Entrepreneurs have no choice but to become marketing experts. These days, that means you need to become a bit of a tech expert, too. It also entails understanding how user behavior, media consumption and advertising tactics are changing.
Advertising is no longer just about digital display and video, let alone prime-time TV and newspaper ads. The industry has made significant gains in its ability to find, understand and reach audiences and to serve them creative, personalized messages fueled by data insights. If you fail to embrace these advancements, you will lose customers to competitors that do.
Like it or not, marketing tech is for everyone. Let’s take a look at five of the biggest emerging marketing technologies and define them in plain English:
- Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is when brands partner with influencers — people or organizations with large groups of engaged fans, usually on social media networks or YouTube — to communicate brand messages to their target audience. What’s important here is identifying the right influencers to work with. The influencer doesn’t have to have millions of followers. Brands are increasingly working with micro-influencers, or people with smaller (but niche) engaged fan bases.
The rise in ad blocking and brands’ need for video content contributes to influencer marketing’s popularity. Millennials are also a big force behind the trend since they tend to be distrustful of traditional advertising, and because they spend so much time on mobile apps. Partnering with a Snapchat star could be the perfect way to grab a millennial’s attention.
- Native Advertising
Native advertising is paid advertising that looks like the surrounding content, such as a sponsored Facebook in-feed post. Sometimes, publishers take the definition a step further and create native ad content that also feels like the surrounding editorial. A sponsored article on The New York Times adheres to similar quality standards as the rest of the news. Here is an example from The Atlantic, in which National Geographic sponsored an interactive timeline of milestones in human achievement.
Native advertising is popular because mimicking the surrounding user experience can increase click-through rates. But advertisers still need to think about ad relevance and quality, as well as be mindful of the FTC’s new guidelines on native ad labeling.
- Smart TV
You may have one, but are you thinking about it from a marketer’s perspective? A smart TV has internet connectivity so it’s like a TV/computer hybrid. You can access the internet, social media and streaming services, like Netflix, right from your remote. Now marketers can use the same digital targeting technologies they use on computers and phones to reach a television audience with increased precision. They can also target the same user across devices — on their smart TV and on their mobile phone, for example.
It’s important to remember a larger trend: cable cord cutting. With so much great content available online, more and more people are quitting cable altogether. The cable industry saw a net loss of 1.7 million subscribers in 2016, and losses are expected to grow. Consider your target audience and the type of media they are engaging with. They are probably spending more time in a smart TV app than watching network TV!
- Internet of Things (IoT)
It is increasingly common for all kinds of devices to have Wi-Fi capabilities. The interconnectedness of these devices is called the internet of things (IoT). For example, a household could have a smart TV, smart fridge and a connected security system, all of which are accessible from a mobile device. These devices generate data that can be used to help marketers better understand their customers and target them more efficiently.
IoT also extends beyond the household: From automotive to healthcare, IoT is transforming all kinds of industries, and companies are investing big bucks in understanding how to use enhanced machine-to-machine communication to improve their business.
- Virtual Reality (VR)
VR is the shiny new thing. Users wear headsets to access a three-dimensional, immersive and highly interactive experience. It is often discussed in the same vein as augmented reality (AR), which is an overlay of computer-generated content on the real world (you can read more on the distinction here.) VR headsets are becoming more affordable. Google Cardboard lets you turn your phone into a VR device with a piece of cardboard. The technology has implications for architecture, healthcare, education, gaming and, yes, marketing. Early adopters are already experimenting with VR/AR ad experiences, and they are pumped to be able to create an engaging, memorable and non-skippable experience.