Opinion

How artificial intelligence will change marketing and consumer behaviour in 2017

AI and augmented reality have been talked about for some time now - but 2017 is the year it will really disrupt how publishers, advertisers and marketers conduct their businesses and engage with consumers, argues managing director of AOL Platforms in Australia, Mitch Waters.

Moore’s Law told us that technology capabilities and speeds would double every two years. Even though Moore himself believes the saturation point will hit this year, it’s interesting when you apply the same principle to tech start-ups and the time it takes to incubate, trial and deliver new technologies and platforms to market. The Harvard Business Review found that today’s startups are growing about twice as fast as those founded a decade ago.

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I can feel it. Our industry has always been fast moving but as we approach the end of the decade it seems like change (or the dreaded D word: disruption) is turbo-charged.  The introduction of more user-friendly technologies and the constantly-improving capabilities of cloud platforms is allowing engineers and coders to create game-changing new products and services from, quite literally, anywhere.

It is therefore incumbent upon marketers and publishers to keep abreast of the latest start-ups and technology to ensure they are able to anticipate and plan for the ‘next big thing’ for consumers and align their marketing plans accordingly.

Artificial Intelligence (AI), along with Mixed, Augmented and Virtual Reality (MR, AR, VR respectively), has been talked about for a while, but 2017 will be the year it begins to transition from the conceptual to a nascent consumer application. It is still early days but we are seeing more specialist vendors hit the market.

The much anticipated launch of the iPhone 8 in September is expected to accelerate consumer adoption of these technologies. It is rumoured to have significantly enhanced functionality in these areas, with one prominent futurologist [Robert Scoble], claiming it will be an entirely clear structure with a computing strip at the bottom; in other words built for MR, AI, AR and VR use.

Even if half true, this will have a knock-on effect on creative advertising formats and the way we are able to build relationships with, and communicate to, consumers.

AI will also sharpen the algorithms that power the automated buying and selling of inventory. We’ll be seeing real advances here, especially around cross-device modelling which will become more prominent, along with an upswing in BYO algorithms. I guarantee that every new ad tech vendor into the Australian market in 2017 will have AI on one of their presentation slides and incumbents will be hustling to ensure updates to their own capabilities.

Humans aren’t entirely out of the picture though. Far from it. In fact, in many respects, the human element will become more important. With AI algorithms doing most of the grunt work, the real value will come from the people who are able to take real-world problems and find ways for technology to address them. This will ultimately lead to advanced attribution insights giving brands increased freedom to test creatives and adapt them to what works for the most important audiences.

This type of analysis will be key given AI promises to give consumers more control over what brands can connect with them, when and how. It will need inventive and strategic thought to navigate and this is something that machines alone can’t do.

From a personal perspective I’m genuinely excited about the advances AI will bring. I’d urge all marketers and publishers to keep an eye on the emerging consumer trends – there are multiple AR and VR meet-ups in most key cities, plus many prominent influencers to follow on social media.

And from a professional perspective, my advice would be to think about testing new technologies and begin to plan for the inevitable shift in consumer behaviours. By looking now at what will become mainstream in the medium-to-long term, marketers can plan for the shift in strategy needed to keep up with the rapid pace of change that looks likely to keep up with – or overtake – Moore’s Law for the foreseeable future.

  • Mitch Waters, is the MD of AOL Platforms Australia
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