Why Marketing Leaders Are Bullish on Emerging Technologies
AI, VR, AR will soon be table stakes for any company.
An underlying fear people have about emerging technologies is that they will replace humans — but that fear is unnecessary, said panel experts at Think Tank by Adobe, which was produced in conjunction with Adobe Summit in Las Vegas. In contrast to replacing humans, technologies such as mixed reality, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning will be tools that maximize human performance, panelists said.
Ray Wang, principal analyst, founder and chairman of Constellation Research, moderated a panel discussion about emerging technologies during the Think Tank event that included leaders from Microsoft, Accenture, Hootsuite, T-Mobile, Chobani, and more. The panelists shared interesting insights on why mixed reality, AI, and machine learning will be key to helping brands better engage their customers.
“Everybody saw AI as a big technology, and also mixed reality, and making [it] important in terms of experiences,” Ray said
Emerging technologies will soon be a must
By 2020, emerging technologies will be table stakes for any company, said Penny Wilson, Hootsuite’s chief marketing officer. “It will be augmenting humanity, not replacing it,” she said, enabling humans to respond faster.
Wendy Steinle, head of digital experience and web strategy at Adobe, agreed with that idea. When Adobe has a photo shoot for a new movie trailer, for example, a thousand photos might be taken, she said. When the creative brief asks for a specific type of image, say a woman looking to her left, someone currently has to sift through all those photos to find the right one.
“We pay highly skilled people to find that,” Wendy said. But if the team could use AI to find the photo, it would save time and allow highly skilled workers to focus on less mundane tasks.
We’ve only begun to tap into the use of technologies like AI, Wendy added. Imagine in the service industry if technologies could recognize the tone of a customer’s voice and, coupled with details gleaned from natural-language processing, provide that context to a human, so when a service agent gets on the call they are better prepared to address the customer’s need. “AI plus human execution will raise the bar for what businesses need to be providing and what people are going to expect,” Wendy said.
One of the next ways emerging technology can develop is to take inputs, including biometrics, voice, and experience-based solutions like augmented reality (AR), and make better sense of these inputs, said Giles Richardson, vice president of digital journeys at T-Mobile.
“If a computer could take what was in my brain, using voice plus AI plus the ability to interface with applications, it can change the face of what a work day even means for a knowledge worker,” Wendy said.
Changes in how we interact with data also may create the need for new job layers, Giles said. “Emerging technology provides lots of data inputs. There will likely be an emerging job around identity management,” he said. People will have to make decisions about what data they share with what entity, and may find it easier to outsource that process, Giles added.
Cautions with emerging technologies
As with any disruptive force, a shift can bring additional concerns and consequences, panelists said:
- The importance of ethics: Ethics must be paramount when using AI, the panelists agreed. Businesses are collecting a lot of data — some they don’t even plan to use yet. To maintain trust with consumers, businesses must be transparent, and their strategies must be reversible, explainable to consumers, and human-led, Ray said.
- Focus on privacy: With the massive amount of customer information being collected, businesses must balance maintaining customers’ privacy, giving them control of how much information they want to share while still being able to engage with them.
- Understand different demographics: Generational differences can play a role in how much access companies have to information. Some members of the younger generation may be more willing to share their information, Wendy said, while older generations may be more cautious. “At what point will they [younger people] care to keep something private, and so how do companies engage with them in a way that gives them the amount of control that they need?” she said. “I think we as experience makers need to be completely transparent about what we’re doing.”
- The impact of GDPR: General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Europe’s new privacy rule, may have implications outside the EU, but those ramifications have not yet been determined. However, they may affect businesses’ ability to collect information.
- Regulation will soon come: Regulation of emerging technologies likely will take place at some point in the future, the panelists agreed, but companies also may decide to self-regulate.
- The potential for a divide: Emerging technologies could create a disparity between those who can and those who cannot afford them, Wendy said. For example, augmented or virtual reality experiences in an educational environment could provide an edge to those with access.
Looking ahead: top technologies for the future
While the panelists didn’t reach agreement on the most promising technology for 2018, they were enthusiastic about quite a few.
“Mixed reality, such as AR, will force us to reinvent things, like shopping, where AI will come in and kind of service it,” said Jeriad Zoghby, global personalization and southwest agency lead at Accenture Interactive.
Wendy and Penny both said AI offered the strongest opportunities, while Cecilia Farooqi, director of digital design at Equinox Fitness, said that voice and home assistants will be used to help companies talk to consumers. Kelly Soligon, general manager of digital stores at Microsoft, said intelligent and conversational bots in the customer service space would be key for experience makers.
Giles went in a totally different direction from the group and contended that 5G connectivity would be the darling of 2018, and said, “If it was available to everybody, that would be a real game changer.” Malthe Sigurdsson, head of design at Stripe, said microservices would be key to enabling companies to more easily build new experiences that users want.
The panelists didn’t have all of the answers, but even concerns about managing emerging technology responsibly did not dim their enthusiasm for what the future holds.
“We’re excited about what will happen as people grow into this and we learn more,” Wendy said.
Visit the Think Tank by Adobe page to watch the full discussion, and see what people are saying on social with #AdobeTT. Learn more about emerging technologies, like AI and machine learning, in our Human and Machine Collection.