Harriet Green, general manager of Watson Customer Engagement,
IBM's Harriet Green said Watson will help marketers deliver better customer experiences and understand their customers. PHOTO: IBM

LAS VEGAS — IBM kept the spotlight on the power of cognitive computing and, more specifically on Watson at Amplify 2017, its conference for marketing, sales, ecommerce and merchandising. The three day conference at the MGM Grand here ends today.

In an opening keynote that focused on customer engagement in the cognitive era, Harriet Green, general manager of Watson Customer Engagement, explored how IBM Watson will help marketers deliver one-to-one customer experiences at scale and enable them to truly understand their customers.

"IBM has a strong 24-month lead over its competitors. Many are just beginning to think about cognitive," she said, without naming anyone in particular. It was undoubtedly a conscious choice because there are two other conferences in town whose participants IBM would rather attract than alienate.

In fact, the organizers of IBM Amplify have invited attendees from both the Adobe Summit and the Shoptalk conferences, which are also being held in Las Vegas this week, to attend this conference free of charge. And aside from well-choreographed, experiential keynotes and workshops, IBM has also brought in a number of entertainers, including Will Smith, Wayne Brady, Amy Schumer and the Zach Brown Band.

Cognitive Fuels Today's CRM

IBM has been beating the cognitive drum pretty hard for several years now. At CES 2016 in Las Vegas, Ginni Rometty, chair, president and CEO of IBM, said the challenge of Internet of Things (IoT) today is making sense of all the data we’re creating and capturing. “The future of the Internet of Things is cognitive — the cognitive IoT,” Rometty said.

"This is an era of systems you do not program; they understand, they reason and they learn."Cognitive computing "will change what you make, it will change how you operate, and the IoT will change who you are,” she added.

At Amplify this week, “cognitive as the new CRM” emerged as a theme. Speakers claimed Watson is ready, willing and able to help its customers understand consumer emotions better, to meet others where they want to be met, and to treat others as they want to be treated.

How is this possible?

Watson has evolved, it seems. First came fact-crunching Watson, the Jeopardy winner. Next up was big data, analytical Watson which via a number of other technologies had to learn to crunch and analyze information quickly and with precision.

Then IBM provided Watson with business domain knowledge that it had acquired over years and years in the professional services business across a variety of business processes and vertical markets. And finally came integration and embedding of machine learning, algorithms and apps.

By bringing all of this together IBM can now deliver on the promise of cognitive computing — the insights needed to engage with customers in deeper more meaningful ways, according to Green.

And end users won’t need to leverage data scientists, data analysts, or even “complicated queries or spreadsheets,” to get game-changing insights, the speakers said.

IBM’s Marketing Assistant Shows Off

Melanie Butcher, program director, IBM Commerce UX Design Studio, demonstrated how IBM’s Watson-powered “marketing assistant” could help users of its Marketing Cloud.

The assistant could, for example, not only answer questions around the “open rate” of an email campaign but also explain how the results had been calculated, suggest why a particular campaign may have lagged based on the sentiment score of the subject line, and analyze a new subject line that might be more favorable.

Butcher went on to show the marketing assistant is now available to Marketing Cloud customers in preview mode.

In the cognitive era, CRM is not enough, IBM executives said. Understanding emotions and intent are more important than engagement and transactions. Or as Jay Baer, president of consultancy Convince & Convert put it, “relevancy is the new killer app.”