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Academy Xi Blog

The Five Essential Data Skills for Non-Data Professionals

By Academy Xi

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Gone are the days of data being analysed, assessed, and applied only within the confines of I.T departments. Now, more than ever, senior management teams need to embrace data and view data skills as being a critical part of the foundation for employees’ professional knowledge across all departments.

Your people need data literacy to be able to handle data confidently and effectively. We aren’t talking complicated analysis concepts, but practical, hands-on skills that can be applied to daily tasks and projects.

Why?

Simply, data is power. It isn’t theoretical, or an opinion and if you equip your teams with the ability to understand how to use data meaningfully, they will grow within their roles and your organisation will reap the benefits.

We have identified five essential data skills for non-data professionals. While it is possible that some of these skills might already exist within your teams at varying levels, it’s important to note that this skill set is a journey, with each step building on the one before. The best results will be experienced when your people have a working understanding and ability to apply the full suite.

Let’s check them out:

Skill 1: Defining the problem

Why fumble around with guess work and opinions on how to tackle business problems when you likely have access to data that can point you in a direction that is more likely to result in a meaningful outcome?

Being able to translate a known or perceived business challenge into a data analysis problem offers individuals and teams the opportunity to set goals and scope solutions.

Once a problem has been clearly articulated and defined, it is possible to then plan how you can analyse datasets to arrive at helpful and actionable insights, which can reveal options for how to approach solutions.

Asking data-driven questions

Asking the right kind of questions is key to getting truly useful detail and insights from your data. You can have the most intricate IT infrastructure in your organisation, but it won’t generate insights of its own accord.

The more specific you can be with your questions, the higher the quality of results you will receive. For example, ‘How can product X generate us more money?’. This could be made more specific: ‘Which of our marketing efforts generated the highest return on investment this quarter, which we can modify to promote product X and in turn increase profits?’. Clarity is also key – what exactly are you wanting to find out?

Data analytics training provides teams with the tools for how to understand and define a problem as the first step, which is the foundation of any data analysis work.

Skill 2: Collecting data

The notion of collecting data can be intimidating to those who aren’t used to working with datasets, but the fact is, your teams are likely already collecting data and perhaps even using it.

What can data look like in non-data roles?

Your marketing team might have a thousand subscribers to a monthly email newsletter. The data behind these sign-ups could reveal several details about the demographic who engage with the content that could influence future marketing activity or be shared with other departments for their benefit. 

Within other departments, such as customer service teams, there is often an abundance of what is known as ‘behavioural data’ available and is one of the most common types of data. This can include purchase and transaction records, website use and internet search history.  

A recent study from Google revealed that a customer journey today can incorporate anywhere from 20 to 500 touch points. All touch points equate to data.

Why learn how to collect data?

When your teams understand why data is important and how it can benefit their outcomes and those of the wider organisation, giving them the ability to know how to collect it empowers them to create benefit. One important aspect of data collection is it can enable more personalised product and service delivery to customers.

Mckinsey research reveals that companies that use data to effectively personalise their product and service offering to customers generate 40% more revenue than those who don’t or do an average job of it. Furthermore, “71% of consumers expect companies to personalise interactions and three quarters will switch if they don’t like their experience”.

Empowering teams with the knowledge of how to collect data will enable them to:

  • measure and evaluate project outcomes
  • understand how to apply findings to create powerful marketing
  • personalise customer experiences
  • effectively encourage stakeholder buy-in
  • save time and increase productivity.

When individuals and teams are able to harness data effectively and perform these tasks, there is no way but up for your organisation.

Skill 3: Pulling insights from data

An insight report from McKinsey states that by 2025 ‘nearly all employees will naturally and regularly leverage data to support their work…they will be empowered to ask how innovative data techniques could resolve challenges in hours, days or weeks’ – McKinsey (2022)

By giving your teams access to training that will enable them to pull insights that are actionable from your company data, you’ll be preparing your workforce for what is to come in the next few years and keep your organisation ahead of the pack.

What is a data insight?

All too often, what are called ‘data insights’ can simply be more information. That’s not an insight. Let’s clearly define this.

