As technology permeates almost every area of our lives, it is only natural that these advancements also influence marketing, advertising and media. Ayla Miller looks into four trends shaping the MarTech space as she speaks to marketers, agencies and technology suppliers to discover what’s working, how new technologies are solving marketing challenges and what we can expect to see in the future.
We have probably all experienced the pleasant feeling that comes with someone remembering something you said a while back. When a brand personalises a marketing message it can elicit a similar feeling in a customer, making them more likely to want to interact with that brand again, as long as it is referring to information the individual consented to sharing.
In many areas businesses are utilising MarTech tools to personalise communications so the effort feels authentic. But how do MarTech tools help brands achieve this?
Sean Duca, Palo Alto Networks Vice President and Regional Chief Security Officer Asia Pacific and Japan, says personalisation and privacy are inherently mutually exclusive.
“The challenge in MarTech is that consumers are demanding greater privacy and anonymity online while also craving personalisation.”
He says as the use of AI increases and enables natural language chatbots, consumers will become more comfortable sharing information with them.
“This approach can provide the personalisation that consumers are wanting while respecting their privacy at the same time. I think we’ll see greater investment in natural language technology to further drive personalisation at scale.
“AI will be used to gain insights from much broader datasets that are sufficiently large with de-identified data to provide valuable insights without putting consumer privacy at risk.”
In the physical space of brick-and-mortar retail shops, the use of Internet of Things devices can be used to provide personalised content when customers opt-in.
“Consumers who choose to opt in can access personalised in-store advertising, real time product discounts through smart shelf tags and benefits such as loyalty bonuses.”
And large volumes of high quality data, when used effectively with AI can make a big difference in terms of ROI he says.
“However large data sets are an attractive target for cyber adversaries and must have the highest levels of protection. A data breach can have a material effect on customer goodwill and undo all of the benefits achieved by a successful marketing strategy.”
He says that’s why a ‘zero trust’ approach to cyber security will help future proof a cyber security strategy.
“Zero trust is a strategic approach to cyber security which focuses on protecting the assets that matter most to an organisation. In this case, it’s the treasure trove of customer information, which is used to drive marketing initiatives. Zero trust is an approach to ‘never trust, always verify’ and ensure any access to customer data is valid and safe.”
2) AI and Machine Learning
One of the commonly cited trends hitting marketing is the use of AI and machine learning as part of a business’s MarTech stack. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, AI and machine learning is on track to generate $1.4 trillion and $2.6 trillion by solving marketing and sales problems over the next three years.
Chief Marketing Officers are often tasked with leading and creating customer trust. Using machine learning and AI in marketing strategies to create more personalised experiences can build that trust.
High-performing marketing teams are also using this technology to improve customer segmentation as well as focusing on personalising individual channel experiences.
One example of a brand utilising AI, and seeing results, is motorhomes and car rentals company GoSee. With borders opening and an influx of keen travellers ready to get back to exploring the world, GoSee saw demand skyrocket.
To assist with this increased demand and to ensure customers queries were heard and responded to promptly, GoSee implemented an intelligent digital agent powered by conversational AI from Ambit.
This digital multilingual employee, Scout, speaks eight languages and was launched in July 2021. It now handles almost 4,000 conversations per month which represents 20-30 percent of all customer queries. Less than 10 percent of these queries get handed over to a human agent which means Scout resolves 90 percent of them, allowing contact centre agents to focus on more complex questions.
Tim Warren, Ambit’s co-founder and CEO, says businesses and brands that want to keep up and be leaders need to be implementing AI into their digital strategies now or risk being left behind.
“If you’ve got senior marketers and people in a corporate environment who do not have an active programme in this area, both marketing AI and automation and automated conversations with their customers, they are definitely a laggard and they need to do something about that.”
Tim says that this level of customer service should be a key part of every businesses marketing.
“The important question for brands from a marketing perspective is ‘are you choosing to make your customers wait?’ Because that smart group of marketing leaders are choosing to give their customers instant service. People say service isn’t marketing, it isn’t branding. Yes it is. Because brand is what people say about you when you’re not there.”
The AI platform learns as it goes and is available 24/7, helping GoSee expand its online support.
“Since launching our digital employee less than a year ago, Scout has been continually learning, improving its proficiency in answering queries, and doing so in language that is consistent with GoSees quirky brand,” says Richard Fuli, GoSee’s Chief Customer Operating Officer.
He says the company turned to AI chat when it recognised that customers were wanting instantaneous answers. Over time this has evolved to a point where customers are preferring to interact within the chat channel rather than speaking to a live agent.
