No matter what field you’re in, people are always going to be out looking for “the next big thing.” Understandably, your organization is going to want to be on top of the next technological development that shifts the paradigm. However, unless your name is Nostradamus, predicting the future can be difficult. Robert Metcalfe, the man who invented Ethernet, prognosticated in a 1995 Infoworld article that “the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.” The point is that trying to predict the next big thing, while worthwhile, is difficult. No one can 100 percent tell what’s going to happen in the next year, month or even week, especially in Marketing Technology.
There are a handful of ascendant technologies that could all easily shift the way we look at marketing in the next five years, but telling with certainty which will bring the biggest change is next to impossible. Instead, here’s a look at some of the contenders for that title.
Augmented and Virtual Reality
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are changing the game across the board when it comes to multimedia content. And to give that statement some better context, the economic impact of this technology is projected to be somewhere in the ballpark of $29.5 billion by the end of 2020. Laying the groundwork for the rest of the conversation, we have to establish the distinction between VR and AR. Putting it simply, VR immerses the user in a fully realized three-dimensional virtual world. AR takes a camera image of the world around us, and augments it with digital creatures, like the popular app Pokemon Go. Though they differ in the details, the long and short is that both platforms bring users into a much more personal experience with the content they’re consuming.
And although it’s very focused on gaming and storytelling at the moment, the VR and AR platforms are just too rich an opportunity for the modern marketer to pass up on. A study by YuMe suggests that the earlier your brand gets on the AR/VR train the better. 51 percent of users reported that brands currently using the platform are perceived as innovative and 60 percent of users reported a more positive image after interaction with the brand in this way.
For a prime example of bringing the public closer to their products, look no further than hardware store Lowe’s integration of How-To Holorooms. This VR experience, located in-store, allows customers to get a feel for the home improvement endeavor they’re about to embark on, and shows them what tools they need to purchase to get the job done.
Social Media Automation
In the last ten years social media interaction has gone from nonexistent to a cornerstone of successful digital marketing. Social media gives your brand a face that consumers can interact with and can be integral in creating a positive relationship. Fast food chain Wendy’s famously used their Twitter account last year to great success with cheeky, lighthearted interactions with the public. However, managing social platforms can be time consuming, especially for larger brands with followers numbering in the millions.
You can’t automate the type of personality a brand like Wendy’s cultivated, but some of the more mundane tasks of maintaining an online presence like generating an audience and liking posts can be. Certain providers specialize in social optimization and automation. SocialDrift, for example is an Instagram tool designed to automate likes, follows, and comments. By automating certain aspects of social media growth, not only does your marketing team have extra time to generate more engaging content for those platforms, but the solution will also help your brand following grow organically with minimal human input.
Voice Integrated Software
Having a computer being able to recognize your voice is probably something we take for granted with things like Siri and Alexa in the zeitgeist. But widespread voice integration is just on the horizon, and it has big implications for marketing.
Natural language processing (NPL) refers to an AI’s ability to comprehend language on a deep level on-par with human understanding. Currently, marketers can use NPL on the written word to conduct sentiment analyses on general public opinion. But looking ahead, marketers may integrate this technology as a way to interface more directly with their software and as ways to help them reach a wider base. A study shows that consumers are more likely to use voice interaction than texting/swiping as it feels more personal and involves them more in the search process, so it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
Listing AI on this list is cheating in some respects. Cheating in that most of the technologies we’ve gone over so far are actually AI powered. We’ve previously discussed the benefits of artificial intelligence in marketing automation, as well as some of the vendors using AI in unique new ways. Chatbots, customer insights, and streamlining the data collection process are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what AI will be able to do in five years time. Providers are pushing the boundaries in terms of what can be done with AI in a marketing space, and Gartner recently named a few of the vendors doing particularly cool things with them.
Like we discussed in the opening to this piece, predicting market trends with 100 percent accuracy is something you can only do with a crystal ball. And since mine is unfortunately in the shop right now, all we can hope for is to just make educated guesses rooted in what we know about the market and what’s going on now. But no matter what happens, the technologies we went over here are definitely worthy of your attention moving forward. Even if they’re not the next big thing, they’ll certainly give a strong showing for that title.