A Journey To Intersection Of Marketing, Education & Artificial Intelligence (AI)

“Knowledge once gained casts a light beyond its own immediate boundaries”. John Tyndall. Irish Physicist. 1870.

Imagine a world where your competitors are armed with intelligent machines that acquire, convert and sell to your customers – a world where machines are better and faster than humans at buying ads, pricing and selling products and services. 

AI multiplies the speed and accuracy you can acquire new customers. Amplify everything with AI – your internet traffic, content, conversion, sales and intelligence.

“Those that are truly insights-driven businesses will steal $1.2 trillion per annum from their less-informed peers by 2020,” according to Forrester Research.

How marketing and eLearning have collided

Take a journey to the intersection of marketing and education – a world where rock star maths teachers make millions of dollars a month selling products at zero marginal cost – a world with a knowledge economy where the teacher has become king. The 4 Trillion Global Education Industry, which accounts 9% of US GNP, has been disrupted – smashed into pieces with technologies that enable education to be tracked, optimized and scale. The margins for online education are so good even the stars have become teachers. On Master Class, for example, Steve Martin is teaching comedy, James Patterson writing, Serena Williams – tennis, Gordon Ramsay – Cooking, Dustin Hoffman & Kevin Spacey – acting, Cristina Aguilera – singing & Gary Kasporov – chess. There have never been opportunities to learn like this before. Even if you have no money you can attend Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Oxford or any Ivy League university and take one of their massive online courses for free. For less than $100 you can get assessed & certified by an Ivy League.

Teachers are no longer limited by classroom size. Not even a huge auditorium. It costs the same to create and deliver a digital product (audio, video, a book or app) to one person as it does to a million. Margins on digital products dwarf physical products & digital products scale without limits. Teachers can cut out schools – and deal directly with students, on their own terms. It’s easy to scale operations very quickly because you have access the infrastructure to build huge schools on demand. The problem is that online education is plagued with huge course drop off rates. There are courses with millions of students that only a small fraction of students complete.

Low course completion

The problems education institutions face with low course completion rates is very serious. Customer retention – a problem that was traditionally more prevalent with retailers and software vendors is now a bigger problem for educators than almost anyone else.  To sustain growth educators are adopting the processes and technology that marketers use to increase conversion rates and reduce customer churn. Open edX (the leading online education platform used Harvard, Stanford and MIT), for example, enables A/B (split testing) in their courses – channeling students with similar interests along different funnels to optimize course completion.

Low browser to buyer ratios

Marketers, on the other hand, who have been plagued with low website conversion rates have been using split testing for longer. Tools have evolved to maximize the ratio of browsers who become buyers and to increase the customer’s spend. The same strategies, tactics, patterns and techniques used that marketers use to move their customers along the sales funnel can be used by educators, to move students from each learning activity to the next.

Marketers understand it takes more than one conversation, on more than one device, to convert their customers.  They are rethinking their communications and using education-based marketing to achieve outstanding success. Education based marketing is the sharing of knowledge with the purpose of building trust. It is a strategy that establishes credibility and trust with your customers by sharing knowledge that adds value to their customer’s lives. According to Forbes, consumers, tired of hearing sales pitches, are more receptive to educational messages that offer information and facts to help them make their way through the research and information path-to-purchase.

Gamify marketing and education

Convergence in the knowledge economy is everywhere. Marketing is colliding with education and media and gaming as the web becomes more rich and sophisticated. Gamification is being used to build engaging relationships with customers/students/readers/players in each industry with outstanding success. Gamification has been found to establish a better emotional connection with a brand as well as increase brand loyalty which is one of the most important factors for repeat purchasing.

Gamification feeds viral marketing with leaderboards that reward customers who share. You can be lucky and your content will go viral but smart marketers are not taking that chance. Just like a learning activity, a viral marketing campaign is a journey where each step is a reward for completing a goal. The goal of a viral marketing campaign is to keep rewarding customers until the reproduction rate goes to 1 and beyond. If this happens your campaign will keep spreading until the market is saturated. To increase the viral reproduction rate you can retarget messages and continue to push consumers through a distinct sequence of steps, across multiple networks & devices, to increase the number of shares.

Educators can reap the same benefits as marketers by retargeting across multiple networks and devices. As students progress through a course, the next learning activity can be shown on Facebook, Google or it’s network of millions of publisher sites.

Gamification has been found to have a huge increase in key performance indicators for learning. A recent study by Captera (2017) found gamification significantly increased course completion (70%), student satisfaction (84%), student scores (81%) and retention (83%). Video games are more successful than board/card games but right now, just by a few percent.

Patterns such as points, progress bars, levels, rewards, challenges/quests, badges, leaderboards, avatars, performance feedback and activity feeds are being shared extremely successfully by each the marketing, education and gaming industries. These patterns are not being applied too much in the media industry but the same opportunities are available.

Convergence will continue as industries share patterns and ontologies with Artificial Intelligence (AI).

