In an effort to reduce the level of unnecessary complexity and sheer size of our MarTech stacks, many of us, this time of year, jump on the New Year’s Resolution bandwagon and pledge to keep our tech stacks lean-and-mean for the coming year. That is, until the latest technological magic bullet crosses our desks and, just like many of our resolutions, our good intentions fall to the wayside in exchange for the newest, shiny object.
The good news is budgeting in 2019 doesn’t have to be an exercise in self-deprivation or impractical over-indulgence. It just takes a conscious effort to acquire technologies smartly, have an implementation strategy, and ensure you are empowered to take advantage of the latest in marketing technologies – while avoiding the flash-in-the-pan stuff.
Is that a tall order? Not really. The core tenants of driving qualified traffic, converting traffic and ensuring repeat visitors haven’t changed much over the years, but the ways in which we accomplish these seemingly most basic of goals has gotten more sophisticated, complex and sometimes, extreme.
The reality is that the marketing and advertising industry is in a constant state of disruption from tech companies that innovate at a fast pace. And these silver bullets, while appealing, should only be adopted in accordance with the goals of a sound implementation strategy. Sadly, the marketing landscape is littered with companies who have locked themselves into long-term contracts with sure-thing technologies that have never been effectively implemented because integration with the existing sales tools and strategy was typically an afterthought.
As we approach 2019, a quick review of the current MarTech landscape is a useful first step in zeroing-in on the emerging technologies that might best fit the goals of your company. Two big ones, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), have flooded the market with their promise of sales integration glory, and yet many of us don’t even know the difference between the two. AI and ML are related, but not interchangeable, so before investing in either concept, it’s important to know the subtle differences and ensure you grasp the appropriate use case for each of these technologies.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
A far more advanced cousin of machine learning, Artificial Intelligence brings us to a whole new level because machines and computers are now literally thinking for themselves. Sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, but the technology is now being harnessed to power some of the most successful businesses initiatives and marketing platforms being used daily by billions.
For marketers, AI can do everything from automate ad buying – in order to target a more specific audience – to building powerful optimized buyer journeys across decoupled architectures serving the best content at the right place and time, absent the confines of a website. Naturally, this should translate into high conversions and lower customer acquisition costs. So why wouldn’t you implement AI? One huge reason is that you don’t have a successful plan in place to make optimal use of it. AI works best when it’s applied to existing strategies or data networks.
Machine Learning (ML)
Considered a subset of AI, Machine Learning focuses on the ability of machines to learn for themselves, by modifying the algorithms they use as they learn more about the data sets they are processing.For marketers, Machine Learning can be leveraged to understand, predict and react to data presented by qualified sales prospects, which means closing the sale faster and more effectively.Essentially, Machine Learning is taking contextual content, marketing automation including cross-channel marketing campaigns and lead scoring, personalization, and sales forecasting to whole new levels of accuracy and speed. Now, let’s look at other silver bullet technologies that may also tempt you this year:
Finding Your Voice
No question about it, voice will continue to disrupt every aspect of our lives and work – and companies who continue to align their offers with voice technology will capture the consumer exactly where most of them are.
This means that websites need to be optimized for voice search. Companies need to align their offering across multiple channels and everyone needs to think “voice” in everything they do. Last night, I asked my Google Home device about specific directions and then, when I got into my car, the directions were already loaded there. That is the future of communications and business across channels.
By 2020, 85 percent of all customer interactions will be handled by chatbots. And by 2022, it is estimated that businesses will save over 8 million dollars by utilizing this technology.
Research shows that chatbots are most effective when used in customer service and sales. From Lord & Taylor’s personalized chatbot gift guide, to NatGeo’s Genius TV Series Facebook chatbots that answered users in the “voice” of the specific genius being researched (Einstein, Picasso etc.), which drove user engagement up over 50 percent, we can expect to see innovations in the way companies leverage chatbot technology to increase sales, improve customer service and reduce human interaction.
Live Video and Snack Ads (Short, 10 second clips)
Video content continues to rule – in fact, 80 percent of what we consume online will soon be video content. And our obsession for live video continues to explode. It started with Facebook Live interviews and has expanded to YouTube and Instagram go-live options. Live videos increase the trustworthiness and authenticity of a brand, so it is a social channel tool that should not be ignored – but it has to be done right with engaging, exciting, and short content, as video snacks are the overwhelming preference of web surfers today.
Social listening, a trend that has really grown in the past several years, has allowed brands to follow the chatter about them on social media to be able to respond in real-time to a plethora of feedback and criticism that was never before available. Now this trend is growing on the selling side –and companies are beginning to use social listening for lead generation and social selling. Some companies are even introducing features made specifically for lead generation on social.
Authenticity and Inclusivity
Authenticity across all channels of marketing is critical to attract new consumers and clients. Many consumers have become critical of brands that are not authentic in their marketing and advertising. It’s a sad truth that their grassroots campaigns against unauthentic brands go viral a lot quicker than any ad you produce. Be authentic always. And make sure your website is accessible to everyone while you’re at it.
In 2019, much of our job remains the same. Build our brand. Tell a great story. Provide authentic content and supply this conveniently and seamlessly across multiple channels. But given the rapid-fire rate at which technology is emerging, assessing which tools will help us efficiently accomplish these goals poses a daunting challenge.
Here’s a smart add to your 2019 wishlist: engage with the right experts to ensure your enterprise’s digital maturity matches your appetite for all of these wonderful advances in technology. That guidance is invaluable in making sure you get the best silver bullets this year, and those digital advisers that can help you make sense of the tools as they specifically relate to your business.