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2018 is going to be the year of machine learning

2018 is going to be the year of machine learning, especially in the field of consumer segmentation and improvement of automated message personalization processes. Thanks to marketing leaders from Silicon Valley, learning algorithms are already in widespread use. However, we are entering a new stage in the application of these mechanisms beyond advertising systems like Adwords, Doubleclick and Facebook.

Marketers are getting better at gathering and integrating user information all the time. Their allies include global giants like Google. A good example of this is Google’s partnership with Salesforce, announced in November of this year, which, in addition to its positive impact on the amount of information collected, will also affect its quality.

The challenge for agencies and marketers alike is to put their own analytical capabilities up against those of machines—we are, in the end, susceptible to errors, and with such a large amount of data and variables, as well as the complexity of users’ paths to purchase, the risk of mistakes increases. In order to draw conclusions quickly enough and then apply them in the real optimization of user experience, we need to put more emphasis on technology and especially on the possibilities offered by artificial intelligence.

The most relevant SEO News for November 2017

It’s all about speed when it comes to online marketing. Therefore, in November, we are already looking at the new year and thinking about everything that will change in 2018. Will SEO be dead and gone and robots take over the world? It won’t be that bad, but there is a hint of truth behind this. You can find out more in the current SEO news.

1) Google launches its Mobile-First-Index (a little)

The launch of the Mobile-First-Index will be the dominating topic for SEOs in 2018. A year ago, the search engine, based in Mountain View, had already announced that it will realise mobile versions of websites in the future instead of using the desktop version as a reference for contents and rankings. However, it is not all going to happen on one specific day, the change will be quite gradual and accompanied by extensive tests, according to Google. Google spokesperson, John Mueller, has now announced that work has begun on converting the first websites to the Mobile Index in trial operation. Although it is still too early to talk about the official launch of regular operation, it is more of an initial testing phase. However, the changes in rankings that were observed by web masters in the middle of October are not related to these tests, according to Mueller.

2) 2018 SEO expert oracle

A glimpse into the SEO crystal ball fascinates the search industry again every year. Renowned experts have made predictions for 2018, on what the dominating trends will be in the coming 12 months. They all agree that Google’s transition to the Mobile-First-Index, the rapidly increasing use of language assistants and the triumph of artificial intelligence will bring about serious changes to the technological side of search marketing. Companies and web masters should watch these changes closely. The fight for organic traffic will quickly intensify. Since Google increasingly appears as a publisher and already provides a lot of information on its own search results using the so-called Featured Snippets, the use of structured data, in-depth analysis of contents and user behaviour as well as the focus on a good user experience all remain the most important areas of activity. Aaron Wall from SEO Book even speculated that Google’s dominance in the search sector will decline and that users will increasingly resort to specialised search systems. In summary, SEO expert John Lincoln easily adapts an old classic: “The old SEO is dead and gone – welcome to a new era. It’s 100 times better and much more exciting.”

3) Microsoft and Google rely on human support

Barely a day goes by when there isn’t something written about the unstoppable spread of artificial intelligence and its effects on online marketing. Search provider giants, Google and Microsoft, rely on the use of learning machines. However, if you look closely, there is also an opposite trend: Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, first announced in August that it wants to rely more on its collaboration with users in the “Bing Distill” community in order to improve the quality of its direct answers in the future (we reported). At the start of October, Google invited its “Local Guide” community to the second conference in San Francisco. According to the company, the organised user community already has around fifty million participants worldwide, who primarily check and correct entries in Google Maps. In addition, almost 700,000 new entries are composed by local guides on a daily basis. Google said that this is a great help, especially in developing countries, because information from local businesses and services in these countries is difficult to automatically record and check. It remains to be seen whether this trend is taking hold or whether humans are just a bridge technology until artificial intelligence has acquired the same skill set.