“It meant we were able to invest in a channel that we felt we could develop some automation around and provide some scalability to the business. We were able to provide a really consistent experience to a customer in multiple languages, so that was a really critical piece for us.”
Implementing Scout also allows GoSee insight into customer behaviour and understand what customers are looking for.
“The next stage for us in terms of the chat bot is to leverage off that information we are gathering from our customers because we want to build an intuitive experience. To do that it’s about building specific wants and needs based on region, so we can provide that customised solution. It’s getting to that point of providing hyper personalisation within the channel.”
3) User generated content
If there’s one thing that has become clear over the last few years, it’s that consumers do not respond well to marketing strategies they deem intrusive. One way for marketers to get around this is to welcome User Generated Content (UGC) with open arms.
UGC can be defined as a form of usually digital content that has been created by users rather than marketing teams. These can include blogs, photos, podcasts, music, reviews, social media posts and more across all the stages of a customer’s journey and are often used to boost engagement and turn customer engagement into conversions.
One of the reasons cited for UGC being so effective is the concept of social proof. Consumers are looking for social proof that the product, service or experience they are looking to purchase is one they won’t regret. And because UGC doesn’t come from a business with vested interest, it can be regarded as a form of social proof.
Melanie Spencer, CEO of social media agency Socialites NZ, says UGC is being embraced more by brands as it is the “ultimate advocacy”.
“One thing that is true in today’s society, is that once brands were powerful and people were grateful, and they could really control their brand messaging and information out there about their brand. Whereas now people are powerful and brands are grateful.
“When people talk about their brand positively it is human psyche that we can’t help but trust the community we relate to.”
According to Melanie 90 percent of consumers say UGC influences their purchasing decisions more than any other form of advertising.
“This is because UGC is unbiased and created by consumers who love the brand/service they’re interacting with. Who would you believe? The brand telling you their product is awesome or someone you know personally or in your peer group? UGC offers a brand a way of selling something in a more authentic and honest way and is the most cost effective way of producing content that can be shared across your channels.”
Loyal customers who are passionate about certain brands can be included or involved in campaigns which in turn can make the customer feel appreciated and further build the relationship.
Brands can prompt customers to show off their wares by posting pictures or comments on their social profiles and tagging brands or using hashtags. This can be further encouraged through competitions, but the real wins come when users generate content unprompted Melanie adds.
“Employees are also a form of UGC called EGC and they can also showcase the value of your brand or your business. Don’t be tempted to fake your UGC though as audiences will sniff this out in a nano second! Remember that people turn to UGC as a trust beacon – the same way they turn to family friends and colleagues for an opinion. and the last thing you want to do is break this trust.”
4) AR/VR in marketing strategy
Despite still being a novelty for most, AR/VR is gradually being incorporated into some tech savvy companies marketing tech stacks and proving to be a valuable tool.
Industries formed around providing experiences such as tourism and some retail are using VR and AR to showcase their products to consumers to give them more of a feel for them before they decide to purchase.
So what opportunities do AR and VR present to marketers in terms of growth?
Immersive media as it’s often jointly referred to, acts as another platform for businesses to promote their brands and products as well as enhancing customer loyalty and improving customer loyalty.
When a customer engages with VR they are transported into a realistic, immersive simulation of an environment via a headset. By its nature this creates a memorable, novel experience and allows the business to virtually ‘reach out’ to their customers in a way that is beyond the current capabilities of traditional media.
VR and AR are yet another way for brands and businesses to tell a story in a way that cuts through the noise and stands out from the crowd.
Similarly AR and VR integration can mean the customers experience is more memorable especially for early adopters as the novelty of these technologies haven’t worn off yet.
Another benefit of including AR and VR in a MarTech strategy is enabling customers to have a try before you buy experience.
Steve Alexander, Managing Director of Purple Shirt, a company focused on CX, innovation and UX, says that while they are seeing a “huge appetite” to integrate AR and VR into businesses wider digital ecosystems, it is still predominantly being used for wayfinding, new product experiences, or to position a company as a leading brand.
Most of the examples where companies are using these technologies are bespoke development efforts rather than something that is easily repeatable.
“We’re also not seeing wide consumer adoption of VR as a VR capable computer and headset is still quite expensive which I think will continue to be a barrier to adoption. Until this barrier is overcome I believe VR will remain ‘novel’ and brands will use it to showcase experiences in flagship stores or within public spaces.”
This article was originally published in the September/October 2022 issue of NZ Marketing. Click here to subscribe.