Conversations: The New User Interface For Brands

rikvanderkooi"Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Rik van der Kooi, corporate vice president, Microsoft Search Advertising.

We are entering a new era of digital transformation, one that will profoundly change how we interact with technology. People are more connected than ever before – and the deepening relationship between humans and machines is creating a new wealth of data. Thanks to the magic of machine learning, this smarter, more intuitive data is fueling intelligence that is creating new opportunities for marketers.

At the heart of this change is the understanding of natural language, providing new insight into consumer intent. As our relationship with technology evolves so do our expectations; we are no longer treating our devices like robots. Instead we expect to engage with them like humans. Rather than teaching humans how to talk to computers, we are teaching computers to understand us.

Conversations are becoming the new user interface for creating more personal experiences everywhere. Today, we experience this through virtual assistants. Tomorrow, with emerging services such as bots, conversations will be an integral component of every digital experience around us, from utilities to devices to services.

This change has the potential to revolutionize digital marketing by transforming how and where people express intent and therefore help brands discover consumers’ needs. Artificial intelligence will enable brands to act on our behalf, if we choose to let it do so.

Much of the power underlying this evolution lies in search technology. Search intelligence helps marketers understand the intent behind a person’s natural language and respond with a relevant service that will deliver the value the consumer seeks, regardless of channel.

With this shift to more natural communication and the power of technology to understand human intent, there is a very real opportunity for brands. Marketers at the cutting edge are looking to both creatively and strategically be a part of this emerging innovation. They see a tangible opportunity to understand the nuances of changing consumer behavior in order to deliver value that is personal, in context and valued by their audience. Brands should seize the opportunity to create smart connections with their audiences.

Marketers can start by recognizing that there’s a new era in the making which should be integral to their marketing strategy. Some of the early thinking about bots has centered on awareness or acquisition. Instead, marketers should seize the opportunity to integrate bots into their strategy and become part of a deepening conversation between brands and people. The quality of interaction through the end-to-end consumer journey will be vital to enhance their experience, no matter where they are.

As with search, bots are proactively sought out by consumers in a conversational context and in relation to a specific need. They can enable unique experiences that are more personal and relevant to a consumer, and as such can build deeper loyalty and returns on engagement. To earn consumer’s trust, marketers need to make sure they are using this as an opportunity to have an effective and open dialogue with their audiences, building genuine relationships for their brands.

A customer’s experience with a brand must be seamless, which means consumers should decide where they engage with bots and it should work across platforms and devices. Brands should bet on a cross-platform strategy that connects to their existing systems, such as inventory management, CRM and campaign management, and provides the back-end intelligence to analyze and improve the interactions.

As brands get ready to take full advantage of this revolution, they will provide unprecedented experiences for consumers. We’re on the cusp of a generational change in how we think about computing. It’s where the conversation is at.

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