The Monday Stack: Wake Up Screaming

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Monday Stack
Monday Stack

GDPR is coming. It really is; it's not just a rumor; and if you still haven't begun to look at implications for your business — and if you market to European residents at all, it does have implications — it's time to start. Truthfully, it was time to start about six months ago. (We'll be doing a deep dive into GDPR and what it all means in January.)

Of course, even experts aren't finally agreed on what it all means. But that doesn't mean: Do nothing. Indeed, just today, Act-On announced a "local sending" option for customers with operations in Europe. Adam Mertz, senior director of product marketing, explained to me that the purpose of local sending is to ensure compliance with coming regulations. Customers "can keep all their data in a European data center, and execute campaigns with actual sending facilitated from a European location. Previously actual sending was bouncing back and forth between North America and Europe." 

Under our current understanding, GDPR will apply to data on European residents held at any location, but, Mertz said, customer legal teams were recommending local sending to European residents — meaning "data never goes across the pond." Mertz described the option as an opportunity for "risk averse" customers, and said that "local sending" won't represent the entirety of Act-On's GDPR offering.

A second "brand new module" launched today is "transactional sending," an initiative to ensure that certain kinds of operational communications reach all target in-boxes, regardless of opt-out preferences. Examples include support ticket responses, password re-sets, and order confirmations. Although this obviously doesn't impact marketing communications, the intention, Mertz said, is to "hugely impact customer satisfaction levels."

Act-On also announced "adaptive forms" — online forms which render in different versions in real-time, not just in response to the information input by a user, but in response to recent off-form behavior — for example arriving at the form from a specific web page.

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Hark! The Eager Customers Sing! Or talk, at least, to their smart assistants in this holiday season. That's the news from SAP Hybris, based on a poll of 1,000 U.S. shoppers. The results are actually quite startling:

  • Almost 40% are considering using voice-prompted smart assistants to purchase gifts
  • More — almost 50% — who have used smart assistants in the past to purchase gifts are considering using them again this season
  • 64% of those who trust their smart assistant to purchase electronic goods, do so because of "convenience"

Less surprisingly, only 28% are going to lean on the bots for gift recommendations. But anyone who thought using smart assistants for holiday shopping was a niche phenomenon should be asking themselves when a niche becomes a wave.

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While you're all worrying/not-worrying about GDPR, spare some anxiety capacity for quantum computing.* No, it's nothing new. I was interviewing IBM scientists several years ago about the challenges presented by "decoherence." But surely any impact on business is a long way off.

Not necessarily. How recently did AI seem a dream? Action is stirring on the quantum front both at Google — which claims to be on-track to demonstrating a quantum computer solving problems beyond the scope of a regular old super-computer — and at Microsoft — which today launched a programming language called Q# ( Q Sharp), some tools to help coders with quantum programming, and simulators which will allow such programming to be tested on regular desktops: No, as far as we know, Microsoft doesn't have an actual quantum computer in development.

What's the bottom line? A fully functioning quantum computer will be able to perform more and bigger calculations at much — much — greater speed than existing computers. The implications for AI? Well, we can get to that once we've figured out the implications for encryption, because a quantum computer is just going to crush almost any existing password. Wake up screaming.

*Quantum computing is much faster than regular computing because it uses bits ("qubits") which can be in multiple states simultaneously, not just 1 or 0. 

Stack logo by Hilary Allison

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