4) How artificial intelligence will change search engine optimisation

Search Marketing faces great changes and, at the core, it’s all about the effects of integrating artificial intelligence and machine learning into the technology of major platforms. In terms of the organic search, according to SEO veteran and expert, Kristopher Jones, this means that keyword rankings will no longer be subject to dramatic changes in the future and that there will be no superior, universal algorithm. In fact, specialised and dynamic algorithms in a variety of versions will be used for various search requests. Ultimately, the search provider’s aim is to accurately grasp the exact intention of the user using technological aids and to be able to deliver better results, according to Jones. The search expert believes that the classic keyword analysis and technical SEO would therefore be obsolete. In response to the challenges of artificial intelligence, Jones suggests a combination of user experience optimisation, strictly tailoring the contents to user intentions and using more natural speech patterns for voice search. He went on to say that search engine optimisers will not be able to develop their own analysis tools based on artificial intelligence and that agencies and advertisers will have to develop strong responses to the technological challenges in order to not be overwhelmed by the progress.

Artificial Intelligence: Who is responsible?

Auf dem Innovationstag von Serviceplan diskutierten der renommierte Münchner Philosoph und Kulturstaatsminister a. D. Julian Nida-Rümelin und Martina Koederitz, Vorsitzende der Geschäftsführung IBM Deutschland, gemeinsam mit Klaus Schwab, Geschäftsführer der Plan.Net Gruppe, über neue ethische Standards.

SXSW 2017 – The New Digital Work Economy Needs More Real Brains

Life is full of choices. Where should I live? Should I get married? Which campaign do I choose for the client pitch? How many people should I hire or fire? Behavioural scientists discovered that everybody more or less makes 20,000 decisions every day. It reflects who we are, what we believe and how we behave.

But imagine if machines took all of this away? We will no doubt lose our identity. Now, we’re not saying that all decisions in the future could and should be made by machines! Artificial Intelligence already solves lots of problems and challenges now, and will probably solve even more in the future. And that’s brilliant, and is going to lead us to a whole new era. Every organisation must invest in future knowledge and new ways of working.

But in the long run it only pays off if, at the same time, they don’t stop developing the people that have to implement these new technologies. As our colleague Alexander Turtschan, Head of Media Insights & Innovation at Plan.Net outlines it so precisely: “My key takeaway from this year’s SXSW is that we now have fully entered the post-platform era of digitisation. AI, robotics and machine learning will transform every aspect of our lives, from the workplace to the home. While the technological side is moving rapidly, we are lagging far behind on the social aspects of this revolution, from legal frameworks to moral implications.“

SXSW in other words is sharing, exploring and inspiring every human centred aspect. There’s been a lot of press and interviews on the outcome of SXSW 2017, as well as a lot of sentiment over whether it is a good or bad event to attend.

From our experience this is not a black or white event. SXSW is what you make of it – hence everyone has a different SXSW experience. It’s such a large event, that covers a multitude of different topics. Within the official SXSW program and all around Austin at other branded open sessions, RSVP sessions and even hidden events – everyone rides the SXSW-wave.

For Nicolas Roemer, Head of Business Development International at Serviceplan, it is the strongest digital event in the US; in regards to mixing technology with socio-political and cultural ideological topics, probably the strongest event in the world. “As Virginia Rometty (President & CEO, IBM) put it, one doesn’t have one mentor, one learns and grows from everyone that inspires you. This can be across all kinds of areas. The people I meet at SXSW excite me and help develop and structure my approach every time I attend SXSW.”

He continues: “As I am heavily involved in building out Serviceplan North America’s presence this year, SXSW has been vital to see how other US agencies and brands sell themselves successfully at such events. Agencies and brands definitely promote themselves differently in the US. One can also tell that the high-risk tolerance level of brands for new technology has significantly grown. Brands are employing and enabling work forces e.g. Innovation Disruptors at HP to experiment with new technologies: Be it blockchain, experimenting with the different AI API’s, VR/AR etc. Especially in the AI field we will see a lot of change, even for the advertising industry with IBM Watson banner solutions, for example.”

