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Natural Language Processing: a marketer's point of view

Natural Language Processing is a subfield of artificial intelligence and computer science, that concerns itself with a computers understanding of the human language. In recent years, many of its derived applications have been implemented in our everyday lives. I tell my car to call Peter, ask Shazam about that catchy song and, maybe soon, demand my computer to produce a Shakespeare-like sonnet to sway my girlfriend of her feet. These are some really cool applications, but if your company is not in the tech sector, is there business value in it for you?

For example, your company just launched an expensive marketing campaign and you want to track the real-time influence on the public opinion? NLP offers an answer. A new product has just been launched and you are curious about the average sentiment surrounding this product among its different customer segments? NLP can help you out. You want to combine sentiment and network analysis to search the internet for stronger prospects and thus increase your companies lead quality? NLP, again, provides a solution.

In essence, NLP allows to better understand a customer's thoughts and intentions.

This not only provides insight into what people think about your brand, but it can go a lot deeper. It can expose why people are thinking it – DANIEL ANGUS

For instance, your web shop has a visitor. Good for you! Now, what NLP techniques can do is analyse the keywords and topics from the webpages he or she browses, and segment the user into a specific category. If your visitor has shown interest in German luxury sedans, stock markets articles and high-end men’s watches, it might be a good idea to highlight that conservative overcoat - made from prime wool - just a little bit more.

We recommend having a look at Health.com. The people behind its website have implemented an ingenious system, which scores the content a visitor is looking at in real-time based upon the embedded text and pictures in the article. This allows the administrators to quickly establish what the current content is about, without having to specify this for each article in advance. The result is a tracking system that is perfectly able to autonomously classify each visitor into a segment based upon his or her interests. For example, that one visitor who has recently payed particular attention to the ‘weight loss’ section and some cardio for beginners articles, might just be in need of a pair of running shoes. As a result, Health.com is able to provide its advertisers with valuable leads.

Soon, more and more websites will follow Health.com's example. Similar content management and targeted advertising systems will be seen more frequently in the near future. Just recently, for example, Sitecore 9.1 released a user-friendly, ML/AI-based content tagging system within its Cortex module. 

As you can see, NLP offers some mind-blowing applications and has become quite a buzzword. Strangely enough, that is also were it went a bit wrong. All these jaw-dropping applications have diverted the attention away from valuable implementations in a more general business context. Our advice, do not let them discourage you.

Data Science is bulldozing its way into the everyday business world. Despite the many traps, that is only common sense. NLP is just one of the many Data Science tools that can take your marketing to the next level.

We - at The Reference - encourage you to define your business case. Feel free to propose it to us. Chances are that data science might just offer a valuable solution.

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