GUEST COLUMN: The all-pervasive role of technology in new-age marketing

Understanding the top 5 technologies that will reshape the marketing industry in the times to come

Mumbai: It was October 2020 when a Cadbury campaign featuring the Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) caught my attention. Christened as a ‘NotJustACadburyAd’, the campaign blended SRK’s image and voice using AI to create customised ads for local shops by directly naming them.

This idea to promote local businesses when they had taken a big hit during the pandemic was widely appreciated. Also, from a creative angle, the campaign went viral. This level of hyper-personalisation could only be possible with the use of AI-led innovation and technology. This reflects two defining developments:

1.      How new-age marketing is developing a deep understanding of the latest technology tools now playing a key role in developing meaningful customer relationships, and delivering friction-free, cross-channel experiences for consumers.

2.       ‘Unified Analytics’ will replace ‘analytics by channel’ and customer groups will see an elevated level of strategic measurements and a much more holistic view of the customer.

The chances are that while browsing through any marketing guide today, you will find it peppered with tech jargon. That’s how ubiquitous technology has become to the very essence and practice of marketing. As a result, brand campaigns have become more personalised and immersive than ever.

While technology has exploded and there are hundreds of versions vying for space in the market, here are the ‘Top five most transformative technologies’ that will reshape marketing in times to come:

1.      Increasing use of Chatbots

This AI-led software can simulate meaningful conversations with internet users in a natural language through a combination of text and voice messages. Its popularity is increasing by the day due to its 24x7 role in solving customer queries. Bluebot, the chatbot of KLM Royal Dutch Airline, reported in excess of 1.7 million messages from 500,000 passengers.

According to Salesforce, 69 per cent of the US consumers prefer using chatbots when engaging with brands since it often leads to a prompt response. As per estimates, ~40 per cent of big organisations are already using chatbots, and in the next few years, ~80 per cent of communication between the customers and organisations will be done through chatbots.

2.      The rise of Voice Assistants

Voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri have greatly altered the way users search for information on the web, fast gaining popularity in the voice search feature of search engines due to two important factors;

-Average typing speed of 41.4 words per minute is far less productive than the speed at which we speak, i.e.160 words per minute

-The Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology has gotten very advanced, making it easier for voice assistants to pick up and dissect queries accurately.

Recent statistics reveal that one-third of 3.5 million searches on Google are voice searches. Therefore, from a marketer’s point of view, the voice search SEO strategy becomes important by updating content and becoming mindful of keyword research tools to come up with more voice search questions.

3.      Fast growth of Virtual Reality

The rise of Virtual Reality (VR) is mainly due to two reasons. Firstly, the hardware is relatively inexpensive. A Google Cardboard VR headset and a smartphone are enough for you to immerse yourself in another world. Also, many VR applications available on smartphones are completely free to play.

Secondly, the unique user experience is visceral, the controls are far more intuitive, and the characters more relatable. That’s why it has been dubbed as the ‘ultimate empathy machine.’

Taking a few examples from the retail sector, Tanishq partnered with Milestone Brandcom to install augmented reality (AR) kiosks (termed as ‘MirrAR’) for elevating the jewellery shopping experience. On the other hand, Lenskart offers 3D face modelling by measuring and mapping the user’s face from multiple angles, thereby providing a 360-degree view of the glasses. Similarly, Sephora’s AR beauty app lets users try makeup by superimposing certain lipstick shades and eyeliner looks using users’ selfie poses.

4.      The imminent rise of Web 3.0

Web 3.0, which is being built on blockchain technology [underlying bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies], aims to eliminate all-controlling intermediaries and provide the key benefit of a single login across social media accounts for seamless browsing, networking, engagement, and data security.

This blockchain-led tech has the potential to re-invent the digital marketing industry. With users having direct control over their data and privacy, companies will have the opportunity to become highly user-centric and transparent by :

-Analysing customer buying habits across platforms

-Gathering previously unobtainable data on how consumers interact with devices and products

-Gaining deeper insights on where a customer is in the buying journey.

International luxury brands such as Balenciaga and Adidas are ahead of the curve and have started experimenting with Web 3.0, but time will tell how such virtual interactions can become stickier, and translate to potential sales. Even everyday brands like Taco Bell, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Gucci, and Warner Music are using non-fungible tokens [NFTs], thus introducing more and more audiences to the process of buying, owning, and selling digital collectibles. A great way for marketers to leverage NFTs is to use the technology for tickets and souvenirs.

5.      AI-led Hyper-Personalisation

The concept of a hyper-personalised experience is based on the use of AI in understanding and learning from human responses to communication by using data, such as recent purchases etc. This hyper-accurate segmentation of AI engines is a marketer’s delight in providing improved customer experience beyond assumptions and practices by using Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) as solutions for data architecture, integration, and reliability problems.

Starbucks is an excellent example of hyper-personalisation. It took its already personalised menu to the next level by adopting a real-time personalization engine [primarily pulling data from their loyalty app] that produces individualized offers for their customers based on their previous behaviour and preferences.

Most organisations utilise only ~15 per cent of the technologies and capabilities they are already paying for. Therefore, the number of technologies adopted is not as important as ‘applying’ them to solve business needs. Today, marketers are at the critical junction of integrating human experience and technology. They have forever been trying to demystify the customer’s mind. Thanks to technology, now we have endless ways of knowing!

(The author is executive vice president – global marketing at Wadhwani Foundation. The views expressed in this column are personal and may not subscribe to them.)

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