The future of marketing – artificial intelligence, voice control Apps and the lost power of buzzwords

The marketing industry has experienced a surge of new technologies in the past few years.  While this creates the potential for complete transformation, the marketing landscape over the past year has remained fairly steady.  As 2017 begins, the question remains whether this will be the year that technology is fully embraced by the marketing community.  Will it be a transitional year with common practices being adapted to reflect new technology trends or will it witness major developments that threaten to take marketers by surprise? 

In a world where customers are constantly demanding more, customer experience (CX) has become difficult and challenging to perfect, putting extra pressure on marketers. Technology has been a driving force behind the development of solutions to enhance CX. However, embracing these technologies can be perplexing as a marketer, taking the business into new and unknown areas.   

The real question marketers need to ask themselves is: Which technologies will help enhance the customer experience the most efficiently and effectively? More and more, the answer to this question is centring on artificial intelligence.  

Here are a few predictions for the year ahead that examine the way artificial intelligence (AI) will be used as a solution to simplify the purchase journeys for customers.    

There will be an increase in the number and quality of voice control applications 

Audio voice control is the new gateway to all digital applications. While this technology has been in development for years, 2016 saw major tech players place a central focus on this market. Now Apple has Siri, Amazon has Alexa, Microsoft has Cortana and even Facebook is working on its own offering.  

The rapid adoption rate of this technology is due largely to the fact that it offers customers what they want – a simple and easy user experience. From a marketer’s perspective the technology drives a frictionless customer experience by removing all barriers to activity. If a customer can easily make purchases directly through voice command, they are more likely to purchase more products at greater frequency and avoid the distractions that prevent purchase completion on traditional digital channels.   

The challenge in 2017 will be ensuring the flawless execution of the technology.  The current systems work best with direct requests and often fail with highly contextual language.  With major tech players investing a great deal in research and development, we’ll continue to see vast improvements and breakthroughs in the technology over the next 12 months.   

The expectation is that this will be done on a global stage as consumers’ preferences for using voice interaction is present in most cultures, and because this technology moves so rapidly, a second generation of voice control is likely to roll out.  Automotive and industrial machine manufacturers are starting to invest more in next-gen voice interfaces to create a more human machine operation experience.   

Customer experience will become an investment rather than a buzzword   

CX has become a major talking point over the last few years and a larger priority for businesses. However, one of the biggest barriers to developing a consistent customer experience is the shared responsibility for customer interactions by internal teams. Often the role is split between marketing and customer care departments, resulting in multiple decision makers and often slowing down the process.   

In 2017 this will start to shift. More companies will stop viewing ‘customer experience’ as a buzzword or intellectual concept and start assigning ownership so that it becomes a business practice, making a conscious move from concept to execution.  Those that don’t will be left behind.   

Marketers will adapt their skillset as artificial intelligence takes over 

Technology has been automating tasks since the dawn of the printing press, with innovations eventually making some human skills obsolete. The most recent innovation is the commercial application of artificial intelligence. 

The use cases of AI have increased tenfold this year. It’s impossible to go online or open your inbox without encountering an example of AI or machine learning. Vendors are constantly pitching the benefits of AI and how it can generate better results, yet the marketing industry has long been resistant to this, assuming that creative tasks need to be handled by a human.   

Marketers are now seeing opportunities to leverage AI in highly contextual creative work. For example; Persado, an AI platform which creates ad copy, is proving to be more effective than some copywriters. The implications are immense; from the powerful efficiency it provides, to the impact on the current org design, and resource management.   

The game isn’t over though. From the CMO’s perspective, an AI tool will enable greater efficiency in an organisation, and present a huge opportunity for marketers. Now they will have the chance to spend more time on what they should be doing – researching and analysing to better understand the buyer. Certain types of copywriting may start to become a commodity in 2017 but it will give the marketer the chance to focus on other strategic work. As marketers become more data-driven, removing responsibility for creative and production tasks enables them to spend more time driving insights into action.    

All in all, it’s hard to know exactly where marketers will stand in a year’s time, but I believe we are well aware of the technologies that are being developed and the ways in which these will impact our industry. Whether positive or negative, the impact will rely on our ability to embrace change, learn new skills and develop new practices. 

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