Generative AI has been one of the most exciting technological breakthroughs in recent years. The accessibility of applications like ChatGPT has captured the imagination of tech experts and laypeople alike. Such is the breadth of possible applications - for good and for bad - that it seems like generative AI is the only real game in town.
While there’s no doubt that it's going to play a huge role in the development of technology over the next few decades, such is the degree of hype that it is easy to find ourselves staring too far into the distance at the expense of seeing the opportunities that are here and now.
Within the marketing industry there’s particular interest in generative AI because of its ability to automate so many routine tasks, create collateral and enhance personalised engagement with customers. The reality is that, save for a few use cases, generative AI is not quite game ready.
Reliability and quality of outputs combined with a whole host of legal and ethical questions are likely to limit wide-scale adoption in the short to medium term.
Between now and then there are a number of other, less talked-about innovations that are profoundly changing how marketing can work. For investors, entrepreneurs, and marketers, these are the key technologies that you should really keep an eye on:
Before generative AI there was the Metaverse. While media interest in Zuckerberg’s vision dissipated relatively quickly, the fundamentals behind virtual and augmented reality experiences did not change. Nearly every piece of research shows that consumers find AR and VR experiences more engaging than all other marketing formats. What has held back the sector has been a lack of sufficiently advanced and appealing hardware and intuitive and accessible software to underpin the development of these experiences.
The impending releases of Meta’s Oculus Quest 3 and Apple’s Vision Pro, together with a host of new design and development platforms have changed this dynamic. There is a strong possibility that VR devices will become truly mainstream in the next year and with it will come an explosion of possibilities for the martech industry.
It’s also important to remember that VR and AR is not just confined to creating virtual sales experiences for consumers. It can also be used for a host of other marketing functions such as designing shop layouts, planning and selling space or sponsorship for events, and prototyping the look and feel of products. To service these use cases there’s a fast-growing ecosystem of martech startups developing numerous exciting applications. Take a look at recent news from ShapesXR for some inspiration.
I would be the first to admit that ‘composable architecture’ does not sound as exciting as XR but it is arguably much more important. Indeed, without composable architecture many of the most exciting XR opportunities can not be realised. If you’re unfamiliar with the term it is, in a nutshell, combining API-first microservices on the cloud using headless technology.
That jargon translates to giving businesses the ability to free themselves from a monolithic architecture to create tech stacks, applications, and services that are specifically designed to their needs. It vastly reduces costs, speeds up development, and is incredibly flexible.
Marketing departments that may have previously had to rely on big, all-in-one software solutions can now pick and choose the pieces of tech that best serve their needs. This is really important for modern marketing due to the pace at which customer expectations change, new marketing channels are created and data science is developing. It’s not hyperbole to say that nearly every brand will end up converting to composable architecture.
Of course, composable architecture is still in relatively early days, so expect some of the early movers in this space to become the big global tech infrastructure providers of the future. There is also plenty of scope for new entrants to develop the plethora of microservices and headless platforms that will underpin new innovations in marketing (and beyond).
Omnichannel and analytics
Creating truly omnichannel experiences - that is uniting every touchpoint a customer can have with a brand to create one seamless engagement - has long been the holy grail of marketing. The problem has been bridging the offline and online divide. It is here that VR and AR combined with smart devices, and underpinned by composable architecture and advanced data analytics could provide the key.
Brands may soon be able to link the real-world interactions of their customers in store via devices such as beacons or interactions on VR headsets to their online personas. Successfully joining and understanding this information requires data infrastructure and advanced analytics.
There is a rapidly growing cohort of startups that enable companies to connect these dots, and empower marketers to understand them and act effectively. The crucial part is that the best of these platforms are designed directly to cater to the skills of marketers rather than developers.
A quick honourable mention should also go to the growing field of predictive analytics. Marketers will soon be able to accurately test the impact of their campaigns before they launch them. Keep an eye out for startups operating in this field as most companies will find the cost savings and optimisation potential incredibly attractive.
Lead image: Aditya Chinchure