We’re in the midst of transformative changes that are altering business and industries in very significant ways. Known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0, this revolution is responsible for a tremendous metamorphosis in the way our workplaces and the world works just as was experienced in the previous three revolutions. In the 1770s, the First Industrial Revolution ushered in mechanisation. One hundred years later, the Second Industrial Revolution brought electricity, mass production, and assembly lines. It was the Third Industrial Revolution that introduced computers and automation. As we descend more deeply into the new world of Industry 4.0, smart factories, connected machines, and intelligent robots are not only changing our workplaces but also professional functions such as marketing.
From a marketing perspective, there are four key technological developments that are underpinning the changes. These are:
1. Big Data
There is an unprecedented growth of data underway. In fact, 90 percent of all the data in the world was generated in the past few years. Big data can be invaluable for business. We currently have about 30 zettabytes of data in the world (we create more data in a minute from TVs, watches, and other connected devices than was created from the beginning of time until the year 2000). This number is predicted to grow to 175 zettabytes by 2025. While there is a lot of hype about big data, there's no doubt it's justified. Not only can we extract important meaning from the data that's created every moment, but we also now have machine learning that can accelerate the analysis and insights from the data to make it actionable.
2. Smart Devices
Another massive trend at the moment is the number of smart, connected devices that we call the Internet of Things (IoT). These devices allow us to collect data on just about anything. For marketers, the amount of data we can collect about customers and their behaviours is particularly enlightening.
3. AI and Machine Learning
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are technologies that use the prolific data we have to fuel the intelligence revolution. Machine intelligence, in many ways, exceeds human intelligence. Many aspects of our everyday life are now being impacted by artificial intelligence and machine learning.
4. Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality
Along with virtual reality that completely immerses users in a virtual world and augmented reality that places digital objects in the real world, mixed reality is another innovation that has broad applications for marketing and that gives businesses a completely new way to engage customers and prospects. Mixed reality takes augmented reality to another level and allows users to manipulate digital objects.
When marketers use these technologies, they can obtain and use:
1. More granular customer insights
Marketing teams from companies such as Disney, Facebook, and Netflix are using big data, smart devices, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, and virtual, augmented and mixed reality to understand their customers (and customer behaviour) at an unprecedented level. Disney has always been a tech innovator and today uses the MagicBand and the data it generates to propel its customer experience to new heights. Facebook uses artificial intelligence and specifically machine and deep learning to really understand what information users are most interested in seeing in their feeds. AI and data are also at the core of Netflix's business strategy from better understanding their consumers (what we're watching, browsing, and skipping) as well.
2. Automated marketing copy generation and AI marketing beings
Marketing content that used to be provided by content creators can now be supplied by machines as a result of the advancement in natural language generation. Alibaba, the Chinese eTailer, relies on machines to write product descriptions and other marketing copy. Taking marketing automation a step further is Samsung that just introduced artificial human beings that look and act like the real thing and are used to market products and services 24/7.
3. Ultra-customization and micro-moments
When companies give customers what they want at the exact moment and the exact location where they need it, they will rise above the competition. The companies that succeed in doing so are using the latest tech to take advantage of micro-moments in a customer’s life. It’s the direct digital access to customers that allows for this ultra-customization.
4. Extended reality engagement
Imagine being about to try before you buy no matter where you are located. This no longer has to be a capability that you imagine because extended reality is already at work today to create a better customer experience. Already Rolex allows customers to try on watches virtually through an app to see how different styles would look on their wrists through an augmented reality app. This alone is driving online sales. In a similar way, Porsche has an app that allows a customer to configure their dream car in three dimensions, including photo-realistic colours and finishes, and place it in a real environment such as their own driveway or garage.
As the Fourth Industrial Revolution continues to mature, there will be additional capabilities that marketing departments will explore and implement. These tech trends help companies learn more about the customers they are serving as well as how best to reach them where they are with what they want and exceed customer expectations.
Bernard Marr is an internationally bestselling author, futurist, keynote speaker, and strategic advisor to companies and governments. He advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations on strategy, digital transformation and business performance. LinkedIn has recently ranked Bernard as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK. He has authored 16 best-selling books, is a frequent contributor to the World Economic Forum and writes a regular column for Forbes. Every day Bernard actively engages his almost 2 million social media followers and shares content that reaches millions of readers.