Think Big. Start Small. Fail Fast.
There has been plenty of hype you hear today in the media about Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and Blockchain topics and their benefits. However, the reality is that the execution and adoption of those technologies are way behind in the enterprises. It is either because the use cases are not yet fully and immediately supportive to the business case other than it being fancy or that there is not enough skill sets within the organizations. Perhaps, the MarTech applications with those capabilities are still emerging every day and that marketers are confused what to do with them. AI and ML has been at the forefront when it comes to theoretical applications and very few organizations have productionized it to be useful on a day-to-day basis.
In this article, I will try to depict what the immediate future for MarTech and AdTech will look like in the short term, what I define as short term is 2018 – 2019 timeframe.
Here are the top five MarTech/AdTech applications that will be most talked about and implemented in the near-term.
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning:
AI and ML in marketing is headed towards where data is and how data is going to be leveraged in marketing. Most organizations are still spending time researching and preparing data. Hence the execution is gradually picking up. We will see a lot of small projects in the areas of AI and ML across various verticals especially in the B2C sector. Many MarTech applications will have embedded AI functionalities, for instance, campaign management applications having predictive email subject lines, web analytics applications having predictive personalization, content management systems having predictive cropping of images for responsive websites. Also, in the Machine Learning area we see more and more self-learning offers that are presented to the customers across all channels based on their past interaction with the brand. Although there is much talk about larger AI and ML applications, we will see some maturity with the MarTech applications with those offerings and we will see a lot small projects being implemented in marketing.
We have seen programmatic ads already quite popular across media companies. What we are going to see more and more is about programmatic Direct Mail where rendering an online experience into a direct mail piece and as people spend more time online on mobile, Programmatic Mobile advertising is becoming even more pervasive. Brands will want to use AdTech with capabilities not only on the programmatic display but also spanning across Direct Mail and Mobile with embedded AI and ML determining what channels are best for what individuals. This will leave marketers with no stone unturned in their efforts in programmatic advertising. What this means is that the audience the marketers used to target on specific channels will move to cross-device marketing to a single audience, i.e. making sure the same individual is seeing the ad across all the devices. Mastering cross-device targeting and optimized mobile ads will become more prominent across all the marketing efforts. People-based marketing will expand in the coming year as more players are able to support these efforts as identity resolution and ID graphs technology mature.
Although this has been much talked about in the last couple of years, it has not taken main stage yet despite server-side bidding promises to improve latency, solve for scale and support better auction logic to increase the yield.
In traditional header bidding most of the communications happen from the browser side into Exchanges. Essentially, these communications are moved to servers by eliminating the constraints on the browser side especially around user experience. This process is basically same as how SSPs and DSPs integrated for years, except this time the SSPs are integrating with each other as well which means SSPs will have to provide that infrastructure to support. Google and Amazon are already employing such techniques.
Server-side bidding is moving to videos as well now and this process helps provide a better yield for the publishers in determining the exact value of their inventory. Overall there are benefits using server-side bidding for publishers and exchanges and we are going to witness some big publishers and e-commerce brands moving towards this direction where the page-load time impacts the checkout rate. In the short-term we will see more transparent server-to-server superior connections that drive benefits for certain key brands contingent upon SSPs buy-in. If this takes off, then we are going to see some of the consolidations happening at the DSPs.
This is yet another topic that is talked about quite a bit and has been addressed via attribution modeling and this is one of the still biggest issues with marketers to really determine how their campaigns are performing. The attribution problem is exacerbated with the proliferation of channels and the fact that the data still resides in silos in those channels. As I see in the near-term, MarTech vendors that offer cross-channel customer orchestration applications are going to embed attribution modeling within the applications and it will no longer be an external analysis. Centralization of data pre- and post-activation (engaging customers and prospects with email, SMS, push etc.) becomes the norm whether it is within those cross-channel applications or within the centralized data environment so that these analyses can be done. Attribution will be much talked about especially amongst the lifestyle brands that are growing quickly, and they are not able to figure out why?
Finally, much hyped topic of Blockchain. It is all about trust. This is going to revolutionize how information is stored and exchanged across multiple entities with immense trust. Some pundits are even calling this “trust economy” that is going to ensue. There are several applications of Blockchain you would read across various media publications. However, when it comes to marketing; only thing that is talked about is Blockchain helping advertising technology. I also feel that MarTech will be embracing Blockchain when it comes to data, privacy and ownership. With the GDPR regulation already in full swing, will Blockchain provide that answer to store the data and provide that privacy that individuals need? Will there be more private blockchains that emerge among third-party data aggregators? We are certainly going to see small scale POCs in enterprise marketing using Blockchain concepts in 2018 – 2019 to validate if in fact Blockchain applications in data use cases will hold water.
In summary, organizations should Think Big, Start Small POCs to validate the concepts and scale, and fail fast if we have to so we can learn from the failures to make it better.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sukumar has 24 years of customer-facing experience delivering technology solutions across industries, with 14 of those years delivering both marketing technology and analytics solutions. His expertise in customer engagement allows him to work with clients to understand their needs and translate those needs into finding the technology that delivers excellent results.
Utilizing the best resources, Sukumar has delivered cross-channel digital marketing solutions (combining both AdTech and MarTech) to various clients in the Retail/CPG, Financial Services, Hospitality and Entertainment, Technology, and Auto and Manufacturing verticals. At Ansira, Sukumar successfully transitions solution sales to delivery through ongoing support and managed end-to-end activities, and serves as a single point of contact for customers.
Sukumar has a Master of Science in industrial and systems engineering from Wichita State University, with Alpha Pi Mu excellence, and an MBA in international business from Thunderbird School of Global Management, with Beta Gamma Sigma honors.