Not Your Father's Toolbox

Affiniti uses AI to find personality matches between call center reps and customers.
Affiniti uses AI to find personality matches between call center reps and customers.
To spur AI innovation, Google is offering select AI researchers free cloud access to its machine-learning computers.
To spur AI innovation, Google is offering select AI researchers free cloud access to its machine-learning computers.

While it’ll be a while before we all have an IBM Watson Supercomputer sitting on our desktops, there are a number of artificial intelligence business tools you can use right now to help your bridal shop run smarter, faster – and ahead of the competition.
    The technology, which has been around for decades, has suddenly come into vogue due to the ready and inexpensive availability of extremely powerful computers.
    Essentially, the smartphone you use to order products over the Web today is many factors faster and more sophisticated than the computer NASA used to land a man on the moon decades ago.
    In a phrase, AI has been accurately described as the new electricity: Very few people will ever completely understand how it works. But virtually everyone with computer technology will wind up using it in one way or another.
    Moreover, AI is running along the same faster/cheaper evolutionary path of most other computer innovations. That means if you can’t afford an AI application now, wait a year or so, and there’s a good chance you’ll be able to afford it then.
    Essentially, the AI tools available right now for your bridal shop tap into the technology’s ability to do a lot of the thinking and strategizing for you – including the thinking you do about your shop’s ordering, marketing, financial planning and more.
    Of course, it’s always your call if you want trust those decisions to an entity whose heart literally beats with all the warmth of an Intel or similar multi-processor.
    But if you’re curious about what the future of your business software could look like, here’s a sampling of what’s coming down the pike:

1. AI self-designing websites. Grim fact: Not all of us are Da Vincis in the making. Fortunately, with Grid (https://thegrid.io) - an online service that will auto-design a website for you – that doesn’t matter any more when it comes to designing your online business presence.
    With Grid, you simply upload the content you want on your website – text, images and video – and the service does the rest, placing everything just where it’s supposed to go. Once all your components are in place, you also have the ability to tweak the resulting design. You can get an in-depth look at how Grid works with its introductory video (56 minutes) on YouTube. A similar online service is Wix (www.wix.com). 

2. AI-driven video editing. Not only will video editing be increasingly handled by AI tools, you’ll soon be able to use an app from Microsoft for free.
    Promised for release late in 2017, Windows Story Remix will enable you to create a promotional video for your bridal shop from scratch - or you can tap its AI tools to have it create a video for you (https://goo.gl/xcuG9E).
    Essentially, the tool is designed to sense the kind of video you’re looking to make after you input raw video, still photographs, animations, soundtrack and the like.
    After you’ve dropped in all your raw media, Remix automatically whips up a finished video, which you can use as-is or tweak with its editing tools.
    The program includes the ability to signal to Remix who you want the “star” of your video to be. Plus, the software will also auto-create video cuts designed to match the beat of any song you include as a track.
    Story Remix also has pen-and-ink support. So you can handwrite a message over your video or doodle over it.
    And it offers collaboration tools, which allow a number of users to tweak an AI-created video together.
    Remix is slated to pop up as a Windows app in the Windows store late 2017, and will also be available on iOS and Android.

3. AI early warning lawsuit alerter. When it comes to lawsuits, the only thing better than an attorney who strikes sheer terror in the opposition is one who can scope out potential lawsuits before they happen – and steer you clear of any trouble.
    That’s the premise behind Intraspexion (www.intraspexion.com), ingenious lawsuit-prevention software developed by seasoned attorney Nick Brestoff.
    Intraspexion works by relentlessly analyzing every single e-mail your employees send or receive from the outside world, and then studying those e-mails for telltale signs of trouble ahead.
    As soon as it finds an e-mail it believes could be the start of an impending lawsuit, it instantly alerts your attorney or in-house counsel, requesting human intervention.
    According to Brestoff, Intraspexion’s accuracy had been verified by a third-party source at 99%.
    Interestingly, Intraspexion is built on Google TensorFlow (www.tensorflow.org), a free, open-source, deep-learning software developed by researchers and engineers on the Google Brain Team.
    “TensorFlow is quickly becoming a viable option for companies interested in deploying deep learning,” says Rajat Monga, engineering leader, TensorFlow at Google.
    Currently, the software, which is being pilot-tested by a New York Stock Exchange level company, is only programmed to analyze e-mails for potential employee discrimination suits because those suits are among the most common.
    But Brestoff says he can easily rework his code to do the same kind of monitoring for breach-of-contact suits, fraud suits and more than 150 other categories of lawsuits that businesses must dodge every day.
    Currently, pricing for Intraspexion starts at $7,500/month, and is almost certainly beyond the reach of most bridal shops. But look for the price to drop as software competitors crowd into the market.

4. AI dashboard maker. One of AI’s notable characteristics is its ability to retrieve data from all corners of the Web, analyze that data and then package it in easy-to-understand, graphic dashboards.
    Qlik (www.qlik.com/us) for example, enables you to develop AI dashboards that can monitor dozens, hundreds or even thousands of websites and/or web properties across cyberspace, and then bring back all that data for instant analysis.
    With Qlik, you’ll be able to compare and contrast the performance of all your websites in terms of clicks, visits, purchases, successful calls-to-action and more. Plus, the software promises to bring back associations and insights you may not have thought of to consider. Similar products include Metric Insights (www.metricinsights.com/how-it-works/) and Tableau (www.tableau.com/).

5.    AI call center matchmaker. Any business exec who has winced listening to a call center rep clashing with a customer will want to look into Affinti (www.afiniti.com).
    Designed to find “birds-of-a-feather” personality matches between call center reps and customers, Affiniti processes more than one billion calculations-a-second in its never-ending quest to sniff out the personality of anyone who happens to be calling your business.
    While the technology probably has no immediate application for a stand-alone bridal shop, it’s still an important one to watch, given that popular apps initially targeted for enterprise-sized organizations often wind up being affordable for even the smallest of businesses.
    Essentially, Affiniti software works by retrieving, storing and analyzing psychographic and demographic data on customers across the U.S., which it sources from the world’s identity data brokers, including Allant, Axciom,
Experian, Facebook, LinkedIn and Targus.
    Specific data Affiniti is incessantly gobbling includes income level, credit card usage, profession, gender, telecommunication usage patterns, responsiveness to marketing, political persuasion and travel habits.
    Most likely, it also knows if your toenails need trimming.
    Meanwhile, Affiniti analyzes the other side of the equation – the personalities of your call center reps – by studying how your reps interact with customers over a 60-90 day period, and by crunching data from a 20-minute survey that you can administer to your call center reps when they’re first hired.
    The result: In a perfect world, you get a match made in bits-and-bytes heaven that hopefully will result in a better customer service experience and heavier sales.

6. AI app makers. If you consider yourself a PC power user – or you have one on staff – your bridal shop can start dabbling in making its own AI tools with open source software like Datumbox (http://www.datumbox.com). 
    Specific tools you can create with Datumbox include:

•    AI Sentiment Analyzers:  Enable you to unleash an app on the web, social media and similar digital locations that will see what people are saying about your company and/or products and services – and also determine if the sentiments behind those posts are positive, negative or neutral.

•    AI Text Readability Analysis: Can be used to ensure your marketing copy is extremely accessible – or conversely, appeals to a more discriminating audience.

•    AI Gender Analysis: Whether it’s soaring praise or withering criticism, this tool will enable you to determine who is behind posts about your company – a man or a woman.
    Similar software includes Lexalytics (www.lexalytics.com) and Bitext (www.bitext.com).

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