Early last year, the world’s biggest soft drink company, Coca-Cola scrapped its global CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) role within its ranks in one of the most significant waves of corporate restructuring in recent history. In its place, the beverage company created a new role, the CGO (Chief Growth Officer), in line with the company’s new growth and consumer-oriented strategy.
Coca-Cola isn’t the only big brand trying to survive in a world that is continually being disrupted by advances in tech. Brands like Colgate Palmolive and many others in the FMCG sector have found themselves grappling with the realities of digital marketing and the ever-growing number of new platforms for interacting with consumers.
For many B2C companies that were operational about two decades ago, marketing budgets consisted of TV ads, billboards, newspapers, and other expensive marketing strategies. However, at the turn of the century, the internet and related tech disruptions began changing the way businesses and customers interacted, a trend that still continues to this day.
And now more than ever, marketing departments are feeling the brunt of emerging technologies, particularly those that affect consumer markets. Here are some of the tech developments that are upending traditional B2C marketing.
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1. Artificial Intelligence
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find an industry that isn’t being disrupted by machine learning, natural language processing, and other facets of artificial intelligence (AI). AI is driving automation efforts across many industries – from making stock picks in financial markets to helping power the next generation of self-driving cars and equipment.
For B2C marketers, AI is helping bridge the gap between brands and their customers in unprecedented ways. Data sets that used to go unutilized, including feedback from mass email campaigns, customer demographics, buying behaviors, and customer searches are being used to inform customized content creation strategies, which in turn helps realize personalized user experiences across multiple channels.
Even more interesting is the ongoing work to use AI to redefine current models of influencer marketing. Brands such as Facebook, Google, and IBM are using AI algorithms to help brands find the right influencers. For instance, Google’s TensorFlow helps brands find the right influencers by analyzing target audiences, increasing the probability of speaking to the right customers.
Plus, with chatbots, predictive marketing, and image recognition playing a central role this year, AI will easily become one of the biggest disruptors of the marketing industry.
2. Internet of Things (IoT)
Before the Internet of Things (IoT) became a thing, speaking (or listening) to a refrigerator, smartwatch, or anything that wasn’t a mobile phone would have probably landed you in an asylum. Now, however, smart, interconnected devices have opened a whole world of possibilities, especially for marketers who must now customize their marketing strategies to interact with customers via this developing channel.
And perhaps as a sign of faith in the IoT, big brands are buying in. In 2014, the largest marketing brand, Google, bought Nest, one of the biggest names in home automation, for over $3 billion. And not to be left behind, Amazon launched and invested heavily in AWS IoT, a cloud-based platform that allows connected devices to communicate securely with each other.
For marketers, the IoT presents a unique opportunity to synchronize offline customer traits and behaviors with digital experiences, which helps fill the gap that often pops up when mapping customer digital personas. For instance, it would be possible to tell when a customer hits the gym via their smartwatch or map their dietary habits from the contents of their refrigerators, thus enabling marketers to design a comprehensive marketing strategy for individual customers.
If you thought blockchain technologies are restricted to the world of cryptocurrencies, think again. The blockchain, a decentralized ledger that keeps track of all transactions on its network, has already found a home in B2B marketing, where it’s being used to secure cross-promotional contracts between bloggers, influencers, and platforms such as YouTube and Instagram.
For B2C marketing, the blockchain is changing the way businesses and customers handle the sensitive question of privacy and data security. In traditional setups, businesses enter into contracts with the likes of Facebook and Google for adverts, which sell customer data to these businesses often without the explicit knowledge of customers.
With blockchain-based search engines, consumers maintain full visibility of their data. Middlemen are also eliminated, which enables businesses to market directly to their customers, resulting in reduced ad spend and increased efficiency.
These technologies, including others like augmented reality and virtual reality, have the potential to transform traditional B2C marketing strategies for the better. With a larger percentage of consumers using ad blockers and moving away from traditional marketing channels such as print media, marketers need to embrace these emerging technologies and channels to reach their customers.