We’ve all read those click-baity articles about “marketing trends you need to know about right now.” But it seems whenever I’m reeled in by one such article, I find myself on a page touting marketing concepts that feel downright futuristic. Shopping in the metaverse? NFTs for sale in a brick-and-mortar store?
How realistic is this stuff? Much of the technology we have today would have been unimaginable to us in the early 2000s–we were still T9-ing our friends from our Razr phones back then–but do businesses need to start investing in all of these marketing trends immediately? Because that could get really expensive.
Here’s the part where I say, I’m not a psychic, but judging by the pace of adoption on some of these “next-gen” marketing tools, I don’t think you need to drop everything and buy a storefront next to Snoop Dogg in the metaverse tomorrow.
Let’s try to break things down by urgency–from the trends that probably are actually on the horizon to those that are further off (or might never happen).
On the horizon: some virtual reality technology
AR and VR have been on these marketing-trends-of-the-future lists for a while. But with the massive uptick in online selling driven by the pandemic, this one is looking more and more applicable in the here and now.
Many brands are already incorporating AR into their selling. Clothing retailers like Macy’s and Adidas added virtual fitting rooms to their stores during COVID, since the physical fitting rooms–while nearby–were shuttered.
Many makeup brands incorporated AR into the virtual shopping experience. You still want to try out that burgundy lipstick, but you don’t want to put that communal tester anywhere near your lips.
Even IKEA has embraced AR, allowing app users to point their phones at an empty corner of their home and virtually place IKEA furniture in the void.
So AR is here already and has practical applications, especially in the post-COVID era. If you’re a retailer, this one is worth investigating sooner rather than later.
VR is a slightly different story. While there’s lots of breathless talk about its promise in marketing circles, a recent Gartner survey shows that 35% of consumers don’t even know what the metaverse is. And a paltry 6% of folks feel like they understand it well enough to explain it to someone else.
To be marketed to in the metaverse, consumers must first understand what it is. Then, they need to go out and buy a VR headset to even get in there. Realistically, I think we’re a ways off from the masses engaging in virtual shopping sprees.
VR is certainly one to watch, but it’s much further out on the horizon than AR.
Much of the technology we have today would have been unimaginable to us in the early 2000s–we were still T9-ing our friends from our Razr phones back then–but do businesses need to start investing in all of these marketing trends immediately?
In the distance: the saturation of blockchain technology
I first heard about the blockchain in 2015 while working in the financial services industry. It was discussed primarily in the context of cryptocurrency, and it wasn’t something my friends in other fields were particularly concerned with.
Flash forward to 2022 and Crypto.com and Coinbase both ran attention-grabbing spots during the Super Bowl, while the NFL released commemorative NFTs in honor of the big game.
So do you need to dedicate time and budget to investigating cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and all the Web3 talk that’s happening over on marketing Twitter?
Not necessarily. Super Bowl XXXIV was lovingly dubbed the “Dot-Com Super Bowl” because of the dozen-plus ads run by flashy new internet companies. Spoiler alert: 22 years later, the majority of those companies no longer exist.
There’s still a lot we as a society don’t know or haven’t collectively decided about blockchain technology. Will cryptocurrency become regularly accepted by businesses as a form of payment? Will governments begin to regulate the currency? What other applications for blockchain technology might take off and change or enhance the way we do business?
It’s still way too early to answer these questions. Don’t be like epidemic.com (the actual name of a dot-com company focused on viral marketing that went belly-up the same year it ran its pricey Super Bowl ad). Hang out on the sidelines for a bit longer before going all-in on blockchain.
A mirage on the skyline: next-level AI
AI is already playing a role in certain aspects of digital marketing. Some automated bidding strategies, for example, are driven by AI. But what about those other, more futuristic, AI applications we keep hearing so much about? Will your marketing team be replaced by robots someday?
The answer is: probably not. Certain marketing tasks are ripe for AI and machine learning solutions. Simple, repetitive tasks (like bidding based on certain criteria or running A/B tests on email campaigns) are ideal for a robot to handle.
But a lot of marketing is about building an emotional connection with your audience. And while AI can certainly do some amazing things, it’s not yet close to replacing that human touch.
Automated chatbots and AI writing tools are two marketing trends that seem to get trotted out year after year as being “right on the horizon.” I think the reason we haven’t seen these two AI applications flourish is that in customer service interactions and copywriting, you need the human element.
No robot will capture the empathy a customer service rep feels for someone who’s having a frustrating experience with your product. Nor will a writing bot craft a clever tweet that plays on a current internet trend in just the right way.
These are tasks for humans. Maybe in 15 years, a robot will be able to do them–remember, we were all in on the Razr phones in 2005– but don’t go looking to unseat your CMO in favor of Rosey from the Jetsons just yet.
This look at trends isn’t meant to be a buzzkill. Many of the items on this list are super exciting to think about. I can dream of many powerful potential applications for things like blockchain or VR that could revolutionize marketing. I’m sure you can, too.
But the idea that every business needs to go all-in on every trend that comes down the pike is unhelpful and unrealistic. Before moving forward with any promising new marketing trend, carefully consider not just the upfront cost, but the potential time to ROI.
And if you need help sorting out which next-gen marketing solutions are right for you–or you just want opinions on paint color for your storefront in the metaverse–give us a call.