With natural language processing or NLP, marketers can employ computers to understand, interpret and analyse data sourced from text and human speech to better engage and retain customers, says Tata Consultancy Services’ Amit Tiwari.

Marketing as a function has seen a drastic evolution over the years. With the sole underlying motive of encouraging the purchase or sale of a product or service, marketers have tried every trick in the book to sell products. For example, a barter system, mass production and branding can be used to build customer loyalty. Together with artificial intelligence (AI), this enables marketers to personalise communications rather than target generic groups.

As a result, marketers have constantly remodelled for newer and better ways to engage and retain customers.

One such advancement that the martech world is progressing towards is natural language processing (NLP) – a new language of marketing that allows computers to understand, interpret and analyse data in the form of both text and human speech.

This helps marketing professionals to attain an in-depth understanding of the customer's "why" and "what" by using AI to extract the words from various source pages, documents, websites etc, and discover patterns that can thus be replicated in several marketing channels to boost performance.

However, before dwelling on how it can help marketers, let's understand the distinction between NLP, AI and machine learning.

  • Artificial intelligence: AI is the power to make a machine smarter, whether it is a robot, car or software application, and display intelligence, typically through problem-solving. Artificial intelligence algorithms help devices engage in decision-making tasks. 
  • Machine learning: ML is commonly used alongside AI and is regarded as a subset of AI that can learn and become smarter over time without human intervention.
  • Natural language processing: NLP, as explained earlier, is another branch of artificial intelligence that helps computers understand human language.

These are four ways marketers can use this novel technique to strike the right note with their customers.

Scale content creation

It's a fact that content marketing is playing a pivotal role in engaging customers and driving sales. Thus, to have the edge over competitors, many companies are migrating towards using NLP technology that helps apprehend the context of keywords, content and why people are reading certain subjects more.

This qualitative understanding enables marketers to make insightful decisions and derive common topics and themes from a data set.

Moreover, to scale this function of content creation, NLP and AI work in tandem, with the former searching what consumers are talking about on various mediums such as websites, social media, forums, etc, and identifying trending topics online.

At the same time, the latter creates individual pages for each subject or product. This feature is helpful for e-commerce platforms selling many products and also in writing product descriptions for their multilingual sites.

Improve SEO rankings

The real power of the internet is in making information readily available to people by typing a few sentences and clicking some buttons. Hence, search engines like Google and Bing are always working towards making this process straightforward and relevant by incorporating conversational language.

For instance, some may enter the keywords "Steps to change profile picture on WhatsApp", while someone else might ask, "How to change my profile picture on WhatsApp".

By using NLP technology, search drivers can identify the context of the related keywords or detect synonyms and discover how to use them in your content. Thus, NLP in SEO helps optimise marketing assets better by using the right combination of keywords. For example, NLP tools such as Alimama (the digital marketing wing of e-commerce company Alibaba that provides an AI-powered tool for copywriting using NLP in different languages) helps craft content that ranks high on SEO across platforms, saving time and human energy. 

Understanding brand image 

For any company to understand its brand image, it is critical to analyse its performance on digital platforms and continue or alter the approach accordingly. Hence, with the use of NLP, firms can measure sentiments about the brand by tracking top-performing content and understanding what makes that particular subject resonate with audiences.

Also, marketers can employ social listening tools and interpret positive, negative or neutral terms used by customers to gain insights about the brand. Thus, companies can collate data and determine the sentiments around their label by using the NLP algorithm.

For instance, when people talk about a product on social media, the NLP algorithm operates behind to decipher that sentiment, allowing businesses to determine the focus of their marketing efforts.

Enhance user experience

User experience is key to marketing. Data and content intelligence platforms give enterprises in-depth information about their customers’ habits, interests, locations, etc, that facilitates a better user experience.

All this enables companies to create personal, sophisticated and accurate chatbots that offer relevant and verified information by employing NLP. Moreover, it allows for handling additional customer queries instead of phone calls. Compared to a ratio of one customer service officer per phone call for a total of approximately five chats, a chatbot can manage more than a million customers. This effectiveness improves customer experience and interaction with the brand.

For instance, Mastercard employed NLP, making it easier for their banking associates to serve customers over Facebook Messenger.

Natural language processing is a powerful asset to have in your marketing analytics toolkit.

NLP can be used in varied functions and help you better understand your organisation's data, what it can do for you and how to leverage it for a better customer experience.