8月 122017
 

Optimization is a core competency for digital marketers. As customer interactions spread across fragmented touch points and consumers demand seamless and relevant experiences, content-oriented marketers have been forced to re-evaluate their strategies for engagement. But the complexity, pace and volume of modern digital marketing easily overwhelms traditional planning and design approaches that rely on historical conventions, myopic single-channel perspectives and sequential act-and-learn iteration.

SAS Customer Intelligence 360 Engage was released last year to address our client needs for a variety of modern marketing challenges. Part of the software's capabilities revolve around:

Regardless of the method, testing is attractive because it is efficient, measurable and serves as a machete cutting through the noise and assumptions associated with delivering effective experiences. The question is: How does a marketer know what to test?

There are so many possibilities. Let's be honest - if it's one thing marketers are good at, it's being creative. Ideas flow out of brainstorming meetings, bright minds flourish with motivation and campaign concepts are born. As a data and analytics geek, I've worked with ad agencies and client-side marketing teams on the importance of connecting the dots between the world of predictive analytics (and more recently machine learning) with the creative process. Take a moment to reflect on the concept of ideation.

Is it feasible to have too many ideas to practically try them all? How do you prioritize? Wouldn't it be awesome if a statistical model could help?

Let's break this down:

  • Predictive analytic or machine learning projects always begin with data. Specifically training data which is fed to algorithms to address an important business question.
  • Ultimately, at the end of this exercise, a recommendation can be made prescriptively to a marketer to take action. This is what we refer to as a hypothesis. It is ready to be tested in-market.
  • This is the connection point between analytics and testing. Just because a statistical model informs us to do something slightly different, it still needs to be tested before we can celebrate.

Here is the really sweet part. The space of visual analytics has matured dramatically. Creative minds dreaming of the next digital experience cannot be held back by hard-to-understand statistical greek. Nor can I condone the idea that if a magical analytic easy-button is accessible in your marketing cloud, one doesn't need to understand what's going on behind the scene.That last sentence is my personal opinion, and feel free to dive into my mind here.

Want a simple example? Of course you do. I'm sitting in a meeting with a bunch of creatives. They are debating on which pages should they run optimization tests on their website. Should it be on one of the top 10 most visited pages? That's an easy web analytic report to run. However, are those the 10 most important pages with respect to a conversion goal? That's where the analyst can step up and help. Here's a snapshot of a gradient boosting machine learning model I built in a few clicks with SAS Visual Data Mining and Machine Learning leveraging sas.com website data collected by SAS Customer Intelligence 360 Discover on what drives conversions.

I know what you're thinking. Cool data viz picture. So what? Take a closer look at this...

The model prioritizes what is important. This is critical, as I have transparently highlighted (with statistical vigor I might add) that site visitor interest in our SAS Customer Intelligence product page is popping as an important predictor in what drives conversions. Now what?

The creative masterminds and I agree we should test various ideas on how to optimize the performance of this important web page. A/B test? Multivariate test? As my SAS colleague Malcolm Lightbody stated:

"Multivariate testing is the way to go when you want to understand how multiple web page elements interact with each other to influence goal conversion rate. A web page is a complex assortment of content and it is intuitive to expect that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. So, why is MVT less prominent in the web marketer’s toolkit?

One major reason – cost. In terms of traffic and opportunity cost, there is a combinatoric explosion in unique versions of a page as the number of elements and their associated levels increase. For example, a page with four content spots, each of which have four possible creatives, leads to a total of 256 distinct versions of that page to test.

If you want to be confident in the test results, then you need each combination, or variant, to be shown to a reasonable sample size of visitors. In this case, assume this to be 10,000 visitors per variant, leading to 2.56 million visitors for the entire test. That might take 100 or more days on a reasonably busy site. But by that time, not only will the marketer have lost interest – the test results will likely be irrelevant."

SAS Customer Intelligence 360 provides a business-user interface which allows the user to:

  • Set up a multivariate test.
  • Define exclusion and inclusion rules for specific variants.
  • Optimize the design.
  • Place it into production.
  • Examine the results and take action.

Continuing with my story, we decide to set up a test on the sas.com customer intelligence product page with four content spots, and three creatives per spot. This results in 81 total variants and an estimated sample size of 1,073,000 visits to get a significant read at a 90 percent confidence level.

