Riding a bike in Beijing and the future of marketing

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By Amanda Johnston-Pell, Chief Marketing Officer A/NZ

Evolving technologies such as IoT, Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain are transforming the fields of healthcare, retail, financial services and many others. They are also now rapidly defining the new world of marketing. Data, both structured and unstructured, and trust is the imperative that is driving this new era.

Over the past 20 years, the nature of marketing has fundamentally transformed. Digital advertising now represents 40 per cent of advertising spend globally, outpacing any other spending category, including TV. Recently our worldwide Chief Marketing Officer, Michelle Peluso, told Forbes, that marketing is now “a one-to-one sport. You really have to engage customers. It used to be a lot about art and creativity, and it still is, but now it is much more about science.”

Marketing + IoT

Amanda Johnston-Pell in BeijingIt’s been a while since I rode a bike, but recently while I was in Beijing, I got to witness first-hand the sharing economy front and centre in China. Smart fleets of bicycles, unlocked by a mobile app on your smartphone, are making urban transportation smarter, more accessible and efficient. It was fascinating from a business model perspective.

In China, these dockless shared bikes are now the third major mode of public transit and incorporate Internet of  Things technology. The data collected monitors the transportation needs of millions of people in some of the world’s densest cities, but they also provide marketing opportunities that are highly personalised.

One of the largest bike sharing companies in China and the world is Mobike. Mina Nada, general manager for south-east Asia, Australia and New Zealand for Mobike, recently told the Australian Financial Review that, “in Shanghai, where stores appear in our app as Mobike hubs, and if you park there you get a 20 per cent discount on purchasing in-store. So potentially we can become an avenue for bricks-and-mortar advertising.”

“So, it’s not about data harvesting,” added Nada. “It’s more about incentivising people to move in particular directions [and giving] local businesses an opportunity to advertise more effectively in the online space.”

Marketing + AI – Elevating Customer Experience

Until recently, technology was seen as an enabler. Now it’s an advisor. Using Artificial Intelligence, a growing number of CMOs are harnessing the power of AI to rapidly deliver profound customer insights that allow them to deliver highly personalised experiences.

AI systems consume staggering amounts of data moving at far greater velocity than humans ever could to continually learn. Data has become the world’s new natural resource. Though business success is built on the bedrock foundation of data, it is estimated that more than 80 per cent of organisational data is considered “dark,” or captured and stored but never used, which means it’s meaningless. Even if a business has the most sophisticated AI or learning system, its effectiveness, and an agency’s success and competitive advantage, relies upon capturing as much good data as possible. With AI technology, we can now probe this “dark data” to uncover insights that allow the marketer to engage their target audience more directly and more rapidly, with an experience more tailored to their individual preferences.

In the IBM Institute for Business Value report: The modern marketing mandate – The Chief Marketing Officer’s perspective, the power of AI listed includes the ability to:

–    Rapidly deliver insights to assist customer experience design and development teams, as well as customer-facing professionals

–    Engage customers directly in personalised experiences, such as those provided by chatbots or robots

–    Automate marketing tasks that free up talent for more high-value activities.

Marketing + Blockchain – Delivering trust and transparency

AI can also help marketers make smart choices about media buying, but at IBM we believe in the future this could also be assisted by Blockchain.

Blockchain is a shared, immutable, online ledger that tracks all kinds of transactions from product codes to serial numbers to contracts, images, videos and more. It establishes a single, trusted version of all transactions to provide visibility from the entire ecosystem of suppliers, distributors, transportation providers, retailers, banks, governmental agencies and ultimately, consumers.

Blockchain technology collects transaction information from any participant, including data from the Internet of Things devices, and provides the available data at any point in time, in real time, to all parties involved. When members of a supply chain network complete transactions for the invoicing process, for example, others in the supply chain can see that they are completed, which results in faster payment for suppliers. This, of course, makes it a fascinating technology to explore in the context of marketing.

Some of the benefits for marketers could include:

  • Making data-driven marketing more transparent by validating and analysing every customer’s journey through verified ad delivery
  • Helping to eliminate ad fraud by making sure that your messages are reaching real people not bots
  • Cutting out go-betweens in the buying process
  • Placement controls that ensure your brand shows up with like-minded digital partners

Earlier this year IBM iX and Unilever announced their blockchain partnership. The system under development promises to tackle not only the issues of buyer verification but also to create a way for all involved parties to visualise every part of the advertising process. “Blockchain will not only ensure trust and transparency, but it can also help advertisers of all sizes reduce transaction costs, increase efficiency, simplify contracts and improve invoice processing. You can read more about this exciting collaboration here.

Whether you’re in Sydney, London, Auckland, New York or Beijing, if you’re running a marketing department or an advertising agency, you are either now or will soon be part of the next great technology shift. It’s an exciting time to be in marketing, and the opportunities are unprecedented.

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