Past, Present & Future – Automating Customer Service & Social Media

The article by analyst @jowyang on Techcrunch today:

http://techcrunch.com/2012/06/07/brands-start-automating-social-media-responses-on-facebook-and-twitter/

Took us back in time, about 2 years, when we first tested automated “human’ish” responses with our platform, via Twitter (and, even into Facebook, via IM).

We discussed with Brands about the cost and scaling of “humans” v. automated bots (as well as consistency and the instant response we provide), but, 2 years ago, I guess we came across sounding like Science Fiction fans, not mobile and social marketers!

So, today, it’s official, we in the “nascent, but growing” stage of seeing this engagement format move into the marketplace.  Our two years of building our platform and testing our “creative” and interactive narrative positions us well ahead of anyone just starting to dabble in this space.

@jowyang’s “future” looks like this:

“Human-like Relationships:  While on the distant horizon, artificial intelligence agents will simulate human behavior and be a guiding agent, conversationalist, and act like a real world concierge, “

Well, that’s what our “today” looks like.  Brand Agents who guide.

Our blog posts haven’t used the CATEGORY “AI and Twitter” in a heck of a long time.  Nice to dust that off again!

Now, we do respect that there are diverging opinions on this topic, really just specific to use of automation within “social media,” as if it’s a “pure” landscape that should be reserved for “humans only.”  (See the OPINIONS section of the Techcrunch article).

We have the ability to clone or create the “best” customer service bots, who respond instantly, around the clock – and can manage high volumes of concurrent users (and each receives a personalized response).  Compare that to most “human” customer service representatives?  Perhaps most who work  a Brands Twitter account are a bit hipper than those in the Call Centers, but, well, we can add “hip” to our bots.  Do people really care if it’s human or silicon, provided they get what they need?  Quickly?

As humans, we’ve adapted and evolved to accept Human::Machine interaction quite well.  At the grocery, if the line is shorter at the automated check-out, that’s where we go.  Yes, I like a brief chat with the human check-out person, but, nine times out of ten, I head to the automated check-out, who is always friendly and gets me out the door quickly (And I never find someone has put the fresh strawberries at the bottom of the bag).

 

Extending Television Stories and Ad Units to the 2nd Screen – Mobile & Tablets

Last week’s IGNITION WEST “Future of Mobile” conference in San Francisco was fascinating – In large part, because the entire morning seemed to drive home the point that “mobile” is largely about “in the living room while watching TV.”   The Keynote Deck is HERE.

The statistics are rolling in:  Mobile use increases concurrent with “Prime Time” television — Where between “mobile” and “tablets” the percentages of overall “time on device” ranges from 50-80% of a consumer’s time, while concurrently watching television.

If “geo location” mobile is worth $x.  Then “couch location” mobile is worth $x, or more!

Further, one of the main activities on “mobile” while watching television is “texting.”

So, what could be more intuitive than extending the television experience, to the end user’s mobile, via conversational engagement?

Chat with a character on Gossip Girl?

Chat with a character in a TV spot to extend the advertising experience?

Children’s content?

While “social” and “smart menus” and other “extenders” are entering the market — We are pleased to be focusing on extending the core television experience and emotional attraction itself – the stories and characters.

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We’re still pleased to offer solutions for intelligent and entertainment packaging and print.  But, the opportunity to extend experiences from the television screen to the mobile/tablet screen is something here at contentAI that’s in our DNA.  We come from film and television…after more than a Decade of hearing the word “convergence,” it looks like it’s finally upon us!

UPDATE(S):  Over the past week, more studies have emerged and the connection between “television and mobile” (meaning mobile, tablets or even laptops) is increasing.  Fully 30% of “tablet time” is concurrent television time:

http://blogs.forrester.com/sarah_rotman_epps/12-04-11-the_tablet_tv_connection

http://www.forrester.com/The+TabletTV+Connection/fulltext/-/E-RES61576?docid=61576&intcmp=blog:forrlink

 

Mobile is Personal — Really Personal…it’s called Love (Maybe)

While the study was small in scope, the take-away from the New York Times article here

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/01/opinion/you-love-your-iphone-literally.html?_r=2&emc=eta1&pagewanted=all

Addresses not just an “addictive” nature to mobile engagement – But it goes further — To a “love” of our mobile devices.

