Even if you didn’t follow the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Vegas this year, you’ve already heard about some of the emerging technologies promised in the next year. Some of these advances are still in the development stages and will take a little longer to be fully implemented.
Still, now is the time to cash in on new technologies as they emerge, and no matter what your business, there is probably somewhere you can either utilize them for marketing or open up new markets as a result. Here are six of them, and how you can take advantage of them.
#1. Virtual Reality
It seemed everyone expected Virtual Reality to be a real disruption to the marketing world last year, but that did not happen. Still, it is gaining traction slowly in some astonishing areas.
- Movies. As entertainment is created in virtual reality (VR) instead of just 4K or 3D, so will advertising directed at that market. Creating advertising for YouTube and other video channels will soon require not only creating traditional video but 360 video as well.
- Gaming. The same goes for gaming. “Free” VR games will be offered in a similar way that free apps are: the ads will pay for the software instead of the user. If you want your ads to be seen in these applications, you will have to create it using 360 video.
- Education. Not only are education apps an opportunity for advertising, but they are also useful for training your own employees. Not only can you create and distribute content via VR to increase your brand awareness, but you can use VR to train your employees, simulating real world scenarios rather than just showing videos or through written materials.
There are many other places where virtual reality is gaining traction, and being prepared as the technology spreads to other areas is the best course of action.
#2. Augmented Reality
In mid-2016 the focus on augmented reality centered around the explosion of Pokemon Go. Businesses created Pokestops, libraries encouraged patrons to catch Pokemon and set up gyms, a move that attracted more business and more patrons.
However, gaming was just the tip of the iceberg. One of the most significant “real world” uses of augmented reality came in the area of medical education. “Simulator programs allow nurses to be in a dynamic interactive virtual environment where they are faced with clinical challenges that test their skill level,” an article about health care technology published by the Maryville University nursing program states. “Non-responsive mannequins are also being replaced with simulated patients that have lung and heart activity and realistic weight and skin texture. The new technology helps nurses better prepare for their clinicals and work with real, live human beings.”
Where virtual reality offers immersive simulations in training, augmented reality offers students and customers an immersive and interactive experience. This type of advance is not just for the healthcare field and gaming though. There are several other emerging applications.
- VA-ST Visor: Not a part of healthcare education, this Google award winning visor can be taught to recognize 3D objects and identify them, enabling someone with impaired vision to find lost items, navigate safely even in new environments, and even recognize individuals.
- Guided Tours: American Apparel offers in store tours and even assistance finding items with an augmented reality app customers can use on their smartphones. Other stores are adopting this kind of technology as well.
- Clothing: Maybelline released an ad last year that allowed customers to virtually “try on” different kinds of nail polish using a smartphone app. Amazon is developing technology that allows users to “try on” clothing and even shoes using augmented reality. Not only will customers be able to determine if the clothing fits, but they will be able to “see” how it looks on them, preventing expensive returns.
Countless other retailers and educators are adopting this innovation to engage customers, learners, and train their workforce. Regardless of the industry you are in, it’s likely that in some way you can utilize this technology to market in new ways, cut training costs, or simply make your employees more efficient.
#3. Fitness Tracking
Fitness trackers have gained unprecedented popularity, seven in ten Americans own one, and five in ten wears one every day. Apple clearly embraced this trend, illustrated by the features of the Apple Watch 2. They included its own GPS sensor, so you no longer had to carry your phone when recording a workout like a run or bike ride and true waterproofing so that users could record swimming workouts.
These type of wearables can be utilized by businesses in a few different ways.
- Daily Engagement: First, if you can relate your product to fitness tracking, which can be done with anything from diet and exercise products to supplements or even a kind of rewards, your customers will engage with you daily the same way they do their fitness tracker.
- Big Data: Fitness trackers are gathering a bunch of data about users, data that is voluntarily surrendered and even talked about openly online. This can reveal your customers eating, sleeping, and shopping habits, and that data is increasingly becoming actionable. It’s being used by healthcare providers and even content creators, like Jawbone’s use of sleep data to create humorous marketing graphics.
- Personalized Data: Personalizing ads and presenting them to a potential customer at exactly the right time and place is a marketer’s dream. For example, if a user is not doing a lot of high-intensity cardio in winter months, a brand could serve them up an article about the importance of maintaining that activity level in colder months, and how to do so. It would not only be relevant but would move the customer to action.
