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Cognitive Business: 2 Areas to Focus On

by: David Pyrzenski (@pyrzenski)
18 November 2015

During the recent Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty discussed a new business model that will dramatically improve how we interact with our customers: “When digital business marries up with … digital intelligence, it is the dawn of a new era — cognitive business. When every product, every service, how your run your company [has] a piece that learns and thinks as a part of it, you will be a cognitive business.” 

It’s an ambitious concept and it may seem like it’s going to be difficult to achieve. How do you, the everyday marketer, help your company take steps in that direction? 

Depending on your organization, core cognitive elements such as data mining, natural language processing and machine learning may not be top of mind as you’re hustling to get the next campaign out the door. The good news, though, is that there are small steps you can take to nurture a more cognitive environment that will position your company to better leverage future technology. Here are two areas where you can start.

Behavioral Tracking

Digital behavior tracking is relatively common these days. Your website, mobile app and ecommerce platforms probably offer built-in tools, and there are also stand-alone platforms you can use with your existing technology stack. The question is, what are you doing with all that data? You’re probably using it for ROI and attribution analysis, product recommendations, and retargeting (browse/cart abandonment). 

As you’re continuing to build out integrations that enable you to capture more and more cross-channel behaviors, my recommendation is to also look at investing in data storage and start cataloguing the data. This rich data is what you will use to help machines learn in the future.  All inference models need a starting point and data to harvest, so don’t toss it after you use it. Retailers are bracing for a massive digital season during the holidays, estimating that “almost half of holiday shopping will be done online.” So line up your data retention storage strategy now.

People and Tools

As you budget for 2016, look to hire people who share your vision about getting smarter in the way you go to market. There could be tenured professionals who have focused their careers in this field and recently graduated millennials tuned in to cognitive technology. Hire these people. They can help pave the way for your company to grow and keep up with evolving technologies.

You could also get started today by bringing in an intern and giving them one goal: audit the state of our cognitive readiness. If an increase in head count isn’t an option, consider hiring agency consultants with the sole purpose of creating a transformational plan for your company. Invest in the software you’ll need to get you there, whether it’s a digital analytics platform or behavioral marketing automation technology. Some of the software providers have their own “technology directors as a service” that you can use to get the most out of each platform. Use them.

We know there are a lot of companies still working on becoming a digital company, let alone a cognitive company. But there’s no reason to feel overwhelmed. The heart of a cognitive operating model is allowing sophisticated machines and software to give you valuable and actionable insights about your customers. Companies like IBM offer the tools and technology that can help bring your organization into the cognitive era. All you have to do is supply the data and want your company to achieve the goal Ginni Rometty describes — “instead of being disrupted [in your industry], be the disrupter.”

Related Resources:

1) White Paper: “Customer Journey Maps and Buyer Personas: The Modern Tool Kit for Marketers

2) Blog: “Clicks, Conversions and High-Fives: 3 Tips to Focus and Refine Your Marketing Measurements

3) Tip Sheet: “10 Tips for Becoming an Agile Marketing Team


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