The subjects’ brains responded to the sound of their phones as they would respond to the presence or proximity of a girlfriend, boyfriend or family member.

Virtual characters and agents designed for mobile engagement fulfill the 2-way communication needs associated with the devices — the raison d’etre they have evolved to evoke such deep emotion.  We’re 99.9% certain that this “love” has not come into being due to GPS sensors, mobile banner ads or even “push” notifications.

To fulfill and make “love last,” emotionally compelling mobile content experiences matter!

I’d posit that mobile devices have evolved to evoke “love” because they’ve become our most important communication channel with friends and family (other than face-to-face).

While the article focused on iPhone users and implies that it is a more “loved” device than others, we’d challenge that assertion and suspect it is a cross-device phenomenon.  Simply, iPhone users like to express their affection a little louder than the rest of us!

For those in the mobile content business, we hope the take-away here is that to keep the love flowing, you’ve got to deliver emotionally rewarding content – not just click-throughs — this is NOT the static web.

 

CAVEAT:  Some really smart people have taken issue with the study (not just the thinness, but detail level) and that should be noted:  http://www.talyarkoni.org/blog/2011/10/01/the-new-york-times-blows-it-big-time-on-brain-imaging/

While the technical aspects are worth questioning, the underlying notion that mobile devices are held to be extremely personal by their owners remains fairly solid.  Just try taking one away from someone…or, see how they fare when they lose their device?  It doesn’t take an MRI to tell you that you are touching on emotions, not just rational thought.

 

Mobile Marketing: Just answer the customer’s questions!

This was a humorous and insightful post on MediaPost today about the mobile experiences that many QR codes lead to:

http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=156030#

So I turn the tables on my better, skeptical half and pose the question to her. “How would your smartphone best serve you here?”

She is a lifetime shopper. This is actually a no-brainer for her. She points to the cosmetics counter as we pass. “Tell me what shades match my skin color. There are too many choices here.” We pass by the women’s clothing section. “Tell me what that skirt goes with that you also have in the store.” We go to a restaurant and she suggests, “Tell me what the nutritional value of this menu item is — and whether it has any ingredients my kid might be allergic to.”

In other words:  Let the customer ask a contextual and relevant question and give them a reply.

This is exactly what our MOBILE FAQ product offering is designed to fulfill.  In fact, we’ve started prototyping a cereal product that touches on the specifics in the quote (allergies, nutritional value, etc.).

Carrying this one step further, this is why we believe that personalized mCoupons are going to replace the one-size-fits-all model — Customers don’t want to be pushed the same offering that everyone around them is receiving — They want their smart phone to deliver “smart” to them.

The closing paragraph is worth inserting:

Why would we as an industry squander that opportunity on half-measures and disappointing brand puffery that runs the risk of poisoning the well and turning people off to the prospect of a clickable world. They can tell us what they want to know, apparently without breaking a sweat, once we stop trying to impress them with what is new and cool — and instead focus on answering their simplest questions.

 

 

 

 

 

Conversational Virtual Agents and Google+

We really like the look and feel of Google+ — It will take a good half year (at least) to gain traction, but once University students start tapping into it for both academic and social applications, it could be a winner.

So, the first thought was:  Can our virtual characters and brand agents flow through Google Plus?  Looks like it’s Gtalk, where we’ve been for nearly two years. . .

So, voila!  We’re there.  What we’ll test next is how using Picasa and YouTube Links within the chat will enhance the UX  — The indication is that the files will open within Google+ and not require leaving the page. . .

Is this the only branded marketing or ad unit that can flow through Google+?  Maybe?  For mLearning?  Great potential too…

Back to testing…

Keep it Personal on Mobile – Keep it Conversational

The post from @gomonews caught our attention this morning:

http://www.gomonews.com/your-mobile-device-phone-web-browser%E2%80%A6-secret-lover/

This was perfect:

“People are experts at “humanizing” their devices, attributing human characteristics, moods and behaviors to their communications devices. Now, it’s nothing like the connection you have with an actual person. You can never feel as close to your phone as you can to a real person. But those feelings are there, even if they’re only faded reflections of the real thing. And I think that advertisers and marketers would be wise to pay heed to that…”

 

More Thoughts on NFC and QR-2D: Defining a New Mobile Lifestyle Story

I’ve been mulling over how NFC could be a catalyst for cross-over, higher-budget and higher-profile, QR-2D applications in advertising and marketing, which in turn will drive greater user adoption as part of defining a new mobile “lifestyle.”

