Christy O’Neil from Lancaster University was a runner-up in our Future of Digital Marketing competition, asking students from across the country what the future of the industry looked like to them in 500-1,000 words. Christy’s article stood out for its innovative ideas. Read her entry below:
The Intersect of Technology and The Home
2019 hosted a string of technology-domestic convergences. Already, analysts are forecasting that 2020 will be a year characterised by electric and self-driving vehicles, cloud storage, omniscient telecoms infrastructures and, if CES 2020 was anything to go by, the advancement of our recreational time. The future of marketing is undoubtedly going to be shaped by how consumers interact with technology in their homes. This article will explore this through three key trends.
As technology slowly but surely infiltrates the homes of consumers, the first trend of note is the digitalisation of staple domestic products. A familiar example is the smart refrigerator, which can keep track of what’s inside and when a shopping trip is due. For brands, the data such fridges hold is a minefield of consumer likes and dislikes. By partnering with fridge manufacturers, brands could ensure their products were first on the list to be recommended to consumers. This does not stop with fridges. Imagine a dishwasher that tells you when you need more cleaning tablets, or a dishwasher that bells when more fabric softener is needed? This is a haven for household brands such as Fairy, Finish and Comfort.
Of course, this ideal follows through to the bedroom, bathroom and other living spaces. By casting one’s eye a decade ahead, artificial intelligence may enable wardrobe stylists to not only fold and iron clothes, like the Panasonic laundry robot, but recommend pieces in line with current trends. Whilst trying on a dress or a shirt in the mirror, your wardrobe stylist may suggest an upcoming Nike trainer or North Face jacket. The same goes for shampoo and toilet roll in your ensuite. Partnerships with manufacturers of household brands will therefore be key to being the name which consumers are fed.
Consumers of the future are also likely to ask their homes, whether it be their wardrobe or Alexa 10.0, for advice. This may include asking a smart fridge what is the best, cheapest or healthiest margarine. To be the answer to such questions, brands will need to do two things. Firstly, conduct significant and continuous research into consumer habits. If veganism is a trend, for example, this will need to be identified by the brand and, if possible, strategically assimilated. This shift is currently epitomised by the likes of Heinz’s ‘Meanz Vegan Beanz’, Flora’s Dairy Free and Shreddies Vegan. Secondly, the brand will need to cooperate with the data platform from which the fridge, in this case, draws its content. If this is Google, for example, the brand should focus its resources on Google Ads to ensure its brand is a potential answer to any question involving triggers such as ‘veganism’, ‘non-meat’, ‘dairy-free’, ‘vegetarian’ and so on.
A second trend, closely linked with the first, is the growing use of voice-activated helpers which automate life’s chores. You may know these software assistants as Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri. According to a study by Voicebot.ai, 26.2% of Americans and 22% of Britons own a smart speaker. Amazon is already working on its future Alexa, which will be given a body and be a ‘companion’ rather than a mere assistant. Such an ideal has already been captured in the form of the Zoetic KiKi and Sony’s Aibo.
This could provide advertisers with a unique insight into consumer habits; what they spend their time pondering about and doing whilst at home. With consent, this information could allow brands to target their marketing strategies more efficiently. If, for example, at around 7pm an assistant is asked when the nearest Tesco Express closes, a microwavable meal manufacturing brand could set up a relationship with Tesco to advertise at that time.
As robotics evolve, they are likely to replace the human touch which e-commerce currently lacks. Voice recognition technology will mean that consumers can have a conversation with assistants, and instead of clicking to purchase, they will instead be able to discuss what product may be best for them. This is an opportunity for brands to advertise through a channel that consumers will identify with their home and consequently trust. Hence, the more data that is available about a product for these robots to toggle, the more familiar and aware a consumer will feel with a brand.
The ‘Internet of Things’
The last trend of note is the ‘Internet of Things’: a system of interrelated digital devices which communicate with each other. The future home will be the ‘hub’ of this system and the more integrated brands can be in this system, the more exposure they will have to consumers. The current moves towards 5G are a step in this direction. 5G offers the opportunity to create a digital climate which exists beyond consumer’s consensual use of their mobile device or laptop. Picture a world where a consumer is preparing for an interview at the weekend, and, having logged this in their smartphone calendar, is offered a new suit or haircut by their wardrobe or mirror. The interconnectivity of phones, televisions, laptops, fridges and even vehicles will create data currents which again will be data havens for brands.
In this regard, future marketers will be able to leverage this in the same way that cookies currently track consumers on the internet. In order to target consumers, brands will need to intersect these new ‘real-world’ cookies. A useful example is Amazon’s cloud computing system. Imagine a consumer who watches a lot of cooking programmes on Amazon prime. The cloud will store this data, and provided a given cooking author has partnered with the data house of the consumer’s fridge, could trigger the fridge to recommend the author’s new book. This is but one example of how the ‘Internet of Things’ will revolutionise marketing.
Whilst the future of marketing is uncertain, it is clear that it will be at the intersect of technology and the home. Brands should therefore start forming the vital relationships now to ensure they remain relevant in the future.
By Christy O’Neil of Lancaster University