Sitecore Symposium Roundtable - Alpha Solutions

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has recently made amazing strides, and Microsoft is at the leading edge of these innovations.

11.3.20

BY PETER WRIGHT

I had the privilege of sitting in on “Influencer Roundtable with Microsoft: Integrating AI into Your Existing Digital Marketing Strategy” by Jonathan Weindel, Colin Wright, and Wina Wichienwidhtaya of Microsoft.


This discussion was about how Microsoft’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) plays a role in Personalization in Sitecore web applications. Personalization has become increasingly important as we undergo this global digital transformation. As many studies have noted (and as Microsoft’s own 2019 survey shows), B2B customers are now demanding digital experiences on par with those previously reserved for B2C customers.

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This puts increasing pressure on businesses to deliver personalized web experiences, across the customer journey and at scale. AI helps them do this.



Pre-COVID (2019) B2B survey, indicating the importance of personalized digital experiences.


AI Auto-Personalization in Sitecore provides the ability for Sitecore web applications to automatically recommend different features or products specifically tailored to the user. Before this session I thought that this was mostly done through cookies and “if statements,” but I was fascinated to find that it can be a lot more involved than this. The team talked about the implementation of Machine Learning models to better predict user behavior. Machine Learning (ML) has been developing over time and has improved industries from weather to banking. It has also increasingly been utilized in consumer web applications.


Machine Learning is amplified through the use of AI, which can learn not only from the data but also from the experiences that it interacts with and can actually understand and extract the knowledge it gains and use it to predict behaviors and outcomes to adapt to external challenges. Where ML can predict behavior, AI can interpret human needs and desires. Microsoft is using AI to extend human capabilities and make better decisions based on the insights they glean from AI’s interpretations.


Microsoft’s AI innovation breakthroughs over the past several years have included object recognition, speech recognition, reading comprehension, machine translation, speech synthesis, natural language understanding, and document summary/vision captioning. Most of these developments are at the level of human parity; in other words, their AI performs at human or near-human levels of sensitivity and intelligence. Individually, these are worthy accomplishments, but combining them produces amazing results and opportunities.



A brief timeline of breakthroughs crowning nearly 30 years of AI R&D.


For instance, Wright gave the example of combining speech recognition with reading comprehension, which helped a fast-food chain improve their drive-thru service. AI was able to discern when drive-thru patrons were ordering and when they were asking a question, and it helped streamline and optimize the ordering process. Advances in document summary and vision captioning drive personalized recommendations on commerce sites, where AI is not only able to perceive similar items but also those that are peripherally (but still relevantly) related.


AI, in fact, can be employed for a variety of strategic uses, both internally for businesses and externally for their customers. It streamlines processes, boosts productivity, reduces costs and risk, and engages customers through the use of personalization, among other things.



Several ways companies integrate AI into their business and digital strategies.


And, of course, personalization has become all the more important during the current COVID-19 pandemic. As most of us are aware, online traffic has surged in reaction to people needing to work from home or quarantine themselves. Online purchases are one such thing that have increased significantly during the pandemic, and with it Sitecore Auto-AI Personalization has become a great resource in helping clients find products that they want to purchase.


I found it both interesting and inspiring to see how web development is reacting to these dynamic times.


KEY TAKEAWAYS:


  1. Personalization is becoming far more important, not only in B2C markets but also in B2B markets.
  2. AI has become increasingly sophisticated and has reached human parity in a number of areas, amplifying human capabilities.
  3. The COVID-19 pandemic has made Sitecore Personalization AI even more advantageous, as consumers increasingly use digital platforms to do what they’d normally do in person.

HOW ALPHA SOLUTIONS CAN HELP

Alpha Solutions employs a number of Sitecore MVPs and Specialists who are ready to consult with companies about everything from interactive strategy and design to in-the-trenches approaches to automating personalization.

We pride ourselves on creating and optimizing user friendly, digital experiences for our customers. Contact us to get started.

Peter Wright is a Developer for Alpha Solutions who focuses on programming Sitecore web applications using efficient and critical web development techniques.