Notice that Optimize button in the image? Let's talk about the amazing special sauce beneath it. Methodical experimentation has many applications for efficient and effective information gathering. To reveal or model relationships between an input, or factor, and an output, or response, the best approach is to deliberately change the former and see whether the latter changes, too. Actively manipulating factors according to a pre-specified design is the best way to gain useful, new understanding.

However, whenever there is more than one factor – that is, in almost all real-world situations – a design that changes just one factor at a time is inefficient. To properly uncover how factors jointly affect the response, marketers have numerous flavors of multivariate test designs to consider. Factorial experimental designs are more common, such as full factorial, fractional factorial, and mixed-level factorial. The challenge here is each method has strict requirements.

This leads to designs that, for example, are not orthogonal or that have irregular design spaces. Over a number of years SAS has developed a solution to this problem. This is contained within the OPTEX procedure, and allows testing of designs for which:

  • Not all combinations of the factor levels are feasible.
  • The region of experimentation is irregularly shaped.
  • Resource limitations restrict the number of experiments that can be performed.
  • There is a nonstandard linear or a nonlinear model.

The OPTEX procedure can generate an efficient experimental design for any of these situations and website (or mobile app) multivariate testing is an ideal candidate because it applies:

  • Constraints on the number of variants that are practical to test.
  • Constraints on required or forbidden combinations of content.

The OPTEX procedure is highly flexible and has many input parameters and options. This means that it can cover different digital marketing scenarios, and it’s use can be tuned as circumstances demand. Customer Intelligence 360 provides the analytic heavy lifting behind the scenes, and the marketer only needs to make choices for business relevant parameters. Watch what happens when I press that Optimize button:

Suddenly that scary sample size of 1,070,000 has reduced to 142,502 visits to perform my test. The immediate benefit is the impractical multivariate test has become feasible. However, if only a subset of the combinations are being shown, how can the marketer understand what would happen for an untested variant? Simple! SAS Customer Intelligence 360 fits a model using the results of the tested variants and uses them to predict the outcomes for untested combinations. In this way, the marketer can simulate the entire multivariate test and draw reliable conclusions in the process.

So you're telling me we can dream big in the creative process and unleash our superpowers? That's right my friends, you can even preview as many variants of the test's recipe as you desire.

The majority of today’s technologies for digital personalization have generally failed to effectively use predictive analytics to offer customers a contextualized digital experience. Many of today’s offerings are based on simple rules-based recommendations, segmentation and targeting that are usually limited to a single customer touch point. Despite some use of predictive techniques, digital experience delivery platforms are behind in incorporating machine learning to contextualize digital customer experiences.

At the end of the day, connecting the dots between data science and testing, no matter which flavor you select, is a method I advocate. The challenge I pose to every marketing analyst reading this:

Can you tell a good enough data story to inspire the creative minded?

How does a marketer know what to test? was published on Customer Intelligence Blog.

8月 112017
 

How can you tell if your marketing is working? How can you determine the cost and return of your campaigns? How can you decide what to do next? An effective way to answer these questions is to monitor a set of key performance indicators, or KPIs.

KPIs are the basic statistics that give you a clear idea of how your website (or app) is performing. KPIs vary by predetermined business objectives, and measure progress towards those specific objectives. In the famous words of Avinash Kaushik, KPIs should be:

  • Uncomplex.
  • Relevant.
  • Timely.
  • Instantly useful.

An example that fits this description, with applicability to profit, nonprofit, and e-commerce business models, would be the almighty conversion rate.  In digital analytics this metric is interpreted as the proportion of visitors to a website or app who take action to go beyond a casual content view or site visit, as a result of subtle or direct requests from marketers, advertisers, and content creators.

{\mathrm {Conversion\ rate}}={\frac {{\mathrm {Number\ of\ Goal\ Achievements}}}{{\mathrm {Visitors}}}}

Although successful conversions can be defined differently based on your use case, it is easy to see why this KPI is uncomplex, relevant, timely, and useful. We can even splinter this metric into two types:

Macro conversion – Someone completes an action that is important to your business (like making you some money).

