In penning his 1932 masterpiece Brave New World, Aldous Huxley couldn’t have imagined the world he would’ve faced in 2017, and the way digital technology continues its rapid march through our everyday lives.
The invention of the steam engine marked the start of the first industrial revolution in the 18th century, electricity sparked the second from the 1870s and the internet the third from the 1990s. We’re now at the fourth, and it is to be driven by AI (Artificial Intelligence), Machine Learning and IoT. This promises to be the most disruptive revolution of all, and one that can’t be ignored.
So what exactly are the exotic-sounding technologies of AI, Machine Learning and IoT (Internet of Things)? And how are they predicted to shape both our daily lives, and more specifically, the art of digital marketing?
AI (Artificial Intelligence)
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Artificial Intelligence is “the development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making and translation between languages”.
Once just a pipe-dream of sci-fi novelists like Huxley and his contemporary George Orwell, AI has quietly eased itself into the palm of our hands, if not our consciousness, through popular mobile apps like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant.
Other leading if not perfect examples of AI include Elon Musks’s Tesla and his range of (semi) driverless cars, which rely on mind-bogglingly sophisticated sensors to predict the behavior of other road vehicles and safely guide their passenger from A to be B without incident.
However for AI to work in predicting human behavior, it needs to understand what makes us tick in the first place. This is where the equally sophisticated field of machine learning enters the picture.
With definitions ranging from “computer models designed to mimic aspects of the human brain’s structure and function” to “the process by which computers can get better at performing tasks through exposure to data”, Machine Learning is another tech concept that has gained heavy press coverage in recent years. If AI is the end result of digital technology’s exponential advances in our lifetime, machine learning is the brains behind it all.
Whether it’s Google Home remembering through repeated commands that you enjoy a takeaway margherita from your local pizza store every Friday evening at 7 PM and ordering on your behalf so dinner is ready when you arrive home from a busy week, or more mundane examples like Siri learning the nicknames of popular contacts in your iPhone’s address book; machine learning technology is well on its way to becoming just as smart as us humans (or perhaps even more so).
Rightly or wrongly, this also means a potential gold rush of data heading the way of the tech giants who manufacture these devices: companies like Amazon, Apple and Google who can then target us with real-time ads based on what they predict our needs will be at any specific point in time.
This leads us to the tech utopia (or nightmare) of a 24/7 all-embracing connected world where digital devices take on a mind of their own…
IoT (Internet of Things)
The concept of IoT (the “Internet of Things”) has been around for a while now and refers to the idea of once-inanimate objects such as our fridge, blender, light bulbs and even our bathroom mirrors being connected to the internet via miniature sensors, and therefore being able to talk directly to each other or any connected device.
A much loved example of IoT are smart fridges, such as LG’s Smart ThinQ, which can sense when you’re running low on milk and send you a text so you know to pick up another carton on your way home from work.
Naturally, it can also give you a list of nearby supermarkets or even order a carton online so it’s delivered to your front door in just a few easy clicks. Other examples include Breville’s smart kettle which you can control through a smartphone app, allowing you to have a warm cuppa ready the minute you walk through the door. Amazing.
Okay… So What Does This Mean for Digital Marketing?
· Semantic Search Will Rule: As our smartphones and other everyday items become increasingly intelligent and are able to “talk” to each other directly, they’ll also be able to talk to search engines on our behalf. Search queries will become increasingly semantic (meaning-based), rather than relying purely on typing keywords into Google as has been the case for the past 20 years.
· We’ll Need to Optimise for Voice Search: With organic CTR predicted to fall as more consumers use semantic search methods such as voice and visual search, digital marketers will increasingly need to optimise for longer-tail, more conversational search terms, which sound more like natural, spoken human language.
· Personalisation & User Experience is Key: Ultimately, through machine learning and AI, people will come to expect brands to offer them highly-targeted, contextualised products and services which speak to them above all else as individuals, rather than anonymous ‘consumers’.
Thanks to the flood of data captured by AI-enabled devices, delivering the right message to the right person at the right time will become progressively easier.
But this will only happen if brands have the know-how to translate this gold rush of data into meaningful insights that can underpin online ads, responsive websites and mobile apps that answer their customers’ needs and desires. And they’ll need to do so in a compelling, holistic way using targeted, immersive content that engages not only consumers’ minds, but also their hearts.