Gartner’s Frank: Smart Machines To Shake Up Marketing

Gartner’s Frank: Smart Machines To Shake Up Marketing

What technology trends will have a big impact on consumers over the next few years? For marketers, that’s the million-dollar question.

Andrew Frank, VP at Gartner, has some answers, which he will be discussing during his session at Gartner’s Digital Marketing Conference, May 17 to 19 in San Diego. He gave us a glimpse into what to expect in this exclusive interview with What emerging marketing technology trends should marketers be paying attention to?

Frank: I’m doing a presentation at our event all about that called “Marketing’s Bleeding Edge,” on the frontiers of automation and machine learning. We’re going to talk about how smart machines are having a really powerful influence on marketing and will have an even more powerful influence in the future. We will touch on topics of algorithmic marketing and how that’s going to work, and how virtual personal assistants are going to enter the mix more in terms of the way that consumers interact with brands. Additionally, 3D printing and the Internet of Things is going to be a topic as well, with a focus on how it will mean more personalized offers and products. You mentioned a virtual assistant being a trend. Can you talk a little bit about that? What exactly are the expectations there?

Frank: Recently we heard Mark Zuckerberg talking about bots and how he expects people to spend more time interacting with companies and brands through Messenger. We’ve certainly seen a lot of investment in making smart assistance, like Siri, Cortana, and Google Now, even more intelligent, or Amazon’s Echo and Alexa. We’ve also seen Uber talk about launching a new service that basically does whatever you ask it to.

This idea of having some kind of a personal assistant that resides not just on your mobile device but in the cloud and accessible through any of your devices is something that has captured the imagination of a lot of marketers, innovators, and entrepreneurs as well. Can you expand on your thoughts about IoT and how it’s going to force marketers to be more personal in how they communicate with consumers?

Frank: There are two ways in which the Internet of Things is really changing the game for marketers. One is just on the data collection side, where we’ve seen a great deal of acceleration in the amount of data that’s available for marketers. The Internet of Things is going to make that even more useful or intimidating, depending on your point of view. We’re going to have more things like wearables and beacons in stores and our appliances, our vehicles. Everything is going to be collecting a lot more granular data about consumer behavior and actions.

Then on the interaction side, I think you’re going to see a lot more interactive opportunities, whether it’s in venues with the next generation of signage and smart kiosks, or whether it’s through some of our smart home appliances or smart cars, which are able to talk back to people in context and possibly even provide them with products, such as Coca-Cola’s vending machine, for example, which creates custom soft drinks on the fly. Since we’re talking data, brands are understanding the importance of collecting it, right? What are you seeing in terms of companies that are actually gleaning real insights from their data? Are the majority of companies doing so?

Frank: You have a wide spectrum of capabilities out there. I think there are some companies that are actually quite advanced at gleaning insights from data, and there are some companies that have been pretty good at that for a long time. I think that the companies that are e-commerce companies, like Amazon, obviously have an advantage because they can observe so much behavior, and they can put so much intelligence into trying to use that behavior to produce better recommendations and overall better experiences.

[As for] the companies that are a little bit further behind because they’re in the retail space—they maybe have a franchise model—it’s more difficult for them to assemble that data from across all of the different areas where it’s being collected as well as to actually use that data to great effect given the legacy distribution and sales channels they have. So I don’t think there’s an average capability there. Do you have any advice for the ones that are struggling to catch up? Where do they start?

Frank: Well we often say that analytics is a good place to start. You really need to have some kind of a focused center of excellence where you’re able to develop the analytic techniques that you need to get those insights. Often companies are tempted to try new things before they truly have the analytic layers in place to be able to judge whether these new techniques are effective.

Starting with analytics and the basic focus on understanding how to ask the right questions and getting the basic skills and infrastructure together so that you can answer those questions in a predictable, methodical way, that’s the way to start.

Read related interviews: “Gartner’s Sorofman: Content Is Marketing’s ‘Currency Of Trade,’” “Gartner’s Polk: Online Or Not, Today’s Marketing Is ‘All Digital,’” and “Gartner: Cross-Device ID Dilemma Is Hindering Great Experiences