  • Data = unprocessed facts (often numbers in a spreadsheet)
  • Information = prepared data, providing context and presented in a more human-friendly fashion (eg: dashboard, report, chart)
  • Insights = generated by analysing the information and drawing conclusions. 

 The combination of the data and the information can lead to the discovery of insights.

Why are data-driven insights important?

Fundamentally, insights achieve impact. By using data driven insights, you’re working from an evidence base, as opposed to preference, instinct, or assumption. Once analysed, the conclusions that can be drawn from data are a lot more powerful, accurate and effective.

Mckinsey Global Institute reports that data-driven companies report above market growth in the range of 15-25%. Their findings reveal that there are five levers that enable data-driven sales growth by using data insights.

This particular study focused on the benefits of data insights on sales growth, but it is highly likely that any department would benefit from applying data insights to achieve significant benefits.

McKinsey continues to reveal that data-driven businesses are 23 times more likely to gain customers, but additionally six times as likely to retain them and a whopping 19 times more likely to be profitable.

Benefits of your teams learning this skill:

  • They will know what an insight is and how to pull it from your company data
  • Ability to access meaningful insights to empower projects
  • Actively knowing how to use insights to influence and drive change
  • Evidence-based insights will be used, not instinct or assumption based.

By investing in training that provides the hard data skills and is tailored to suit the needs of your industry and organisation, your team will learn how to embed these abilities into the way they work daily.

An integral part of this learning will be how to apply data driven insights.

Skill 4: Visualising data

Once data has been collected and analysed, it can be represented visually to make it easier for conclusions to be made. It is ultimately an efficient way to deliver data so that meaningful discussion and decision making can take place.

Learning to visualise data is a useful skill for any industry and team. It’s an effective way to share information with stakeholders and to communicate a large data set efficiently.

Examples of visualisation methods include:

  • Heat maps
  • Tables and pie charts
  • Infographics
  • Scatter plots
  • Line charts.
Image source: Neil Patel, "How to use data visualisation"

Let’s be clear that visualising data isn’t simply making a spreadsheet into a colourful chart or graph. The power of presenting data in a visually appealing way, is ultimately to clearly communicate an idea. You might be outright declaring something with what you present or perhaps be planting a seed to encourage an exploration of an idea or a possibility, driven by the dataset.

Why learn how to visualise data?

  • Assists in clarifying ideas from datasets.
  • Makes concepts easier to comprehend and more memorable for stakeholders.
  • Assists in gaining insights into large amounts of dry data.
  • Helps to understand consumer behaviour.
  • Can aid in predicting volumes of sales.
  • Quickly pinpoint business areas that need improvement or more focus.
  • Promotes identification of relationships, patterns, trends, and opportunities
  • Reduces errors across the business.

When teams know how to visualise data, they will be able to support faster decision making, which will ultimately increase the productivity of your organisation and generate more profit. Don’t let your data go to waste. Give your people the power to bring it to life.

Skill 5: Crafting data driven stories

It’s clear to most teams that data isn’t impactful when it simply sits in a spreadsheet. By visualising the dataset, we bring it to life and when put in the context of a story, we increase the engagement and buy-in with whoever we are presenting the data to.

Increasingly, there are more sources of data available to companies and they are rapidly becoming larger and more complex datasets. Being able to distil the data through a story is a vital skill. 

By getting your teams trained in basic data analytics, they will be able to learn how to present datasets visually and within a storyline. You don’t need to be a degree qualified data analyst or Hollywood screenwriter to generate a compelling data narrative. 

Essential in your company marketing, storytelling can drive conversions and return on investment, but before that stage, it is also greatly useful in-house when presenting datasets.

 Why you should focus on data storytelling:

  • Storytelling brings data to life and makes it more memorable
  • You are more likely to engage stakeholders with story
  • Increase influence of strategic decision making
  • Stories can inspire and drive business change

The bottom line

Chances are that your organisation is sitting on a minefield of valuable data without even realising it. It’s also likely that your teams don’t know how to recognise and use data meaningfully, so it is disregarded in favour of other tasks that are known and familiar. 

