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December 24, 2018

How to Tackle the Voice Giant ?

I remember the days during my childhood, yearning for stories, fairy tales, princess, superheroes and no dearth for imagination. Some of those stories that I read as a kid always had some or the other magical responsive utilities like a talking mirror, a door or a carpet which will speak if spoken to or answer questions and show information if asked. Little did I know that I'll live to see those magical things come to life with the help of technology. Audrey, Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana, Alexa are some of those to name a few.

These technologies are bringing in lots and lots of differences. The difference in the way we interact with other techs, the difference in the way we give away our information and most important difference is the way we consume information. Now as a digital marketer I spend sleepless nights whenever there's something new in the industry because it somehow resets everything that we have done in digital marketing and would require us to gear up and start a new strategy altogether. 
So this is an attempt to decode this new technology and what a marketer should do to tackle this voice giant. 

50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020, as per comScore 

Now, what is Voice search?
I don't have to explain this, but for hermit's sake, Voice search is when we use voice to search in a search engine instead of the traditional methods like typing in the search query using a keyboard. Voice search utilizes speech recognition technology to understand a user's search query and then shows results that it thinks matches the search. 

The problem? 
Well, it does simplify the way we search the internet but has it simplified the way how the results are shown? The answer is No.
Traditionally we have all built our website with content focused on an element called keywords. Because users search the internet using keywords and key terms which they think relates to the information that they are looking for. And truly, keywords are the backbone of both SEO and SEM. 

Now with the advent of voice search, results are no longer shown for a keyword but rather for a sentence. This is beyond the length of a long tail keyword. Users of voice search converse with the technology to get their search results. They talk to the machine and will have a real conversation. 

Let's address this voice giant!!!
How do we optimize our digital strategy to suit the voice search? 
Firstly, the users tend to use Natural language to converse with Alexa or Siri, just like how they will strike up a conversation with a fellow human being. These machines are programmed to understand and process these conversations. As these are real conversations, the length of the search query is usually larger than what will be used in a non-voice environment. 
Eg., "Ok Google, how far is the park from my home?

For instance, if we want to know where Mount Kilimanjaro is located, we would probably type the keyword "Kilimanjaro" or "Mount Kilimanjaro" in google or yahoo and then we will click on the first link to know about the mountain.
But when we are doing a voice search we don't just say the word "Kilimanjaro" instead we say the entire sentence, "Hey Siri / Ok Google where is Kilimanjaro" and it'll show as well as read out the answer for our query.

About 30% of all searches will be done without a screen by 2020- ComScore

Question your Intent!!
So these voice machines understand the meaning of the words and most importantly understand the Intent of the sentence to give you the accurate result. Now the focus is on the Intent and not just the keyword. The intent to buy or to know is very strong in these search queries. Unless we address the intent with our content, these voice search machines will not pick us in their results. You can read on my previous article to know all about intent and how it plays an important role in our digital strategy.

So now the first and most important thing to do to optimize our content to suit voice search results is to expand our content beyond set keywords and include answers to the intent a customer or the user wants us to address. When we want to find a plumber or electrician we type "Electrician near me" or "best electrician" but when we do the same, in voice search, we will probably say, "do you know any reliable plumber/electrician in Chennai?". The content that we add in our website should answer to this and many other questions that a probable customer might ask. Get the intent right and re-frame your content to address the queries rather than pointing them to keywords.

The voice recognition market will be a $601 million industry by 2019, as per Technavio

FAQ Page
One way of achieving this is by adding an FAQ page on your website. With an FAQ page, it becomes easy to add answers if you don't want to disturb the existing narrative provided by the current content. We should also focus on keywords that are long tail but highly conversational like, E.g., "Restaurants close to JP Nagar park" which answers the questions like 

  1. where can I find restaurants that are close to JP Nagar Park and 
  2. Which hotels are closest to JP Nagar park
Use Schema's to highlight content. 
Yes, Structured markup 's from Schema.org which helps to highlight specific content from the website so that spiders can easily parse that content and understand its context. The schema is actually metadata, which explains and describes the data present on the website, making it easier for the spiders to understand the context of the content.

"Near Me" is your best friend!
With the increasing number of "near me" searches in voice search, we should make use of this type of keywords to get our brand on top. To do that we need to have our business listed in Google's local business listing. This is because when somebody searches for "pizza delivery near me" whether its voice or regular search, the results displayed on top will always be from the local listing. 

Put to use Google Ads' location extension.
Now, this is the feature when enabled, lets you show your ads along with your business address, phone number and directions. This corresponds to the "Near me" searches and when you have it enabled, it makes your ad more relevant to the local user giving you an added advantage in the Bidding.

2 of 5 adults perform a voice search at least once a day.- Location World

Voice search is not just the latest trend; it is the future focused on making user's life simple. It is the next big thing and we should all use this opportunity to transform our content relevant to the users. With all the above strategies put together, we can effectively transform our SEO and SEM strategy to suit the new voice search technology and stay on top of our competitors. 

Authored By 

Gopinath GA

Domain Lead, Digital Business Services

December 20, 2018

AI enabled Negotiations: Are we on board yet ?

