The 2018 Marketing Landscape Will Be Shaped By These Five Things.

The 2018 Marketing Landscape Will Be Shaped By These Five Things.

Just like every other year, 2018 will prove to be unlike any other year. With that in mind, a few of us put our heads together to prognosticate about what we’ll see in marketing in the year ahead.

Talking to devices

While Siri can be occasionally infuriating, emerging voice recognition software has a 5% error rate which is lower than human transcribers. 2018 is the year that voice will aggressively start replacing typing as the way Americans interact with their technology.

Voice will be the chosen method people interact with more of their devices. It won’t just be Alexa and Siri that you speak to, devices from your thermostat to your refrigerator will use the spoken word and simple images to create a more intuitive and easy user experience.

‘Re-stocking’ will replace active shopping

A result of the move to voice-enabled devices is that people will start treating the purchases of most everyday consumer and household goods as simple ‘re-stocking’ tasks.

You can probably imagine it now: “Alexa, buy more paper towels.”

It’s convenient. Surely, you have your regular brand stored as a preference. Then it becomes habit, and instead of actively shopping a store, considering price, having that famous “moment of truth” where you decide to buy or try a competing product, consumers will instead simply ask a device to re-stock—and the device will just order your pre-selected brand or even a default.

Conspicuous consumption is coming back (but Hummer isn’t).

Not every purchase falls into the ‘re-stocking’ category, especially as the economy continues to recover and real wages go on the rise. With more spending power and, more importantly, the feeling of more spending power, people are once again beginning to spend big on things that signal their success.

It’s just like the early 2000s, except instead of chrome-plated, pavement-melting Hummers, people are signaling their success (and ideological priorities) through travel, local and craft food and drink, and artisanal, indie brands.

Bonus points are awarded if what you buy is easily captured for social media.

This trend will drive a wedge between how people buy, with low-signaling value ‘re-stock’ purchases where the brand doesn’t matter on the one hand and high-signaling value purchases that are intensely researched where the brand is a critical component on the other.

It will be more critical than ever for marketers to get to consumers before the famous at-retail “moment of truth” becomes “the moment of unthinking re-stocking”.

The Amazon of all things

With the focus on reaching consumers early and decisively, the groundwork has been set for Amazon to emerge as a new digital advertising platform.

As a retailer, they have quietly been collecting data while building out a platform with extraordinary reach across the entire sales funnel and even, with Alexa, into the home.

They have the consumer attention. They have the consumer data. They have the infrastructure. They have the cash. It’s easy to squint and see them make a move to monetize this existing asset into an advertising platform that could rival Google and Facebook.

Digital advertising has to change. But it won’t. Yet.

Ad fraud will continue to be a major issue.

In the first quarter of 2017, over 35% of the programmatically bought desktop ad impressions were fraudulent.

To paraphrase the famous bank robber Willie Sutton, ad fraud will continue because that is where the money is.

According to Forrester, by 2021, $10.9 billion will be wasted on fraudulent ads via click farms, bots and domain spoofing.

Marketers, agencies and platforms will work hard and diligently to solve the problem, but this is a Sisyphean battle.

In fact, Zurich, the Swiss insurance company, says that the cost of securing the Internet will exceed the benefits of connectivity by 2019. While that may undervalue cute puppy GIFs as a benefit from the Internet, as long as there is money in Internet fraud there will be an ever-escalating battle to defeat it.

For marketers, it is clear that fraud won’t be cleared away by some technical solution. It is going to take a more hands-on approach, killing the trend toward fully automated, completely digital ad trading. A human touch, and human monitoring, is needed.

What does it all mean?

It means that while the details have changed, the challenges remain the same.

We need to apply empathy. People are going to buy differently. There are fewer channels to reach people before they decide what to buy and those channels are narrowing. Solving how to reach them compellingly requires a deep understanding of people, cut with an understanding of emerging technology. We can’t get blinded by the tech. We’re still just talking to people.

We need to apply wisdom. Technology does what it is programmed to do so it can never be its own answer. We need to use technology for human ends, and with an understanding of human nature if we are to meaningfully reach people on their (voice-driven) devices.

We need LoveAction. We need to use creativity to sell things, and we need people to walk away from a marketing touchpoint not thinking “what great advertising” but rather “what a great product. I’ll ask Alexa to buy it for me.”