Investing in a short training program in data analytics for your teams that is geared for practical application in any department, will provide people with the skills to: 

  • Identify different data types
  • Know how to collect data effectively
  • Understand data samples
  • Pull meaningful insights from data
  • Visualise data meaningfully
  • Communicate with data-driven storytelling

Combined, these skills will ramp up your organisation’s evidence-based decision making, planning and prioritisation. This equals a substantial leap in productivity and subsequent growth, both for individuals and your overall business.

Ready for a data-driven culture?

At Academy Xi we design and deliver tailored, work-ready upskilling and reskilling programs. We work with industry experts to ensure that organisations of all sizes are equipped with the latest knowledge and skills across design, tech and data, business, and marketing.

We offer a range of data training solutions to help you transform your workforce. These range from one or two-day workshops right through to highly-tailored data enablement programs designed to elevate the data capability of your entire organisation. We offer these in-person or online and are flexible in terms of delivery requirements and timeframes.

Contact us today to discuss how we can help you transform your organisation by teaching you how to maximise your data.

Academy Xi Blog

3 Reasons Your Company Needs Digital Leaders

By Academy Xi

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While digital transformation and disruption are not new concepts, the pandemic accelerated the need for any aspects of company processes that weren’t working optimally to be addressed. In many cases the issues were impossible to ignore. And we aren’t just talking about the technology sector – every industry is impacted by digital transformation and the pandemic has amplified it.

As companies require more sophisticated approaches to business to remain competitive, and technology continues to advance, the need for our workforce to be equipped to handle digitally based tasks is paramount and organisations are struggling to keep up.

Thankfully there is a solution that can be driven by senior leadership, which will provide crucial benefits to your company and people for the longer term.

Digital Leaders

If you want your business to thrive rather than simply survive through a digital transformation and you want to retain your people and see them empowered and engaged, then championing digital leaders within your company is vital.

In this article we’ll explore digital leadership and three reasons why your business needs to promote and support digital leaders:

  • What is a Digital Leader
  • Reason #1: Bridge the digital skills gap
  • Reason #2: Save Resources & Increase Productivity
  • Reason #3: Drive Engagement & Innovation

What is a Digital Leader?

It is important to keep in mind that the most impressive tech on the market won’t make a meaningful impact on the bottom line of your business or company culture, but the humans driving it will. In order for digital transformation to truly ‘stick’ in your company, there needs to be commitment from the very top of the organisation and they need to be 100% behind the digital leaders.

Empathetic, patient and forever learning and exploring opportunities to embrace new and emerging technology that can elevate your operation, digital leaders are entrepreneurs at heart. But the role is much more than scoping out new tech.

With a customer-centric focus, a digital leader will join the dots between strategy, culture, structure and technology and using data driven insights, create a vision for your organisation. They inspire individuals and teams by demonstrating the benefits of new ways of working and lead with a focus on desired outcomes.

Recent research completed by McKinsey reveals that digital leaders “appear to keep up a drumbeat in their businesses that can be four times faster, and twice as powerful, as those of their peers.”

Now is the time to begin identifying who would make great digital leaders in your company and here are the top three reasons your organisation needs them.

Reason #1: Bridge the Skills Gap

With 87% of jobs now requiring digital literacy skills, the capability gap is a very real concern for Australia’s workforce and the national government is supporting a range of initiatives to try and remedy the acute situation.

While the challenge of finding strong digital talent continues to be a struggle for HR teams and external recruiters alike, championing digital leaders within your organisation is a proactive step you can take to help transition your workforce and rise to meet the latest digital demands.

One of many workforce trends in 2021 was less of a focus on job roles and more on specific skills needed to give organisations a competitive edge. This trend will certainly continue into 2022 and beyond as company’s address skills shortages and disrupted business models. McKinsey’s quarterly research also supports this, with 53% of executives seeing reskilling their existing workforce as the most useful action to close capability gaps.

  • What is the digital leader’s role in this process?

Aligned with a data driven vision that reflects the needs of the customer and business strategy, digital leaders empower others by sharing their knowledge and skills and identifying and arranging appropriate training needs to increase capability across the company. 

