There’s no question that our communication environment is changing more rapidly than ever before. Just 25 years ago, most of us had never heard of the internet. Yet today, it’s so integrated in our days that we can’t imagine life without it.
During the next few years, additional shifts will further revolutionize how we communicate with each other, and how businesses communicate with their customers. Here are a few that are just emerging – and that are certain to impact marketing in the near term.
- Wearable technology. According to recent studies, 12 percent of U.S. adults wear a fitness tracker, such as a Fitbit, or a smartwatch from brands like Apple. In addition, other wearable technology is emerging, such as Snap Inc.’s, Spectacles – sunglasses that allow users to record video at the touch of a button and share it on Snapchat. These technologies are just in their infancy, and the implications are wide ranging. Consider healthcare, for example: what if a wearable could track not just your steps or heart rate, but also your vital signs? New York-based Health Care Originals has already developed an Automated Device for Asthma Monitoring and Management (ADAMM), a patch with a rechargeable battery worn on the upper torso. Its companion app provides real-time data for monitoring asthma, allowing users to anticipate problems and treat symptoms. It’s certain that technologies like ADAMM will change healthcare as we know it, with providers being able to assess patients based on a continuum of data, not just a specific moment in time.
- Beacons. Beacons are small low-cost hardware devices that transmit messages to mobile devices via Bluetooth. They’re most commonly used in retail, with customers receiving offers and other information upon entering a store. There are possibilities in several other industries, however. Churchill Downs, for example, recently installed more than 1,500 beacons to help guests find their seats and concessions. Even museums are using beacons, moving museum labels – the text that describes a piece of art or the contents of a room – from the wall to visitors’ smartphones. By providing businesses with another way to communicate with customers, beacons have the potential to increase sales without adding staff or other significant overhead.
- Alternatives to email. As internet use became common, email emerged as the predominant way in which we communicate with each other – especially at work. It’s far from perfect, however – and its prominence is being challenged by alternatives. As far back as 2010, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg claimed that only 11 percent of teens read email daily and that “Email…is probably going away.” While this may be an overstatement, it’s clear email is facing serious threats – and not only from text messaging and social media, which Sandberg cited as the two main competitors to email. Tools like Slack are also gaining prominence among workgroups looking for a better way to communicate. Given that email is often cited as one of the most effective ways to reach customers, marketers should be thinking about how they’ll adapt if email use declines – which seems likely.
- The evolution of search. Since the advent of the consumer internet, we’ve searched for information almost exclusively by text. Accordingly, search engine optimization and marketing strategies have focused on keywords, links, and other text-based website elements. Google emerged as the clear favorite, capturing approximately 80 percent of search engine share. A funny thing happened on the way to Google’s world domination, however: the way we search began to change. Instead of typing “pediatrician” into Google, for example, we started going to Facebook and asking our friends, “Can anyone recommend a pediatrician?” The rapid adoption of devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home is proving an even greater disruption, making it much more common for consumers to search via voice – a more natural, easier option than typing, at least for most people. There’s no question, therefore, that SEO and SEM will continue evolving as we become even more accustomed to asking our friends, Siri, Cortana, and Alexa, for information.
- Virtual reality. Look at a photo of a television from 1950. Seems pretty antiquated, right? Well, today’s virtual reality systems will look just as outdated to future generations. The truth is, we’re only beginning to understand the possibilities of VR but, because it can replicate the physical world in ways that aren’t possible via text, photos, or two-dimensional video, it will impact nearly every industry. Campus tours in higher education, augmented entertainment experiences, previews of travel destinations – these are just a few examples. As VR moves out of the realm of science fiction, it will forever change the way businesses interact with, and market to, their customers.
Depending on your perspective, these changes may be incredibly exciting or absolutely terrifying. Regardless, these and other changes are inevitable as we continue to understand technology and look for new ways to communicate with one another. All of this is a great reminder that your future success won’t primarily be determined by your access to capital, ability to communicate, or knowledge of coding. It will all come down to your willingness to adapt.