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Three Ways To Think About Conversational Artificial Intelligence

If you’re running a business in 2019, you know consumers use a greater number and variety of technologies to search and find your information about your business. But few businesses understand how scattered their brand information is across new and emerging online channels, and even fewer have an effective strategy to manage it.

The rise of the internet in the 1990s introduced the brand website and email into a marketing mix previously dominated by print, radio, and TV. Search became more prominent as the internet matured. With the adoption of smartphones, marketers saw maps, mobile websites, and mobile-first apps like Instagram, Snapchat, and Uber grow into dominant forces in consumer discovery. 

The rise of conversational AI is introducing more interaction points like Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and chatbots as well as voice assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant. Users have spent years searching for information and products by typing into a box on a screen. Now they’re asking questions to boxes and phones. And something called a voice assistant gives them the answers. These speakers don’t even have screens.

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All this growth doesn’t mean old interactions are disappearing. You still use print. And that has been around since the Gutenberg printing press was invented in 1440. Through all of this, you’re still managing interfaces like your website, email, and traditional search. And the number of interfaces will only keep growing.

Here are three pieces of advice to help you move into AI:

All of these services speak a common language: structured data. To return accurate answers to consumer questions about businesses, consumer technologies need to know the facts about them. Businesses can provide these facts by maintaining all of their brand information -- from locations, to menu items -- in a structured format using Schema.org markup conventions, so that intelligent services can better understand them and return them as answers. You need to constantly maintain and update your brand information online if you want services like Alexa or Google to get it right.

New entities force you to think outside the box. Intelligent services are building out new capabilities to make the facts consumers want more accessible. For example, over the past three years, Google added structured answers and knowledge cards for information about people, events, and companies. This means that a consumer searching for an event like a free ice cream day, or a professional like a doctor or wealth advisor, will get detailed information right in their search results.

Your digital brand is no longer just about your physical location, but also includes entities from events, to people, to menu items. The information brands need to manage is expanding to be a comprehensive data structure of who they are.

Your brand lives in services you aren’t even aware of. The digital landscape in China, for example, features an entirely different set of consumer destinations from those familiar to users in the West. When Chinese tourists accustomed to using Baidu, Tencent Map, WeChat, and more, visit the West, they are discovering your business (or not) in these Chinese services.

Chinese tourists spent a world-leading $261 billion in 2016, and the economic impact of tourism from China is expected to grow. If your brand data isn’t structured and available in Mandarin, you’re probably either invisible in these services or showing up with incorrect or outdated information.

The ecosystem of third-party experiences is constantly evolving, from TripAdvisor, to Uber to Alexa, your brand has a presence on all of these, and your customers are interacting with you whether you know it or not.

As the variety of places increase where consumers can find information about your business, so does the specificity of the information and available answers. With brand data effectively structured and continually updated, businesses can thrive in a world where their brand is everywhere.

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