Bolstered with new skills and awareness and understanding of the longer term strategy and where they fit, people are more open to embracing new ideas and change. This results in less trepidation, more confidence and can lead to higher rates of engagement and retention. 

  • Make digital maturity your aim 

Ideally, you want your company to reach digital maturity as a benchmark. This means you are able to respond and adapt to tech challenges and trends effectively as an entire business, and not deflect them to the I.T department. 

With technology continually developing, digital maturity is an ongoing process. While it isn’t something to tick off your hit list, you can still aim for a shared digital growth mindset across the organisation. Individuals across all teams in any industry have digital skill requirements and having the mindset to match is important. 

Digital leaders will support your teams to embrace this mindset and help your company get well on the way to digital maturity.

Reason #2: Save Resources & Increase Productivity

Digital transformation can improve efficiency in organisations by automating what were previously routine tasks. A study by the Hackett Group in the U.S found that administrative and functional labour costs were being reduced by the ‘digital world class’ by 29%.

Your digital leaders can drive transformation in your company to create such savings and reinvest them into tech and training for your existing teams. The outcomes can drive more impact, increase productivity and reduce budgets spent on recruiting consultants or contracting external partners. (Link to new ‘Build, Buy, Partner blog)

Time is also saved with digital leaders steering projects backed by data. Senior leadership recognise that data driven insights are clear indicators of which direction to take and this ultimately results in faster strategic decision making. This often means getting ideas through the gate and to market at pace.

Reason #3: Drive Engagement & Innovation

The main concepts of digital leadership need to be adopted at the top of an organisation for engagement and innovation to be able to trickle down through the entire business. 

Lead by example. An oldie, but a goodie. 

A report in the PwC Australia Rebooted series clearly emphasises that digital transformation isn’t about investing a large sum into new technology and thinking the job is done. The overarching culture and mindset of your organisation needs to be one of innovation, so that digital transformation exists at the core of your strategy and runs through the veins of what you do, as opposed to being a range of digital side projects.

Digital leadership is about overriding ‘Business As Usual’ thinking. It requires a high level of curiosity and asking a lot of questions of team members because when it comes to innovation, no one has all of the answers. As a result, this encourages engagement, with everyone’s experience and ideas contributing to forming new and creative approaches to old and expired ways of working.

Individuals and teams are enthusiastically encouraged by digital leaders to be fearless, step out of their comfort zones, to say yes to challenges and to seek out opportunities. 

When senior leadership empower digital leaders in their organisations to truly embrace their role, it can change the culture and outcomes of your company and ultimately put you ahead of the competition.

The Bottom Line

It isn’t a question of ‘if’ you should have digital leaders, but when. And the time is now.

Championing digital leaders to drive digital transformation and bridge the skills gap requires your business-model to be reinvented to enable all teams, departments and functions to work together in new ways. This can only occur with commitment from the top of your organisation. 

Taking a proactive role in addressing the digital skills gap in your business will empower individuals and ultimately benefit all stakeholders across your operation and positively impact your bottom line. Encouraging digital leadership within your ranks is a wise move in future proofing your company and keeping it ahead of the competition.

Ready to Put Your Company Ahead of the Digital Curve?

At Academy Xi, our mission is to optimise your organisation’s culture and performance through concise, actionable training in:

  • human-centred design
  • digital business
  • emerging technology.

Help your people thrive in new digital environments, instead of being left behind with training solutions for all staff levels, customised to meet the unique needs of your industry and organisation.

Academy Xi Blog

Student Spotlight: Sylvia Xu Connor

By Academy Xi

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Seeking a new lifestyle and a fresh challenge, Sylvia left the fashion industry and entered the exciting world of UX UI Design.

After 15 years as a Fashion Designer, Sylvia retrained with Academy Xi and landed a Senior UX UI Designer role within a week of graduating. Read about Sylvia’s UX UI Design: Transform course experience, her fast start in the industry, and how she’s helping more Academy Xi graduates into design roles.

What led you to a career in UX UI Design?

