Local On-Demand Economics: Conversational Intelligence will Supplant SEO


If search engine optimization is the primary marketing tool of the Web era, call analysis will be just one tool in the marketing optimization quiver for local conversations. A new category, Conversational Intelligence, will emerge to address the demands for deep personalization in online and physical sales engagements.

As the Local On-Demand Economy (LODE) evolves, more interaction between merchants, brands and customers will take place in rich media environments where the click is only one step, albeit still important, to improved customer engagement, satisfaction and conversion rates. We’ll be covering this emerging economy at BIA/Kelsey NOW in June (sign up today for the early-registration discount), but the topic is a hot one at our NATIONAL Conference this week.

“You’ve got so much information from just the click [on Google], but we have hundreds of keywords [in each call],” Jeremiah Wilson, founder and president of LogMyCalls, said in an on-stage conversation. That is an important insight that extends beyond marketers to political operatives and all breeds of persuasive messaging will need to embrace in the Local On-Demand Economy. It requires immense listening skills, algorithmic creativity and judicious use of insights to engage the person at the other end of a transaction.

The explosion of data in the enterprise during the last decade will be arriving in local markets through hosted services and resellers, such as media and marketing services companies. Search, which has dominated the past decade will continue to grow, but as we’ve heard repeatedly throughout the BIA/Kelsey NATIONAL Conference, there are many more steps to personalize the engagement with consumers.

The conversation, the basic unit of human communication (tweets, to provide contrast, are fragments of conversations), will be the new locus of analysis as the digital engagement model diversifies and lengthens the customer relationship to include pre-sales to post- and repeat-sales delivered to individual users. People think primarily in terms of their local context when making buying decisions. Can I get it in Tacoma? Will I be able to get support in Cleveland? Is this doctor trusted by people I know? All these questions rise out of the give-and-take of a conversation.

“Markets are conversations,” the authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto famously wrote, and the implications for brands, media and small business are straight-forward: Far more information needs to be wrapped into efforts to understand and engage with the customer. This must happen in an environment respectful of the individual’s sense of privacy and propriety.

That data flood is already relevant in the enterprise, in the form of “big data,” an over-used but telling name for the inevitable increase in analyzable data. In the LODE world, these capabilities will be pushed to the edge of the economy, where SMBs and customers meet in their local market.

Add sensor data from beacons, dumb and autonomous vehicles being tracked by network services, the growth of customer feedback as a key influence of purchases, and the question for every business will become “What do I need to know about this customer, an individual, now?” Simple segmentation will not suffice when products and services can be customized within the supply chain based on the information shared publicly and privately (between buyer and seller) in the digital engagement process.

In the call analysis space, LogMyCalls, CallSource, Century Interactive and others already provide vertical-specific “language sets” to analyze, for example, calls to automotive dealers, medical offices and other specialty conversations. Within a decade, it will be possible to optimize any digital engagement, including phone calls, customer support chats, webinars and, in regulated businesses, enforce the disclosure of information required by law when talking with a customer.

Take for example CrystalKnows, a personality analysis tool for marketers and professionals that promises to “end email miscommunication.” BIA/Kelsey friend-of-the-company Mike Orren of Speakeasy pointed this out over lunch today. A “proprietary personality detection technology” developed in the Harvard Innovation Lab, CrystalKnows crawls and analyzes public sources, such as blogs and social postings, to provide a profile of a person and recommend how to communicate with them effectively. It’s recommendations, when I run a report about myself, are useful tips, but it also rings of the kind of generalities that astrologers and psychics use to convince people they are predicting the future or identifying a dead relative who wants to talk. Nevertheless, it’s an impressive beginning.

In all fairness, one thing CrystalKnows tells me about my own work style is that I give blunt feedback. So, I don’t regret the astrology and psychic comment above. CrystalKnows should not be surprised, but will their algorithm grok the humor here? Given resources and time, it will be possible to automate email targeting individuals, shaping offers based on known consumer traits, and many other proto-creepy engagements that still require human artfulness and, if business hopes to have paying customers in the future, will continue to require human engagement at key moments.

The Local On-Demand world, in which data proliferation raises customer expectations that a brand or company will know, understand and treat them personally, the proliferation of conversational intelligence tools will be a vital area of investment and development.

Conversational Intelligence will play a role in brand awareness, employee retention in the 1099 economy, word-of-mouth and personalized communication in work and the local market. Scoring and measurement of successful communication, from analyzing voice calls to, potentially, conversations at the point of sale, to provide a full view of attribution in the ever more complex world in which we will live. We’ll be talking about the consequences at NOW this June. Join us for the conversation.

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