Tag Archives: artificial intelligence

The Future of WeChat

It is not secret that I am fascinated with WeChat. It showcases the promise of conversational commerce in action. Yesterday I was talking about the opportunities in WeChat in Lead Conference. The different features we all know, but I find the small portion in the end of my presentation about the future of WeChat truly intriguing. We all know that WeChat has made huge leap from communication platform to payment platform.

wechat

WeChat: Messaging platform evolved to payment platform

It is currently the digital lifeline of the whole China, but what they are planning in the future. Below are couple of key points about WeChat future:

What about the global expansion?

WeChat tried to become a global messenger app. They hired Messi in 2013 with big money to be the face of WeChat. And apparently they got downloads but not engagement. Messaging apps lives and dies based on do you have anyone to message with. Techinasia dubbed WeChat´s global expansion “a disaster”. What makes WeChat unique in China is hard to replicate in other markets because of different digital ecosystem, legislation and other monopolies ruling the roost.

Now WeChat has pretty much abandoned these global aspirations as consumer product, but don´t be fooled they are still eyeing for global expansion but less as B2C product but more as B2B offering. There are two main ways how WeChat is creating its global footprint:

1.Being the gateway to China for western brands

WeChat wants to work with International brands to enable them to sell their products through its Chinese online retail platform. The benefit is that companies can then avoid some of the bureaucracy in China when setting up their own retail operations in the country.

“Almost 95 per cent of global [luxury] brands are on WeChat now — in the UK, there is Burberry and Mulberry, in Italy, Valentino, Zegna, Prada, all the big brands. Two years ago, the number was 50 per cent and last year 75 per cent, so the growth has picked up recently.”

-Andrea Ghizzoni (Europe Director, Tencent)

2. Conquering Europe and other markets through payment

Majority of Chinese tourists prefer to pay with Alipay or WeChat Pay, and only 10% would opt for cash or credit cards. This consumer sentiment has not left unnoticed by the western retailers. Chinese tourists are extremely lucrative target audience and if offering familiar paying option can ease the buying process I would be really surprised of not seeing WePay more present especially in western luxury retailers:

“Chinese customers tend to close the sale more quickly when they know that they can pay with mobile. Those transaction times are extremely quick, at under a minute.”

– Candice Koo, the Managing Director of CANCAN

All roads lead to AI

Like other big Internet monopolies, Tencent is making big strides with AI. This year they opened research facility in Seattle solely focusing on artificial intelligence and last year they established AI lab in Shenzen. AI is build around robust data so WeChat has clear advantage as they have vast amount of conversation and connections data. More importantly they also have payment data through its WePay platform. So essentially WeChat is sitting on the most valuable data sources: how people are spending their money? Where people are? And what they are talking about?

“Shopping and search engine data show one type of data, which is purchasing or shopping intent, which is valuable, but different. For example, if you were to build out an Natural Language Understanding engine, you would not use search engine data, because no one searches based on complete conversational phrases.”

-Tak Lo, Zeroth AI

There are already couple of prominent accounts utilizing AI within WeChat. Chumen WenWen is voice assistant that connects to third party APIs and answers questions around what you should do (e.g. restaurants, movies, services and more). Alibaba got headstart with facial recognition with its widely covered “Smile to pay” collaboration with KFC but it will be sure that WeChat will be launching tools based on facial recognition technologies. WeChat has also been improving its search function going head-to-head against Baidu by incorporating more social and connection information to its search results.

On a lighter note, what has become tradition with Microsoft AI Chatbots, their WeChat Chatbot Xiaobing and other chatbot BabyQ also went rogue and started slandering communist party.

“My China dream is to go to America.”

Xiaobing (WeChat Chatbot)

Do you think that such a corrupt and incompetent political regime can live forever?”

BabyQ (to the question about Chinese Communist Party)

If you want to know where Western conversational commerce is tomorrow, you only need to analyze what WeChat is already today.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

The Rise of The Conversational Commerce

Last week I was speaking in Seoul in Digital Marketing Conference for 400 marketing leaders. My topic was around conversational commerce: a topic that I have been writing about a lot.

conversational commerce

Speaking about Conversational commerce in Seoul 2017

I was trying to find an answer to three burning questions that are keeping me awake at night:

  • Why Conversational commerce is happening right now?
  • What it actually means?
  • How your brand should act?