Micro conversion – An indicator that a visitor is moving towards a macro conversion (like progressing through a multi-step sales funnel to eventually make you some money)

Regardless of the conversion type, I have always found that reporting on this KPI is a popular request for analysts from middle management and executives. However, it isn't difficult to anticipate what is coming next from the most important person in your business world:

"How can we improve our conversion rate going forward?"

You can report, slice, dice, and segment away in your web analytics platform, but needles in haystacks are not easily discovered unless we adapt. I know change can be difficult, but allow me to make the case for machine learning and hyperparameters within the discipline of digital analytics. A trendy subject for some, a scary subject for others, but my intent is to lend a practitioner's viewpoint. Analytical decision trees are an excellent way to begin because of their frequent usage within marketing applications, primarily due to their approachability, and ease of interpretation.

Whether your use case is for supervised segmentation, or propensity scoring, this form of predictive analytics can be labeled as machine learning due to algorithm's approach to analyzing data. Have you ever researched how trees actually learn before arriving to a final result? It's beautiful math. However, it doesn't end there. We are living in a moment where more sophisticated machine learning algorithms have emerged that can comparatively increase predictive accuracy, precision, and most importantly – marketing-centric KPIs, while being just as easy to construct.

Using the same data inputs across different analysis types like Forests, Gradient Boosting, and Neural Networks, analysts can compare model fit statistics to determine which approach will have the most meaningful impact on your organization's objectives. Terms like cumulative lift or misclassification may not mean much to you, but they are the keys to selecting the math that best answers how conversion rate can be improved by transparently disclosing accurate views of variable importance.

So is that it? I can just drag and drop my way through the world of visual analytics to optimize against KPIs. Well, there is a tradeoff to discuss here. For some organizations, simply using a machine learning algorithm enabled by an easy-to-use software interface will help improve conversion rate tactics on a mobile app screen experience as compared to not using an analytic method. But an algorithm cannot be expected to perform well as a one size fits all approach for every type of business problem. It is a reasonable question to ask oneself if opportunity is being left on the table to motivate analysts to refine the math to the use case. Learning to improve how an algorithm arrives at a final result should not be scary because it can get a little technical. It's actually quite the opposite, and I love learning how machine learning can be elegant. This is why I want to talk about hyperparameters!

Anyone who has ever built a predictive model understands the iterative nature of adjusting various property settings of an algorithm in an effort to optimize the analysis results. As we endlessly try to improve the predictive accuracy, the process becomes painfully repetitive and manual. Due to the typical length of time an analyst can spend on this task alone - from hours, days, or longer - the approach defies our ability as humans to practically arrive at an optimized final solution. Sometimes referred to as auto tuning, hyperparameters address this issue by exploring different combinations of algorithm options, training a model for each option in an effort to find the best model. Imagine running 1000s of iterations of a website conversion propensity model across different property threshold ranges in a single execution. As a result, these models can improve significantly across important fit statistics that relate directly to your KPIs.

At the end of running an analysis with hyperparameters, the best recipe will be identified. Just like any other modeling project, the ability to action off of the insight is no different, from traditional model score code to next-best-action recommendations infused into your mobile app's personalization technology. That's genuinely exciting, courtesy of recent innovations in distributed analytical engines with feature-rich building blocks for machine-learning activities.

If the subject of hyperparameters is new to you, I encourage you to watch this short video.

This will be one of the main themes of my presentations at Analytics Experience 2017 in Washington DC. Using digital data collected by SAS Customer Intelligence 360 and analyzing it with SAS Visual Data Mining & Machine Learning on VIYA, I want to share the excitement I am feeling about digital intelligence and predictive personalization. I hope you'll consider joining the SAS family for an awesome agenda between September 18th-20th in our nation's capital.

Hyperparameters, digital analytics, and key performance indicators was published on Customer Intelligence Blog.

7月 132017
 

Artificial intelligence promises to transform society on the scale of the industrial, technical, and digital revolutions before it. Machines that can sense, reason and act will accelerate solutions to large-scale problems in myriad of fields, including science, finance, medicine and education, augmenting human capability and helping us to go further, [...]

5 questions about artificial intelligence with Intel's Pat Richards was published on SAS Voices by Scott Batchelor

7月 012017
 

We live in exciting times. Our relationships with machines, objects and things are quickly changing. Since mankind lived in caves, we have pushed our will into passive tools with our hands and our voices. Our mice and our keyboards do exactly as we tell them to, and devices like the [...]

