#marketing technology

When it comes to AI for marketers – less haste means more speed.

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If the hype is to be believed, AI is one of the most exciting innovations in the ad industry, with what tech can do, and what it will be able to do, set to change the world.

But while it’s tempting to go for the biggest and shiniest new AI solution, you should be very discerning about what is surface fluff, and what tech will actually make the most difference to the success of your business right now.

The thing is, despite the hype and visions of robots coming over the horizon, AI has been around for a while, and is very much here and happening. The tech you’re seeing now is what you can use now. If you sit around waiting for the future to arrive, you might find that other people are actually using what they’ve got in the present – to get ahead of you.

So, what to do? Well, it’s an old idea but it’s tried and tested: start small, start now, but start something. There is plenty of basic AI that marketers can be using to improve workflow or use A/B testing to identify the best subject line for an email campaign. Machines are already capable of lightening our load by taking on small jobs which save time – so don’t waste it waiting for what might be arriving in the future.

So, you start small and build slowly. Get the foundations firm and complete and then you can build more complicated features of AI into your campaigns from a position of strength and understanding, rather than one of starry-eyed enthusiasm. Remember that AI is a tool like any other with specific strengths for a specific purpose. Using it, for example, to create reams of data just because you can, is meaningless unless you analyse that data and use it for a purpose – not to mention a waste of money and time.

You have the opportunity through the AI that exists now, to understand your audience better and in a more nuanced way. Instead of simply pushing more and more ads, through AI you have the opportunity to target them in a much more specific, less scatter gun way. This means that you’ll have a far better understanding of when, where, how and how much to engage with them. More efficiency, less waste. And, of course, by not bombarding consumers with the same message, on the wrong platform, at the wrong time, they are likely to be much more receptive when you do capture their attention. Remember quality, not quantity, is key.

Be consistent. Long-term success will not come if you jump from new technology to new technology, at different times, in different areas, just because it’s there. Across your team you need to adopt a unified and consistent approach – it’s not a competition to see who the best is at using AI. Just make sure, whatever you’re using it for – optimisation, data stories etc. – that you implement it consistently across all platforms.

Pay attention to detail and be strategic. This way your message will be consistent to consumers and more likely to have the desired result. Yes, it takes a bit of bravery to jump in and get on with it, but if you wait for the next thing to come along, you’re missing out on what AI can do for you now.

And then, when the future AI does arrive, you’ll be in a great position to know what to do with it.

Robot ‘eyes’ aid for motor impairments.

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The Georgia Institute of Technology has developed an interface system with augmented reality technology which gives a ‘robot’s eye view’ of the surroundings that could help people with motor impairments operate a robot to perform routine personal care tasks – even those as specific as scratching an itch or rubbing in hand cream.

The wheeled robot has two arms and a head, enabling it to manipulate objects such as a hairbrush, a water bottles and even an electric shaver.

Participants in a primary study used their own assistive equipment to operate a mouse curser to perform a task and were able control the robot remotely. Eighty percent of the participants could manipulate the robot to pick up a water bottle and bring it to the mouth of a mannequin.

In a second study, Henry Evans, California, tested the robot at home for seven days. He not only completed the tasks anticipated by the designers but was able to combine the operation of both robot arms at the same time – one to control a flannel and the other to use a brush. As much of the assisted technology available today is designed for very specific outcomes, the fact that Henry found new opportunities for using it suggests that the technology has great potential for empowering and assisting users.

Most impressively, the interface enabled Henry to care for himself in bed over an extended period of time.

“The most helpful aspect of the interface system was that I could operate the robot completely independently, with only small head movements using an extremely intuitive graphical user interface,” he says.

The web-based interface shows a view of the world from cameras placed in the robot’s head. Clickable controls overlaid on the view allow users to control the robot’s hands and arms and move the robot around the environment.

As the interface has been built around the actions of a simple single-button mouse in a form of universal design, lengthy training sessions are not necessary for people to use it, and it can be accessed by many – the next step is to reduce size and cost, enabling the technology to become commercially viable.

Tech predictions for 2019.

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The big news is that 2019 will bring smartphones equipped with 5G modems and foldable displays – though not necessarily in devices that incorporate both. To be fair, most smartphones sold in 2019 will have neither as the cost early on will be prohibitive and we still have limited initial 5G coverage. But they’re on their way, and certainly the idea of a foldable phone will be very tempting for many consumers.

Next up is game streaming. This should enable gamers to play top-end, popular games across a wide range of devices from smartphones to PCs with high-quality visuals and lag-free responsiveness. But, to take off properly, it’s got to be easy to use and perceived to be worth the money. Not an easy task, but improvements in overall WiFi, connectivity, wide area networks and the widespread adoption and optimisation of GPUs in cloud-based servers should help. Besides this, advancements in software like split or collaborative rendering (where some activity is on the cloud and some on the local device), as well as AI-based predictions of necessary actions, and preloaded content, appear to have brought us to the brink of a new era of gaming services.

