Trickle down economics may or may not work but trickle down technology certainly does.
If you think of the process like a wheat thresher, new powerful technologies always hit the enterprise market first as a big, solid masses (think the original supercomputers) and emerge for small business chewed up, refined, and affordable. Think the desktop PC.
This is especially true in the case of the marketing tools that you rely upon today, such as website and SEO tools, email marketing, and advanced digital advertising.
If you’re a small business, it is thus critical to keep your eyes on the horizon because those who are first in on these trends have a massive competitive advantage. What could you have done if you had been one of the first people buying up web domains?
Or what if you had been the first person to get into personalized email marketing before our inboxes were cluttered? Paying close attention is the only way to ride the next wave.
And of course, we get it, between sales, accounting, and vendor management, who has the time to stay current? It’s with this in mind that today we’ll unveil the bleeding edge of enterprise marketing technology so that you can keep your eyes peeled and stay competitive.
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Here are four enterprise marketing technologies today that will disrupt SMB tomorrow:
1. Location-Based Marketing
If technology seems like it’s sucking people into their smart-devices, you’ll be happy to hear that something is trying to shake them back out of it. Location-based marketing has been in the works for quite some time but it’s only just now maturing as Bluetooth and RFID sensors have become affordable. Physical storefronts can use them to beam ads, time-based offers, discounts, and just friendly advice directly to their nearby consumers’ phones to beckon them to step inside.
You can try it out for yourself with Google’s app Nearby that was released in June. It lets you interact with the real world by doing things like printing photos at a nearby CVS or automatically detecting audio tours of places you happen to be visiting. Soon, the line between digital and physical advertising will blur together as people pop out of the internet and into your shop.
2. Augmented Reality (AR)
Right now the Internet is clogged with pictures of cyborg-like virtual reality (VR) videogame players with bulky helmets and clunky cables, but augmented reality (AR) has snuck in as its far more widely adopted cousin. AR is when a virtual world is displayed on a screen over the real world, providing additional information a la Google Glass (now defunct) or gamifying it such as with the Pokemon GO craze. One of the astonishing realizations in the wake of this game's overnight success is the idea that its developer, Nintendo, can guide crowds of people to businesses locations for an advertising fee.
The marketing implications for this are as obvious as they are incredible: What happens when your phone or device allows you to “see” banner ads overlaid on top of the real world, blocking out existing ones? Or when technologies use your connected car's windshield to overlay virtual, floating billboards in the sky? AR will cause an advertising gold-rush as advertisers flock to the programs where users spend their time, and it won’t be long before this is a staple of small business marketing.
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Internet of Things (IoT)
A full 51 percent of Chief Marketing Officers worldwide believe that the IoT will fundamentally transform how marketing is done by 2020, according to a survey by The Economist. What exactly is it? It’s the trend that more and more of our belongings are being connected to the internet, from our laptops and watches to our cars and thermostats.
Connecting these items is an obvious move for manufacturers because smarter devices offer unparalleled convenience (just compare your smartphone to the Nokia phones of the 1990s) but they’re an absolute goldmine for marketing executives because it means that they can collect behavioral data on everything you do.
Today, we’re mostly tracked on the web for buying-behaviors like clicks and site visits, but in the near future, it won’t stop when we close our laptop. Every device in our life, from running sneakers to shampoo bottles will be reporting back usage to the mothership and build an eerily complete profile of our likes and dislikes. Personalized ads will demonstrate nearly psychic accuracy, and when this technology matures and moves down-market, we’ll stop wondering who our customers are and start fighting for the attention of the handful of well-known ideal ones.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) Chat
You are no doubt familiar with the sales chat boxes that large companies offer on their websites which connect you directly to help. On the other end sit actual people, either sales or customer service representatives, and they exist because without them an appalling 41 percent of sales requests are never followed up with. People are expensive however and even outsourced chat operators can’t compete with the cost savings of using robots to man them.
That’s right - artificially intelligent software to answer your questions. Seem crazy? It’s real, it’s already here, and it’s far smarter than simple question-and-answer conversations. Interest from Apple and Google has spurred innovation in genuinely conversational “bots” who can even detect hints of sarcasm and respond-in-turn. In the future, this bot-chat technology will help you better understand your customers (they're constantly learning) and may be your first line of sales support.
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Putting It All Together
What does a world with all of these technologies look like for small businesses? Your physical locations will become your very best digital marketing tools, attracting passing pedestrians or summoning them from a vastly augmented reality world where they wake up from their game to realize that they’re hungry and standing in your cafe.
It promises to provide more data on your customers than you could ever want and you’ll rely on artificially intelligent programs to comb through it, analyze it, and to engage your customer in a genuine conversation to get them to buy.
It’s a different world for sure, but not a scary one, especially if you keep tabs and monitor it’s advance. Innovation won’t be slowing down, after all, and will continue to enhance marketing by leaps and bounds at the highest enterprise levels and before you know it, your adoption of these tools may spell success for your small business in the new 21st century.