UK tech firm Syntasa is helping businesses provide tailored digital experiences thanks to the use of sophisticated AI Assisted Customer Analytics. The firm was among many in attendance at the recent Adobe Summit 2018 digital marketing conference in London, and CXM caught up with Syntasa’s Senior Product Marketing Director Anthony Magee to discuss the future of Digital Experience and the use of Artificial Intelligence on providing it…


1. Tell us about Syntasa and the ideas behind the company

Syntasa was born from a need for organisations to get a handle on their disparate data sources, transform them into powerful actionable intelligence, and do so all in their own existing big data environment.

We set out to never become yet another cloud platform promising to deliver every part of the Customer Experience. Instead we believe data is such a valuable strategic asset that unlocking its superpowers should be in the control of the organisation.


2. Your firm utilises AI in innovative ways to help businesses better understand their customers. How much further can AI go when it comes to comprehending customer behaviour?

I’ve worked in many data and CRM leadership roles, both agency and client side, and a common misconception across all is that automation will solve the problem of actionable customer intelligence.

In fact, marketing automation and single customer view are amongst some of the most overused and yet underdelivered projects across organisations. I see it as a breeding ground for more problems, often:

  • Collecting more data and creating more silos
  • Costing the earth to store all your data in yet another cloud
  • Creating a bigger divide between marketers, developers, and data scientists
  • Never quite delivering that bottom line benefit that the ‘Proof of Concept’ had promised

It’s imperative to recognise that AI has many applications, but at its heart should be rooted in the core principle of optimising the status-quo. At SYNTASA we call this AI Assisted, where AI works next to our clients teams as trusted co-worker, co-creator, and advisor.

This enables us to blend the benefits of human and machine for a truly optimal Customer Experience, recognising that ‘data-driven’ requires virtual intelligence within the creative process, but recognises that AI needs human intervention to truly close the loop (think: collect, understand, activate).

AI and machine learning are intrinsically interlinked; we’ve only just scratched the surface in AI Assisted modelling being used for deep pro-active analysis, detecting discovery insights and activating AI driven decisions agnostic of channel or technology. The journey analytics model is understandably a popular choice amongst CX and UX professionals; with AI this detects automatically the optimal path and pain-points in the user journey, applying behavioural context to otherwise generic experiences.

‘AI Assisted’ is algorithms sifting through billions of records to apply context and understanding (combining User ID graph with intent, asset, and message taxonomy) to create a Customer Experience learning loop (AI assisted is the heavy lifting to super-power the creative process) to activate, test, learn, and auto-optimise offline, online, anywhere.

With 81 percent of executives predicting that by 2020 AI will be working alongside their human workforce as collaborator, co-creator, and trusted advisor (Accenture Interactive Survey 2018, of 6,300 business and IT executives), I’m excited by the possibilities of what we call AI Assisted Technology. Our roadmap focuses on the data and decisioning workforce, ensuring that they have the additional superpowers to support the evolution of Customer Experiences.

This means the virtual analyst and data scientist will be a thing of reality, providing AI tools and workflows to assist in data management, Customer Experience analysis, and recommended actions based on predicted outcomes. Not only this but we want to simplify the process of transforming data into intelligence that can be used by experience makers to enhance the journey, removing all of the pain from the process of becoming a data driven enterprise.


3. Where are businesses going wrong when it comes to Customer Experience? What are the common mistakes your firm assists them in rectifying?

Businesses are diversifying their touchpoints so fast in an attempt to keep up with the Joneses that their experiences are suffering. This is resulting in fragmented and disconnected messages that are not context aware and fundamentally don’t recognise that relatedness and relevancy are the lifeblood of great experiences. Data, of course, has a huge role to play in demonstrating to experience professionals the pitfalls in their experiences – where and what changes need to be made.

Experiences in context and not in isolation are critical, and I continue to see not enough holistic experience design across organisations. Why do we still have separate product owners who don’t truly collaborate? Retailers with checkouts, product pages, and recommendation engines that are isolated by device/channel?

My client, Rob McLaughlin of Sky *, recently discussed personalisation with me during a co-presentation at a forum. He explained that personalisation is an overused term and likened it to meeting a colleague you’ve known for years – you wouldn’t dream of rocking up at a party and ignoring them or saying ‘Hi I’m Anthony, who are you?’. That’d be rude, yet businesses are doing this every day to their existing customers and visitors; he added that his bank still tries to sell him the same credit card with a better introductory offer when he already has it!

Businesses need to utilise data as a unifier across their experiences; we see massive benefits being realised from our omnichannel journey analytics and it’s often the much needed catalyst for focusing teams on the true end-to-end customer journey which of course touches many channels – with upwards of 71 percent of consumers using multiple connected devices instore and online.

The challenge is recognising that relevancy is the aim over consistency; many brands still consider syndicating the same banner/message/offer across their channels as a win. However, real-time intelligence often highlights changes in intent and context that deems the syndicated content no longer relevant. So brands needs to shoot for the stars and aim for true relevancy with consistent design and UX applied.

4. What are the future challenges retailers and eCommerce will face as technology develops further?

Simply knowing what to adopt and when. Retailers need to be careful not to adopt technologies for the sake of it; certainly personalisation and decisioning can be truly transformational but can also create challenges. I see many retailers and pure plays monetising relationships, injecting advertising into experiences, and of course GDPR forces a positive step backwards in my opinion.

However, whilst many technologies including voice, chatbots, and algorithmic personalisation are exciting, businesses need to have a clear experience strategy for planning how and when to adopt these. Now I’m not risk averse, SYNTASA shares my vision of continuous test and learn at-scale, however this requires critical thinking between marketers, experience professionals, and data teams. This is where we’re bridging the gap in knowledge and action-centred intelligence.

5. What do you think will be the ‘next big thing’ in Digital Experience?

For me this has to be AR, which depends on AI Assisted data (so no surprise why I’m excited about it) but also, with experiences being historically isolated without context and relevancy, I truly see AR as the opportunity to connect online and offline in a truly immersive way. Given that AR is now widely available at a fraction of the cost it was a year or so ago, I see this as the opportunity for all brands to refresh their Customer Experience.

I’m truly passionate that AR can be leveraged for many use cases from retailers offering explainers, ranges, and personalised pricing instore to sports broadcasters, giving viewers the best interactive seat in the audience without them leaving their living room.

My word of caution is that this has to be adopted by brands that are tackling the brilliant basics of their existing experience in parallel, like a poorly designed IA, impersonal content, and irrelevant/disconnected CRM activity.


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