I realised after the first lockdown that I didn’t want to go back to my old work routine, which meant commuting five days a week to physically be in a fashion studio. It was tiring and I have young kids who didn’t see me enough. I had skills that allowed me to work remotely, so I started casually searching for work-from-home design jobs.

It took about a month to discover this new term – UX UI Design. I was really intrigued by the concept, but UX UI is digitally-focused. I come from a more traditionally creative background, with lots of big personalities discussing branding, graphics, patterns and colours, and I needed to be sure UX UI was a good fit for me. At that point, I did what I do best – a tonne of research!

The more I found out about UX UI, the more I realised its principles completely aligned with how I approach design, which is 50% problem solving and 50% how well you can solve those problems by your grasp on tools. By that stage, I was fully committed to switching to a career as a UX UI Designer.

Why did you choose to study UX UI Design with Academy Xi?

I looked into all the course providers that offered UX UI Design, from short bootcamps to master degrees as I already have a UTS Bachelor of Design degree. I am extremely time poor so needed to be job ready in as little time as possible while fully leveraging my past experience in the design industry. I narrowed my search to two providers who could transform my career very quickly; Academy Xi and General Assembly.

Academy Xi had a more competitive price. Plus, the course advisors were super friendly and took time to answer all my questions. If I was unsure at any point, they encouraged me to do my own research. It was a big investment of time and money, so it was important to get honest advice without any pushiness.

After five months of weighing-up my options, I decided that if the course advisors were giving such a personal service, that was a positive sign for the course itself. Eventually, I settled on the Academy Xi UX UI Design: Transform course.

What were your first impressions of the course?

I did a lot of research and knew what to expect from UX UI before the course started. I wanted to push myself from the outset, because I knew I’d get back what I put in.

It was serendipity that the whole three months of the Transform course coincided with the entire Sydney covid lockdown period. I felt like I was in a time capsule of intense learning and delivering results. As a mature student who hasn’t done any studying since finishing my bachelor’s degree 17 years ago, it’s important to have a lot of attention and guidance. The course mentor, Hayden Peters, gave the cohort everything we needed and more. He always made himself available online outside of classes to answer our questions, or give that love and support when the course content became challenging.

All the students were blown away by Hayden - his commitment to everyone in the cohort went above and beyond what you would expect from a mentor. He did everything he possibly could to help us understand the value of UX UI and the best ways to apply it professionally.

Sylvia Xu Connor

The first personal project was a bit like learning to ride a bike. I pedalled really fast and got to grips with the UX UI Design process by making mistakes. During the first phase of the course, Hayden and my coursemates were my only stakeholders, so I had a safe space to experiment in. I made all my mistakes early, which gave me the experience I needed to really nail the live client projects.

Can you tell us about the live client projects?

The first client project was for Endeavour X. Endeavour X is a subsidiary of Endeavour Group and owns a number of the big drink sellers, like BMS and Jimmy Brings. With the border closures, Endeavour X had a shortage of talent to hire from. There’s not much awareness of what Endeavour X does, so the project became a branding exercise. We had to do a lot of UX research and design a website that would enable them to attract and retain the best staff, creating chemistry throughout the company.

Take a look at Sylvia and her team’s client project with EndeavourX

The second client project was all about improving a chatbot for Dan Murphy’s. They have an existing chatbot, but it really only provides basic information about stores and opening hours. Our final design made the chatbot a more informative and engaging experience, helping deliver traffic to the existing website. Both Endeavour X and Dan Murphy’s were really happy with the designs the teams came up with.

How did you find working with the other people in your cohort?

I really cherished developing relationships with the other students. The course finished in October last year and we’re still in touch to this day. Some of the cohort based in Melbourne came to Sydney for the Christmas holidays and a bunch of us met up. Without the course, I never would have met so many great people.

We had a shared journey, a bit like pilgrims, and graduated with a collective experience that we can hold on to for the rest of our lives. We were all equals and could share our thoughts and feelings. As well as Hayden, we learnt from each other. Completing the client projects as teams really brought us closer together – that’s when we pooled our skills and really bonded.