Negotiations are an integral aspect to business, in sourcing and procurement it plays a very critical role as it saves cost and gets the best deal possible. As automation and technology are drastically changing business processes, has the act of negotiation evolved along with the digitization that is sweeping the industry or does it still remain the same ?

In the world of procurement, Negotiations are purchasing processes aimed at reaching an agreement on either price or contracts. These could range from simple tasks like buying stationery to complex tasks like setting up a new facility. Hence, the Sourcing Manager has to deploy various negotiation techniques to obtain the best value for money. Negotiation is a highly valued skill for procurement professional as it delivers the most critical outcome - savings.

While traditionally conducted as face to face discussion or over a telephonic conversation, negotiation process is undergoing a change with advancements being made in technology- with a trend being observed of increased usage of email or online tools which provide key inputs enabling managers to plan their upcoming negotiations.

In this article, I would like to shed light on how the negotiation process has evolved and how the future of negotiation (or eNegotiation) may look like considering the pace at which digitization and automation are taking over Procurement. 

As we are already aware of, the Procurement process is already reaching higher automation levels. Be it Reporting and Analytics, P2P, Contract Management, Sourcing, AP (accounts payable) or Logistics - most processes are now executed or monitored with just a click of a mouse. However, we are yet to see negotiation slowly being replaced with e-Negotiation tools just like eSourcing and it could be some time before that happens given the human element in negotiations cannot be completely ruled out in its entirety by cognitive technologies- however with information becoming more real-time, interconnected and platforms more collaborative and integrated with existing procurement processes - the future of negotiation to seems to be more tech-driven.

Evolution of negotiation practices: 

Capture inlead-Negotiations.PNG
When you closely look at the representation of the Evolution of negotiation practices, some might argue that a face to face discussion is the only practice which cannot be classified as eNegotiation as telephone, email, Virtual, AI enabled negotiations are eNegotiation practices evolved with technological advancements.  

However, I would still like to classify negotiations done over telephone and email as more of a traditional and less of an e-negotiation practice. As both the channels evolved and played a significant role during the IT revolution when we were at the crossroads but still required a lot of manual intervention in the overall process as both were just modes of communication without an interface. A traditional Negotiation process is a time-consuming process where you are negotiating with multiple suppliers, individually or with the same set of suppliers, repeatedly for the same services or products. In many instances, while eNegotiation could mean a direct and time-limited competition, where suppliers join the virtual negotiation table and improve their prices in real time to win the contract with high potential to consolidate the efforts. 

How the future of negotiations looks like with emergence and adaptation of Artificial Intelligence enabled technologies? 

As demand for simplified, intuitive and efficient procurement processes has taken center stage. We are moving towards a world where pre-negotiated pricing and contractual terms equipped with guided buying channels will be able to direct the business user to buy from the catalogue of items of their choice at contracted price without having to repeat the exercise per each purchasing need. 
As it is now possible to analyze the buying patterns of the organization with predictive and pro-active buying, it is highly likely that even eNegotiations which were conducted repeatedly as per individual needs will be replaced to a considerable extent by organizational level negotiations as marketplaces become the new norm. 

With Big Data revealing business user's buying pattern, Procurement Professionals will be able to understand the user as well as supplier behaviors and plan their negotiation strategies or mediums accordingly. However, the success depends on the availability of real-time virtual inventory that continues to evolve through self -learning to anticipate and meet that demand and reinventing the customer experience.
The future Category Manager will not only be able to conduct an informed reactive negotiation with the help of AI enabled insights, but will also be able to predict the demand and proactively negotiate and keep the product or services catalogue ready to be used by the business user who has left IT footprint over the years to be taken advantage of. Additionally, the systems will have the capability to record these, understand cognitively and draw patterns from past negotiations to provide suggestive tactics or strategies.

More Power to the machines?

All the advancements in the Artificial Intelligence will most likely lead to a "have" and "have not" situation between those who possess AI and those who do not when it comes to effective negotiations.

Now let's envisage a scenario which is highly anticipated and which might become a reality in the near future. It is Negotiations being conducted by an AI chatbot. The big question is can a chatbot without common sense and emotions handle negotiation like humans? 
The answer lies in the advancements in the field of NLP (Natural Language Processing) wing of AI. Natural Language processing is the next big thing in AI, and it is only a matter of time that we will be able to interact with machines on a daily basis not only for personal use (e.g. Google Home, Amazon Alexa, MS Cortana) but for business purposes as well.

Once we have the Conversational User Interfaces slowly replacing the traditional Graphic User Interface, then empowered with all the data, machine learnings and language proficiency, a negotiating chatbot will not be too far away or too hard to visualize.
The biggest challenge will be that, we, as a human tendency forget that we can do something in a new way. At the same time, we are also capable of adapting quickly to changes.

In other words, the technology might completely change the way Procurement negotiates in the very near future for good. It is definitely going to be a very exciting journey. Are we on board yet?

Authored By 

Kiran Huthanahalli Manjunath, Senior Process Lead, Sourcing & Procurement

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