1)Three big trends enabling conversational commerce

a) Mobile-first world

Messaging apps have already surpassed social media apps in popularity. Our audience is not mobile-first, they are increasingly mobile-only and becoming messaging only. WeChat has already shown the future of messaging-first digital ecosystem.

Our audience want the service and content in the platforms they are using.

b) AI-first world

Aptly in the same city I was having my presentation around conversational commerce, Alphago Go-robot beat the hell out of Lee Sedol, the world´s best (human) Go player. It was not even close match, not to mention that apparently in 37th move in second match Alphago did a move that had not been ever done in Go history and was called the most beautiful Go move ever.

Artificial intelligence will enable machines (or robots, if I may) to emulate human-like traits and behavior.

c) Digital platforms will become assistants predicting your needs

There will be more virtual assistants than humans in 2021. All the big digital companies (Apple with Siri, Samsung with Bixby, Google with Allo and Home, Amazon with Alexa and Echo) are building the assistive layer to their products.

Because of mobile platforms and evolved AI, companies are able to predict what you need and provide you personalized service.

2) What Conversational commerce actually means?

 I would define conversational commerce as “enabling people to interact with brands with way that is natural to them”. Interaction is limited to customer service or selling products. There is only handful of brans that people would actually want to have conversation with and the odds are your brands is not one of them. The natural way to communicate means two things:

  • The style you communicate: Whether it is with Emojis and Slang with text or using voice
  • With what device you are communicating with: It can be either chat (with human), chatbot (with robot) in messenger or using internet-of-things device (currently Google Home, Alexa devices. In the future whatever device you will think of).

The benefits of conversational commerce for user are:

  1. Convenience: Use whatever method and device you feel comfortable.
  2. Personalization: You save time (not necessarily money) as you get recommendations suitable for you.
  3. Decision support: Conversational commerce helps you to do decisions easier by learning from your behavior and predicting your next move.

3)What it means to your brand?

There are five key considerations you need to take into account when considering your conversational commerce –strategy:

1. Don´t get caught by hype

Conversational commerce is bigger thing than Chatbots. Chatbots have been one of the first trials on making it work. And they have not been particularly successful yet. Facebook bots have had failure rate of 70% so they were able to get to 30% of requests without some sort of human intervention. That does not mean that people don´t want good service through their messaging apps. They don´t necessarily want it through chatbots.

2. Choose your pilot market wisely

Compared to social media landscape, messaging landscape is much more fragmented especially in South-East Asia. This means that you might not be able to replicate your activities in one market to another.

3. Find the right partners

You don´t necessarily need to create every algorithm from the scratch. There is already quite developed ecosystem around conversational commerce that you can tap into.

4. Provide value and make life easier for your consumer

Like I said earlier, majority of the people do not want to have a conversation with brands. They want to have value whether it is through buying products or getting good consumer service. While you might be interested in creating the most witty Chatbot ever, it might be more wise to first ensure that you are providing straightforward utility first and then start extending to more human-like interactions.

5. Be fun and natural

That being said, the great opportunity with conversational commerce is ability to humanize otherwise transactional brand-human relationships. When you have ensured that you are providing value and clear benefit to the user, the personality of your chat can be a true competitive advantage.

We are living in the peak of hype cycle with conversational commerce and there will be round of iterations when it will truly live to its promise. My point is however clear: it is not question about will the conversational commerce happen, it is how and when it will happen?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Who are able to Keep Their Jobs when the Robot Apocalypse Happens?

terminator

Majority of the work we are doing as marketing professionals will be done by robots in (not so far) future. So if we won´t embrace that change, we will The workforce lead by robots is not only a threat for luddites but also opportunity for broad-minded professionals. Before anything can be automated and singularity kicks in, there will be a (probably relatively long) period of augmentation when we can work alongside with smart machines.

In their book ”Only Humans Need Apply”, writers Tom Davenport and Julia Kirby list five potential ways for us humans to remain relevant when robots starts to take over:

Step Up
Overseeing the automated systems.

Who will keep their jobs in advertising industry?
A few lucky managers, who are visionary and ruthless enough to replace majority of the workforce with automated systems.

