For shoppers who visited select stores in sunny California last year, they met Pepper. If you had met Pepper, you may have thought you had stepped onto the set of the latest Star Wars movie. Why? Pepper is a robot. She engages humans by responding to their questions, which at times seems conversational. Technology is changing exponentially in real time. It’s why marketing pros know they must stay ahead of the curve on technology, trends, and how it affects their brand or be left behind by competitors.
Technology, including its applications in digital marketing and print, has taken a dominant seat at the brainstorming table. As marketing pros hammer out their brand’s strategies, there are six marketing challenges you and your team are facing in 2017 and beyond. Consider what changes your marketing mix requires to stay competitive.
1. Mobile phones increased use
The role of mobile can’t be ignored by brands, particularly if you are targeting the millennial market. A June 2016 article from Marketplace reported that 77 percent of millennials (ages 18-35) own smartphones and a majority of them “interact with their smartphone more than anything or anyone else.” As mobile phones are further integrated into a consumer and buyer’s consumption of content including news, entertainment, and shopping, marketing pros have to re-evaluate where the eyeballs of their target audiences are daily.
What’s your challenge? Marketing pros have to incorporate a multi-platform strategy as part of their overall marketing plans. Have you evaluated your data lately to know if mobile matters more to your brand today than last year?
2. Video applications are growing
Not all brands may like hearing that video is becoming the preferred method of consuming information by audiences. Why? Let’s face it; some brands view video as an added cost to their stretched marketing budget. But, don’t be too quick to dismiss this opportunity to increase your brand’s reach and prompting buyers through the sales funnel. The good news, particularly for small and mid-sized marketers, is there are a variety of tools and approaches that can make producing video more cost-effective for leaner budgets.
What’s your challenge? Marketing pros must allocate a small portion of their marketing dollars to video. Put one of your team in charge of researching cost-effective technologies and/or outsourcing options. In the end, it’s about delivering what your audience wants.
3. Social Media a bigger player in marketing
The footprint that social media has made to marketing for brands is undeniable. Let’s look at a few stats on two platforms many brands use: Facebook and LinkedIn.
The platform commands 1.71 billion monthly active users and 1.13 billion daily users. According to the Pew Research Center Social Media Update 2016, it dominates the space with 79 percent of adult Internet users.
Linkedin: The LinkedIn platform, as of February 2017, has 467 million members in over 200 countries and territories. Pew Research reported 29 percent of U.S. adults use LinkedIn for business.
To manage successful campaigns on multiple platforms requires a granular level of knowledge. Many companies are stretched for expertise, let alone time, to execute. Marketing pros in industries like nonprofits, manufacturing, and others are taking advantage of the approach of outsourcing and starting small. They are using tactics like Article Sharing (Content Curation) using a social media management system for branding.
What’s your challenge? Marketing pros understand two truths: (1) If a brand isn’t doing something in social media, they are invisible, and (2) Social media has become more data driven. Meet with your team to numbers crunch a budget that will be allocated to social media. Identify several providers who can start a first steps plan like using content curated articles to share in your social media for the purposes of branding.
4. Augmented reality (AR) is emerging
If you are not familiar with immersive technologies like augmented reality (AR), let me fill you in. AR essentially uses technology to superimpose digital information into the real world. Think Pokemon go! AR is a quickly emerging technology that will fundamentally change the customer buying experience. How? It makes the buyer part of the experience.
Some of you reading today’s post may not see the application of AR in your products or service. However, AR will likely not be restricted to the consumer market. It will burst beyond retail applications into areas like education and training for manufacturing, real estate, healthcare and others.
What’s your challenge? Knowledge and preparation for trends is what keeps brands ahead of their competition. Whether AR will immediately impact your industry or not, keep informed on this technology. When you have 10 minutes, check out Meron Gribetz’s TEDTalk A glimpse of the future through an augmented reality headset. You’ll get the idea of how AR works.
5. Use of artificial intelligence (AI) platforms
The world of artificial intelligence (AI) has moved out the fictional realms of movies like iRobot and The Terminator into the real world albeit still in its infancy. Anyone used a virtual personal assistant (VPA)? If you have used Siri (Apple), Alexa (Amazon), or Cortana (Microsoft), you have. It won’t be long before VPAs will become the new normal in consumer and business applications. Let me give you one example. A recent article in TechCrunch reported that Starbucks is “unveiling a virtual assistant that takes your order via messaging or voice” using its mobile app.
What’s your challenge? Some brands will not be immediately impacted by AI platforms. But, in time, AI applications will eventually make their way into more business experiences. Marketing pros can’t escape the inevitable. AI will become an integrated consumer experience and buyers will take that expectation into their business buying.
6. Role of Print Service Providers changing
The future of how Printer Service Providers (PSP) partner with brands is changing because of digital. PSPs are becoming a hybrid of printing and marketing services. Since customers still value the human connection that print offers, digital is re-orienting the way brands are combining the applications of print and digital. Let me give you an example.
The article “USPS Promotion Programs for 2017” published in the Jan/Feb 2017 issue of Mailing Systems Technology Magazine discussed the United States Postal Service’s six promotional programs for 2017. In brief, the initiative is designed to provide incentives for mailers by offering postage discounts and rebates. What caught my attention was how print and digital are being used in these programs. Applications include the use of Virtual Reality and Digital to Direct Mail, refinement of print-mobile technologies like QR codes and barcode tracking technologies, and continued integration of mobile technology to Direct Mail.
What’s your challenge? With the combination of print and digital, the execution of this tool within a brand’s overall marketing strategy is becoming more complex to deliver effectively. To stay ahead of the curve, more brands are offering their PSPs a seat at the table of their marketing strategy meetings. Invite your PSP to your next meeting to brainstorm ways to leverage the new programs being offered by the USPS.
We’ve only touched on six marketing challenges in an ever-changing technology landscape today. The question you may ask is, “Where do I go from here with this information?” I would suggest discussing the following actions with your marketing team.
1. Develop a basic digital strategy and incorporate it into your overall marketing program.
2. Have a member of your IT team track and evaluate technology trends. Determine how it impacts your business.
3. Evaluate your current marketing mix and see how effectively you are using print.
4. Create a budget and plan of execution so you are prepared to “pull the trigger” on higher level technological changes that must be implemented.
Let me close with a question. Are you being impacted by any of these changing technologies discussed above? If so, do you have any tips for readers to consider?
Mike Jais – Partner at Graphics Plus, Inc. & Director of Marketing at Arvin Global Solutions, LLC (www.arvinglobalsolutions.com).
Graphics Plus in Lisle, Illinois provides MARKETING SUPPORT solutions to help organizations create, print, produce and distribute marketing communication messages cost effectively. Visit us at www.gpdelivers.com.