So most people that attend SXSW Interactive already have a very strong background in digital, UX, technology, out-of-the-box-thinking…you name it. They have all heard of Watson, Nio and Drones before. Besides networking and experiencing the newest trends, what makes the SXSW experience so valuable? One of my observations this year was that many organisations are focusing on the workplace environment. For example, Fjord’s 2017 Trends report examines not only trends that will impact consumers, but also those set to impact design, business, organisation, culture and society in the next 12-18 months. IDEO spoke about innovation talents and how to keep innovators feeling creative, fulfilled, and committed as they grow in their careers. And Piera Gelardi, Founder of Refinery29, passionately spoke about ‘Courageous Creativity’ and how you sustain a childlike wonder and exuberant creativity as you grow a multi-million dollar, global business.

Moreover Meredith Haberfeld expressed her thoughts on employee engagement in relation to the economic advantage of a company: “From startups to mega-corporations, companies are wasting billions of dollars in the quest for employee engagement. But the only starting point for a fulfilled, optimally productive workplace is getting real about your CEO’s human intelligence. Leaders need basic human skills that aren’t taught in business school. Without them, engagement efforts are an embarrassingly shiny façade failing to mask underlying issues.”

Technology, work environment, tools and culture will massively shape the future of work experience and company success. These conditions will impact how adaptable organisations will be to change and upcoming trends. The human experience cannot be taken away by technology. Certainly people also have to adapt to the speed of technology. Learn how to fail and push creativity and innovation to the limit. Because, as Simon Steiner, Senior Consultant & Planner at Mediaplus described it, “In the digital age speed trumps perfection.”

This is the reason Serviceplan sent experts from the media, digital research, cultural strategy, and business development teams to distribute this knowledge across the group and into our 25 offices worldwide. Following on from the amazing networking opportunities from SXSW – as we did in 2016 with our educational VR-sessions – we will be hosting educational sessions for our clients and colleagues, on trends and topics we were able to take home from Austin.

While talking to IBM Watson in Austin I found out on ibmpersonalitee.com that with my skillset I should be a Mentor. The Mentor is an “old soul”, relying on their past experiences to provide insight on what is coming next. They can answer all sorts of different questions with surprising accuracy, and have a healthy attitude about life. “Well, Watson – I don’t know about this! But thanks for the compliment anyway. ;-)” Lucky me that in the end I can decide weather I will make the Watson artificial intelligence my reality or not.

Howdy and see you next year in Austin!

 

This article was published on lbbonline.com.

Trends 2017: Belgium

To achieve the best results possible for the brands that we serve, and as part of our quest to embrace emerging marketing and communication movements, we need to take a closer look at some social trends.

Looking forward, the thing that strikes us in particular is a general sense of “harmonious contradiction”. There are two intriguing, big and bold contradictions going on which brands should try to understand and appropriate.

Tactile vs virtual & artificial

At the beginning of December, for the first time in history, the amount of money spent on vinyl records in the UK overtook the amount spent on digital downloads.

“We have a new generation buying vinyl, lots of teenagers and lots of people under 25, who now want to buy their favourite artists on vinyl and have something a bit more tangible, a bit more collectible. People have become keen to support their favourite artists by buying into that ownership concept. It’s very difficult to demonstrate your love of an artist if you don’t have something to hold on to,” said Kim Bayley, chief executive of the Entertainment Retailers Association recently.

In a digital world, consumer preference can indeed be influenced by sensory marketing tactics: think about the combined potential of sight, touch, sound, taste, and smell.

Even while anxieties are expressed about the impact of robots on the way we work, and the kinds of jobs that exist, millions of people have already adopted home robots. Take the Echo: it has already captured imaginations and hooked its owners on how easy it makes ordering a takeaway, or never running low on washing powder.

Brands needs to ensure that their technology/services can be linked in some way to this new kind of central domestic technology.

Local vs. e-tailing on the doorstep

It’s becoming increasingly clear that living a healthy life and thriving means putting as much care and thought into our relationship with food, as we do into our personal relationships. The best place to start working on a closer relationship with the food we eat is at local farmers’ markets and by buying from local food producers – and of course this is also true in fashion, furniture etc. Brands can tap into the trend towards these lifestyle choices by playing a facilitating role starting to allocate areas for community gardens, urban farms and local entrepreneurship.

