Have you seen the movie Ready Player One by Steven Spielberg, or maybe even read the book by Ernest Cline? If you haven't, I can tell you, without spoiling the ending, that it's about a near dystopian future where the whole world has decayed and the only thing that makes us humans feel good is a VR (Virtual Reality) game. Inside the game, everyone is "living" their "real" lives. Pretty sad really. But enough about that...
Is the future already here?
I was talking to an old friend who told me that Covid-19 has accelerated the development of their business enormously. Something they didn't think was possible last year became a reality in the fall of 2020.
They have always had the vision to make a fully digital fair but thought it would take many years before it was possible and there was enough demand. With Covid-19 accelerating the digitisation, it was now possible for them to create a fully digital venue.
The digital fair they managed to set up was a success. They have never before had so many participants (at the physical fair) and more companies now had the opportunity to exhibit. Visitors were spared the travel time and exhibitors did not have to travel around the country with staff and equipment to exhibit. This resulted in significant savings both for the environment and for their respective wallets.
What's happening right now in marketing?
Given everything that's happening in the world right now, developments in many areas are accelerating a lot. For better or worse. Many are encountering major challenges as digitalisation blossoms, but what is really happening to us humans? Are we keeping up?
My own reflection is that we are lagging behind somewhat as digital developments fly forward, affecting us in many different ways. Both in our personal and professional lives, we are constantly encountering new technologies, systems and products to help us become efficient, productive and better versions of ourselves. We hang out more and more on social media, forums and digital networks. The development of AI (Artificial Intelligence) has also come a long way.
Sometimes it feels almost impossible to keep up. At least I don't.
When it comes to AI, I recently watched the hyped documentary The Social Dilemma on Netflix. There they told a rather interesting story - About 20 years ago, tech products were sold to consumers, whereas today it's free with e.g. Facebook and other similar applications and tools.
As we now hang out more and more on social media, we feed it with tons of information and data about ourselves that allows advertisers to tailor their messages on an individual level. In this way, we and our personal information become the product that then, for example, Facebook sells to its advertisers (e.g. Cambridge Analytica). A frightening thought if you think about it.
As we give away more and more information, the algorithms get better and better, which means that AI will get sharper and sharper.
And how does this affect marketing? Well, that messages can be tailored to the individual in an increasingly precise way when it comes to advertising. For advertisers, it's great to be able to tailor the message based on all components of the user's life. This of course makes the ads more relevant to you, but how do you as an individual feel that people know everything about you?
When it comes to search engine results, these algorithms are constantly improving to deliver the best answer to your question. This at least I feel is a good thing. After all, the idea is that you, the user, should get the best information possible. But at what cost? The dilemma here becomes choosing between relevant information and disclosure of one's personal data.
So what will our future look like when it comes to marketing?
In many ways, the future is already here. The pace of change is rapid and we are barely able to adapt to the new technologies. AI is really on the rise and it will both help and possibly hinder us.
When it comes to AI, my colleague Marcus recently wrote an article about AI as the content writer of the future. It talks about how AI will soon be able to write texts that are as good, if not better, than what a human can produce. In a way, this could help us produce content very efficiently. But what if the content produced is incorrect and then posted on the internet? Or what happens when AI writes better texts than humans...what will today's writers do in the future?
As I mentioned above, we are constantly feeding all platforms such as Google, Youtube, Instagram, Facebook etc with more and more personal information.
Today, when you Google something, for example, Google's algorithms look at your previous searches in the search engine, where you are in the world and a host of other parameters. Based on this, a search result is given to you within seconds.
I believe that in the future, data will be collected from other platforms as well. That is, scanning all the traces you leave behind on the internet and then giving you a result that is tailored to you.
Imagine you are looking for a digital marketing agency. The results that then come up are agencies in the city you live in, who have employees with the same values as you, who have the same interests as you, who have the same sense of humour as you and who also have the goal of making the world a better place.
You will then receive an answer that matches you as a person and your role in the company.
I also believe that digital networks will grow more and more. We see niche groups online growing and growing. In these groups, knowledge is shared seamlessly between users. If you already want to be at the forefront, I can say that it is a good idea to start these types of digital groups and communities yourself as this will become a natural meeting place in the future. If you then combine the digital with physical meetings, magic will happen.
Will everything be digital in the future?
According to surveys, 50-70% of buyers want to do their own research before making contact with a seller. I think this is something that will only increase in the future. Combined with this, we also see online sales in B2B slowly but surely increasing. This means that more and more business in B2B is done entirely digitally.
Without a salesperson being involved. If this increase continues, it means that companies will have to retool to meet customers' new buying behaviours. It is likely that roles such as customer success managers will become increasingly important, i.e. those who take care of the customer on an ongoing basis after a deal is done. This also means that the digital presence is crucial for companies to even succeed in bringing in new business.
As a salesperson myself, I've seen a big change in the way customers buy, just in the last few months. Previously, I ran to meetings on a daily basis. If I was efficient, I might be able to squeeze in 4-5 meetings in a day. But then I didn't have time for much else as travel time took up much of the day.
Today I can have 4 meetings before lunch thanks to video meetings. I also find that customers are more likely to buy without us meeting IRL. When this becomes the norm, salespeople will be able to be more efficient in their selling and if we combine this with online sales as well, there is a lot to gain.
Phile's predictions for the future
Voltage no. 1
To link back to the introduction, I would say that VR will probably be the mix between IRL and Online Sales. Like the digital trade show I talked about earlier, being able to meet companies and customers in a smooth and efficient way completely online.
What will this mean for marketing? Well, that marketing needs to learn more about how to create a fully digital customer journey. If VR does become part of the workplace, it will require a lot of work to learn how the technology works and how to create a really good VR experience.
Voltage no 2
Digital networks will grow. Niche online closed groups will increase. We want to connect with like-minded people with the same interests and where we have the opportunity to learn new things in the field.
What will this mean for marketing? Well that it might be a good idea to be the initiator of such a digital network and linked to this you can design physical meetings to maximise value for members.
Voltage no 3
If every single step on the internet is tracked and saved to fuel AI's development, it will be the basis for who you are paired with and what content you are exposed to.
What will this mean for marketing? Well, that what every employee does on the internet every day will be added up and taken into account when you as a company are presented to those who are looking for what you offer.
Voltage no 4
This is a bit of a quick brain dump but something I've been thinking a lot about. Maybe we get tired of the digital rush, of being "stalked" and therefore choose to leave the social platforms. We are doing a digital rebellion and choosing other ways to find information and becoming more analogue. This is where face-to-face meetings and networking become very important. Perhaps even traditional media will come back as it becomes attractive channels to spread messages to those who have made a digital rebellion?
What will this mean for marketing? Don't forget personal networks and the power of them. You never know when the shift will come.
Voltage no 5
Steven Spielberg was right! The world is completely destroyed and we live our lives through a VR game. What an anxiety!
What will this mean for marketing? Well nothing else matters except VR and everything that goes on in there. Your job as marketing manager at Max will be to create campaigns and product placements that make people who play a VR game, for example, also buy their digital lunch for their in-game avatar at Max and not at McDonald's :-)
See you in the VR world! Ready player ONE?!