Expert commentator | Smart Insights | Wed, 24 Feb 2016 11:00:00 +0000

The potential to completely transform your digital marketing using any combination of these five emerging technologies is not to be underestimated

Technology and marketing go hand in hand, and more so than you might think. If it were not for the technological advances in the 1980s and the emergence of databases then relationship marketing would not be possible.

Of course, not only marketing technology but the entire world as we now know it would be a vastly different place had search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Ask not arrived in the 1990s, which manifested the beginning of search marketing.

Then we saw the age of mobile take hold with the emergence of 3G mobile networks and the arrival of the smartphone in 2007 with Apple’s first iteration of the iPhone, now a truly ubiquitous technological advancement that has changed the lives of millions of people.

Now here we are in 2016. In the present day technology can and does move at quite an alarming rate, so much so that it can sometimes feel hard to keep up with all the new innovations. With many different new technologies available to marketers it is an exciting time to study and practice the discipline.

However, while we may be excited about these new technologies there is still a reluctance to invest until we can see that they’ve been proved to work. The research and outcome of our recent report, The Future of Marketing Technology, highlights this, with 32% of marketers unwilling to invest in new technologies until they have a better understanding of how those technologies will develop in the future.

Let’s take a look at some of the new marketing technologies that you should be looking to adopt in the next 12 months, if you haven’t already done so.

Marketing technologies and their potential impact

Wearables

Wearables are nothing new, they’ve been steadily growing in popularity over the past few years, especially with the launch of Apple and Android SmartWatches. The first FitBit tracker was released in 2008, it’s taken some time for the market to expand and for marketers like us to start imagining and seeing the potential in these devices in relation to marketing, but the possibilities are increasing almost every day.

Once such advancement in the wearables space, albeit not directly related to marketing but still a fascinating use nonetheless, is the Netatmo June Bracelet, a bracelet that monitors your skin’s exposure to sunlight and UV rays that will send you a notification via your smartphone when you need to reapply your sunscreen, or seek shade.

Oculus Rift may just bring Virtual Reality (VR) to the masses, and although it will be used predominantly for gaming,who isn’t to say that in years to come users will be able to attend events such as fashion shows or live concerts, using their headsets.

2016 could see big advances in the way these technologies can be used and also marketed to. The plain text email has seen more importance placed on it again (some might say its importance has never waned, but interest and awareness of it) since SmartWatches have been made available, allowing people to read emails on their wrist.

There are two reasons that wearables will become more appealing to marketers. One is that the wearable tech market is estimated to be worth $34 billion by 2020, and the other is that other technologies that can use wearables to their advantage. Technologies such as…

iBeacons

A relatively new technology, iBeacons are a class of Bluetooth low energy device which are currently being used by bricks and mortar retail stores for mobile commerce and marketing. This is similar to the NFC (Near Field Communication) bus stop adverts and timetables you may have seen in the past few years, although iBeacons offer a wider range than NFC, typically up to 70 metres in comparison to NFC’s mere centimetres.

If you’re a retailer you may want to push your promotions or new products using your beacons, so that when shoppers are in range of the beacon they will be presented with information on their smartphones or watches. Shoppers will need an app or service on their device to allow such communication, but therein lies the appeal. By installing the app the shopper is opting in to receive these notifications.

Any type of event can utilise beacons, for example Major League Baseball use beacons at team stadiums to offer up relevant information and exclusive features for attendees. Marketing and tech trade shows and events have been taking advantage of beacons in recent years, and this is one marketing technology that I can see becoming incredibly popular, so long as it is used correctly.

Marketing Automation

You could consider marketing automation to have been a mainstay in the marketing sphere for years now, but the rise of interest in it has come due to the large number of companies offering automation services.

Marketing Automation, when done properly, is excellent. Taking repetitive tasks away from workers, it allows you to work smarter, not harder, which in 2016 is going to be incredibly important. Combine your automation with the data you hold on a subscriber, customer, or lead, and you can easily set up campaigns designed to nurture or retain to be drip-fed to your database at the right time.

This allows you to ensure that your communications with customers or prospects to be hyper-targeted and relevant. The ‘spray and pray’ approach is no longer enough, instead customers want to see emails and communications from brands and businesses that address their specific needs. Don’t think that marketing automation is just a glorified version of spam, in fact the relevancy you can deliver with automation makes it quite the opposite.

It isn’t just restricted to email either. Landing pages and social media are just two examples where marketing automation can be extremely beneficial. For marketers not currently using automation there is a large initial outlay of resources, but in time the results will soon prove the initial investment to be worth it.

‘Big’ Data

What underpins all of these technological advancements though, is ‘Big’ data. This became a buzzword a few years ago before fading slightly, but it is back and bigger than ever for 2016. But, what does Big Data mean? In short, data, and lots of it. Data that can be used for a number of purposes, depending on how and why the data is collected.

How do we tailor our messages and our content accurately? Data. It is essentially at the heart of everything we now do as marketers, because with no data we’re taking a shot in the dark, and nobody wants to do that in 2016.

How do you invest in big data though, and is it going to be useful for you and your business? You could pull out all the stops to collect as much data as humanly possible, but you’re going to need people or machines to make sense of that data for you. Many marketers are seeing big data as an important part of their strategy and approach, with 90% considering big data innovation to be important, which shows why 51% plan to invest in data platforms over the next 5 years.

Data capture is becoming a major factor in how businesses expand their subscriber base, customer base, and their reach online. One thing to keep in mind though, is the quality of your data. Poor quality data can do more harm than good, especially if you’re combining with other technologies such as marketing automation. The last thing you want to be doing is sending the wrong messages to the wrong segments of customers at the wrong time.

The Single Customer View

‘Won’t all these different technologies and systems just lead to tonnes of information in different places, making it of little use to me?’ I hear you say. Not quite, because we marketers wouldn’t be marketers if we didn’t have an emerging technology to help us get the most out of all these other technologies.

The Single Customer View essentially gives businesses the means and ability to track customers, their communications, and their behaviour across all channels you may utilise. Maybe you’re using an analytical platform to monitor customer activity on your website, but you use a separate database or CRM for their purchase history. Now if you were able to link these two together and discover how different customers interact with your site you can market to them in a much more effective way.

You’ll get a complete view of your customer, so instead of identifying a customer who has opened an email and who may be interested in a product featured within, you’ll be able to follow their steps from email to website, and even beyond. By identifying these segments of customers, you can then market to them in a way that will entice them into the sale or conversion.

This is another technology that can take some resource to implement, but it’ll pay dividends in no time. This is because a singular data hub, an amalgamation of all your other data, is far easier and far more reliable for you when it comes to

Conclusion

So in conclusion, marketing technology will continue to improve and expand, and it is up to us as marketers to keep an eye on the technologies that we feel could be of benefit to our businesses. I’ve merely scratched the surface with the examples I’ve outlined here, but one thing that will always be true is that new and emerging marketing technologies will be intrinsically linked to other marketing technologies, opening doors for us to get really inventive and intuitive with our marketing efforts.

What remains as the biggest hurdle right now though, is having enough trust or belief in these new technologies to justify the initial outlay, without having enough historical data to prove a worthy case. That isn’t to say that some companies and businesses will be brave enough to take a leap, and when it starts working for them, we might just be queuing up to join them.