Key Tech Trends: Where Do Marketers Go From Here?
by Mark Asher
Head of Market Intelligence & Strategy
The shift to mobile. Billions of devices. Big data. Virtual reality. These concepts are common parts of marketers’ everyday language. They also underscore many of our recent business investments, not to mention our strategic aspirations and visions.
- Mobile devices offer an unprecedented window into consumer behavior at levels of personalization that are not possible through other digital channels.
- As stewards of customer data, we should constantly be evaluating our use of that data and taking care to protect user privacy.
- Virtual reality enables an entirely new genre of testing and data collection.
As we cross into the second half of 2015, let’s revisit these trends with an eye toward surfacing what’s truly important and actionable so that you can plan your organization’s adoption and/or optimization.
Shift To Mobile
Borrowing from a common Andreessen Horowitz phrase, there’s no question that mobile devices are “eating the world.” According to Flurry, Americans now spend 2 hours and 57 minutes on mobile devices, which is more time than they spend watching TV or eating. More broadly, it’s forecasted that 80% of adults on Earth will have smartphones by 2020.
Key attributes to keep in mind:
• Always on, always near: While many households share PCs, tablets, and smart TVs among each member, smartphones are almost never shared. As a result, they are unique in their ability to attribute behavior, with great validity, to a unique user. Smartphones rarely leave our side, in many cases even accompanying us to bed each night.
• Devices are not desktops: In my travels and interactions with mobile developers, I still observe many groups trying to take legacy desktop experiences and adapt them for mobile devices. This is the wrong approach. When designing a mobile-experience concept, it is optimal to think about that experience from a mobile-first point of view, without any reference to a pre-existing desktop project. Mobile devices are unique in their screen sizes and device attributes (e.g., touch, GPS, and identity); trying to interpret a desktop experience creates a set of design biases that most often lead to less optimal mobile projects.
• Don’t get greedy: Mobile devices offer an unprecedented window into consumer behavior at levels of personalization that are not possible through other digital channels. As participants in a mobile-experience development workflow, we are stewards of good data collection hygiene. The more open we are about what data is collected, as well as what value we are offering in exchange for that data, the more comfortable end users will become with these devices. This affinity will additionally accrue to your own brand and branded digital experiences. Collecting data without a purpose is not recommended.
Internet Trends (updated for 2020)
However, despite the great potential, keep in mind a few key points:
• Unprecedented user insight: Just like mobile devices, sensored devices will enable marketers to understand consumer behavior at a level of granularity and precision unlike anything available before.
• Tsunami of data: All that data creates a couple of key problems–how to store it and how to create value from it. The availability of cheap, ubiquitous cloud storage will increasingly address the first problem, but drawing insight and intelligence from terabytes of this data and being able to act on it are important disciplines that are only just developing.
• Privacy and regulatory stewardship: The first two implications create this third implication. As stewards of customer data, we should constantly be evaluating our use of that data and taking care to protect user privacy, as well as maintain the boundaries of any regulatory restrictions associated with the use of that data.
You’re probably exhausted from hearing about big data. In spite of all the hype around this topic, there are some key considerations to evaluate as you move to adopt big data tools and/or refine your big data strategies:
• New patterns and insights: Big data is really just data at scale. The collection of this data is important, but value is created only when intelligence is applied to this data so that you and your organization can act. Ideally, these insights should be additive, as well. Validating your existing perceptions is good, but generating new insights from the combination of multiple data sets at scale is where true value is unlocked.
• New ways to connect: Insights generated by merging multiple large data sets has the potential to unlock new waypoints in your customer’s journeys with your brand, not to mention new touch points where you can connect with your customers/citizens/subscribers/etc. As an example, Hong Kong Cleanup (an NGO in Hong Kong) recently launched the “Faces of Litter” campaign, which uses DNA testing, combined with demographic and location data, to realistically build facial portraits of litterers and use those images as part of a public shaming effort to reduce litter on Hong Kong’s streets.
Isn’t virtual reality (VR) for hard-core gamers? What does that have to do with marketing? I would have agreed with you up until the start of this year, but we are now at a point where the technology is both mature enough and affordable enough for brands to begin incorporating VR into campaigns. These efforts potentially unlock some truly novel experiences, as well as potentially change the nature of market research.
As an example, consider Merrell’s Trailscape VR experience campaign, which was used to launch its new Capra hiking boot at the Sundance Film Festival this past January. This campaign combined physical and virtual elements to create a realistic outdoor experience through which participants could experience Merrell’s new footwear without having to expend the time, money, or risk of venturing into those environments.
As more brands begin to think seriously about VR, keep in mind:
• New consumer environments: As VR proliferates, consumers will be able to interact with brands through a variety of experiences. Imagine a sporting goods store that allows golfers to try out golf clubs on any course/hole in the world, or setting up a test drive center in a mall where participants can have a virtually realistic experience with any model/trim style they wish.
• Immersive testing experiences: Market researchers should be very excited about the potential for VR because it enables an entirely new genre of testing and data collection. All the experiences mentioned above can be used to collect data about consumer behavior, preferences, and demographics, which can be used as input for design and messaging optimization–all in real time. The traditional focus group may no longer be as impactful if marketers are able to measure and observe consumer interaction with their brands in any environment and under any conditions they choose.
Although experimentation is still the major driver for these trends, heading into 2016 we may begin to see mainstream adoption. Nevertheless, watch for these technology trends to have further impact as the rest of 2015 unfolds.