While “payments” may be the primary application with early NFC use, the range of it’s applications span a fair bit of territory where QR-2D currently resides.  From what I see, QR-2D is not delivering high-value campaigns that also serve to define QR-2D as being an essential part of  a User’s  mobile lifestyle – they seem stuck on delivering “information.”

There’s a big difference between saying “I’ll get you information when you need it,” and “I’m going to make your life more interesting.”

Looking at the video promotions for NFC here:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/06/10/nfc_videos/

NFC is being promoted as becoming part of everyone’s daily life — and, improving it —  OK, the Nokia clip is pretty cheesy, but the message is clear.  They’re selling a good story.

This Barclaycard NFC spot is extraordinary:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWp3pxatDyU&feature=player_embedded

As more money goes into NFC-based campaigns, someone is going to recognize that in many cases they should be complemented by QR-2D access as well.

I’m certain that NFC is both complementary to QR-2D in many applications as well as being a facilitator of defining how these related technologies are part of a new mobile lifestyle “story.”

We all know that we can launch more QR-2D campaigns today than NFC, simply due to market penetration.  That will level out over the next year.  The issue is how, or whether, QR-2D will leverage itself  to be part of the larger mobile lifestyle story that’s being told?

As a “mobile content company,” we see that using both technologies together will make sense in many cases; but the public perception of QR-2D needs to become part of the same story that NFC campaigns’ are promoting in order to legitimate media buys that result in high scan rates.

/adapted from LinkedIN post

Mobile Conversational Marketing – Conversational Analytics

We don’t spend a lot of time featuring the value-add that goes on behind the scenes; and the conversational analytics that are available to marketers.

But, as we evolve from showing off our technology and platform to defining product, the value of the conversational analytics becomes more apparent.

What are people talking about in-store today?

What do they like and what do they want?

They’ll tell you, without feeling like it’s a survey, through the course of conversational engagement:

 

How Much is that Conversational Mobile App in the Window?

Right.

We don’t have a “price” page on site.  Typically, within :01-:15 minutes on a phone or SKYPE call someone remembers to ask “how much do these cost?”

Currently, we price all builds one-by-one; which is how we build them too.  One size does NOT fit all!

But, it’s pretty simple to get to a pricing model based on the “length” of the story, the “width,” and the “depth.”  MOBILE FAQs are unique, in that they are “depth” only and therefore faster to build and more economical.

But, what does seem to be a (pleasant) surprise for our partners is that all of our quotes have been less than they anticipated.  Our engine is very efficient and makes building apps efficient.   We know how to work with a client’s “story,” or characters and to extrapolate that into an interactive narrative.

So, don’t forget to ask “how much?”  You’ll enjoy the answer.  CONTACT US HERE to learn more, including price!

Conversational Mobile Apps – Defining Products

Having been down this path before with developing emerging media technologies, it’s always a terrific moment when the business makes the transition from “defining technology” to “defining applications” to then “defining products.”

contentAI studios have been developing it’s technology for over a year while testing in various applications and seeing market response and adoption — Over the past month, the “product definitions” have become far more clear (at least, the initial product offerings, as there are others which will follow).

Conversational Mobile Campaigns — Motivated, directed conversational engagement with a purpose:  enter a contest, acquire a contextual mCoupon, engage in an entertaining interactive story. . .i.e. drive the User to take a specific action in an enjoyable exchange.

- Mobile FAQs — This is the economical version of the platform that allows a Brands mobile web site to deliver deep information and graphics without a complex user navigation or dense, unreadable text.

-  Conversational mLearning with emphasis on ESL — Our http://ESLai.com initiative is roaring along; the consumer-facing Beta apps are now accessed in over 100 Countries from both mobile web and Android app stores.  We’re keen to engage in partnership opportunities with ESL curriculum providers, schools and regional mobile content portals.

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What are the future products?

Interactive eBooks with a focus on children’s entertainment and mLearning is high on our list.  And, beyond campaign/marketing apps, we see the platform serving as a complementary story-platform for motion pictures and television — widgetized TV is a space that is fascinating to consider.

Stay tuned.