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Get to Know Semantic Understanding Technology

May 8, 2019 11:35:03 AM


This is the first part in a two-part series discussing the importance of semantic understanding technology. While this part covers the inception and current use of semantic technology, our second piece will explore the future of this innovation, and how its connection with additional technologies will further change how brands work with their audience.

Like many trends in the current Marketing Technology sphere, the terms "semantic understanding" or "semantic technology" get tossed around quite a bit even as many are unclear as to their specific meaning.

This is unfortunate because the potential of semantic technology is undeniably vast, and the innovators who are using it appropriately are crafting solutions capable of revolutionizing how brands across a number of industries serve their audiences.

Over the course of this brief series, we want to help you understand the nature and the potential of semantic technology so that, what once might have been a vague buzzword, is concretized. Once you understand semantic technology, you're in a prime position to better assess the technology and understand its predominant use cases.

What is Semantic Technology?

Put in the most basic terms, semantic technologies are solutions that are designed to help people and software communicate better together. Semantic Technology allows machines to better interpret and process the meaning of a piece of input beyond the literal, ensuring that these solutions understand the meaning of a text phrase, sentence, or query.

Take the following example: you and your friends want to find swim wear for the summer season. You type in "swim suits," while your friends enter "bathing attire," or "swim trunks," or "bathing suits." Despite the fact that each of these queries is technically different, semantic technology would allow a search engine to recognize that you all mean the same thing, and direct you all to the same relevant results.

As explained by Wikipedia, semantic technologies are "'meaning-centered,'" and--as such--they're solutions that excel at things such as categorization, meaning extraction, and the automated retrieval of information relating to ideas or subjects--even if those subjects are not explicitly requested.

As it stands today, one of the most effective uses of semantic understanding is by e-commerce retailers.

Considering our previous example, it's pretty clear why!

Semantic Technology Brings The Customer Service of a Brick and Mortar Store Directly to Your Desktop

I'm the kind of person who goes shopping for clothes, not entirely certain what I want. I might know what I need new jeans or a new jacket, but otherwise I tend to wander around until I find something that I like.

The last time I went shopping for dress pants, I felt disoriented almost immediately. The store and its selection was massive, and I soon had to track down an employee to help me out.

As I explained to him, I had put on weight over the winter, and I needed pants that were looser around the thigh. I was in luck, he assured me. They had a cut specific to that very need.

People are very good at understanding intent and translating between a shopper's request and the language of the retailer or manufacturer. 

If I had been shopping online, this might have been a much less successful adventure. Not knowing the name of the style I needed, I would have had to enter things like "dress pants loose thigh." With a query that vague, it would have taken me quite a while to find what I was directed to in 30 seconds by that clerk.

Unless the e-commerce brand was leveraging semantic understanding technology, that is.

Because we all shop at different places, we all describe our clothes in different ways. What is called a "slim fit" by one e-commerce brand might be a "1 MX" at another. As catalogs expand and brand keywords grow, it's more difficult for a shopper to describe exactly what they want in the specific terminology of a given brand.

Semantic technology, significantly lowers the chance of the misunderstandings that direct shoppers to the wrong items, or force them to spend exorbitant amounts of time scouring vast sites for just one type of item. It makes it easier for e-commerce sites to help you find what you were hoping to find, rather than what you literally searched for.


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Who Benefits and How?

When it comes to paid search and e-commerce, the application of semantic understanding technology benefits a wide range of individuals:

  • The Shopper: Semantic technology ensures that online shoppers are directed to the most relevant category pages, with a curated selection of products, whenever they enter a query into a search engine such as Google. They spend less time digging through items that are decidedly not what they need, and enjoy a shopping experience that feels catered to their specific intent.

  • The E-Commerce Brand: Happy customers means repeat business, and accurate results make for happier customers. Semantic understanding is one of the best ways to create a positive customer experience and build brand loyalty amongst shoppers.

  • Digital Agencies: While currently in use, semantic technology is by no means ubiquitous; and it's often surprising just how many organizations don't have access to it, or aren't aware of the benefits--including enhanced conversion rates on things such as paid search campaigns, and a distinct competitive advantage. Digital agencies who invest in semantic technologies are more likely to build their own client base, meeting essential needs that many businesses previously thought impossible to thoroughly address.

This is Just the Beginning


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Over the years, semantic technology has evolved in both complexity and scope; and it shows no signs of slowing down.

For e-commerce retailers, the agencies who serve them, and the folks who patronize them, semantic technology is providing untold benefits and much appreciated convenience. Trendy though it may seem, semantic understanding represents much more than a phase.

It's a whole future in the making.

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Michael Darer
Written by Michael Darer

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