Marketing and technology have been converging over recent years. There is no question that marketing tools are more effective and have a wide scope of application than they ever did in the past.
But, with the greater ubiquity of marketing technology comes more competition. It is now easier for anyone to use marketing technology, whose access was hitherto more difficult due to cost and a steep learning curve. This widespread use of MarTech has also had the unintended consequence of leaving customers feeling wearied from being bombarded with too many marketing messages.
Be that as it may, MarTech will continue to grow and be adopted widely. Anyone in the digital marketing industry deals with MarTech on a daily basis whether they know it or not.
The following are some of the major trends that you want to keep yourself regularly apprised of in 2018.
1. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning
One of the biggest MarTech developments in the area of artificial intelligence and machine learning is programmatic advertising. Programmatic advertising refers to the use of an AI algorithm to buy and sell advertising space in real time. Buying, placement, and optimization of media inventory is all automated. The result is better, faster and more informed decision making.
AI algorithms are improving by leaps and bounds. For example, machine managed hedge funds are now a reality. Aidyia, a Hong Kong firm, has built a complex AI system to trade equities. The system makes use of data it collects from markets around the world and uses this data to make predictions on price and market trends. On its first day of trading, the system posted a 2 percent return. One of its uncanny features includes being able to read and understand news in multiple languages, zero in on obscure patterns and analyze gigabytes of economic data from all over the world - all in real time.
Another area where AI is impacting in a big way is the search industry. Google’s RankBrain is already able to decipher user intent using the search terms entered, location, search history and other factors to deliver the most accurate result. Marketers must now optimize their content for semantic and voice searches and this is just the tip of the iceberg as businesses adapt to AI and machine learning. Voice assistants like Google Assistant and Siri are going to get much smarter in the coming months.
2. Ad Blocking
When webmasters, whose sole bread and butter are monetized websites, hear the words "ad-blocker" mentioned, they get a bitter taste in the mouth. The pure unadulterated hate for the creators of ad blockers in understandable. How are webmasters supposed to make money without advertising? Creating content, and great content for that matter takes time and money. Yet, it appears the ad block creators and their users seem to think they should access content free of cost. It's completely unreasonable from a webmaster's point of view.
But, the converse argument is that ads create a bad user experience and in some cases even lead to a high bounce rate. Especially, the type of ads that keep popping up when you are trying to read content or watch a video.
There is a great online battle going on currently between ad block makers and publishers. Almost all major browsers now have an ad block option that can be activated in the Settings. What’s even more worrying is that the uptake of ad blocking software is highest among young people. One study conducted in 2016 found that 20 percent of 16 to 24-year-olds use ad blockers. Many publishers are retaliating by making their content unavailable once they detect the user has an ad blocker or forcing users to whitelist their sites.
It’s a grey area morally and the debate doesn’t seem like it will end anytime soon. Point is, this is going to affect marketers who rely on online ads to spread their message and move people into their sales funnel. If their ads aren’t being seen, it calls for a serious change in their digital marketing strategy.
3. Increased Tracking and Greater Personalization
Big data refers to the growing tsunami of data emanating from the multitude of Internet-enabled devices. MarTech is now able to analyze this raw and unstructured data to create personalized content and ads. Users who aren't aware of this development will tell you they have experienced some weird stuff happening on Facebook. It almost appears like Facebook is reading your mind. You think of something, say sneakers, suits or a particular type of car. You just think it in your mind. You don't type it, you don’t search for it...you just think of it. Then the moment you log into Facebook, the first ads you'll see is what you were thinking of... sounds creepy, doesn’t it?
The reality is that Facebook isn’t telepathic and they aren’t using some kind of magic or voodoo to do this, they are simply able to access your search history, likes and general behavior across all the devices you use to connect to the Internet. With this information, their algorithm is able to accurately guess what kind of content and ads you want to see. Google is doing the same as are all other ad platforms.
For marketers, big data is the key to customer satisfaction, it connects daily life with customer desire and allows you to better understand your customers, make accurate predictions about what they want and adapt quickly to satisfy them.
4. Greater Privacy Concerns
As expected, the increased focus on big data and how it is used in marketing has invariably led to greater privacy concerns. Governments around the world are already fueling the debate with new laws in the works that stipulate what information can be stored and shared.
The potential impact of these new laws in the pipeline is that new marketing technology may be rendered obsolete if new laws prohibit its use. Unfortunately, it is hard for marketers to predict and prepare for such eventualities. The best thing to do is to keep yourself regularly apprised of any legal developments in your region of operation.
5. Chatbots and Automation
Finally, one of the trends to watch is the way brands are using chatbots and marketing automation. Facebook is the trailblazer in this regard. Using their Wit.ai engine, they are helping companies to create bots that chat with customers like real humans. This has been invaluable to customer service because people expect a near instant reply when they engage a business online. Chatbots have made this possible, especially where the queries being put out are uncomplicated.
And, customer service isn't the only place chatbots are being deployed in marketing. For example, many businesses are now building universal self-learning chatbots which can interact with users automatically and which sit on the top layer of ERP solutions. Take the example of a data analyst in a bank who has been tasked by the sales department to generate new leads from existing customers with average balances over $5,000 in order to cross-sell a new product. Interacting with an ERP chatbot, the conversation might likely proceed as follows:
User: How can I retrieve a list of customers whose average balance is above $5,000?
Chatbot: What information do you need for each customer?
User: First name, last name, and average balance.
Chatbot: Do you want to schedule retrieval of this information?
Chatbot: Ok, here are the instructions. Step 1, Step 2, Step 3 …
Such an intelligent chatbot would essentially ask questions until it is able to retrieve information that is relevant to the user’s specific needs.
As with any technology, it’s best to be an early adopter. Being among the first to adopt any new technology gives you a considerable advantage over your competition especially if the technology goes into widespread use. Become an expert in some of these emerging trends and ensure you are always in the loop of any new developments. And, don’t forget to check out our lead generation app GetProfiles, the best tool to automate your list building.
Do you know of any other MarTech trends? Please share with us in the comments below.