Without a doubt, marketing has evolved dramatically over the past several years. Big data and advanced analytics have transformed daily tasks across myriad industries and Artificial Intelligence (AI) has started changing the way marketers target and engage with consumers.
Given how quickly marketing has evolved, there’s been a lot of speculation about its future. At Inbound 2016, HubSpot co-founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah shared their take on the future of marketing, and I found their insights particularly relevant. Below are five predictions Halligan and Shah made that marketers should recognize:
- Human-machine conversations will replace human-computer conversations.
Marketers have long worked to effectively communicate with customers and prospects on behalf of their brand, and historically, those conversations have occurred via a computer and keyboard. In future, though, those conversations will be more natural and fluid, leveraging technology like voice input and visual outputs to make communicating more efficient. As Shah said at Inbound, “Conversational UI is going to be an even bigger leap in software than we had with the shift to web-based software… We will have voice input because it’s much more efficient [than typing] and visual output because it’s more efficient than listening.”
- Customer engagement data will drive all content.
In the past, inbound links and search boxes alone determined which content and/or products were displayed. Think about it: Google has indexed and mapped connections between every page on the internet and displays websites based on their popularity (rather than quality). Facebook has linked 1.79 billion people and according to Shah, its search box is being used 2 billion times a day. The future of marketing, however, will focus more on engagement. Rather than determining what consumers see based solely on popularity, the quality of content and/or products will be considered, and that quality will be determined by the number of consumers engaging with it.
- AI will automate major components of sales and marketing.
Machine learning and AI are already improving sales and marketing software by providing the ability to take action without input from a human. As Shah said, “In the next few years, we’re going to have autonomous, self-driving marketing automation” and as a result, complex yet crucial tasks such as predictive lead scoring, content recommendations and email acquisition will become a lot easier. Additionally, as Shah described at Inbound, “Match.com for leads” will emerge, in which leads will automatically be routed to the most appropriate salesperson based on lead analysis and salesperson data.
- Marketers will evolve beyond rote work.
Some marketers worry that AI-powered technologies will take over their daily responsibilities and render them obsolete, however that’s not where the industry is headed. Instead, AI will enable bots to work in the background (like virtual assistants for busy marketers), taking on responsibilities too tedious and time-consuming for humans. As a result, future marketers will be able to focus their time and intellect on more creative tasks, like “understanding the customer, figuring out what the overall positioning is, and having actual conversations with other humans,” according to Shah.
- Algorithms will become a commodity.
Algorithms used to require years of experience, extensive knowledge and significant time to build, but now they’re available for purchase in just a matter of clicks. As Shah said, “Mere mortals like me don’t have to learn about machine learning per se. More companies will start doing things that we thought required 100 PhDs.” The new hurdle, however, will be the collecting, storing and leveraging of data to feed those machine learning algorithms. Marketers capable of doing so will be the ones succeeding long-term.
No one can definitively say what marketing will look like in the future, however what appears certain is that machine learning and AI will play a large role. Rather than ignore or fear this reality, embrace it. Leverage AI to better understand, target and engage with consumers and take advantage of its ability to automate mundane tasks. In doing so, you’ll be able to innovate and succeed along with the ever-changing marketing landscape, rather than get left behind.