What does 2017 hold for marketing technology?

Technology change continues to accelerate at blistering pace. The doubling of computer processing speed every 18 months, known as Moore's Law, is just one manifestation of a greater trend that all technological change occurs at an exponential rate. 

With technology sea change, the ripples are felt across the world of marketing and advertising as new opportunities, and challenges require careful navigation. 

2016 heralded a number of seismic shifts from instant messaging exploding as a business, to Facebook Messenger adapting to a consumer communication channel, to tech giants like Apple and Google starting to take control of people’s homes as well as their phones. 

Let’s take a look at how these and other emerging technologies are likely to change how brands and marketers engage with consumers.  

Chat and notifications are the new battlegrounds for brands on mobile

The fight for a brand’s app to stay relevant on a user's phone is now over. Apps are routinely downloaded, discarded or ignored. This has long been the traditional battleground for a brand – the fight to remain on the first (or at least second screen) of a user's phone. 

Second, users have moved to rely on a few trusted apps and largely distrust or won’t engage with others. Many of these “Super Apps”, that are used for primarily for messaging and social interaction, provide a new and secondary battleground for brands to engage within. Take Facebook Messenger for instance – as it facilitates a conversation between two friends about meeting at a spot, Facebook can now insert an “Request an Uber” prompt into their conversation. The friends can now book, pay and even sign-up all within the confines of Facebook’s Messenger app, all made possible by Uber’s API and Facebook, regardless of whether they even had Uber installed in the first place. 

Notification screens (swiping down, to the right, etc.) are the third battleground. This is essentially the OS fighting back against the Super Apps, and taking back their screen real estate and therefore control & monetisation. Again, much more interaction is now possible, such as different actions and interactions within notifications consumers of apps receive.

What fundamental changes does this mean for the industry?

Brands can now utilise the phone’s notification screens directly using proximity-based technologies using new technologies such as Google’s Nearby Notifications, negating the need for integration with apps. The proximity notification is generally designed to be tied to a physical world event or object – such as travelling on a London bus or taxi, or entering a cinema. The effect to the consumer is subtle – instead of an interruption (push from the brand), they can choose to interact with what’s happening around them through the notification. 

Proxama has spent much of 2016 working with Google, and now as a Google “Location Service Provider” can offer software and services that have been verified by Google and compatible with the Google open beacon standard “Eddystone” and the Physical Web and Google Nearby Notifications. Proxama is one of only two companies worldwide to be a Google certified LSP.

2017 will see more wide-spread and mainstream adoption of proximity marketing technologies by brands, using beacons and other hyper-accurate location technologies, supporting and enhancing the consumers’ real-world interactions. 

New physical endpoints enable apps to move beyond the phone

2016 saw the mass deployment of new endpoints for both services and apps – mainly in the shape of streaming boxes, home AI assistants and in-car technologies. In a world powered by cloud services and APIs, the app is no longer the natural home for a digital service, and tapping and swiping isn’t always the best access method. 

 Why pick up your smartphone, unlock it, go into an app, etc. when you can simply say “Alexa, set my heating to 22 degrees”, “Alexa, repeat my last Dominos order” or even order an Uber. 

Smart TVs, set-top streaming boxes such as the latest Apple TV, are now enabled with quick, intuitive services that have evolved past the original on-demand formats. As the home and then the office has fallen to new tech, the car is one of the final areas to be productised and connected. It too, it just another global product, and as soon as the legal and insurance industry is ready, will be smart and autonomous. What will all those drivers do with their new spare time when not driving?

2017 will see an explosion of new hardware form factors, most of which are cheap, connected, hyper-aware and drawing on AI-powered clouds for a better and more connected world. They will however have to provide a simpler and more effective for experience for consumers to adopt – brands must bear this in mind before placing their services on these new channels.

What other changes will we see for marketing technology in 2017?

We will finally remove the distinction between physical and digital brands. 

Let’s take Amazon for example. It’s often painted as a digital or ecommerce business. However, much of Amazon really is a large logistics, warehousing and distribution business, that happens to use a lot of very sophisticated technology to run it (which they then monetise, e.g. AWS or Marketplace). It’s really a product of its time, in much the same way as 100 years ago, large grocers used similar advances in chilled distribution to create the “supermarket”, in turn disrupting small, local traders. 

Where the digital and physical worlds interact, proximity marketing will be at the forefront of connecting these previously disparate worlds. Be it a smart TV app, an in-car service, or one of the home automation services such as Google Home or Amazon Alexa, we’ll see new types of marketing evolve to ensure brands and products are served in the right way to consumers to genuinely enhance their experiences.

An example of this is last month, Uber rolled out its own proprietary beacons to alert passenger to the correct car. The significance of this is that, for the first time, Uber has connected both sides of its service (driver to passenger) in a physical rather than purely digital sense.  

The industry will continue to regulate itself

We are now starting to see highly actionable results for proximity marketing campaigns, in terms of direct consumer action, or indirectly through real-world attribution connected to online ad spend or behaviour.  

These results need to be balanced by placing the consumer at the centre of the experience, as different consumers will have different views and perceptions on privacy and how brands contact them and how relevant the content is to the context of their current location.

 Mobile advertising and those players engaged around notifications or proximity marketing space are beholden to the providers enabling the delivery mechanism, in this case Apple or Google. But I feel there’s still so much more to be done and explored and we’re just at a tipping point in terms of what the technology can provide, in terms of informed intelligence. 

As we go into 2017 proximity marketing is still a nascent technology but I predict it will develop rapidly during the year and deliver real and tangible results for brands and consumers alike. It will become part of the integrated marketing technology suite, and be as indispensable as push notifications, SMS, app stores, maps and technologies that have shaped mobile over the last 10 years.

Dan Francis, Director of Strategy, Planning and Product, Proxama PLC
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