Every day, a new “kit on your doorstep” initiative is launched, whether it be a meal in a kit, an outfit in a kit, or the myriad other options available. Thousands of cardboard boxes land on urban and rural doorsteps every month, containing all the elements needed to create a home-cooked dinner. Like frozen food or the microwave oven, meal kits may be a kitchen innovation that fundamentally changes how people cook at home. The cookbook author Mark Bittman told the New York Times: “It’s cooking. It’s not shopping and it’s not planning and in a way it’s not thinking, but it is cooking.”

While many question the ecological footprint of these services, brands can play a vital role in logistics and packaging innovation, offering smart recycling. Brands can help kitchens and their appliances to become smarter, and make cooking more intuitive and complex meals more accessible.

Generation Z

The first members of Generation Z will turn 21 in 2017, marking their transition from society’s teenagers to fully fledged consumers, and as such their influence will mark a tipping point for retailers. The way most retailers do business nowadays will be turned on its head, as this generation is made up of free thinkers, and sceptical when it comes to brands. They interact primarily on social media channels, simultaneously across several of them, and spend little to no time on brand platforms.

As more and more social channels integrate social shopping, brands should design even more specific content to entice this emerging group of consumers, who will be drawn to social selling storytelling. Instagram’s shoppable photo strategy is only a faint indicator of what is to come, and what will be easily adopted by these mobile natives.

Whereas platformless retail may still be considered a trend, conversational commerce will fully blossom in 2017. Chatbots and apps are now a retail tool that can boost business and increase customer service in a way that is satisfying for Generation Z.

The daily use of technology comprising chat, messaging or other natural language interfaces, short circuits the brand-to-consumer loop, facilitating “conversations” between people, brands or services, and making it possible to use a device – notably a smartphone – to ask questions, place orders and get advice.

Brands that are early adopters of this kind of commerce will certainly appeal to Generation Z, and are likely to see these consumers spending their first salaries with them rather than with traditional e-tailers. Tangible benefits of WhatsApp social commerce:

  • Instant notification of messages being read.
  • No queuing – 30-minute response time.
  • No precious time wasted on explaining a fault or your specific need; a simple picture will do.

By linking to a CRM system, not only can brands facilitate direct sales, but track customer lifecycle too. We all remember SuitSupply in the Netherlands – the cool initiative and pilot case that resulted in an additional channel for commerce.

H&M’s bot suggests various outfits to users and provides the opportunity to purchase through the bot’s messaging platform. Sephora is using a bot to provide beauty tips and enable direct shopping.

Facebook Messenger chatbots: a communication channel for brands?

For six months, chatbots have existed in Facebook Messenger and there are now more than 30,000 available for users. The initial hype has calmed down and now companies are wondering if bots actually have the potential to become relevant communication and distribution channels for their content.

All chatbots essentially work in the same way. Users ask the bot a question and the bot searches through its stored database in accordance with certain rules, in order to respond with a suitable answer. The greater the database, the greater the knowledge which the chatbot can revert back to.

Mobile driven user behaviour and technical developments smooth the way

The requirements needed for the success of chatbots certainly exist: On one hand, internet usage is extending increasingly to mobile devices and here communication occurs primarily through instant messengers. The approach to text messaging has finally become seen as an everyday matter and the users have got accustomed to this reduced communication form.

On the other hand, all major tech companies are investing massively in the development of artificial intelligence, machine learning and in the understanding and processing of natural language through algorithms. Bot providers can relatively easily incorporate offers and services of interested companies into chatbots via standardised interfaces.

Unpredictable human communication

It will remain some time before a conversation with a chatbot is indistinguishable from a talk with a real person, as many chatbots currently reach the limits of their communication rather quickly. Either they fail in the correct processing of human communication, including all unpredictable factors such as slang, dialect or typos, or their repertoire of responses is rapidly used up. Initial reactions of early adopters were sobering. Among other factors, this was due to the fact that Facebook opened the chatbot platform for developers only a few weeks before the official launch.

