There is perhaps no aspect of business more affected by the rapid wave of technological advancements than marketing – redefining the entire marketing industry, continually making it more data-driven, and making it requisite to keep up with in the competitors or risk getting left behind.
This also led marketing leaders to increasingly control a growing share of companies’ technology budgets. Some experts even predicted that in 2017, marketing decision makers will be spending more on technology than CIOs.
A big part of this shift is due to changing consumer behavior, who are leaning more and more towards either being influenced by, or influencing purchasing decisions – and sharing their brand experiences. This required marketers to invest in new platforms and tools that open multiple touch points throughout the buyer journey.
But while technological advancements in modern marketing, and the continually increasing availability of tools have restructured the practice, jumping into the latest trend is not always the answer to keep up to speed. Businesses still need to clearly define their objectives, thoughtfully scan the marketing technology landscape, and find the right tech that helps them achieve their goals.
How the game is changing
Marketing is becoming more and more data-driven – with the ability and opportunity to collect consumer information growing at every turn allowing brands to make changes and improvements intended to bolster the overall consumer experience.
From which content works, and which platform consumers enjoy it on most, to which services work, and how consumers avail of it – technology has empowered marketers with invaluable information that is mutually beneficial for businesses, and the overall customer experience.
But data collection and analytics is only part of the process. Apart from advancements in software development that allow for more seamless integration of marketing processes, there are also emerging technologies in how brands are able to relay their messaging.
Some of the technologies to keep an eye out for include:
With the amount of available data to collect and analyze, the available channels and platforms to publish content on, and the slew of other functions made requisite by modern marketing, the rise in marketing automation technology has become necessary for bigger companies to embrace.
From scheduling and syndication of social media posts, to writing content from scratch, and performing targeted email marketing, automation has provided practitioners a lifeline to prevent them from drowning in rudimentary tasks. Marketing automation has also allowed these functions to be performed in a more straightforward manner, and at more efficient cost.
Technological advancements have resulted in a vast ocean of available data potentially unveiling crucial insights about consumer behavior.
But having access to unthinkable amounts of data is one thing; interpreting them into information that would lead to better marketing campaigns – an altogether different world. This makes data visualization – a means of simplifying, presenting, and interpreting data – an integral aspect of analytics development.
From being the butt of internet jokes in 2011, AI assistants like Siri, Cortana, Alexa, and Bixby gradually became part of people’s daily lives. And the stats are there to back it up, and for marketers to fully take notice.
In 2017, it is estimated that 60.5 million Americans will use Siri, Cortana, or another virtual assistant at least once a month. The expectations are so high for the tech that large companies like Bank of America plan on introducing Erica – an AI assistant for its mobile app.
And, as with Amazon’s Alexa, AI assistants moved from strictly being used on mobile devices, to home-based ones.
The possibilities certainly seem infinite, when you think about how marketers can integrate their campaigns with AI technology, especially for customer service and personalization.
Google made headlines in 2015 when it announced the deployment of RankBrain – an algorithm that was designed to better understand the semantics of user search queries, and eventually produce more targeted results depending on the user’s perceived needs.
While that is incredible in itself, what makes the technology potentially landscaping tilting, is how it is a self-updating machine algorithm. This means that it is capable of gathering and interpreting information about its own functions, essentially allowing it to improve on its own over time.
Along with AI, machine learning has the potential to once again redefine how both professionals and consumers view and practice marketing as a whole.
The Internet of Things (IoT)
As previously stated, internet and AI-capable technology has quickly made its way from mobile to home-based devices. Android TVs and other smart appliances have brought the ability to manage people’s devices into one central system – and the opportunity to communicate with them, whichever device they may be using.
Advertising platforms have been continually evolving at breakneck speeds, changing almost as soon as marketers decide which ones to use. And with the IoT coming into the fray, businesses will have to be even more on their toes to keep with the changing times.
