If you want your business to succeed in today's digital world, it is critical to understand the role intelligent services plays in that. While small business owners might believe this technology doesn't impact them, Jeff Rohrs, chief marketing officer for Yext, says that couldn't be further from the truth.
Yext is a digital knowledge platform that gives companies control over their customer-critical facts – their address, phone number, other contact information, menus, hours, etc. – across today's universe of intelligent services. Prior to joining Yext, Rohrs served as vice president of marketing insights for Salesforce and ExactTarget.
We recently spoke with Rohrs about intelligent technology, how small businesses are using it and its benefits.
Q. Yext is helping businesses take advantage of intelligent technology. What is intelligent technology and how are small businesses using it?
A. An intelligent service is any technology that leverages artificial intelligence to deliver information to consumers. Today, that means the digital universe of apps, maps, search engines, voice assistants, and other intelligent services that drive consumer discovery, decision, and action.
Your brand lives in many places – both on your own properties and on hundreds of services online, which often creates inconsistencies. Yext gives businesses a central platform to store and update this digital knowledge, and then Yext pushes that information out to the services a consumer might use to look for businesses. This rectifies inconsistencies so customers can find accurate information wherever they look, ultimately driving more customers to a business.
Q. Can you clarify the difference between intelligent technology and artificial intelligence or machine learning?
A. Artificial intelligence is a branch of technology making it possible for automated systems to do things that would ordinarily require human intelligence, such as deciding what is the best or most helpful answer to a consumer's question about a business. AI has evolved from a futuristic idea years ago to a part of everyday life today. Every time you pull out your smartphone and use Google or Siri to find the nearest restaurant or ask what the best hotel near you is, you're using AI whether you realize it or not. Intelligence forms the backbone of today's digital services.
For a business, this means that most of your online customer traffic – almost 75 percent actually, according to Yext research – is happening off your website, on third-party services. Intelligent services, whether it's Google, Siri, Alexa, Yelp, and more, have three layers:
- Their user interface (UI), or how you interact with the service – this could be a basic search box or voice search, for example;
- Their artificial intelligence (AI), meaning the technology that decides what answer to give you;
- And finally, their knowledge – the facts that the service knows about your business.
It's this last piece that is critical for any business to think about. You can't control the UI or AI of the services your customers use, but you can control the knowledge these systems have about your business.
If the systems your customers are using to find you don't know the facts your consumers are looking for, you're either going to show up with incorrect information or not show up at all, and your competitors will win that customer.
Q. What should SMBs do to prepare their business to win in the age of intelligent technology?
A. SMBs should be proactive in organizing and controlling the crucial facts they want a customer to see – locations, hours, menu items, contact information, whatever it may be – everywhere a customer might look, and keep it up to date.
Q. What are developments in intelligent technology that businesses should pay attention to?
A. SMBs should pay attention to voice search. It's taken off from the early days of Siri on the iPhone in 2011 to the booming market for voice-activated devices like Google Home, Amazon Echo and Apple HomePod we see today. The use of voice-enabled devices is expected to grow by 120 percent in the next year, with an estimated 50 percent of all searches being completed via voice search by 2020.
This technology is here to stay. Humans can speak about four times faster than they can type, so it makes sense that a technology allowing consumers to search without typing would rise in popularity.
But voice search works differently from traditional search engines. Most of the time, a voice search service will only give the user one answer to a question, not blue links on a page. This raises the stakes for businesses to provide high-quality information to intelligent services so they stand a chance of being that one answer.
SMBs should invest in digital knowledge management to take advantage of voice search, as voice will drastically change how consumers find businesses. Businesses that don't adapt will fall behind the curve.
Q. What are the benefits intelligent technology offers businesses?
A. For any brand, every touchpoint with a customer is important; it should be seen as a personal interaction between them and the brand. Perhaps the most important takeaway from the rise of intelligent technology is that it's an opportunity to interact with customers in more ways with deeper and richer information to match any number of ways they might look for a business. The businesses that take control of the facts about them in these technologies will gain an edge in harnessing the opportunity that these new technologies offer.
Q. How do you envision intelligent technology growing and evolving in the coming years?
A. Take voice search for example. Voice-enabled devices like Alexa, Siri and Google Home are still in their infancy but have massive potential. Currently, most voice searches are transactional: Users ask a question ("What is the weather outside?") and get a single answer. As the technologies powering these voice-activated services improve, the interactions will become more conversational and dynamic, and more fact-rich than they are today.
Q. How is Yext using intelligent technology to help its customers?
A. Knowledge is power. Yext gives businesses control of these crucial facts, putting perfect information in customers' hands where consumers are likely to look online. Rather than trying to correct this information manually everywhere it lives, Yext allows businesses to easily manage their digital knowledge all at once from a single, central platform.