Marketing technologies 2017: A puzzling picture

Jean-Paul De Clerck
360° people-centric digital business and transformation analyst
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Recent research, conducted for Marketo, looked at the technologies which marketers plan to use in their 2017 marketing strategy and what technologies they believe consumers will leverage more.

The results are – to say the least - quite puzzling although it needs to be said that the research mainly focuses on those technologies we would still classify as emerging, even if many are already in use in some companies.

For 'global marketers' (including respondents from the UK and Australia), the Internet of Things is the main technology they intend to use in a marketing context with 43.75% of respondents.

This makes the intended usage of the Internet of Things for marketing purposes more important than the usage of technologies such as (in order of decreasing importance):

  • Virtual reality (37.5%).
  • Artificial intelligence (27%).
  • Predictive analytics (26.25%).
  • Machine learning (25.75%).
  • Augmented reality (22%).

Of course these results don't indicate the underlying realities nor the use cases for which international marketers claim they will use them.

The Internet of Things is NOT a technology

Moreover, it is a pretty strange categorisation of technologies. For instance, one can argue if the Internet of Things is a technology. For me it clearly is not.

It's a huge umbrella term for several technologies in areas that also overlap with, for instance, predictive analytics,  machine learning and AI, to name a few, also depending on the use case.

Moreover, you can't compare what happens in manufacturing in an Internet of Things perspective, where it's also called the Industrial Internet, with what you can for instance do in retail or a customer service perspective as tackled in my previous post.

The Internet of Things continues to be approached as if it were one technology or a thing and that's pretty annoying for those who are serious about it. In more than one sense the Internet of Things really is a misnomer.

I love how Bill Ruh, Chief Digital Officer at GE, the company that launched the Industrial Internet concept and Consortium and clearly is among those who are most active in the Industrial Internet of Things (both terms de facto are used interchangeably) put it on Forbes today. I quote: "Terms like IoT are absurdly confusing — OK, connect the machine and get data off it. Everybody can do that. Well, no—that’s a simplistic, cartoonish version of the IoT world."

Next, there is this strange split-up between artificial intelligence, predictive analytics and machine learning. True, they are not entirely the same but as far as I know there isn't a lot of predictive analytics going on without techniques from artificial intelligence and machine learning, is there?

Do marketers understand technologies (enough)?

It makes me wonder if, marketers really grasp the meaning and most of all purpose and possibilities of the technologies Marketo questioned them about.

And that brings me to a second point. Whereas 'global' marketers as Marketo calls them (in reality marketers from the UK, Australia, Germany and France) rank the usage of the Internet of Things high in their 2017 marketing technology priority list and predictive analytics only ranks fourth with little over a quarter of participants, we see the exact opposite picture in the US.

Just watch the infographic below from Marketo (source). By far the main technology that US marketers want to incorporate in their marketing strategy in 2017 is predictive analytics with a whopping 69.55%. The Internet of Things which, again, is not a technology, ranks second with only 29.09%.

There are several discrepancies regarding the usage of other technologies too. One can only wonder if this has to do with different mentalities and market realities (however, Europeans, for instance, in general don't strike me as being the most bullish regarding AR, VR and all the new 'stuff' out there) or if there is little meaning to be derived from the survey whatsoever.

If the latter is the case, let's agree on one thing though: stop calling the Internet of Things a technology and focus on the integrated perspective with the various technologies and 'phenomena' as enablers of better customer experience and marketing. The same goes for marketing automation, the area where Marketo is active in, and all the other platforms in the marketing and customer service technology stack.

It's the customer and outcome that matters. But you knew that already.

Marketing technology 2017
Source: Marketo

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