Even if you are not in the diet and fitness industry or the healthcare field, personalized data is invaluable, and if you can capture it, a marketing goldmine.
#4. Voice Search
Devices like Google Home and Alexa allow homeowners (and soon drivers, see section below) to control appliances, reorder products, search for information, play music, and more. While voice search is a relatively new development, these are devices that provide a single answer to a question instead of a string of search results.
You can optimize your business to be the answer to certain questions, offering you an opportunity for brand recognition and perhaps even conversions. This tactic is similar to being number one in Google search results on the page: no tactic is assured to help you achieve this goal, but you can optimize your content for single answer search and search snippets.
As searches develop and we gather more data about user behavior, these results will become even more valuable to marketers as we increasingly move toward user-centered search results rather than Google-pleasing ones.
#5. Autonomous Driving Vehicles
The Holy Grail for those designing autonomous vehicles is when the car moves from guardian to chauffeur. There are five stages of self-driving cars: we are in the first two stages now, where the car helps you keep your lane, warns you to brake and even brakes for you to assist with collision avoidance, and warns you of dangers behind you or in blind spots.
There are a few exceptions. Parking assist and other similar features drive for you, while you still have the opportunity to intervene if something goes wrong. The more duties automobiles take over for the driver and the more comfortable they make the passengers, the more the drive becomes about more than just getting from point A to point B.
Alexa and Voice Assist: As mentioned above, voice-assisted search is rapidly becoming more popular as “always listening” devices like the Echo and Google Home become an integral part of households. This technology is being added to cars as well, with Ford and Volkswagen committed to adding Amazon’s Alexa to their vehicles in the near future, and Hyundai not far behind.
Sustainability and Efficiency: At the same time these cars are becoming more environmentally friendly. Ford is developing hybrid versions of the Mustang and F150, moving away from more efficient exhaust systems to electric power. Tesla, Faraday Futures, and other companies are spearheading these efforts, so Chevy, BMW, and Toyota are rapidly catching up.
User Experience: What does all of this have to do with your business? Increasingly, the time spent in transit will be about user experience. Drivers will be searching for businesses near them and navigating to those places, watching video and listening to audio, and even experiencing virtual and augmented reality.
This time will become an opportunity to engage with customers, from voice search answers to delivering content they can digest while commuting. While fully autonomous driving might be several years away, things like gesture control and in-car fitness programs are already being developed in anticipation.
At the same time that our homes and our cars get smarter, drones are becoming a part of our everyday lives. There are several applications for them including law enforcement and the military applications where they go their start. However, they have several business applications as well.
Delivery: Amazon started the trend and is actively delivering packages to a few select customers in the UK using drones, but they are far from the only ones testing the delivery method. Walmart, Google, and other retailers are not far behind. The next evolution is for companies like UPS or FedEx to offer some kind of drone delivery as the infrastructure develops.
The biggest obstacle to this reality is regulation, but the answers may be closer than we think. Soon, your business could offer near instant delivery in many areas via drones.
Filming: Following military applications, filmmakers were the next group to look seriously at drones. Much cheaper than hiring a helicopter for a shoot, and much more versatile, the cost of such filming has become something nearly anyone can utilize. A great deal of marketing content is now created using drone filming.
Mapping: Critical to autonomous vehicles and even drone delivery is recent and high definition mapping and at least part of the answer to those issues is drones themselves, equipped with equipment from high definition cameras to LiDAR and other imaging tools. These maps can provide businesses with valuable data about their customers and their location when data like population, traffic patterns, and demographic data are coupled with them.
Hobbies: To add to the number of buzzing drones in the sky are hobbyists who fly drones for recreation, non-commercial filming, and more. While hobbyists are also subject to regulation restrictions, drones do not yet have to be registered with the FAA, although that may be coming, they are much freer to operate than commercial drones.
If your business can tap into this community or offer a related product they may need or want, you are tapping a market expected to grow to over $30 billion in the next ten years.
Each year, different parts of the technology sector disrupt how we do business. Staying ahead of your competition and utilizing these emerging technology trends to your advantage can only help your business in the long run, and an essential part of creating your marketing strategy.