How did you find the experience of learning online?

There’s nobody looking over your shoulder and pushing you to work. I think once you’ve broken that barrier and realised you need to motivate yourself, it’s very straightforward. The course is clearly laid out, so you can log in, see the modules in advance and work through everything systematically. There’s an independence that comes with online learning, and you’ll need it to get by in the professional world.

Learning online also enabled us to work on the projects at times that suited our schedules. Some of us were night owls and worked together into the night, while others were more active in the day. I completed the course while my kids were homeschooling and couldn’t start until 10am, but my coursemates were really accommodating. Collectively, we made it work.

If we were physically in a classroom, we wouldn’t have had that level of flexibility. Even though we were online, we stayed connected and worked together like a well-oiled machine.

Sylvia Xu Connor

How did you go from graduation to landing your new role?

I graduated in October on the same day as my daughter’s birthday. I had to tell her “I’m in a meeting, we’ll celebrate when Mummy finishes”!

My objective throughout the course had always been to get a new job, so I worked hard to grasp the skills, develop my portfolio and be job-ready. I immediately started applying for positions and the client projects were so valuable when it came to interviews. Rather than just saying “this is what I can do”, I was able to demonstrate my skills very concretely.

Within a week of finishing the course, I got a couple of job offers.

Sylvia Xu Connor

I didn’t expect to get hired so quickly, but looking back, I realise that I put myself in a strong position. I had all my ducks in a row.

Now, I’m working for Symbio, a big tech-telco company as a Senior UX UI Designer. I was the first ever UX UI staff member in a company of about 400 people. They brought me on board to speak for UX UI throughout the organisation, so it’s a big step for me and the business.

My plan for the next six months is to get a foothold in the company, raise an understanding of why UX UI is important by adding value to the business and to build a team that can deliver on UX UI objectives. I started with a blank slate, which means I’m having to set the benchmark, which is straight up my alley because my whole life is about setting benchmarks, and also a reason why I’ve achieved so much in so little time.

What projects are you working on at the moment?

I’ve been tasked with a project that hasn’t moved very far in the months before I started. The company does a lot of business in Australia and New Zealand, but wants to expand into APAC. To make that possible, they need a portal that allows customers to self-serve. The head of digital decided they couldn’t go any further with the project without having UX eyes on it, which is one of the main reasons they hired me.

As well as the portal itself, I applied UX to the situation. I quickly realised the project could benefit greatly from having more meaningful dialogue between the internal staff and the overseas developers. I decided to bring everybody together in virtual meetings to get them collaborating more closely. Anyone facilitating online workshops needs to know how to get the most out of the tools and platforms, which is something I could offer straight away because of my experience with Academy Xi.

Now, the project is now fully up and running again. The company is really impressed with what one UX UI Designer can achieve, which is giving me the traction to put a UX UI team together. I recently hired some of the Academy Xi UX UI Design: Transform graduates, because I know first-hand how well prepared they are for working in the field.

What else have you done to stay involved with the Academy Xi tribe?

Hayden invited me back to give talks in his classes. I reassure the students that though the course can be challenging and they might be anxious about what’s to come, it does lead to great outcomes. I tell them if they put in the hard yards now, they’ll get to where they want to be in the long run.

Another ex-student, Diana Miller, spoke while I was studying. Diana now works for NAB and it gave me a sense of perspective to hear from someone who’d used the course to launch a successful career. I felt like I could offer that perspective to other students too.

Since giving the talks, I’ve received LinkedIn messages and offered all kinds of advice. One student received a job offer straight after graduating and, knowing I’d been in the same situation, called me to ask for my thoughts. I was more than happy to help her. It’s wonderful to still be part of the Academy Xi community. I’d like to help as many students as possible to follow that path into UX UI Design, because I know just how rewarding it can be.

Finally, would you recommend Academy Xi?

Definitely! I have a few friends who are interested in other positions in the digital industry and I’ve sent them links to Academy Xi courses. I know a Project Manager and she wants to freshen-up her career. I’ve told her to jump into the digital space, take the Academy Xi Digital Project Management course and completely transform her skill-set.

