Get Ready to Shift — How To Incorporate AI into Your Business
Growing a company with artificial intelligence (AI) requires organizational and cultural shifts to prepare your workforce — and your business — for the future.
Anthony Ching is someone who understands first-hand how artificial intelligence (AI) can impact business success. At Adobe, Anthony oversees product management of a portfolio of AI technologies within the Adobe Experience Cloud. His team also built the AI technology behind Adobe’s Project Relay, a project to measure how marketing is contributing to multiple desired outcomes, including free signups and paid conversions. The project was awarded a 2017 Association of National Advertisers Genius Award for skillfully using analytics to draw actionable insights from big data and to improve marketing effectiveness.
We asked Anthony for his thoughts on how AI will make an impact across many industries, and how companies can position themselves to reap all the benefits AI provides. Here’s what he had to say.
Anthony, tell us more about Project Relay — and what’s next for that technology.
Project Relay was part of Adobe’s initiative to optimize the ways in which Adobe reaches out to potential customers of Adobe Creative Cloud. We know free sign-ups are a key way to attract new customers, but we couldn’t easily tell if free signups from a specific channel or campaign were more likely than others to purchase a subscription afterwards. The answer to this question is important because it helps Adobe to understand how to spend our marketing budget most effectively.
Adobe first aggregated information about different marketing touchpoints a potential customer would encounter — such as an online display ad impression or a click on a paid search ad. My team then built AI-based attribution technology to evaluate how those different marketing touchpoints influenced free sign-ups and, ultimately, paid subscriptions.
The main benefit of the AI technology was that it allowed Adobe to evaluate the acquisition of paid customers and free customers in the same way. With a real apples-to-apples comparison from a large data set, we could make the best decisions about where we spent our marketing budget so that we got the best customers in the most cost-efficient way.
This method of determining how to attribute desired outcomes on the customer journey across a variety of touchpoints — and making adjustments to maximize the desired impact to the business with a budget — was so successful that we plan to add the capability to Adobe Experience Cloud very soon. This next-generation attribution capability, powered by the artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities of Adobe Sensei, will enable marketers to allocate their marketing budgets in a way that will improve their campaigns and ROIs. They will know exactly how much each channel, campaign, and touchpoint contributed to their success.
Different technologies all seem to have their moment in the spotlight. How is artificial intelligence different?
Today, customers expect all the experiences they have with a product to be as streamlined and easy as possible. Companies need AI to predict and understand what customers want — before they even know they want it. From testing campaigns to targeting specific people, AI has applications throughout the entire customer lifecycle. For example, AI can help companies to optimize the offers and images that are presented to their customers. This results in a high degree of personalization, and ultimately a better customer experience.
AI is powered by data. How will an organization’s data maturity affect how well it can integrate AI into its business?
For AI to give the best predictions and have the most impact, you need to feed it a set of rich and relevant data. As a first step, companies should make sure that they are collecting valuable and relevant data about their customers. Next, companies should then manage the data in an easy-to-use way so that when they start using machine learning and other AI-driven techniques on that data, they can get the best predictions possible.
What other challenges must businesses overcome before we see more widespread adoption of AI?
The second step in achieving AI success is cultural — companies need to shift into a data-driven organization. AI doesn’t have any value if it’s just spitting out insights and recommendations that aren’t integrated into business practices. If an organization is operating with manual processes that don’t rely on data, it can take a long time to bring in new AI technology and make it operational. The organization has to make a commitment to operationalize the results of AI. This can include changing decision-making processes to be more data-driven, defining specific areas where AI should be adopted, and securing buy-in at the executive level.
What organizational and cultural changes do businesses need to make to fully integrate AI into their core business processes and strategy?
Some marketers are not comfortable with giving up control completely. They still want to be involved in some way, so they can know what’s going on and approve the recommendations that AI provides. Different organizations have different comfort levels in terms of how automated the processes are. This is critical to keep in mind as businesses try to incorporate AI technology — they need to understand the current culture of their organizations and make these shifts in a way that aligns with that. With Adobe Sensei, we try to design our AI technology to serve organizations with different levels of comfort and expertise in utilizing AI.
How will AI affect jobs that people have traditionally performed? Should workers be worried, or will there be a need to upskill the workforce?
There always will be things that human beings can do better than AI, but AI technology will enable people to do their jobs more effectively and efficiently. For example, we are building capabilities in Adobe Experience Cloud to help marketers to optimize their customers’ journeys by providing customer insights powered by artificial intelligence. However, there will still be a need for marketers who can understand the unique aspects of their businesses. What AI technology brings to the table is the ability to simplify the process in which marketing campaigns and customer journeys are designed and created, and then optimize the impact of those campaigns and journeys. By increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of how things can be done, AI makes all of us even faster and more efficient, and this then can free-up resources that can lead to the creation of new jobs that advance businesses and society in general.