Top 3 Predictions for 2018 that Marketers Should Consider

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1. The Internet Will Be Even More Ambient

Not too long ago, we learned that over 50% of internet users access the web through mobile devices as opposed to desktops, and those scales continue to tip more and more toward the mobile side. With the burgeoning of the Internet of Things (IoT) in recent years, users in the year 2018 will access the internet less and less through a screen and more and more through seemingly ambient sources. Wherever you are reading this right now – how many devices are awaiting your voice command? Many of us can talk to our smartphones, our cars, our watches, our in-home personal assistants, and so on. This technology will become further imbedded into our daily habits, so much so that the novelty of it will soon wear off for the average consumer. I’ve already walked into a hotel room and started to say “Alexa, turn on the lights,” before realizing that I might just have to flip a switch as my ancestors did in the days of old. The consideration for marketers is twofold: 1) accessing the data IoT comes with and 2) the changes this will cause to user behavior (such as my inability to now use a light switch like some kind of commoner).

Questions forward-thinking marketers should ask:

  • What market engagement opportunities exist for my business in any of the increasingly popular IoT devices and apps? (example: Jeopardy offers Alexa users the opportunity to attempt 12 of the questions from that day’s episode – can your business offer a similar freebie that might keep your target market engaged with your brand?)
  • Does this new technology introduce threats to my business that will require a pivot or reposition to our value proposition in order to stay competitive?
  • How are we using the market data available to us from IoT to target customers in a more personalized way? Are our customers aware of how we’re using that data and what data we are using?
  • Do we need to make sure existing features function well on IoT devices / apps? (example: when someone asks Google Home to add your product to a shopping list, does it know what your product is?)

2. Intelligence Will Be Increasingly Artificial

Starting as early as five years ago, the end-of-year marketing predictions were abuzz with AI taking over marketing in the upcoming year. While we have seen small incremental advances, I personally believe 2018 will be the year that the general consumer will be faced with what ultimately amounts to: brand-implemented Turing tests – at least on an occasional basis. I do not think that using or not using AI will dramatically affect most brands’ bottom line, but I do think that it will be more prevalent than previously predicted in years’ past. Don’t take my word for it: a Salesforce survey reported that AI use among marketers would increase more than 50% in 2018. In fact, I recently had an AI-based conversation with a potential mar-tech agency. I was speaking to a bot through an onsite chat, which isn’t all that novel in and of itself; however, the conversation was incredibly natural, and frankly very helpful and enjoyable – funny even! The response was immediate and all of my questions were answered in a friendly entertaining way. Unfortunately, the brand dropped the ball without having an actual human follow-up with me later.

Questions forward-thinking marketers should ask:

  • How can customer experience be enhanced with AI?
  • What aspects of CX is your brand committed to not replacing with AI? (i.e. lead stewardship)
  • If we implement AI, how will we measure success?

3. Cybersecurity Will Become Everyone’s Job (or problem)

As our brands become more and more digital, cybersecurity will no longer be “IT’s problem.” Marketers and sales departments already need to understand the threats they expose the company to when they implement new technologies, many of which exist in uncharted territories with no government oversight or legal precedent. For one, hackers are no longer just “some guy sitting on their bed who weighs 400 pounds.” Think of the breaches we formerly saw in the news compared to what we’re seeing today – the issue has escalated exponentially from Target’s infamous credit card hack in 2013. The information that cybersecurity breaches gain is no longer used to simply steal people’s money (as if that weren’t bad enough), the threat is now to people’s safety and even – their sanity. I’ve seen no legitimate evidence that U.S. voting booths were successfully hacked in the 2016 election – but I have no doubt that the information obtained from hacking was and is still being used to manipulate the hearts and minds of our electorate. The path down which those cyber attacks have taken our country is not one we can ameliorate as simply as re-instating fraudulent charges.

Questions forward-thinking marketers should ask:

  • Do we have a cybersecurity policy? Are all members of the organization trained in cybersecurity protocols and best practice procedures (including everything from not opening suspicious emails to more advanced considerations for senior decision makers)?
  • When we compare new tech products, are we considering security features in the same way we analyze all the other bells and whistles?
  • For every new technology or digital strategy that we implement, are we aware of all potential threats? How will we address them?
  • Do we have crisis plan prepared in the event of a cybersecurity breach?

Other questions for marketers to consider 2018:

  • Should our brand accept cryptocurrency? (If you think that’s just ridiculous, overstock.com doesn’t think so)
  • What increasingly popular digital marketing trends are appropriate for our brand? (live streaming, messenger marketing, influencer marketing, etc)
  • What is no longer appropriate for our brand due to decreases in active users, relevance, or ROI? (i.e. Twitter, Snapchat, non-targeted digital banner ads, etc)
  • How can we create a strategy for cultivating and attracting Gen Z customers?
  • What place (if any) does VR / AR have in our marketing plan?

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