Coming from a tech background, I always ensure I’ve got my finger on the digital pulse when it comes to new and emerging technologies – especially the ones that have the potential to transform the marketing landscape. That’s why I keep a close eye on everything that comes out of the Gartner newsroom.
In July, Gartner released its Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2017. It’s basically an overview of every emerging technology currently on Gartner’s radar, and at what phase that technology is in its life-cycle: Innovation Trigger, Peak of Inflated Expectations, Trough of Disillusionment, Slope of Enlightenment or Plateau of Productivity.
This year, Gartner has identified three emerging technology megatrends that it believes are going to significantly impact the future of business: Artificial Intelligence (AI) everywhere, transparently immersive experiences, and digital platforms.
Here are my thoughts on how these three megatrends will influence the way we market going forward:
1. AI Everywhere
Gartner sees AI as a highly-disruptive technology and it’s not hard to see why. Some companies are already harnessing the power of AI in amazing and innovative ways.
For example, did you realize that there are online publications and sports recaps currently being written by AI, not humans? Other organizations are using AI to actually decide which of their sales opportunities are deemed worthy enough to justify a salesperson spending time on them.
But what about AI’s potential for marketing? It’s absolutely enormous!
As I already mentioned, some companies are already using AI to create content. And while it’s not at the stage where it can produce an engaging opinion piece or some industry-specific thought leadership articles, it can be used to create content focused on data-driven events, such as sports matches and financial reports.
Such a setup means companies can generate large volumes of data-driven content automatically, and will only need a human to check integrity and accuracy before submission. Not only does this enable companies to create large volumes of content quickly and efficiently, but also allows their marketing teams to focus more on other areas.
In fact, by 2018,Gartner predicts that, by 2018, 20% of all business content will be authored by machines.Click To Tweet
Closely linked to content creation is content curation, and that’s another area where AI can help businesses develop engaging and highly-relevant customer experiences.
For example, AI can help personalize website experiences based on an enormous number of data points – such as location, device, and demographics – and their previous spending/browsing habits.
So, if a website visitor regularly reads certain types of content or content focused on specific topics, the AI-based content curation system will be able to suggest other posts that are similar. Such solutions are particularly powerful for subscription services as they enable a more engaging and personalized experience to be afforded.
AI can also be utilized to uncover unusual website traffic patterns or changes in visitor numbers – information that can be vital to us as marketers. AI-based bots, such as Hunch, can monitor your website’s Google Analytics information and report back with any anomalies.
This enables businesses to address any potential problems and marketers to seize on any potential opportunities from in-depth customer insights.
For example, if a business website suddenly starts experiencing an increase in the number of visitors from X country, perhaps an X country-focused marketing campaign could generate extra leads and sales. In addition, country-specific products and services could be shown to certain visitors, while complementary purchases can be displayed based on a visitor’s previous spending habits.
Google, Apple, and Amazon have all developed their own voice solutions, all of which are revolutionizing how people conduct Internet searches on their mobile devices. These AI technologies have the power to change the SEO landscape – and, therefore, our marketing approaches – forever.
Cracking voice search and reaping the organic traffic rewards in the future will be pivotal for brands.
Some of the best marketing strategies businesses can benefit from are personal referrals and recommendations. Intelligent, AI-powered chatbots that mimic human interactions provide organizations with a powerful way to deal with customer queries at any time of the day or night.
This enables businesses to provide customers with a personalized and intelligent communication channel that could be just enough to encourage them to complete a purchase. Seamless experiences like this help strengthen brand loyalty and boost personal recommendations.
Customers love sales, but from a business point of view, they are not always good for the bottom line. Dynamic pricing, however – that utilizes AI – can serve up lower prices to certain website visitors based on their habits.
For example, an individual may repeatedly visit a company website and look at one or two products over and over again without making a purchase. This indicates that they are interested in the product, but not quite ready to pull the trigger on it.
With dynamic pricing, prices can be automatically adjusted to a level that remains profitable, but which may just encourage someone to make a purchase.
The AI solution will dynamically update prices to generate sales, yet keep prices constant for customers that do not need extra encouragement to buy – maximizing business profits.
2. Transparently Immersive Experiences
The transparently immersive experiences Gartner envisages being a megatrend are primarily driven by Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR).
Imagine being able to picture exactly how a new couch would look in your lounge without even needing to go to the department store.
Using AR technologies, retailers can create immersive experiences that enable their customers to overlay an image of a new couch atop a real-time camera capture of their lounge. Moving the camera would adjust where the couch is positioned, allowing the customer to see instantly how their potential purchase would look in their home.
