IBM’s Watson lead: ‘AI is transforming the entire marketing landscape’

Travel marketers are sitting on a “powerhouse” of data that’s has unlimited potential for their consumers – but remains impossible for humans to disseminate, the marketing lead at IBM Asia-Pacific has said.

Chaitali Pramanik

Speaking ahead of her talk at the inaugural Mumbrella Asia Travel Marketing Summit, Chaitali Pramanik said artificial intelligence will help marketers “crack the code” on one of the industry’s biggest problems, which is an avalanche of online and offline data.

Pramanik, who leads marketing for IBM’s AI platform Watson, said while AI has already “transformed the entire landscape” of the travel industry, there is still great potential to further personalise experiences for budding holidaymakers.

She said: “Think about the powerhouse of information that’s sat in your call centres. It will always say your call may be recorded for training purposes, but how many companies really do that? How many do research to figure out what your customer is saying? That is very powerful information. If we as marketers are able to derive that information and drive results, we can extend improved results and services.”

What AI is really doing is helping us crack the code on one of the biggest problems, which is data. Eighty per cent of the data we see on a daily basis is unstructured.

“A standard computer cannot make sense of it. Watson is able to understand this; it has ingested a lot of Wikipedia. You don’t just read the data, but you’re able to establish relationships between it and the gaps. That’s the most important part about AI; it thinks like a human and is able to process the information you have. The possibilities are unlimited.”

One particular use of AI technology is to form a “cognitive profile” of a consumer, through which a brand can target a person with supposedly relevant deals and offers.

Using booking a hotel as an example, Pramanik explained: “If I am a hotel marketer, how do I reach out to that person? AI really transformed the entire landscape: now I am able map you as an individual person from your social activities, likes, dislikes, preferences, previous holidays and your feedback and reviews.

“Once I have profiled you as a unique identity, I can then roll out the right offers and give you a fabulous experience based on your length of stay.”

She added: “Travel as an industry depends a lot on personalised experience: one size does not fit all for sure. I as an individual have very specific requirements and preferences on the kind of services I’m looking for.”

However, Pramanik acknowledged the industry’s use of data can potentially “annoy” consumers by over-targeting to the the point where they feel ‘followed’ online by the same ads. But she said, that is not the ultimate goal of AI in travel marketing anymore.

“How many times do we as a consumer click on a banner before deciding on a vacation?,” she said.

“We typically don’t. The last thing you want to be is an annoying factor for your customer. You want to be seen as someone who understands you and who is in a position to roll out experiences which you will look forward to, not the other way round. So banners and emails are typically background noise these days: that’s not what a customer is looking for. We are looking for real-time engagement and personalised experience, and that’s where AI has a role.”

Chaitali Pramanik will be speaking about artificial intelligence at the Mumbrella Asia Travel Marketing Summit in Singapore on April 16. Get your earlybird tickets for $299 before Thursday – visit the event website here



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