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How Artificial Intelligence Is Taking Online Shopping Trends to New Heights
If you are entrepreneurial in nature owning a business is very exciting adventure. It can also be the most difficult thing for you to get into if you are not prepared.
Hollywood paints a grim picture of a future populated by intelligent machines. Terminator; A Space Odyssey, The Matrix and countless other films show us that machines are angry, they’re evil and, if given the opportunity, they will not hesitate to overthrow the human race. Films like these serve as cautionary tales about what could happen if machines gain consciousness (or some semblance of). But in order for that to happen humans need to teach machines to think for themselves. This may sound like science fiction but it’s an actual discipline known as machine learning.
Still in its infancy, machine learning systems are being applied to everything from filtering spam emails, to suggesting the next series to binge-watch and even matching up folks looking for love.
For digital marketers, machine learning may be especially helpful in getting products or services in front of the right prospects, rather than blanket-marketing to everyone and adding to the constant noise that is modern advertising. Machine learning will also be key to predicting customer churn and attribution: two thorns in many digital marketers’ sides.
Despite machine learning’s positive impact on the digital marketing field, there are questions about job security and ethics that cannot be swept under the rug. Will marketing become so automated that professional marketers become obsolete? Is there potential for machine learning systems to do harm, whether by targeting vulnerable prospects or manipulating people’s emotions?
These aren’t just rhetorical questions. They get to the heart of what the future of marketing will look like — and what role marketers will play in it.
What is Machine Learning?
You can think of machine learning as using a computer or mathematics to make predictions or see patterns in data. At the end of the day, you’re really just trying to either predict something or see patterns, and then you’re just using the fact that a computer is really fast at calculating.
You may not know it, but you likely interact with machine learning systems on a daily basis. Have you ever been sucked into a Netflix wormhole prompted by recommended titles? Or used Facebook’s facial recognition tool when uploading and tagging an image? These are both examples of machine learning in action. They use the data you input (by rating shows, tagging friends, etc.) to produce better and more accurate suggestions over time.
Other examples of machine learning include spell check, spam filtering even internet dating - yes, machine learning has made its way into the love lives of many, matching up singles using complicated algorithms that take into consideration personality traits and interests.
How Machine Learning Works?
While it may seem like witchcraft to the layperson, running in the background of every machine learning system we encounter is a human-built machine that would have gone through countless iterations to develop.
Facebook’s facial recognition tool, which can recognize your face with 98% accuracy, took several years of research and development to produce what is regarded as cutting-edge machine learning.
So how exactly does machine learning work? Spoiler alert: it’s complicated. So without going into too much detail, here’s an introduction to machine learning, starting with the two basic techniques.
Supervised learning systems rely upon humans to label the incoming data - at least to begin with - in order for the systems to better predict how to classify future input data. Gmail’s spam filter is a great example of this. When you label incoming mail as either spam or not spam, you’re not only cleaning up your inbox, you’re also training Gmail’s filter (a machine learning system) to identify what you consider to be spam (or not spam) in the future.
According to Tommy, this type of machine learning can be likened to the relationship between a parent and a young child. When a child does something positive they’re rewarded. Likewise, when “[a machine] gets it right - like it makes a good prediction - you kind of give it a little pat on the back and you say good job.”Like any child (or person for that matter), the system ends up trying to maximize the positive reinforcement, thus getting better and better at predicting.
Unsupervised learning systems use unlabeled incoming data, which is then organized into clusters based on similarities and differences in the data. Whereas supervised learning relies upon environmental feedback, unsupervised learning has no environmental feedback.
The Power of Machine Learning
A lot of what machine learning can do is yet to be explored, but the main benefit is its ability to wade through and sort data far more quickly and efficiently than any human could, no matter how clever. Tommy is currently experimenting with an unsupervised learning system that clusters landing pages with similar features. Whereas one person could go through a few hundred pages in a day, this model can run through 300,000 pages in 20 minutes.
Machine Learning and the Digital Marketer
As data becomes the foundation for more and more marketing decisions, digital marketers have been tasked with sorting through an unprecedented amount of data. This process usually involves hours of digging through analytics, collecting data points from marketing campaigns that span several months. And while focusing on data analysis and post-mortems is incredibly valuable, doing so takes a significant amount of time and resources away from future marketing initiatives.
As advancements in technology scale exponentially, the divide between teams that do and those that don’t will become more apparent. Those that don’t evolve will stumble and those that embrace data will grow — this is where machine learning can help.
That being said, machine learning isn’t something digital marketers can implement themselves after reading a quick tutorial. It’s more comparable to having a Ferrari in your driveway when you don’t know how to drive standard or maybe you can’t even drive at all.
Until the day when implementing a machine learning system is just a YouTube video away, digital marketers could benefit from keeping a close eye on the companies that are incorporating machine learning into their products, and assessing whether they can help with their department’s pain points. So how are marketers currently implementing machine learning to make decisions based on data rather than gut instinct? There are many many new niches in marketing that are becoming more automated.
Digitization Challenges And The Importance Of Branding
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Even the best marketing strategies need to be revisited, if not revised. Changes in the market environment can dramatically change the marketing mix and your product plans. Marketing strategy should be viewed as a process, which means that the best laid marketing plans will change sooner or later.
Strategic change can be caused by many forces; sometimes change is a threat while other times it can be an opportunity. It all depends on how your product or business is defined; additionally, how you react may be the biggest factor in your future success.
Sometimes the market evolves and the demand for an offering changes. For example, obesity is on a dramatic rise in North America; because of this people are becoming more "food label savvy" about calories, fat grams, sugar, carbohydrates, and protein. Fast food restaurants have had to respond with salad bars, better disclosure of nutritional information, and leaner products.
Another source of strategic change is technological innovation. As microprocessors increase in speed and processing ability, older personal computers quickly become obsolete. A more disruptive technological change might be the creation of the MP3 format and downloadable music. Music is now purchased one song at a time instead as albums of songs.
Occasionally, a market is redefined. This is often driven by competition or customer demand. Today, our fast paced culture demands a more personalized relationship with information, which has created wikis, blogs like this one, and the birth of IPTV (Internet Protocol Television). This new information content business allows the reader or viewer to get "personalized content" when they want it and where they want it.
Also, marketing channels change. Today the internet has changed the relationship of customers with providers. No longer dependent on the provider for education on products and services, the new consumer is more informed and sophisticated than ever. In fact, the consumer is more powerful and will get what they want or they will find another provider.
For the marketing strategist, the challenge is to anticipate the changes and take control of their destiny. The alternatives of delaying action or getting surprised can mean business failure.
As former GE CEO Jack Welch said, "Change before you have to".
Networking has always been considered a powerful tool for improving business prospects, advancing a career, and developing ideas. Other than some brief, structured events, networking has been mostly informal and inexpensive in comparison to cost they otherwise spend on different channels. But membership is growing in many formal, long-term networking groups, and so is the price tag.
Our groups are not groups for generating sales leads, nor are they places where individuals can drop-in to gain quick advice on an immediate challenge. Members also sign a confidentiality agreement and benefits from the guided mentoring to help each other.
These groups include an experienced facilitator and use a structured discussion method to ensure appropriate participation.