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The Utah DMC Blog

Duane Forrester | Utah DMC Conference Recap – August 2019

How Machine Learning is Changing the Landscape of Search, Discovery, and Engagement, with Duane Forrester [DMC Recap]

Duane Forrester gave an insightful presentation at the 2019 DMC conference titled, “How Machine Learning is Changing the Landscape of Search, Discovery, and Engagement.”

Mr. Forrester is the VP of Industry Insights at Yext. And has experience with machine learning from his years working for Bing, Microsoft, Search Engine Land, and more.

So how is machine learning changing the world?

Here are three areas Mr. Forrester presented:

  1. Augmented Reality
  2. Voice Search
  3. Artificial Intelligence

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality is when something virtual is added to reality. Forrester presented the following three examples:

Google Automated Maps

duane forrester recap image 1Google maps has developed and is now testing an augmented reality experience. This experience utilizes the camera on your mobile device to recognize the neighborhood and show you Google listed business, and will also provide navigation directions superimposed on your camera screen. One goal of the augmented map is to make it easier for pedestrians to navigate cities by eliminating the common problem of initial orientation, where you begin walking in one direction only to realize a block later that the arrow wasn’t pointed in the direction you were facing and you have now walked one block in the wrong direction.

Warby Parker App for Virtual Try On


Warby Parker is a glasses company known for their unique product trial experience, where the customer receives a few pairs of glasses in the mail, wears them for a few days, picks their favorite, and mails the extra pairs back. However, with their current app there is no need to wait for your package to arrive in the mail to try on frames you’re interested in. Now, you can use your selfie camera within the app to virtually try on the glasses you like.

Sephora App for Virtual Try On

Sephora offers a similar virtual try-on experience with their app. Using your selfie camera within the app you can see what different makeup products would look like on you, save photos, and compare photos. And of course it is easy to add the products you try on to your shopping cart.

Digital Marketing Agency Testimony

As a digital marketing agency Big Leap has witnessed augmented reality change marketing and the customer experience. For example Bullfrog Spas, a hot tub company, utilizes a virtual reality experience in their showroom—so customers can customize and “test drive” their spa, where most spa purchase experiences rely on a take our word for it and test it at home mentality.


Voice Search

Browsing was the main form of search in the early mainstream desktop years of the internet. However, today with the prominence of mobile devices and smart speakers voice search is becoming more and more common.

 Mr. Forrester predicts that by Fall 2019 70-80% of consumers in the US will have a smart speaker in their home, and most American households already own multiple mobile devices. Forrester explained that these voice activated devices are a channel for new consumer actions. Decreasing the willingness to research, and increasing the expectation for instant answers.

Artificial Intelligence 

Forrester also presented some examples of artificial intelligence including the following three:

  1. Benjamin the AI who directed the SciFi short film “Zone Out” 
  2. ByeByeCamera app, a visual AI that removes unwanted people from the background of photos 
  3. Tay, an AI chatbot created by Microsoft that learned from chatting with people

Each of these examples learns from information it is fed. As described by Forrester artificial intelligence can do remarkable things and is becoming more powerful everyday, despite some humorous flaws. For example, Tay the chatbot was taken offline after one day, because she learned from conversation, and some bad people taught her to be very lewd and racist.

SEO/Marketing Impact

So machine learning is changing the digital landscape, but how does that affect marketing?

Here’s how:

  1. The Evolution of the SERP
  2. Mobile-First Index

The Evolution of the SERP

Machine learning is utilized by many search engines and as a result we can see machine learning evolving the SERP to provide the most information to users with as little navigation or digging as possible. With the image evolution shown below, Forrester explained how in the past 20 years the SERP has displayed fewer and fewer blue links, and more prominent answers including rich features like product reviews and prices, “people also ask” results,  answer boxes, and other featured snippets.

duane forrester recap image 2

Mobile-First Index

The evolving search landscape is highly impacted by the adoption of and now commonplace use of mobile devices. In fact, mobile device searches are so common that in the past year Google revised their search engine algorithm from preferencing desktop-catered sites to first judging the mobile performance of a site (AKA, the mobile-first index). This means that to be successful in organic search today, it is essential to have a mobile-friendly site.

If you want to learn how to optimize your site for mobile-first indexing try out these 7 SEO Tips.


How to Market Successfully in a World of Machine Learning

  1. Understand the Customer Journey
  2. Address Questions and Provide Answers
    1. Build Your Knowledge Graph
    2. Answer Questions About Yourself
    3. Answer Questions Everywhere

Understand the Customer Journey 

Forrester described how the evolution from dominant desktop use to constant mobile device use has transformed the customer journey. In the early days of the internet people would log online and spend a lot of time browsing, or doing research. But today we have access to numerous networks that provide quick answers.

duane forrester recap image 3

Address Questions and Provide Answers

Forrester emphasized that, “the customer journey starts with a question … [and] you risk losing customers if you’re not answers-ready.” He went on to explain that being answers-ready is essential to being included in the customer's journey because that is how you will fit into their story. And because customers aren’t just browsing, but asking questions on a variety of devices and platforms, your goal as a business should be to, “deliver verified answers everywhere consumers search.” You tell them what the want to know. You tell them how to go where they want to go. You tell them how to do what they want to do. You present them your product when they want to buy and more.

He also encouraged the advantages of targeting questions over keywords, because questions convert, while keywords are just words. See image below.

duane forrester recap image 4

Do you have a chatbot on your site?

Chatbots can be a great source of content, because consumers tell you what they are looking for, or what their intent is.

So how do you become answers-ready? Mr. Forrester presented the following 3 steps.

duane forrester recap image 5

First, Build Your Knowledge Graph

Forrester explained that a knowledge graph is a collection of all the components that make your brand. He said consumers today make purchase decisions by the philanthropy of the brand, so they need to know who you are.

He also taught that search is a game of the least imperfect, so you need to make sure there aren’t holes in your brand image. People want details like ratings, geo-based criteria, testimonials, etc.

When you claim and manage your brand footprint, customers will be able to clearly differentiate who/what you are.

duane forrester recap image 6

Second, Answer Questions Yourself

Forrester then explained that some answers are just information, with no impact on conversion. But sometimes the answer presents information that persuades people to a different decision (e.g. better rates, etc.). By providing positive information about yourself, by answering common questions, you can present your business in a good light to customers. 

Third, Answer Questions Everywhere

Lastly, Forrester taught that you should talk about your brand and answer questions EVERYWHERE. If you don’t, someone else will and they might not be providing the answers you would want customers to know.

Checkout the image below for ideas of a few touchpoints where customers might be looking up your business—and where you should be talking about your business.

duane forrester recap image 7







Topics: digital marketing utah Event Recaps strategy artificial intelligence DMC machine learning