How AI has revolutionized marketing and education

The impact of the application of education workflows to marketing can be multiplied using Artificial Intelligence (AI). Roxana Ioana Bocancea from SOFTWIN’s writings on AI and eLearning pointed my investigation to deep learning which has powerful and beautiful applications for both education and marketing. I have summarized her explanations of AI, deep learning and classification as close to her words as possible, below.

With Artificial Neural Networks we can create a network of nodes loosely resembling the human brain and neural system. To understand how this works we can use a simple equation. Information is sent to the input layer (A) which classifies it and then passes it on to the second layer (B & C). These nodes further manipulate data based on weights that are adjusted through training to move it along exponentially.

Advancing to Deep Learning

Deep learning, the next generation of AI, is more intricate as it consists of multiple hidden layers and produces a far more complex network called a “deep neural network”. This is where AI starts getting very interesting. Deep learning is the jump from telling computers what to do to giving them examples of what to do and letting them figure out how to apply it to other situations; the jump from predefined steps to predefined models.

Deep Learning has pushed the field of AI forward, producing incredible results in areas like speech and image recognition. Where most machine learning methodologies try to model the world, deep learning attempts to model the human brain in order to create and maintain its own representations.

Advances in classification 

One area that is being vastly improved by deep learning is classification. Training a machine to be able to recognize data and classify it accurately has multiple useful applications: Image categorization, translation, and caption generation to name a few. Classification is particularly beneficial for elearning. Using machines to help classify and organize content, greatly reduces the cost of content development. Classifying information accurately in terms of subject matter is extremely beneficial as it minimizes the resources needed to repurpose content. Without automation, it can be an extremely tedious and time-consuming task.

Moreover, deep learning has the potential to improve classification and education altogether. Identifying related concepts across subjects is powerful. Deep learning not only reduces the resources required to repurpose content, but it allows machines to produce new content in subjects that are not initially developed. Suddenly, thanks to machine learning and classification, in particular, the applications of AI in elearning become extremely tangible and have the potential to reduce the cost of content development drastically.

Marketers and publishers can leverage the same exponential increase in speed it takes to create content to create original content for search, content marketing and consumers. AI already drives the advertising industry – Google, Facebook, Amazon and ad networks use AI to sell and target their ads. It’s only logical for a marketer to use AI buy and target ads. The impact of deep learning in advertising will be astounding. Companies who don’t use AI simply won’t be able to compete with those who do.

For example, website optimization is powerful but it’s slow. Legacy A/B solutions only allow you to try one idea at a time and on average only 1 in 6 of those experiments is successful. With AI marketers are seeing double-digit conversion uplift because they are able to test more of their great ideas faster. AI empowers you to test not just a single idea, but all your ideas, simultaneously and optimize results based on real-time events in the network.

Artificial intelligence technologies will be rapidly assimilated into analytics practices, giving business users unprecedented access to powerful insights that drive action. According to Forrester Research “investment in AI will triple in 2017 … AI will drive faster business decisions in marketing, eCommerce, product management, and other areas of the business by helping close the gap from insights to action.”

The most simple path to AI

Great design breaks everything into it’s most simple form then builds it up again into something elegant.

Ontology is the science of meaning. It is the study or concern about what kinds of things exist – what entities there are in the universe. It derives from the Greek onto (being) and logia (written or spoken discourse). Ontology began as a branch of metaphysics, the study of first principles or the essence of things.

Now ontology is the working model of entities and interactions in the internet of machines, the semantic web. In AI, an ontology is, “the specification of conceptualizations, used to help programs and humans share knowledge,” says Tom Gruber, an AI specialist at Stanford University. “It is an agreed-upon vocabulary for exchanging information”.

The most simple path to AI is a model. To use AI you simply need to create an ontology of your business. Ontologies will break down your business into a succinct yet sophisticated model. You will describe your businesses, processes and customers using a format that can be shared with any network.

This is where educational standards can be leveraged by marketers to a huge advantage. IMS Caliper Analytics, for example, is an outstanding specification for educational clickstream analytics created by the education community for the education community. Major educational suppliers are using Caliper to collect millions of events every week and the data is helping to shape teaching and learning on multiple levels. It integrates deeply with educational standards for learner profiles, content classification, assessment and sequencing that began development over 10 years ago. Domain-specific ontologies are also available for travel, e-commerce and other industries.

How can you start to use AI quickly?

If you are a marketer, educator, artist, developer or producer you can collect information on the actions your customers, students, readers, players or viewers take on your website and networks. You can now track individuals by name, email & group as you take them on a journey – from an ad to a sale. 

Connect your website and network events to Google’s Data Layer. Google’s Data Layer is the input layer into the internet of machines and Google’s AI. Store events for each user and collect email addresses, names, shopping categories, prices and everything you need to identify your customers, classify and learn from the actions they take.

Amplify your communications by creating rules that fire data from Google to Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Linked In, Google Analytics, Mixpanel, Google Adwords, Google Shopping or any network. You can create rules to tag and fire events using Google Tag Manager.