FODM – Future of Digital Marketing

Having attended the 2015 event for the first time, it’s gone to the top of our ‘must go’ list of events so we naturally booked ourselves onto this year’s conference which was again very well organised by those excellent people at econsultancy. The day, which has a relentless programme of top speakers, takes a look at what’s on the digital horizon and how, as marketers, we should be harnessing or thinking about these emerging technologies and trends.

Because it’s a broad view, it’s fair to say that not all of these innovations seem immediately or even remotely relevant to some of our projects or clients and econsultancy themselves readily admit that not all the things predicted to be ‘the next big thing’ in the past necessarily became them. On the other hand, it’s fascinating to star gaze.

Which is precisely what futurologist Gerd Leonhard does for a living. He delivered a fascinating presentation on the marketer of the future and where distinction between people and machines might fall. He contested that humanity will change more in the next 20 years than it has in the previous 300 with the introduction of technologies such as self-driving cars, artificial intelligence and virtual reality. While some of these are perhaps some way off, although we’ve all seen that the likes of Google are well down the path with driverless cars, there are new combinations that are here now and working.

The big trends he sees are the emergence of effective intelligent digital assistants – with data aggregated and linked results – rather than numerous searches. For example you might search with a question: ‘can you book me a trip to Bali, with one stopover, with my favourite airline, business class so I can be at a U2 concert on Friday’. The data, including your known preferences, would then be pulled together as one booking.

Furthermore, this process will probably be spoken as speaking and not typing will be the new normal with advances in NLP voice recognition software and translation apps. Ultimately people will use technology to carry out everyday tasks more easily. All of this has some big implications for marketers as convergence leads to more individualisation as it places the user in greater control, so advertising as an interruption is dying out. There will be a move to conversational commerce powered by hyper-connected, hyper-social, location aware devices – the internet of things and augmented/artificial intelligence from bot to bot.  The plethora of personal data out there – with some 24 millon data points on an individual on Google and 250M when social media is added – means that ads will be more targeted around your profile leading to more signal and less noise.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Gerd’s talk was the ethical issues that the digital world creates – ‘technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master’. There’s a certain magic with new tech that amazes, but that magic can turn manic with so many devices and channels such as thousands of emails or texts, and even toxic when abused – Twitter trolls or Facebook snoopers and snipers. The questions then are around the relationship between technology and humanity and whilst machines will replace us in some areas, for example big business decisions will increasingly be made by big data and predictive analytics rather than experts or by intuition. Advances in technologies like cognitive computing, genetic engineering, artificial intelligence and robotics means that machines will handle more and more things that people do now, but trivial and emotional things can not be digitised so they become more valuable. People will always determine morals, values, ethics and humanity so future skills needs will be more human focusing on creativity, problem solving and emotional intelligence.

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