The big data age is here and its benefits are being more widely recognised and deployed each day. In a time of ever-evolving consumer behaviour, marketers and businesses need to pay attention to how new concepts and technologies will shape the future of the industry.

In order to look ahead, we need to take a step back. Modern marketing and digital marketing is characterised by a proliferation of consumer data. And to some extent, we are only really scratching the surface. The challenge with big data is its vastness. The undeniable fact is that there is too much information for any human to sensibly absorb, process and action. And although we have tools to assist us in these endeavours, the truth is that we are fundamentally limited by our own capability.

There will be one significant development in the next few years that will help marketers truly realise the value of their data - the synthesis of artificial intelligence and automation. It’s likely you’ve heard of at least one in a marketing context, but it’s the joining of the two which will deliver the biggest impact.

Consider the case of Artificial Intelligence (AI). We may still be a few years away from the sort of fully functional AI you’d see in a science fiction film, however, building block technologies, such as natural language processing, machine learning and evolutionary algorithms, are already widespread, and gaining power.

Last year, Google’s AlphaGo beat the world’s top Go player in a game that is widely considered to be one of the most difficult to teach a computer to play. AI technologies are simply far superior to humans when it comes to processing and understanding vast data sets, and producing evidence supported data sets.

Automation will be the output of Artificial Intelligence. We are all familiar with the concept of ‘algorithmic automation’ (if not just think of everything from robot hoovers to real-time media trading). Going forward, we can expect to see these algorithms - really just codified heuristics - replaced by AIs, making decisions based on larger, more complete data sets than any human could consider and allow for in any algorithm.

We can already see this happening with the increasing adoption and proliferation of artificial conversational entities, or chatbots. The ability to ask a computer a natural question (rather than contort it into Google-speak) and have it respond intelligently, betters the consumer experience. The ability of the chatbot to then act on any request automatically can drive significant operational efficiencies.

Of course, this is just the beginning. AI and automation have some way to go before they realise their full potential. Getting there will require large, high-quality datasets, advanced technical skills, and most especially creative insight: the universal recipe for innovation.

It’s going to be a fun journey.


By Alastair Bulger, strategic development director at Experian

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