Reinforcement learning (RL) is an area of machine learning inspired by behaviorist psychology, concerned with how software agents ought to take actions in an environment so as to maximize some notion of cumulative reward -Wikipedia
Reinforcement Learning is one of the most important areas of Artificial Intelligence that has been successfully used to achieve super-human performance levels in several fields. It aims at finding a competitive strategy for taking the most suitable action in a given state by using an associated reward with every ‘action and state’ pair. It is based on the behavioral psychology where an organism tends to repeat those actions which lead to a positive reward and tries to avoid actions associated with punishment.
Hence, the organism can be trained to display desired behaviour by giving it an appropriate reward and punishment each time it takes an action. Similarly, in Artificial Intelligence, Reinforcement Learning is used to find an appropriate strategy in a given state by associating a reward with every action taken by the agent.
Formally, an agent observes a state and takes a certain action. Based on the current state and action taken, the environment provides a certain reward and changes the state of the agent. The agent uses reward as a guiding signal to learn the appropriate action in order to maximize the accumulated future rewards. One of the most successful applications is teaching a robot how to walk, how to play a game, etc.
The exact same concept can be used in marketing. Owing to recent advancements in algorithms/tools, marketers have moved beyond manually created rule-based systems to more sophisticated and automated systems. However, marketing is still not personalised enough at a 1:1 user level and relies heavily on aggregate behaviour.
With the introduction of RL, users’ specific behaviour can be learned over a period of time which will then lead to much sharpened personalised messaging. Brands can use this to get the order of channel/message for a user right, through which they can drive up marketing ROI significantly.
In my next article, lets discuss how Reinforcement Learning is implemented at a vertical level and some use cases.
Meanwhile, don’t hesitate to write back to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or thoughts you might have.