Undoubtedly, cloud computing has changed expectations about performance, reliability, and security. The DevOps (a set of practices automating the processes between software development and IT teams to release software more quickly and more reliably) environment has reconfigured how software is built, tested and deployed. Consequently, companies are shifting their focus away from the public infrastructure-based aspects of cloud computing and towards the flexible software environments it enables. The public and private multi-cloud platform is likely to become standard.

Data privacy is a hot topic and as a result, so are tech companies’ data handling practices. Consumers have high expectations of technology’s ability to personalise services and apps to meet their specific interests. They expect technology to make devices and services faster, more efficient, and more compelling. But to provide high levels of personal customisation, there has to be some access to an individual’s personal data and patterns of use. This has usually meant that they have shared information with many different companies to receive a customised or personalised experience. Now, thanks to the AI-based software and hardware capabilities becoming available on our personal devices, more of the data analysis work could start being done directly on devices, without external sharing. On-device AI inferencing is now becoming a reality.

It seems that science fiction might get real this year with personal robotics devices becoming available. Movement, motion, and environmental awareness capabilities have advanced significantly in the robotics world. Together with increasingly empathetic AI capabilities being brought to voice-based digital assistants, this points to commercial and consumer applications of robots in 2019.

It also looks as if cloud-based services are reducing the relevance of the usual platforms as what we do on our devices is becoming increasingly separated from operating system user interfaces. And, as it’s becoming much simpler to run critical applications on any device, we may end up in a situation where the most relevant platform is the cloud for both consumers and businesses.

The future’s on its way.

Sometimes, the smartest marketing technology can cause problems.

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Smart technology is almost always useful, and has the potential to streamline and refine all marketing strategies. But sometimes, it can be too smart, especially if your marketing strategies aren’t working together. Sometimes, when different smart systems gather their own information about customers, and act independently, wires can get crossed and conflicting messages can be delivered.
Now inevitably, complexity can sometimes lead to the occasional mixed message, but to prevent it become a regular occurrence, having all your systems serve one central brain is the solution to marketing integration. To start with, you must acquire the central hub, the marketing platform. Using artificial intelligence and machine learning processes, the central hub takes care of all the strategic functionalities, relegating each system into a dumb terminal. The brain must be able to learn which marketing techniques are successful, and monitor them in real time. And of course, it needs to adapt and decide which techniques are going to be the most effective.

Then, you have to train your marketing platform to interact with each individual system, in the same way that their own intelligence did. Once the hub and dumb system are interacting fluidly, then you can begin the process of training the platform to interact with all of your terminals, and you are closer to having an integrated stack of marketing technology, which in turn, allows you to refine your whole process. When all systems are integrated, the central hub can send smarter integrated signals to all the attached terminals. Once that has been completed, you can refine the whole stack, adding new information, which allows you a better, more efficient process, and thus, a better relationship with the customers.

Remember, you don’t want marketing technology for the sake of it. Effective tech systems are a means to a more efficient and closer relationship with your customers, which is beneficial, not only for them but for you as well.

How to increase engagement using marketing technology.

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Most new marketing technology is being driven with engagement at the forefront of the developer’s minds. After all, engagement is key to any good piece of marketing. It isn’t enough to have a presence online, you need the interactions to lead to increased visibility.

You also have to ensure that the customer’s journey is tracked in some way, and there are a number of technological solutions for this. Being able to understand how your customers think, whether they look at a product a few times before buying, and why, is an invaluable resource. Recognising customer’s behaviour patterns, and being able to understand and predict how customers will act, is invaluable resource for marketers, and marketing technology can help. Even something as simple as a branded GIF gets your message seen by potential new customers, and whilst it might seem like a little thing, every advantage you can get is worth it.

Content creation has always been a great way to generate engagement, and with marketing technology, it can be even more personalised, and therefore effective. The advent of virtual and augmented reality, and the ease at which developers can create personalised, tailored content for customers. These particular industries are only going to get more investment, and thus, the services offered will improve, which in turn will lead to even more creative and effective marketing solutions.

As we know, meaningful connections are vital to maintaining a mutually beneficial relationship, and finding a balance between technology and a personal touch is important. Finding something you are passionate about, sticking to it, and using technology to make the line of communication more efficient, is the best way to create this balance. And the future of marketing technology is going to be just as useful in this regard. Blockchain will allow marketers to interact with their customers not only directly, but securely, at a time when issues surrounding data misuse and privacy are hot topics. VR and AR will allow companies and customers to communicate effortlessly and clearly.

To conclude, it is vital that your online presence translates into engagement between company and customer. Marketing technologies are advancing at a rapid rate, and will be invaluable resource when it comes to creating and maintaining this relationship, which is mutually beneficial.