Virtual reality evolved from being just a ‘shiny new toy’ into an almost essential aspect of digital marketing. This is made possible by the growing availability of VR headsets and the efforts of WebVR to bring the Virtual Reality experience out of exclusive apps to internet browsers.
As stated by RedStag Fulfillment, Virtual Reality, for example, can transform an online shopping into an enriched, personal shopping experience — one that used to only be found in brick-and-mortar stores. This opportunity can vastly affect an ecommerce ROI with customers being able to try on and/or inspect the product virtually before making a purchase.
How to Find the Tech that Suits You
With the lightning speed development of available technologies, and the wealth of options to choose from, a different kind of challenge faces marketers – and that’s to discern which ones to take advantage of.
There’s also the matter of scale – not every available technology (however promising they may seem) is for the business of all types and sizes. From a cost and having the ample training for adoption, to organizational fit, and having the ability to manage and support the technology – there are a plethora of things to consider, which makes choosing the right tech a worthy challenge.
Here are some tips on how to choose the right technology:
1.Define your goals
Before you even begin to scan the tech landscape, you need to compile a list of your current and foreseeable business needs, and the possible solutions to address them.
You should answer the question on where this new tech could land within your marketing plan.
Also, consult with all the pertinent departments to align all concerns. While it would be impossible to find technological solutions that would address every need, connecting with key departments and stakeholders will allow you to define the direction you want your company move towards, and select the appropriate technology to help you get there.
2.New doesn’t always mean better
The amazing leaps that technology continues to make, coupled with the pressure to keep up with it, makes it tempting to immediately go with the hottest trend.
But there’s a reason why goals, strategy, and marketing focus need to be clearly defined and aligned – and that’s to avoid wasting valuable resources on a technology that does not address those objectives.
3.Consider the customer journey
The technological advancements have also meant that customers engage with your brand across multiple marketing channels. Today, consumers use an average of nearly six touchpoints (15 years ago, the average was two, with only seven percent using more than four). This means that you need to carefully consider technologies that would allow you to support customer interactions at virtually every point of the buyer journey.
The constant interaction throughout the customer journey not only gives you more chances to turn the lead into a sale; it also increases the volume of customer data that becomes available to you.
4.Understand your limitations
Of course, you could have clearly defined and aligned goals and strategies, and you may have an eye on a tech that supports the customer journey, but the reality is, there will still be a set of limitations that you have to carefully consider.
Apart from the obvious matter of having ample financial resources, you need to make sure that your company has the manpower and overall skill set to implement the necessary processes entailed by adopting a new technology. Also, consider organizational fit, and if the actual people using the technology can manage and support this new tech.
Understanding your limitations, allows you to avoid wasting valuable resources on the tech you’re not quite ready for.
5.Engage with a shortlist of providers
After having a clear idea of what you need based on the steps provided above, start researching for tech providers. It is good to read on curated articles with reviews from various experts on tech providers when it comes to price, quality, and features.
Collaborative meetings with your marketing and IT teams and prospective vendors will allow you to get a better understanding of which solutions actually meet your requirements and needs. Of course, conversations can only go so far, so make sure that onsite demonstrations showcase their promised solutions.
Use a weighted scorecard that includes all company criteria to evaluate your shortlist of vendors. This allows for objectivity and consistency in the evaluation.
This also enables you to have a solid score-by-score analysis if the providers’ solutions align with your requirements, and if there certain issues, like a need for customization, may arise.
The process of finding the right technology for your business needs may be a lengthy one (if you truly commit to doing it right), but there is no doubt that businesses – no matter the size and scale of operations – need to reconsider the way they conduct their digital marketing.
And while there is from a gamut of technological options to choose from, which brings uncertainty as to which ones are the right fit, it’s easy to get one thing right—and that’s businesses need to invest in technologies for their online marketing.
What tech are you using to enhance your digital marketing strategies? How have they made the processes easier for you?
If you feel like there are bottlenecks in the implementation of your strategies, consult with the pertinent departments in your company, and find out how technology can make marketing more efficient and effective.