The Handy Vuzo Guide to Natural Language Processing

Written by Nikki Kettell

You might only have heard the phrase Natural Language Processing in passing, or being mentioned in meetings, but get ready to hear it more often, as it is here to stay. When it comes to data science, we are not always just about the numbers – natural language processing is a great tool for looking at words as well. eCommerce businesses and marketers are all becoming aware of the potential for this technology, and here at Vuzo we’ve long been promoting how it can help our clients, so we have put together this Handy Vuzo Guide to help you get to grips with this concept and its various uses.

First things first, what is Natural Language Processing?

Natural language processing (NLP) refers to the branch of computer science/AI that works to give computers the ability to understand text and spoken words in much the same way human beings can.

NLP combines computational linguistics (rule-based modelling of human language) with statistical, machine learning, and deep learning models. Combined, this tech means computers can process human language in the form of text or voice data and ‘understand’ its full meaning, complete with the speaker or writer’s intent and sentiment.

How is NLP already being used?

While the terms AI and NLP might conjure images of futuristic robots, there are already basic examples of NLP at work in our daily lives, and you may even be using them. Some prominent examples include: 

  • Email Filters
    Yep, those easy filters that help you manage your mailbox are using NLP to determine where each email should be filed! By analysing parameters such as ‘to/from’ address and subject line, your email client can make short work of your packed inbox.
  • Smart Assistants
    Used to shouting OK Google to turn the music down, or asking Alexa to read you a bedtime story? You guessed it, NLP is in full force here analysing your commands to then deliver the most helpful response.
  • Search Results
    Have you noticed how search results are increasingly smart, and you can be as vague as you like and still return relevant results? NLP is at play to help understand sentiment, and determine what you meant by your search terms.
  • Predictive Text
    It might not always get it right (who is writing ‘duck’ quite that much…?!), but NLP is used to provide the predictive text responses that pop up on your mobile and online. For personal messaging, this can often be scarily accurate, and this is because the NLP has analysed your writing tone and style to better anticipate what might be coming next.
  • Data Analysis
    It might be the Vuzo team’s favourite use for NLP, and it can be a game changer when it comes to data analysis.

And what is next for this type of tech?

NLP is at the forefront of AI technology. Take Google’s recent updates to the type of content it will optimise for – Google wants content to be informative, to answer a question or query, and be helpful to their user base. This is also so it can feed more information to its Voice Search AI and continue to hone their offering, further proof that NLP is here to stay.

So, how can eCommerce businesses use NLP to drive marketing efforts?

One of the best uses for NLP is looking at your review data. Your reviews can provide a wealth of information, so much more than a Net Promoter Score (NPS) or whether your customers are happy or upset with you. Are you sure you know what parts of your service your Customers are especially impressed with or what could be improved upon?

Taking this a step further, you can use the learnings from your reviews to inform your marketing strategy. By taking the language customers are using into consideration when creating ad copy and landing page content, you can directly reflect what they are looking for and use it to differentiate yourself from the competition. Here at Vuzo we have developed ReviewLab, which is a great tool that helps you understand the trends for your reviews and those of your competitors.

By looking through the review data of your primary competitor, we might find their Cardiff customers are especially annoyed at their delivery service, and this means we can customise some ads within some postcodes of shoppers looking for what you’re selling, with a great delivery service. This is the level of detail that isn’t usually possible to provide with traditional social listening services. 

By building this capability in your business to write authoritatively on topics and user problems in your industry, you’re strengthening your company’s resilience to changes in market conditions and customer trends. Build a solid foundation of expertise within the company, rather than rattling off hundreds of pages of outsourced ‘thin content’ which do little but frustrate users. 

At Vuzo we find that experienced staff members in our client companies actually enjoy the opportunity to strut their stuff and demonstrate their knowledge and experience by contributing to the company blog. Their skills can be appreciated by their peers and managers, as well as the public – and as long as the exercise is managed in a fair way, (don’t just dump all the content writing work on long-suffering Sally who has enough on her plate), then the results can come through consistently month after month, bringing plenty of free SERP visibility and well targeted traffic.

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