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Artificial intelligence.

It’s a term which gets bandied about frequently these days, often in conjunction with doomsday scenarios where robots take over the world and enslave humanity.

Fortunately (and a little less dramatically), the reality is quite a bit different to that (at least for now). Artificial intelligence (AI) has begun to infiltrate our lives in various ways, and various tech giants are actively and publicly working on the technology.

IBM’s Watson for example, is a question answering computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural language.

It is now being consulted in decisions for lung cancer treatment at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Amazon’s Alexa is an intelligent personal assistant capable of voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic, and other real time information.

An Amazon Echo device, with integrated Alexa voice service.

While it‚Äôs true that AI has been most visible so far predominantly in headline-grabbing situations, like outplaying human professionals in ‚Äėthinking‚Äô games like Chess and Go, or beating fellow game show contestants on Jeopardy, it‚Äôs also filtering into the IT distribution industry as digital technologies and marketing mechanisms proliferate.

One such mechanism incorporating AI is the use of analytics to create meaningful business insights. Analytics software harnesses the massive amount of data generated by today’s business environments and analyzes it to improve company customer service, as well as provide up-sell and cross-sell suggestions.

By combing through the accumulated data, analytics software can identify buying trends amongst consumers, and personalize specific customer experiences based on their purchasing history, tailoring the distributor or reseller’s customer service to their individual needs. Recently, much hype has been focused around chatbots which will be able to hold conversations with customers whilst having instant access and recall to their details, improving service and order fulfillment.

Analytics software can tailor the distributor or reseller‚Äôs customer service to their individual needs.

So, AI & analytics promises to be a boon to the customer. But what about for the channel business?

Here as well, analytics will play a very useful role. The software will correlate both structured and unstructured sets of data, to drive conversions by providing the right customers with the right messages at the right times.

By identifying the customer’s individual buying history, analytics will be able to provide distributors and resellers with opportunities to cross-sell and up-sell appropriate products to them. In fact, it may provide them with the insights to identify which products a customer wants before the customer even knows themselves! This ability to market so specifically to customers is hugely valuable in driving conversions and sales.

Software can help channel businesses identify which products or brands to order at the right times, show when products need discounting or replenishing, and help them optimize discounts and product markdowns.

The same software can also help channel businesses identify which products or brands to order at the right times, show when products need discounting or replenishing, and help them optimize and efficiently manage their discounts and product markdowns.

As artificial intelligence continues to develop and strengthen, this hyper-segmentation and customer intelligence will only increase further. As new marketing tools and mechanisms enabled by AI open up, they tantalizingly promise win-win scenarios for both resellers and their end-user customers, a situation perhaps not seen frequently enough in the channel up until now.

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