3% of marketing executives see AI or a technology dependent on AI as critical to the future of marketing.
20% think that bots, chatbots, or smart assistants are core.
And 63.5% believe that big data will (finally) be transformative for marketers.
“AI and machine learning will have the most profound impact on marketing because it will fundamentally make ‘marketing’ more human,” Altimeter principal analyst Brian Solis told me. “Which is ironic in and of itself.”
I surveyed, spoke to, and questioned 350 marketing leaders, CMOs, influencers, and experts to hear their predictions for the top ten tranformative technologies in marketing in 2018. That includes top executives from Salesforce, SAP, Dun & Bradstreet, and Microsoft.
Most think that technology will enable better brand-customer communication.
“As artificial intelligence and machine learning continues to make their way into marketing automation in 2018, individualization will become the new personalization,” says Michelle Huff, CMO of Act-On Software.
Here are the top 10 technologies the 350 experts I surved said would be most transformative in the coming year:
- Artificial intelligence
- Big data(especially when used for personalization)
- Augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality(some are now referring to this as XR: extended reality)
- Bots, chatbots, and messaging
- Mobile(especially when using geolocation technologies)
- Voice-first computing(voice search, smart assistants, voice-based commerce, voice-first interfaces)
- Blockchain and cryptocurrencies
- Messaging and brand(in other words, no technology at all)
- Performance marketing(data-driven, ROI-focused marketing)
- Customer databases(data management platforms or data lakes)
Clearly, AI is the big winner.
AI + data = 2018 marketing success
Bots and chatbots, for instance, require AI to be more than a structured set of if/then statements, and to do more than answer the basics that they’re pre-programmed with. Voice-first computing requires AI for its very existence: almost all natural-language processing (NLP) gains in the past decade have been due to smart systems that learn languages thanks to massive data sets of text and speech.
And big data — especially when used for personalization — gets a lot more usable, not to mention smarter, with the application of machine learning and/or deep learning.
“AI enables brands to differentiate by delighting customers in a more personalized and timely manner as it bolsters existing marketing automation capabilities at scale,” Mika Yamamoto, chief digital marketing officer at SAP, told me.
“The nexus of big data analytics and the various forms of AI, including predictive analytics, machine learning and deep learning, underpin well-informed and efficient customer interactions that benefit both customers and businesses,” echoes Wilson Raj, the global director of customer intelligence for SAS.
Add it up, and marketers smell dollars.
Bots + assistants + AI = new means of commerce
Marketers see bots and assistants as transformative technologies that could either connect brands and customers closer, in real time, or — in some cases — actually completely disintermediate the companies who make products from the people who consume them.
Jeremiah Owyang, principal analyst at Kaleido Insights, sees marketers finding ways to use these technologies to connect with customers.
“Smart voice systems [will] enable marketers to connect to customers from anywhere: Car, kitchen, the bedroom, and on the go,” Owyang says. “Interfaces aren’t as relevant as we can now interact with audio.”
“Post-app technologies will disintermediate marketers,” Wester told me. “What happens to CPG marketing when we’re ordering detergent by merely saying, “Alexa, get me more laundry soap?”
Terry Jones, who founded Travelocity and Kayak.com, and currently leads WayBlazer, has a different take.
“Text and voice driven bots will be used by brands on websites, apps, and social platforms to deliver highly relevant, 24/7 assistance for FAQs as well as shopping decisions,” he said.
There is a point of differentiation there, of course.
Voice assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, and Cortana are fundamentally different than bots and chatbots employed by brands for customer service via Facebook Messenger, SMS, Viber, or another messaging platform.
Alexa has the potential to encapsulate huge amounts of commerce into the Amazon ecosystem — especially as Amazon sells huge numbers of Echo devices. With Google Assistant and Siri, voice-based and commerce-enabled assistants have the potential to mediate most of the $57 trillion of consumer spend in the US alone.
“Consumers want to chat with businesses on their phones and are becoming more and more open to live chat systems and messaging bots,” says Allie Tretreault, a content strategist for Toast.
This might even be a stealth advantage for small businesses.
“It might not be the sexiest tech when AI and VR flood the media, but small businesses are flocking to mobile messaging in droves,” says Kenneth Burke, marketing director for TextRequest. “They’re texting and messaging to gain leads, follow up on sales, promote events, share info, get reviews, provide better customer service, and even chat with customers the same way friends do.”
AI is the engine, but data is the fuel
Artificial intelligence is great, but it’s artificial. In other words, it needs to be constructed … and big data fuels that process.