Step In
Learning more about how robots will work and how to improve them.

Who will keep their jobs?
Those who are currently good at their jobs but not opposed to progress and using robots to do majority of the heavy lifting in their work. Combination of machine learning and human tacit knowledge is quite often the killer combination compared to only-human and only-robot approaches. At least for now.

Step Aside
Paradoxically the much-ridiculed ”soft skills” are more robot-prone than the more analytical skills. It is easier to teach robot to kick your ass on math challenge, but way harder to teach robot to have empathy when your colleague is having a bad day.  Using human skills like motivation, creativity, persuasion or empathy while using the automated systems will be the killer combination in expert services (e.g. financial advisory: robots are doing the investing, humans are doing the selling).

Who will keep their jobs?
Everyone who can sell and gets along with people. Evem when majority of the hard work is done by machines you still need human touch to sell those solutions to other humans.

Step Narrowly
Specialize in field so obscure that it does not make sense to automate.

Who will keep their jobs?
Those specialists who you call to perform really weird tasks with high price tag (e.g. the best taxidermy photographer, world´s best copywriter for sanitary pads, scouting agent specializing in New York) and you always wonder how they make their living (from those weird tasks and commissioning premium, duh). In global marketplace there is enough demand for pretty much anything and there is always higher demand for the best one in the field.

Step Forward
Developing new systems and technology to automate processes.

Who will keep their jobs?
Forward-looking people who have good understanding of current processes and preferably understanding of data & algorithms (or alternatively ability to speak the same language as data geeks).

As we can see from this list, there are plenty of opportunities in our field to work alongside smart machines. What combines all of these ways (maybe excluding stepping narrowly which is probably the least applicable route to majority of us) is that we need to embrace the improvements that smart machines can bring to our ways of working.  We need to be willing to work to add value to machines and be willing to let machines add value to our work. If you are opposing change and just hope for legislative restrictions to slow down the inevitable, you are without your job sooner than you think.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Machines Will Eventually Beat Humans in Everything

“I don´t think it will be a close match. I believe it will be 5–0, or maybe 4–1. So the critical point for me will be to not lose one match.”
Lee Se-Dol (Korean Go champion before his matches against Alphago)

Lee-Se Dol was able to predict the future; it was just the opposite he was envisioning. Alphago (computer Go program done by Google subsidiary Deepmind) slaughtered him in six games.

alphago

Machines beating humans in a game is nothing new. In chess the gap between machines and human is already tremendous. Best chess machines are even able to win joint teams of human and computers. What makes AlphaGo´s victory intriguing is that Go is much more complicated game than chess. The first move of Go can involve 361 positions (chess has only 81) and Go game generally lasts more turns than chess.

Simple heuristics get most of what you need. For example, in chess and checkers the value of material dominates other pieces of knowledge — if I have a rook more than you in chess, then I am almost always winning. 
Go has no dominant heuristics. From the human’s point of view, the knowledge is pattern-based, complex, and hard to program. Until Alphago, no one had been able to build an effective evaluation function.”
-Jonathan Schaeffer (Creator of Chinook, first program to beat humans in Checkers)

The machine victory in Go happened decade earlier than experts predicted.

AlphaGo is based on deep learning and neural networks. So while Deep Blue beat Kasparov with sheer computing strength, Alphago has more artificial intelligence behind it. Firstly neural networks were trained on 30 million moves from games played by human experts. That resulted to ability to predict human move 57 percent of the time. But that gets you to the same level as human players not necessarily able to beat them. So secondly, AlphaGo played thousands of games between its neural networks, and adjusting connections using trial-and-error process through reinforcement learning.

How many humans are even able to comprehend what above means (lest train themselves in even somewhat similar manner)?

Machines can already replace humans in more fields than we are willing to admit. And more importantly, they are playing better job as well. Machines can crunch data to obtain experience, which is impossible for humans during their lifetime. We have to start embracing machine learning and collaborating with machines more if we want to survive. Advertising industry has been especially almost hostile to any technological improvement. That will be a road to sure destruction. Beating a Go champion is much harder task than to do a subpar brand campaign. If we don´t take more proactive and positive approach to data and artificial intelligence, we will make ourselves redundant.

Machines can either be our allies our friends. I would opt for the latter choice.

Tagged , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: