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GUEST COMMENT AI to end marketing as we know it

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The sales robots are coming. Sounds far-fetched? Artificial Intelligence (AI) is popping up in areas of life ranging from sport to education – and it is set to revolutionise performance marketing. AI helps affiliate marketing network providers support their account managers with deep campaign insight at the click of a button. With AI, vast amounts of campaign data is crunched in a matter of seconds to identify how individual campaigns could be improved – freeing up the account manager to analyse the data with the customer.

Richard Dennys, CEO of affiliate marketing network Webgains, part of Ad Pepper International, explains their recent partnership with IBM Watson and how AI and cognitive learning can build solutions that are set to transform affiliate marketing massively, making it far more effective.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is going to transform online sales beyond recognition. Last year, UK companies spent £1.578 billion on online performance marketing, according to the IAB and PwC’s Online Performance Marketing (OPM) study1. Reportedly ‘OPM’ activity generated £12.30 for every £1 spent, driving 5.6bn clicks and making £19.4bn in sales in 2016 – a 16% increase on 2015. The study defines OPM activity as mainly affiliate marketing (88%) with some lead generation (12%). This market has been very much focused on a small core of major advertisers, publishers and affiliates – until now. AI is set to revolutionise the sector and make super-intelligent online performance marketing core to all businesses.

Many organisations are currently using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to crunch through huge data systems so that they can discover new, more effective, business performance. However, very few organisations across the world are leveraging AI at the creation stage and applying cognitive learning from AI to create a new system or solution. We are one of the few organisations in the latter example.

But how will AI change affiliate marketing? In one instance – virtual intelligent assistants (or chatbots) can mine the huge amount of available data to provide more informed decisions on a campaign. This informed insight can unearth different segmentations or adaptations to a particular campaign that will produce better results and therefore more sales – which ultimately makes more impact on the bottom-line.

Secondly, it can streamline administrative tasks and not only make the workload of employees lighter, but also faster for the customer. Organisations that can truly leverage the cognitive learning of AI can create chatbots that become the heroes of administrative tasks.

In the affiliate marketing space, especially for networks which generate huge amounts of traffic, this kind of process automation is invaluable. Over time, chatbots can begin to learn and analyse customer intent and trends to enhance existing services and provide new ones. Most importantly, over time AI can determine the context and need of a customer’s question and perform the action for them. Meaning that a chatbot is able to deal with a customer request directly.

AI improves customer service

With AI technology embedded into customer services, businesses can begin to combine speech recognition, language comprehension, customer intent analysis and other elements to create intelligent assistants – who can naturally communicate with customers and provide them with the information they need. With all the elements properly applied and installed, chatbots can become a more powerful and enhanced version of the popular consumer options available to us already.

Chatbots powered by AI can readily assist customers with numerous different services, reducing the strain on a human team of operatives – allowing them to focus on more serious and complex customer issues. They can provide an ‘easy access point’ to numerous different services, just by asking it for them – removing the need for customers to navigate the website.

AI improving business operations

AI can enable businesses to scale their operations, improve productivity, reduce costs and focus on providing their customers with a better service. Tasks which generally require human intelligence can be delegated to machine to conduct. However, this evolution is a big challenge and will not happen overnight. The goal for using AI in business is not to replace employees, but rather to automate and speed up repetitive or low priority tasks and therefore enriching the interaction with humans.

Learning from real interactions to make better predictions

As AI learns from every interaction, it gradually gets better and better at conducting a process, answering a question or providing information. With AI-speech recognition, key words can be identified and customer intent determined. Of course, this will take numerous iterations before the AI technology can consistently identify whether or not a customer ‘needs a supervisor’ or ‘needs supervision’. In addition, from the information gained from AI interactions with customers, businesses can identify the best channels for communicating with customers and how they should approach them. AI should not be confused with simple automation of basic queries. The use of AI and application of cognitive learning using huge amount of data sets should eradicate the poor attempts so far that simply regurgitate stock answer based on a pre-approved script.

AI should not be seen as a technology that is going to reduce the need for human employees or as a threat to jobs, it should be seen as what it is – a skills enablement technology that will create more time, more jobs and more opportunity.

The use of AI provides:

• Faster actions to meet consumer demand.

• Improved productivity and operational efficiency (removing the need for large customer-service centres to engage with customers).

• Greater capabilities – as AI improves, it can perform larger tasks effectively, allowing employees to focus on other business critical areas.

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