Let’s start with some stats that highlight where the world is at, digitally:
- 93% of marketers use social media for business.
- Over 2.5 million emails are sent every second of the day.
- The world’s biggest retailer (Amazon) went without a brick-and-mortar stores until the past year.
- Cell phones have become the platform on which 84% of South Africans access the internet (Effective Measure: 2016).
What’s even more amazing about these stats is that none of these would have even been comprehendible as little as 20 years ago – that’s just two decades. Although that was disruptive, I believe that what we have in-store is even more so, and it’s coming a lot sooner.
As Tim O’Reilly stated: “What new technology does is create new opportunities to do a job that customers want done”. This is particularly true for the effect that new digital experiences will have on marketing campaigns. However, it is important to note that with every opportunity, there is an opposing obstacle.
The top 3 channels where marketers believe their customers will experience their marketing efforts by 2020 are:
It seems a bit short-sighted, but let’s look at the top design-experience trends identified below, and see if they can integrate into the 3 channels outlined by marketers.
#1. IMMERSIVE MARKETING EXPERIENCES
In the past couple of years, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) have become a hot topic, with everybody having an opinion on what will happen and whether this technology will realistically be adopted by the mainstream market. This is how I see it rolling out:
AR: We had a sneak peek of the potential that is AR when Pokemon Go (an augmented reality mobile game) was released in 2016 and the world went crazy for it. Besides that, everyday implementation has been low. However, this should change with Microsoft being at the forefront with their ‘HoloLens’ tech and Apple rumoured to be introducing AR in the next iPhone(Apple: 2017).
VR: Introduced to the mainstream market by the Google Cardboard headset and closely followed by the Samsung Oculus, these headsets required VR capable phones and, thus, only served as a talking point. I believe the industries that will benefit most are the gaming, travel and real-estate markets that are being supported by more premium, immersive devices such as Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and the Play Station 4 Headset.
#2. WEARABLE SMART DEVICES
As it stands, wearable devices haven’t exactly taken off – apart from fitness trackers such as Jawbone, Fitbit and Garmin. The reason for the slow adoption could be the current impracticality of the devices on the market. Personally, I don’t want to have to charge my watch every second day – I want to wake-up, put it on and be able to tell the time.
However, as the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to become a reality, wearable tech will become more necessary, more important and more invasive. I mean, companies are already inserting chips and tags into employee’s hands. These devices will allow humans to interact and “communicate” with technology, which will not only make our lives easier but will create a lot of real-world data available for the companies you’re connected to. A simple example would be the relationship between your fridge, your favourite online supermarket and your daily habits tracked by your device: detecting that you are running out of milk for your morning coffee, and being able to automatically order more – which will be delivered to your house via drone.
#3. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE & AUTONOMOUS AGENTS
Arguably the most contentious topic on this list at the moment. The opinion on Artificial intelligence (AI) seems to be split amongst the world’s tech giants, with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Tesla’s Elon Musk getting into a social media-based argument regarding the potential dangers of AI in July, 2017.
It’s speculated that the sales of cognitive platforms will exceed R140 billion a year by 2020. AI does present a new way for marketers to connect with their target audience. This is how two top brands are making use of AI in their marketing:
Google is using RankBrain to deliver a more accurate experience for users by interpreting voice searches.
UnderArmour combines IBM’s ‘Watson’ AI with third party data to create personalised training programs.
Currently, the 3 most popular AI solutions are:
- Voice recognition and response solutions (e.g. Siri on iPhone)
- Machine-learning (e.g. recommendations on Netflix)
- Virtual personal assistants (e.g. Jarvis from Iron Man)
#4. OMNI-CHANNEL INTEGRATION
Defined as: a multi-channel approach to sales that allows consumers to switch seamlessly between online shopping from a desktop, mobile or even a physical store.
Due to millennials using multiple screens and media channels at any given moment, the expectation for a seamless journey between touchpoints has increased significantly. Even now, marketers are still using a silo-based contact model that assumes consumers follow a specific journey to purchase, AKA the “Sales Funnel”. This is not true, millennials are erratic in their buying behaviour and hold brands to an extremely high standard across the board.
According to Zendesk: “64% of customers expect to receive real-time assistance regardless of the customer service channel they use”.
3 tips to go omni-channel:
- Break down silos and share data throughout the organisation.
- Collect more quality data from your consumers; Lotame suggests combining 1st and 3rd Party data.
- Map out a detailed user journey that you can match to buyer personas.
Although it’s safe to assume that all this technology will be readily available for marketers to use within the next few years – implementation at a marketing level is going to be the biggest challenge. For these design experiences to work as intended, every single department, person and link in the marketing chain will need to be on the same page. As it currently stands – traditional agencies, digital agencies and experiential agencies all work from the same brief provided by a strategist but none of them have ever met. Thus, the entire campaign has a silo effect already.
The technology needs to be embraced, but it isn’t going to automatically correct everything. There is still a crucial space for human intervention.