Though every industry has to be reactive to technological change, perhaps none does more than marketing. A key part of engaging and sustaining an audience is to follow that audience from channel to channel, tracking and predicting behavior to make sure you're telling the right stories, in the right places. This makes a modern marketer's life hectic; consumer behavior has never developed more rapidly and new technology has never been released with such regularity. Marketing can feel like spinning plates, and deciding where to allocate resources in a constantly shifting landscape is a difficult skill.
This is not to say that marketers shouldn't always have one eye on the future, though. There are a number of emerging technologies taking shape that could impact not just marketing but consumer behavior more widely, and ignoring them could put brands on the back foot before the tech even takes hold. We used our own insight, and spoke to industry professionals, to select four technology trends that all digital marketing teams should be aware of going forward.
Augmented reality (AR) is very much a technology that is yet to properly take shape, but already the potential opportunities for marketing are extensive. Simply put, AR gives brands the opportunity to overlay their digital message onto users' physical reality - what this will mean in practice as more marketers experiment with AR remains to be seen. AR is expected to record more spending that virtual reality (VR) by 2022, and the popularity of apps that champion it would suggest it could be a bigger success.
The potential significance of AR for marketers was highlighted by Sipra Thakur, Former Head of Digital at IMAX. “AR is at our fingertips already because of Snapchat and Pokémon Go, and a greater portion of the population are familiar with it in everyday life from this (as opposed to VR where the average consumer still needs a tutorial on its use). Pokémon Go was a seemingly overnight success, and because of that, its full capabilities weren’t necessarily planned out—like monetization strategies and driving impressions for products/businesses. As AR continues to proliferate, it opens up great opportunities for marketers to integrate the technology to reach customers in unique ways.”
Using AR, customers could manipulate 3D renderings of products without having to leave their home, try on accessories using only a phone camera, or virtually see how a piece of furniture would look in their home. AR spending is on the rise and platforms as huge as Facebook's Messenger are open to hosting the tech - AR is definitely one to watch.
The scope of potential for the internet of things (IoT) is so vast that there is just about no industry it won’t touch. We are a long way from the connected, smart cities and homes of the future, though, and adoption of the IoT will be gradual. Having said that, it is part of a marketer’s job to stay ahead of the curve and to anticipate changes in consumer behavior before they occur. And the opportunities the IoT could present to digital marketing are mind-blowing.
When asked what she saw as the most important technological trend in digital marketing, Samantha Fay, SVP of Global Brand Strategy at Guinness World Records, said: “I think the merging of voice and visual is interesting. Voice alone didn’t seem like much of a game changer but coupled with visual so that you’re not asking your Alexa black box but your television instead could be quite powerful.” Amazon's Alexa is an early example of what the connected home can offer, and marketers are already racing to reach its rapidly growng audience. As more home appliances become part of the connected ecosystem, opportunities for marketing with IoT diversify, and all digital marketers should be keeping an eye on the adoption of the tech and seeing if their brand has a place within it.
Where high-quality video content once required expensive equipment to put together, every smartphone user now has that tech in the palm of their hand. Development in consumer technology has made it easy for users to produce content on the fly, and algorithmic changes to Facebook’s news feed have reflected this by giving preference to content created by users, rather than brands. Brands should view this as an opportunity to embrace a higher volume of more diverse content, rather than a threat to their own screen time. Samantha Fay detailed how the Guinness World Records is embracing high-quality user-generated content.
“The democratization of tech is another really important aspect,” Samantha said. “We’ve seen a huge increase in the quality of user-generated content from our record holders over the last few years. They now utilize now far more affordable technology like drone cameras, Go Pro footage, 360 video, Osmo steadicams, and of course, are able to produce far more high definition content. We’re looking forward to seeing previously expensive kit becoming cheaper for consumers over time and enabling anyone to capture TV quality footage of their record attempts. The ability to capture 4K quality footage on phones is becoming more prevalent too.”
How brands can make the best of the proliferation of quality user-generated content will be a challenge for marketers going forward, but the ones that get it right could find themselves with a community of content producers bolstering the brand’s output and strengthening its message.
(Image courtesy of smartinsights.com)
Developing CRM systems
The fundamental role of CRM software is to facilitate an all-encompassing business strategy; one that uses multiple software products to drive sales, nurture relationships, and manage the entire customer journey across a business. Far more than simply acting as a log for customer information, CRM systems in 2018 are smart and developing software packages that can perform a variety of functions.
Su Jella, CRM & Digital Marketing Manager at Dulux, said: "CRM system capabilities have now been extended into various areas of marketing from data management, automation, machine learning and AI. These systems are now packed with technology that is consumer friendly and engages users with human interactions.
“When it comes to digital marketing, businesses around the world are still behind. According to Altimeter, only 35% of companies have mapped their customer journey in 2017. What’s happened to the other 65%? They haven’t even commenced their customer journey and with the changing dynamics of various digital systems, businesses are going to struggle to keep up with customers, competitors and technology demands, especially with the likes of AI and machine learning starting to dominate technology demands. The biggest disruptor is AI and being able to adapt it to business strategy and revenue outcomes.”
Parthiv Sheth, Senior Director of Marketing at Adobe, echoed the sentiment: "By and far AI will have the deepest and most lasting impact on digital marketing. AI has come of age from a couple of decades ago when it was something nerds like me toyed with in an academic laboratory (true story). The promise of AI is a huge game-changer and a welcome relief in dealing with content and data explosion while delivering ultra-personalized experiences to every customer, in every channel - instantaneously." And so, on top of scoping out new technologies, brands should be sure that they are making the most of existing in-house tech, and understand the capabilities of modern CRM software.