If someone was interested in studying UX UI Design with Academy Xi specifically, I couldn’t recommend the course enough. I can say from experience that Academy Xi gives you the skills and mindset needed to make a big impact in the UX UI Design industry.

Academy Xi Blog

AI, Machine Learning and the Future of Digital Marketing

By Academy Xi

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It’s natural that humans demonstrate intelligence, but how about computers and machines? Artificial Intelligence might seem like science fiction, but it’s happening here and now. This blog will explain how AI and Machine Learning work and how they’re being used by businesses for cutting-edge digital marketing campaigns.

What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

In the simplest terms, AI is a form of intelligence demonstrated by computers and other machines that are trained to interpret information and their environment in order to take actions that achieve a particular goal. 

In recent years, AI engineers have been leveraging the capabilities of computer systems to problem-solve and learn through interactions with data. AI computer systems now use mathematical algorithms and logic to simulate the reasoning humans apply when confronted by new information. This enables computer systems to learn from experience and is a specialist branch of AI known as Machine Learning.

What is Machine Learning?

Machine Learning is the process of using data modelling to help a computer develop intelligence without any direct instruction, improving its ability to perform tasks through an accumulation of data experiences.

Hello Barbie and Machine Learning

Before being discontinued by Mattel due to public backlash, Hello Barbie used Machine Learning to listen and respond to a child’s questions. A microphone in Barbie’s necklace recorded the child’s question and transmitted it to the servers at ToyTalk. The recording was then analysed and the right response was picked from over 8,000 lines of dialogue. The whole process took less than a second. 

Data about a particular child’s likes and dislikes was stored in the server, creating more personalised interactions. The server also analysed its entire database to establish what kinds of questions children were asking and formulated new responses that were automatically added to the dialogue bank.

If AI enables a computer to think like a human and carry out actions in response, Machine Learning is how a computer system adds to its own intelligence over time. In the case of Toytalk’s server, it ensured that Hello Barbie never ran out of interesting and relevant things to say (realising every child’s dream of a toy that comes to life). Really impressive or a bit creepy, take your pick. 

Deep Learning means that AI is capable of working with more data and changing its analytical processes at any stage based on its own findings. Deep Learning makes operating AI less ‘hands-on’ and lower maintenance for businesses. Following significant advances in Deep Learning and Neural Networks, AI has become even more ‘brainy’ in recent years.

What is a Neural Network?

Computers are now trained to mimic human cognitive processes through the use of Neural Networks, which are a series of algorithms that replicate the neuro functions of the human brain. Each of these neurons:

  • Receives data from the input layer
  • Processes it by performing calculations 
  • Transmits the processed data to another neuron

How data moves between neurons within a network and the calculations performed will depend on what data findings are uncovered along the way. Though a Neural Network makes decisions about what to do with data all by itself, it first needs to be trained with data inputs.

IBM Watson and AI medical diagnosis

The AI of IBM Watson is powered by 2800 processor cores and 15 terabytes of memory. Its Neural Network was trained over a period of two years, as millions of pages of patient records, medical journals and other documents were uploaded to the system. 

IBM Watson is now used to diagnose medical problems, even identifying rare illnesses, and will suggest the best treatment plan based on the patient’s complaints. Following the principles of Deep Learning, the more IBM Watson is used, the more accurate its AI insights become.

How are other businesses using AI?

As well as IBM, big tech companies like Google, Microsoft and Intel have been pushing the capabilities of AI in recent years, making it more powerful and sophisticated than ever before. Simultaneously, the cost of building AI systems has dropped.   

Following broad uptake across a range of industries, AI is the brain-power behind our most loved products and services. Its functional day-to-day uses include:

  • Fraud detection that keeps your hard-earned money safe 
  • Facial recognition that unlocks your iPhone
  • Language translation tools, like Google Translate  
  • Personalised Netflix recommendations   

Because AI is able to accurately identify and project patterns in data, it’s become impressive at predicting human behaviour. In a business world where companies are always trying to pre-empt the habits of their customers, AI is now an essential part of many effective marketing strategies.

How is AI used in marketing? 

