would be able to select a type of part and project it onto your vehicle to see how it fits.

Once you found the correct part for your vehicle, Amazon could order the part via the standard Amazon app.

In an age where the combination of YouTube and your dad’s toolbox provides an attractive alternative to paying the local mechanic, having the option to diagnose accurately your problem and have a reliable solution appear is a huge potential step forward (IF and only if you are the type of person that isn’t intimidated by a car engine).

Amazon is used to crushing the competition in traditional fields; however, where automotive augmented reality is concerned, it seems like Amazon may be the first big name to consider. Virtually no companies use augmented reality for in-house repairs, and customer-level AR support is nonexistent, making Amazon the obvious (and only) choice for now.

Augmented reality has been little more than a novelty thus far, and while some of its applications have been more geared toward services than entertainment, arguably none have been essential for more than a limited number of users (even their grocery offering). Amazon’s foray into automotive self-help is a promising step toward mainstream augmented reality which both improves users’ lives and serves a purpose greater than the sum of its parts.

We’ll stick with our trusted mechanics for our nicer cars and feel dubious that Amazon will ever threaten the practice, but for our junkers that just need a new air filter, we’re down for some AR magic.

Our ruling is that this app is pretty cool and could replace auto parts competitors, and perhaps even be used by tinkerers, but it’s unlikely that any amount of AR magic will replace mechanics (I mean, have you had to replace a part in an Audi!? You have to take out the entire engine to get to the transmission, so no thanks).

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