It’s about time for big data to prove its worth, says Adnan Mahmud of LiveStories. We’ve barely scratched the surface of its potential impact, but AI will help unlock its true value.
The same is true for the majority of the sexy new technologies marketers continue to drool over, says Ray Walia, CEO of Launch Academy.
“AI, Blockchain, and AR are all tools to achieve desired outcomes but require data to do so,” he said. “You are going to see more marketing teams start to dive in to data and start making data driven decisions on what their customers and users want just like Amazon and Netflix do.”
Extended realities: AR, VR, and MR
Marketers will get very high-tech in 2018, many believe. But it won’t all be helpful.
Retail will be most affected, according to some.
In 2018, we’ll see tech that will allow for complete and seamless retail fulfillment via mobile augmented reality, says Irena Cronin, who leads research at Transformation Group.
One of the key reseaons? Silicon Valley, of course.
“I believe it’s not the technology but the brands/companies pushing the markets into certain directions and at this point companies like Facebook and Apple are pushing people more into AR,” says Sherif Kozman, CEO of ExtremeSolution. “This can have a lot of impact on brands and marketing in general, especially with empowering platforms such as the iPhone with native AR, and Facebook with AR studio and the Camera platform.”
Naturally, a post on top technologies for 2018 would not be complete without the breakout stories of tech in 2017: blockchain and cryptocurrencies.
Many believe blockchain will change everything … or at least advertising.
“Advertising is full of waste, fraud and other externalities. One externality is that people’s privacy is being stolen and money is made selling that to advertisers,” says Miko Matsumura, the founder of Evercoin. “By introducing blockchain technologies, users can control their data, while advertisers can get a more reliable product.”
Hermione Way, a Silicon Valley icon, influencer, and advisor, says blockchain is the future. Joel Comm, another uber-influencer in the marketing and sales spaces, echoes the sentiment.
Julie Albright, an academic at USC who frequently consults with top-level Silicon Valley and global tech leaders, has a slightly different take:
“I think the important emerging technology for marketing in 2018 will be the blockchain browsers – which are still in their early stage, like Metamask,” she told me. “These will form a bridge from the Internet to the blockchain, enabling an entirely new market ecosystem to be accessed by consumers.”
And some see cryptocurrencies coming into their own in 2018.
While today it’s challenging to buy anything with Bitcoin thanks to rapid price fluctuation — is the price $37 or $32 or $45 — and high transaction costs, some tech leaders see these challenges being solved in the near future.
“With Bitcoin going mainstream, e-commerce sites will want to quickly jump on board,” says Adryenn Ashley, CEO of Loly. “Instead of spending years coding their own solution, I predict they will adopt Wampum Register to be able to take bitcoin transactions in person and online. It’s a game changer for any business that wants to cut their credit card transaction fees and move boldly into the future of crypto.”
Sometimes it’s not the big things
Many marketers, however, point away from the hot technologies of the moment. Instead, they point to brand story, or marketing team organization and structure.
“Instead of a single technology, marketing will focus on evolving team capabilities and redesigning processes and organizational structures to take advantage of the rapid evolution of technology and data in marketing,” says Rishi Dave, the CMO of Dun & Bradstreet.
Anna Winterstein, CMO of the Europe-based Smarter Time, thinks the story, the brand, and the messages marketers craft are key, especially in an era with an increase emphasis on privacy.
“In the current context where individual privacy concerns are coming back with a vengeance (see GDPR, private browsers, etc), there will be a technology shift whereby personal data becomes more protected, and its uses less mercenary,” Winterstein told me. “Marketing might have to learn to do without that crutch. We have been so sure in the knowledge that our campaigns would fall on interested ears – we’ll have to go back to the basics and make sure the marketing messages we craft are actually in the general interest of the public.”
Most marketers believe that technology is central to marketing in 2018.
But not all agree.
“I fundamentally believe the constant chase for the latest tech trend gets in the way of building a strong brand,” Gartner senior analyst Augie Ray told me. “I think smart brands will be doing a better job of using their Voice-of Customer and customer insight to understand what drives customers’ satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy. I don’t know that many brands will do this, but I think it’s the thing that can drive the best strategies toward long-term brand health.”
It’s hard to argue with that philosophy.
But it’s also hard to argue that marketers aren’t achieving incredible results with the smart, judicious, and measured application of the right technologies.
This article was originally posted on – https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnkoetsier/2017/12/15/top-10-most-transformative-technologies-for-marketing-in-2018-350-cmos-ceos-experts-speak/#33003bc9564d