Facebooks vice president of messaging products, Davis Marcus, admitted that this time frame was possibly too short to develop a good chatbot. Since the launch, Facebook has made many APIs and much guidance available to developers. We can therefore look forward to seeing how the second generation of bots will turn out.

For long term success, however, two central requirements must be fulfilled, above all:

Discovery: There is currently no easy way to find chatbots for Facebook Messenger, as we are still waiting for the launch of the announced bot store. The user must therefore know the name of the bot and integrate it via the search function of Messenger. Other messengers like Kik, Telegram or Skype already offer overview catalogues.

Added value: So that users don’t delete a chatbot after trying it out just once, from the first use on, the bot must offer real added value. This can include various aspects:

  • Reducing complexity and information: shopping bots, such as Tommy Hilfiger’s chatbot, help users when looking for suitable products, by giving them a pre-selection of products through targeted questions. The added value of news bots like the one of CNN also depends upon a reduction in information. Users indicate which content they are interested in and then receive suitable contributions in return through push messages.
  • Time efficiency and problem solving: The airline KLM emphasises special service for their customers: if you want to change your seating place, for example, you don’t need to open the app. You can simply send a quick message to the KLM bot.
  • Additional offers: In several US cities, through the Absolut Vodka chatbot, users can find bars in which the product is available. The added value here is that the user receives a voucher for a free drink as well.

If these points are further optimised in the new generation of chatbots and the problem of discovering bots is resolved, there is much to suggest that these services will establish themselves as communication channels for brands. With a sufficient amount of offers, in Europe and in North America Facebook Messeger could become a mobile central service point for users, just as weChat, LINE and Kik have done in many Asian markets.

A view into the future. The Sample City Lab 2016.

The Sample City Lab shows us where we’re headed

Organised by Trend One, the Sample City Lab shows us the upcoming trends that will keep us busy next year. The event is focused on topics such as virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, robotics and the internet of things in particular. The Plan.Net Mobile team were there in Innsbruck, where they weren’t just thrilled by the view from the ski jump (Bergiselschanze), but also by the content there.

Sample City Lab 1

Nils Müller, co-organiser of City Labs and founder of Trend One, introduced the innovations that would be shown at the exhibition. One of the exhibits at the show was the NAO robot. A completely programmable, autonomously acting humanoid robot that can supposedly help with issues such as programming, robotics and steering and control technology, as well as creativity, problem solving and working as a team.

Sample City Lab 2

The scanning robot NavVis measures room interiors quickly and cost-effectively. 3-dimensional diagrams of interior spaces can be called up via a browser based app to realise virtual tours.

Sample City Lab 3

The highlight of the show was the Microsoft HoloLens. The augmented reality glasses allow to display the user information and interactive 3D projections on the direct environment. The HoloLens works without a computer or smartphone, and can be used independently.

Sample City Lab 4

A few people at the Sample City Lab were allowed to test the HoloLens themselves. Games and videos right up to Office Programs can be controlled with hand gestures.

Sample City Lab 5

The fitness device ICAROS connects workouts with virtual reality. A virtual reality flight simulation is shown while you balance on the device, creating the believable illusion that you’re actually flying through a VR world. The positive side effect: training is fun this way.

Sample City Lab 6

An additional controller on the fitness device ensures that every movement of the device is measured precisely. Furthermore, it can control the virtual reality glasses and trigger specific actions.

Sample City Lab 7

Barbie has also arrived in the digital age. With artificial intelligence, she patiently answers all questions, and will gladly get into conversations. Sometimes, Barbie herself asks for advice, or wants to know more about her counterpart. The answers are surprisingly complicated, and some conversations take a rather interesting course. Childhood dreams come true here.

Sample City Lab 8

A holographic display was an eye-catching highlight. Video projections are reflected in a glass pyramid that conveys a 3-dimensional feeling, and brings the content to life. Additionally, the projections can be examined from three sides, and the scenery can be perceived from various angles.

