Machine Learning for Middle-Market Marketers

The digital transformation of business is surely a work in progress, SVP of Oracle Cloud Shawn Price told several hundred IT professionals gathered New York City auditorium last week as he ticked down all the silos that had to be integrated to make the cloud hum. “The infrastructure of the past in no way allows us to connect with customers of the present or future,” Price said.

The acknowledgment of that same challenge, made by Best Buy’s senior director of B2B marketing in 2005, has led to today’s introduction by AgilOne of what it claims to be the world’s first integrative predictive marketing cloud. That B2B marketing exec was AgilOne founder Omer Artun (above).

“When I was at Best Buy, we’d see poeple browse our website, but it was so hard to take that data and realize what those people were trying to achieve,” Artun says. “A business buyer could come in looking for routers for a firewall, but the next day he’d get the Microsoft Word update for $69 email that everybody got. Meanwhile, he was looking at a $15,000 system. I started the company with the idea that marketers had so much intelligence, but that the correct data could only be extracted with predictive analytics.”

Predictive analytics, also referred to as machine learning, is a term that crops up regularly in releases from marketing software providers. Artun stakes a credible claim to knowing more than a little about it. He holds a Ph.D. in computational neuroscience and physics from Brown University, where he studied under Nobel Prize laureate Leon Cooper, and later consulted tech companies for McKinsey. He says that today’s introduction of AgilOne 5 Predictive Marketing Cloud is a watershed event for the company he started in 2006 in that it will offer middle-market companies the opportunity to reap the benefits of predictive analytics minus hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees or several months of start-up preparations.

“There’s this thing called the marketing cloud, and there are three big pieces to it,” Artun says. “There’s the data management that brings together the data and cleans it. There’s analytics and intelligence, and there’s the execution piece. In its initial life, the marketing cloud couldn’t provide marketers with the execution piece, the creative response. That’s why you have big providers like Salesforce buying ExactTarget and IBM buying Silverpop. What we’ve now done is add series of creative templates that companies can put into play immediately.”

AgilOne 5, which is touted as a turnkey, out of the box system, consists of three key features:

Campaign orchestration: An intuitive drag-and-drop builder that marketers can use independently to design highly targeted audiences and campaigns based on predictive analytics and keying on customer attributes such as likelihood to buy or lifetime value.

Integrated email: Campaign and content templates that help power lifecycle marketing initiatives such as abandoned browse or customer reactivation.

Personalized Web experiences: Personalized recommendation modules for brand websites that control the look and feel of their Web recommendations to achieve optimum results from individual customers.

Predictive analytics is futuristic technology that enables old-fashioned, personalized customer service, according to Artun. “Think of the corner butcher shop 50 years ago. The butcher knew your name and how thick you liked your chops cut. There was human understanding involved,” he says. “Then along came the supermarket. It was product- and channel-centric. In essence, machine learning uses algorithms to allow marketers to bring human sensibilities to millions of customers.”

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