A Salesforce State of Marketing Report found only 29% of marketing leaders used AI in 2018, but that number had swelled to 84% by 2020. The global revenues for the AI market, including software, hardware, and services, is forecast to grow 19.6% throughout 2022, reaching $432 billion

AI has become an essential marketing tool because it helps businesses build customer-centric end-to-end marketing strategies, making the messaging of ad campaigns more targeted, improving the customer journey, and changing the way companies attract, nurture, and convert customer leads. 

Marketers used to target broad demographics, including age group, gender and geographical location. AI makes it possible to subdivide these market segments and categorise leads by a spectrum of personal traits, buying habits and behavioural patterns.

AI also enables businesses to quickly interpret all this data and make timely adjustments to their marketing strategies based on real-time information. Shifts in lead behaviour can be measured over hours or days, rather than weeks or months, which makes for dynamic marketing campaigns that are more attuned to customer demands.

When Automated Marketing and AI combine, a business can input its goals and let the combined technologies narrow broad audiences down to a segment of one. This ensures that when automated content is sent, the right leads get the right messaging. 

What does all this look like in the real business world? And what kind of an experience does it offer you as a consumer?

Burberry, AI and Customer Experience

Burberry has been prompt to realise that consumers are happy to share personal data, as long as it makes their shopping experience better. 

Burberry encourages each customer to share personal information and complete product preference surveys when signing up for loyalty and reward schemes. This information is then layered with the customer’s purchase history, browsing patterns on the Burberry website and any interactions they’ve had with the brand’s goods on social media channels. Burberry’s AI system then makes determinations about what clothing a customer is most likely to want, sending recommendations to a tablet that the sales assistant uses in a flagship store.  

Once a customer has chosen to buy a fancy checked Burberry jacket (or was it AI that chose it?!), they’ll find it’s fitted with an RFID tag This sends information to the customer’s mobile, providing further purchase recommendations, as well as styling suggestions for combining your new jacket with previous purchases. 

At Burberry, AI is both your personal shopper and stylist, with Deep Learning used to create a more tailored fashion retail experience.

AI and Personalised Marketing

A report from Epsilon found 80% of customers are more likely to buy from a brand when the brand offers them a personal experience. Added to this, a report from Accenture revealed that 91% of customers are more likely to purchase from a brand that makes personalised recommendations and offers.

Burberry is a perfect example of how AI helps businesses achieve personalisation at scale, making it possible to distil insights from large amounts of data, understand the customer in detailed ways and take action in real-time.

An emphasis on marketing with empathy means many modern companies are striving to stay in touch with how customers think and feel their way to a purchase. While Theory of Mind has it that AI is not yet capable of sensing its way through emotional interactions with humans (which would mean achieving the two-way psychological relationships seen in sci-fi movies), Deep Learning does detect even the faintest changes in customer interactions with brands and products. 

All this means companies are better equipped than ever to understand the fluctuating wants and needs of their customers. Who would have thought that AI could bring a human touch to digital marketing?

How to become a Digital Marketer

Social media and the internet are crowded places where companies are battling to be seen and heard. As the world’s population spends more time online, the challenge for brands is to reach customers across different devices and platforms. 

Today’s marketer needs to balance the creative side of the role – using persuasive narratives to tap into people’s needs and aspirations – with the technical demands of using digital platforms and data analytics. 

Academy Xi Digital Marketing courses enable you to promote and sell across channels, applying the cutting-edge tools of the marketing trade. Live client projects offer you the chance to put Digital Marketing techniques into practice, using campaigns strategically to generate word-of-mouth, create stronger leads and increase sales for a more profitable business. 

All our courses are taught online, come in a range of flexible formats and are designed, taught and approved by leading industry professionals. To discuss Digital Marketing course options tailored to your needs, chat to one of our course advisors.

A career in Digital Marketing allows you to turn online trends and customer insights into sales that drive corporate growth. There’s never been a more exciting time to enter the profession, with AI, Machine Learning and other tech innovations making it easier to connect with customer needs than ever before. In marketing, amazing things happen when you listen to the customer.