The marketing potential for such immersive experiences is vast. But right now is the time that companies need to start harnessing such technologies.
At present, very few organizations are utilizing the power of VR and AR for marketing purposes. The ones that are already are reaping the rewards because these experiences stand out in their customers’ minds, generating lots of positive attention.
Just look at when Pokémon Go was first released. People (not just kids) were literally bumping into each other in real life while they were trying to catch virtual creatures. The craze generated enormous crowds at certain landmarks and people across the world knew about the Pokémon Go phenomenon.
Some businesses are already using VR and AR technologies to immerse their customers to a whole new level.
Coca-Cola, for example, leveraged the capabilities of the Oculus Rift VR headset to allow customers in Poland to become Santa Claus for a day. It was a far cry from the brand’s usual Christmas commercial and saw thousands of people embarking on a virtual sleigh ride.
Last year, fast food giant McDonalds released a Happy Meal box that kids could turn into a VR viewer. The Happy Goggles, as they are known, enabled children (and adults) to play a ski-themed game. The marketing campaign was designed to coincide with the Swedish “Sportlov” recreational holiday and is an excellent example of brands utilizing the engaging nature of VR technologies.
VR and AR apps and games are revolutionizing how customers interact with their favorite brands, and their popularity and prevalence is going to grow exponentially. They can be used across nearly every industry and their capabilities are only going to expand.
How about a virtual automobile showroom that allows customers to walk around, have a virtual cup of coffee while looking at the cars on display, before embarking on a virtual test drive – all without leaving the comfort of their homes.
3. Digital Platforms
Gartner has identified a number of technologies that it believes are pivotal for underpinning the digital platforms of tomorrow.
Here are the three that I think will have the most profound impact on marketing going forward:
With Google constantly striving to improve the user experience for its customers, we’ve witnessed a definitive shift to a mobile-first search index. And as mobile networks become faster, that shift is going to be solidified in the future.
Mobile marketing is often restricted by bandwidth speeds, but that’s something which could change this year. That’s because AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and other carriers will launch 5G mobile networks. These new networks will bring even faster speeds, providing marketers with the scope they need to create engaging and immersive experiences that are not hamstrung by bandwidth restrictions.
5G networks will dovetail beautifully with VR and AR technologies, enabling consumers to participate in immersive brand experiences even on the go.
The additional speed and capacity will allow organizations to create mobile experiences that are on a par, if not more advanced, than the ones currently available on home broadband connections.
Internet of Things (IoT)
The interconnectivity of billions of “things” using wireless communication technologies allows for the seamless and efficient sharing of data – a reality that boasts lots of potential for marketing departments.
One of the many advantages of the IoT for marketing is the capability possessed by many devices to recognize and report when they are nearing the end of their life.
Many smart-enabled products carry out regular maintenance and diagnostics on themselves, reporting any abnormalities back to whoever wants to hear about it.
The ability to show Internet users targeted ads based on an IoT device that’s recently malfunctioned is extremely powerful.
For example, even before the device has stopped working, targeted marketing campaigns could already be showing the device owner similar or newer alternatives. Then, when the device finally stops working, the individual already knows what replacements are available and where to purchase them.
Likewise, devices that are nearing the end of life could even trigger an automatic purchase request to be processed, which would see a replacement device arrive even before the old one has completely malfunctioned.
With the IoT, it’s all about the data – accurate, real-time, and tons of it.
In a nutshell, quantum computing will mean way more powerful computers – computers that can record and process unfathomable amounts of data and solve extremely complex problems. That means marketers will be in big data heaven.
But quantum computing isn’t just about big data.
Google has been utilizing the power of quantum computing for some time now to improve its search results.
The search engine giant’s machine learning technology, known as RankBrain, is undoubtedly the product of advances in quantum computing. One of its primary jobs is to sort through the billions of web pages that are out there, understand them, and then learn from them. This will enable Google to deliver even more accurate search results.
With Google investing so much in, and placing so much faith on, RankBrain, the importance for businesses of having web properties that are working for them has never been greater.
It won’t simply be enough to have a website or social media presence. Organizations will need to show their knowledge and experience of specific topics online. While this will require a renewed focus on content marketing and website optimization, the organizations that make these changes will reap the biggest rewards.
Detailed, in-depth website experiences that answer questions and provide useful information will not only keep people returning to your site but also help establish you as a thought leader in your field.