Just a month into the new year and marketers are beginning to speculate about which technologies and trends are going to cut through the hype and make a meaningful impact in 2017.
Artificial Intelligence Gets Real
Many seasoned industry analysts have predicted that 2017 will be the year of AI, with Fortune writing that it “threatens to upend the existing order in every industry.” This could be more than just hype. Much of the recent CES show in Las Vegas focused on the way AI is being brought into the home and the connected car, and what will be possible. Nissan and BMW announced plans to bring Microsoft’s Cortana assistant into their cars. Nissan is working directly with Microsoft on a Connected Vehicle Platform which encompasses Azure, Cortana and Office 365. Hopefully, this doesn’t mean that time-pressed execs will be working on PowerPoints while driving!
In the consumer AI world, though, there is only one name in everyone’s conversations – Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant. Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot devices dominated the holiday period, with the inexpensive devices finding their way into many households. 8.2 million households, to be exact, now own one of the devices. Amazon recently announced plans to put Alexa inside a table lamp, and inside third-party speakers for those disappointed with the Echo’s slightly tinny output.
It’s clear that everyone now wants in on voice assistants – they are increasingly the means to interact with retailers, our light switches and our refrigerators. There’s been a lot of hope and expectation around what AI can achieve and with voice assistants we’re finally seeing that turn into a reality.
Smart is the New Default
Connectivity is now being added to items at a dizzying pace. In addition to the now ubiquitous fitness trackers and smartwatches, connected refrigerators, smart clothing, smart toothbrushes and smart pillows are becoming more common.
It’ll be interesting to see whether many of these devices make it past the “interesting gadget” stage. In theory, some of them (such as the smart pillow which analyzes sleep patterns) could be very useful, but there are others (such as the connected beer fridge) which seem to be solutions in search of a problem.
The Return of First Party Data
Forrester Research found that although 91% of marketers prioritized personalization in 2016, many were still relying on segmentation to do so. This might be because much of the personalization is based on demographics, rather than behavior.
From what we’re seeing in our conversations with marketers, we expect 2017 to be the year that things begin to change. Marketers are now showing a real interest in using first party data as a competitive differentiator and creating campaigns that are aligned with customers’ immediate and real-time circumstances and intent.
This shift will force a change in metrics too, with the emphasis moving away from intangibles such as follows, likes and clicks to business results and bottom-line impact.