Sample City Lab 9

The Sample City Lab shows us where we’re headed: virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, robotics and the internet of things. These are the themes that drive us, and determine what our world will look like in the future.
Almost everything is fitted out with intelligence, is mobile networked and can react to environmental stimulus. With virtual reality, anyone can quickly immerse themselves in a unknown world, and experience new things. Mobile internet connects (almost) everything, and robots undertake tasks that previously only humans could do. The development is faster than ever before, and one thing’s for sure: it remains exciting!

Deep Learning – Machines are learning how to learn

Deep Learning is a sub-discipline of artificial intelligence (AI), whose basic idea harks back up to the 1950s. Although, mass suitability has as of now not been reached. With sinking costs for computer chips and thus also for networks, as well as the constantly growing amount of digitally available data, machine learning has been undergoing an impressive renaissance over the last few years. Deep Learning enables computer systems to recognise certain patterns in volumes of data through iteration, in this case the repeated execution of commands, and to further and further refine these. In short, Deep Learning machines are learning how to learn. The range of applications is sheer endless with only one requirement to be met: data in digital form should be available in large amounts to extract useful patterns.

Especially companies in the Silicon Valley are currently betting on this reawakened trend. The pace of evolution with which new insights can be won from the now massive amount of available data is enormous: In 2009, a team around Geoffrey Hinton from the University of Toronto delved into the topic of speech recognition. After intensive training, the software was in a much better position to convert spoken words into written text than all of its predecessors combined. Two years later, Google applied Deep Learning to data of its service YouTube and let it separate the data into several categories. The result saw next to categories such as ‘human faces’ also the category ‘cat’ appear, which led to a considerable degree of amusement.

Deep Learning has evolved enormously since that time. Only a few weeks ago, the Google computer programme AlphaGo beat the until then dominating champion Lee Sedol in the strategy game Go. Many consider this a milestone of AI, even if such excursions by Google should be seen rather as a gimmick. Google’s actual fields of application lie in the areas of search and the presentation of search results. For the company, the so-called Rank-Brain – which leads to even better search results – is much more important, because it is supposed to guarantee future domination on the search engine market.

Deep Learning is booming

The list of other current examples is already a long one – and it will grow even further in the future.

  • Facebook‘s new messenger M for instance, is being fed Deep Learning insights, which can result in entirely new services. Via machine-led interactions, the user can for example comfortably create a digital assistant, who facilitates everyday life through interactive calendar and reminder functions. As recently presented during the yearly conference, Facebook’s chatbots are becoming more powerful due to machine learning. Until a full-fledged assistant, able to make travel arrangements and administer an account, comes into existence, not that much more is needed.
  • IBM, Oracle and eBay are working on new solutions that are only possible because of Deep Learning. The goal is to make technology even more efficient, to customise search results or lists of suggestions according to the needs of the user.
  • Siri, Majel and Cortana are speech input systems, designed to facilitate input and search in smartphones of the platforms iOS, Android and Microsoft. The vision are devices that can be operated by only using one’s voice. These applications do not only revolve around a results list driven by an algorithm, but also around recognising semantic connections faster and better to further and further increase the programme’s intelligence.

It is also conceivable, that Amazon uses this technology to further refine the flow of goods. In doing so, the online merchant can get closer to its dream of delivering goods virtually in real-time. Should Amazon be capable of developing new prediction models to store goods in the respective warehouse before the customer orders his goods, the merchant must not stock the entire inventory in each warehouse. While this is still a dream of the future, it is already certain now that Amazon is working on speech input devices like Alexa, that are connected to the internet and as such, are supposed to facilitate everyday life.

The world will see lasting change because of Deep Learning within the next five to ten years. These innovations will also have consequences for job development. We will gain new insights through Deep Learning that would not be possible without it. In particular, data protection represents a big challenge, because not everything that is possible is being applied to the advantage of the consumer. The challenges consist of finding the correct norms. This is because there are no technical limits or industries, in which Deep Learning could not be used. As soon as – in whatever field – certain patterns have been identified, a huge potential for optimisation exists. These new insights will then be used in the most diverse fields, to exhaust its complete potential, increase reliability and to design the technology in an easier and easier way.