Using Artificial Intelligence to Engage Consumers

January 26, 2017

2016 was the year we saw Artificial Intelligence (AI) progress from a concept everyone associated with I, Robot to a technology we have begun to use on a daily basis. AI, the development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, is being integrated into every aspect of our lives.

This past year, we have seen the rise in popularity of many products that incorporate AI. There’s Alexa, the voice of Amazon’s Echo, that provides customers with an intuitive interaction without ever having to press a button or even use a screen. Amy Ingram, the virtual personal assistant for busy executives that sets up meetings by sending amazingly human-like emails. And of course, Facebook integrated chatbots into their Messenger app, allowing businesses to deliver targeted conversations with consumers.

Now that we have begun to see the mainstreaming of Artificial Intelligence, get ready for the technology to be used at almost every level of the business sphere.

The Rise of Direct Customer Engagement

Chatbots especially, are the kind of AI being quickly implemented since they are cost-effective and they help businesses increase their one-on-one consumer interaction. Chatbots are programmed to engage in focused conversation and, when programmed properly, can provide answers to move potential and existing customers quickly through the sales funnel. Chatbots can be expertly developed in any field and provide conversational answers to consumers, presenting a much smoother interaction than that of 1-800 robots.

Facebook’s integration of chatbots within their Messenger app allowed developers to build their own bots within the app. This provided a direct line of communication with consumers. Messenger bots are now able to respond structured messages that include images, links, and even call-to-action buttons. Customers can now order apparel, make restaurant reservations, call a Lyft, review an e-commerce order, and so much more without ever having to talk with a human.

In the near future, chatbots may become the primary way a consumer finds, buys, or peruses a potential item or service. By cutting down the amount of content needed to sift through before finding the product they want, and being able to do it all through a mobile device, consumers will quickly integrate this kind of streamlined business into their purchasing timeline.

This kind of direct customer engagement should not be underestimated. For consumer-facing business, you should take time in 2017 to develop a strategy around incorporating chatbots into an app, Messenger, or your website.

The Screen-less Internet of Things

Just as AI may make call centers obsolete, it also may make our obsession with, and constant use of, screens a thing of the past as companies continue exploring with screen-less devices that can connect to the internet and carry out services that we require of them.

These devices go beyond just our phones and computers to include cars, TVs, even washing machines, and refrigerators! AI allows for technology to adapt to us: learning our preferences and even the way we talk to be able to not only complete the action we ask but also give human-like suggestions for future actions.

Moving forward, brands will continue to make advancements using AI to better handle customer interactions, recommendations, and requests – all while gathering valuable information about customer behaviors and needs. It is difficult to quantify exactly how helpful and cost effective this kind of technology and data leveraging will be, but it’s big, and it’s going to change the way the consumer finds, buys, and uses products on nearly every level.


CEO Spotlight: Van West Media’s Strategy for Success

January 24, 2017

Our CEO, Shad Mohammed, recently sat down to answer some questions about goal setting for 2017, what it’s like running a small business, and what to expect from Van West Media in the year ahead.

What is your primary goal for Van West Media this year?

“One of my main focuses for 2017 is to continue building from the inside out by focusing on investing in our team. When we focus on the growth of our employees and team members, we can increase our capabilities and improve the services that we provide to our clients. This year we took a trip as a team to the Unbounce Conference in Vancouver. This trip proved beneficial not only for all of the knowledge we acquired but also for the level of camaraderie and team building that the trip provided. Part of growing a business is deliberately making sure that Van West Media’s team members fully understand new technologies and capabilities as they come to market within the industry. Staying aware of the ever-changing evolution within digital media allows us to provide our clients with the most current and state-of-the-art capabilities to build their business.

It’s not easy to run a small business successfully. Who do you turn to for guidance?
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“In the past, I would get lost in small business minutia, but last year I began working with a business coach, John O’ Connor. There is no doubt that the work done with him over this past year is one of the key reasons that Van West Media had our most successful year ever. Every two weeks, John sits down with me and the team to talk strategy, goals and the most effective way to execute them. These sessions provide a great opportunity to discuss issues and thoughts among the team that may not otherwise come to light. Furthermore, they also help me to step back and see the company and operations in a new and differentiated way, allowing me to make important decisions and goal setting for the future. For any business owner or entrepreneur trying to grow their business, I would strongly recommend a business coach.

You are a big believer in goals. Looking at when the company started 5 years ago, would you say you have achieved your five-year goals?

“Five years ago, my dream was to create a passionate team of talented people who would work tirelessly to provide the best possible solutions to our clients. Five years later, I realize that Van West Media has succeeded beyond all my expectations. To have an office full of team members who love coming to work and love creating content that helps our clients is all I could ask for. The office culture within Van West is one of its greatest strengths. Some of our employees have been with me from the beginning. To see them grow as the company grows has been an incredible experience. To stop now and reflect on what we have built together is quite sentimental and joyous. Because of their dedication to work and immense talent, we have built a strong reputation for reliability and delivery of service. Clients continually return for re-launch after re-launch of their websites and to look for better ways that we can help them improve their brand. Overall, I am extremely proud to have created a client centric, employee focused company like Van West Media.”

What should we look for in the coming months from Van West Media?

“We are excited to be launching some of our biggest projects to date in the next several months. This on top of some major recent launches including SSRGA, FLOS, and Pyramid America. We will also continue to build our social media team, as social has become a game-changer for many of our clients in terms of driving visibility and customer engagement. We look forward to a wonderful and prosperous year where we achieve our goals while bringing our passion, experience, and expertise to each and every one of our clients so that their business can continue to grow with ours.”

Setting Goals VWM Style:

Setting goals at the start of a new year is a wonderful way to benchmark progression within a business. At Van West, we believe that the more specific you are when setting goals, the easier it is to achieve them. That’s why every team member breaks down an overall goal into smaller ones that can be reached in 3-month increments. This process helps keep our team on track and allows our progress as both individuals and a company to be measured. Has your company set goals for 2017 yet?