Artificial intelligence: Separating the reality from the hype was published on SAS Voices by Oliver Schabenberger

6月 292017
 

One of the big benefits of the SAS Viya platform is how approachable it is for programmers of other languages. You don't have to learn SAS in order to become productive quickly. We've seen a lot of interest from people who code in Python, maybe because that language has become known for its application in machine learning. SAS has a new product called SAS Visual Data Mining and Machine Learning. And these days, you can't offer such a product without also offering something special to those Python enthusiasts.

Introducing Python SWAT

And so, SAS has published the Python SWAT project (where "SWAT" stands for the SAS scripting wapper for analytical transfer. The project is a Python code library that SAS released using an open source model. That means that you can download it for free, make changes locally, and even contribute those changes back to the community (as some developers have already done!). You'll find it at github.com/sassoftware/python-swat.

SAS developer Kevin Smith is the main contributor on Python SWAT, and he's a big fan of Python. He's also an expert in SAS and in many programming languages. If you're a SAS user, you probably run Kevin's code every day; he was an original developer on the SAS Output Delivery System (ODS). Now he's a member of the cloud analytics team in SAS R&D. (He's also the author of more than a few conference papers and SAS books.)

Kevin enjoys the dynamic, fluid style that a scripting language like Python affords - versus the more formal "code-compile-build-execute" model of a compiled language. Watch this video (about 14 minutes) in which Kevin talks about what he likes in Python, and shows off how Python SWAT can drive SAS' machine learning capabilities.

New -- but familiar -- syntax for Python coders

The analytics engine behind the SAS Viya platform is called CAS, or SAS Cloud Analytic Services. You'll want to learn that term, because "CAS" is used throughout the SAS documentation and APIs. And while CAS might be new to you, the Python approach to CAS should feel very familiar for users of Python libraries, especially users of pandas, the Python Data Analysis Library.

CAS and SAS' Python SWAT extends these concepts to provide intuitive, high-performance analytics from SAS Viya in your favorite Python environment, whether that's a Jupyter notebook or a simple console. Watch the video to see Kevin's demo and discussion about how to get started. You'll learn:

  • How to connect your Python session to the CAS server
  • How to upload data from your client to the CAS server
  • How SWAT extends the concept of the DataFrame API in pandas to leverage CAS capabilities
  • How to coax CAS to provide descriptive statistics about your data, and then go beyond what's built into the traditional DataFrame methods.

Learn more about SAS Viya and Python

There are plenty of helpful resources to help you learn about using Python with SAS Viya:

And finally, what if you don't have SAS Viya yet, but you're interested in using Python with SAS 9.4? Check out the SASPy project, which allows you to access your traditional SAS features from a Jupyter notebook or Python console. It's another popular open source project from SAS R&D.

The post Using Python to work with SAS Viya and CAS appeared first on The SAS Dummy.

6月 272017
 

Let me start by posing a question: "Are you forecasting at the edge to anticipate what consumers want or need before they know it?"  Not just forecasting based on past demand behavior, but using real-time information as it is streaming in from connected devices on the Internet of Things (IoT). [...]

Forecasting at the edge for real-time demand execution was published on SAS Voices by Charlie Chase

5月 182017
 

Are you caught up in the machine learning forecasting frenzy? Is it reality or more hype?  There's been a lot of hype about using machine learning for forecasting. And rightfully so, given the advancements in data collection, storage, and processing along with technology improvements, such as super computers and more powerful [...]

Straight talk about forecasting and machine learning was published on SAS Voices by Charlie Chase

5月 172017
 

Deep learning made the headlines when the UK’s AlphaGo team beat Lee Sedol, holder of 18 international titles, in the Go board game. Go is more complex than other games, such as Chess, where machines have previously crushed famous players. The number of potential moves explodes exponentially so it wasn’t [...]

Deep learning: What’s changed? was published on SAS Voices by Colin Gray

5月 012017
 

Machine learning seems to be the new hot topic these days. Everybody's talking about how machines are beating human players in chess, Jeopardy, and now even Go. In the future, artificial intelligence will drive our cars and our jobs will be taken over by robots. There’s a lot of hype, [...]

Autotuning: How machine learning helps optimize itself was published on SAS Voices by Sascha Schubert