Digital marketers are always at the mercy of the astonishing rate their channels evolve. We’re always under pressure to see into the future, and adapt.
How the brands we promote are discovered by consumers will be unrecognisably different in the far future. But what about the next 5 to 10 years?
We talk about the “future of search” as if, in the future, people will still just be searching for things. Yet in much of our near future, new technology will help people to discover information passively; the search device feeding information to the user precisely as it becomes relevant.
Let’s take a look at this future from a consumer’s perspective and take a look at the technology to make it possible.
Discovery on the Move
Let’s imagine a fictional scenario:
“I jumped on the train to leave but I realised I wasn’t feeling up to the 20 minute walk to my friend’s house from the next stop. I gestured at the train window with my hand and immediately, an interface appeared, recognised me and asked how it could help. I simply said, ‘get me a cab from my arrival station to Steve’s address’. The UI confirmed the cab was booked, en route perfectly timed to arrive in sync with my train’s arrival.”
Does this sound far fetched? Our fictional scenario is very much based on technology we have in development today.
Technologies such as Soli could be used to control the user interface, while Zensei could be used to identify you with “bioimpedenace” based identification. A glass based UI similar to something like this Android Smart Mirror (pictured above) might make a scenario like this quite possible.
The technology to enable this mixture of ambient search (the frictionless identification of a user and his or her search query) and conversational search (voice recognition and reconciliation to entities) already exists.
But would a transport company be willing to enable this sort of change?
“We build proof-of-concept prototypes that help push innovation, new technologies and new uses of data throughout TfL”
Jason DaPonte; Head of Transport for London Underground Innovation.
Perhaps we’ll see this form of search and much more appear in public transportation some day.
“The future of @TFL? AR glasses tell you which tube door to get on at & your alarm wakes you up earlier if there are delays”
Source: Georgie Barrat
Discovery on the Fly
In “Towards Ambient Search” (Radeck-Arneth, Biemann, Schnelle-Walka), “Ambient Search” is defined as;
“..a variant of information retrieval where a system unobtrusively provides relevant information snippets in the background without the need to steer devices actively.”
In their paper, they present a solution for a very negative but commonly accepted social convention: “Phubbing”.
“Phubbing describes a social problem where others are being ignored in favour of a mobile phone. This may be done to retrieve information for clarification of facts for the current discussion, but still hampers the flow of conversation.”
Imagine then, a device like your mobile phone providing a stream of relevant information connected to the discussion you’re having with your friends or family. A quick glance down at a screen to absorb any relevant information to a conversation, only to return to the discussion almost immediately with new insight is an entirely new convention.
This is the essence of ambient search.
Pure ambience is probably only achievable for consumers with few privacy concerns. Perhaps in the future, device and application developers will find ways to allay their fears. In the meantime, we have voice activated search through devices such as Amazon Echo (powered by the voice service API Alexa).
“Alexa, play songs by Oasis on Spotify.”
Google are soon to launch Home, and Apple are rumoured to be working on their answer via an updated version of Apple TV that uses a built in camera to authenticate via facial recognition.
Food on the Fly
The food delivery industry is big business. Still, there’s lots of room for growth; driven largely by hitting the sweet spot of convenience for the millions of people that would rather use their time for productive pursuits than on “domestic chores”, like cooking.
Let’s imagine another fictional scenario:
“I was on my way home from work on Wednesday slightly later than usual. I’d been in back to back meetings all day and had limited time to eat a proper lunch. I was tired and hungry. The IPA on my mobile piped up and asked; “You’re headed home late; would you like me to suggest some dinner options for you?”. Knowing I was tired, hungry and exhausted my IPA chose a few meal choices – cleverly fitting in with my required nutritional intake for the day. I chose from a list of 3 of my favourites, and the food was ordered from Sprig to arrive 10 minutes after I made it home. The drone arrived at precisely the given time.”
There’s a huge willingness to invest in technology R&D in the food delivery industry. With “online penetration at roughly 1 percent, food and grocery delivery remains one of the largest markets still overwhelmingly offline”, smart entrepreneurs are crawling all over this vast opportunity.
Our fictional scenario would be more than possible if there was an Intelligent Personal Assistant (more on these in a moment) ready to interface with the food delivery networks. Using AI, location search, self driving cars and robotic technology to deliver food without human intervention is very much in testing, although it’s still early for these technologies to just work.
“We continuously look for sustainable ways to use technology to make our customers’ and restaurant partners lives easier. We can’t wait to bring the delivery robots to local high streets very soon.”
Lightening the Load: Let Your Intelligent Personal Assistant Help
VIV, the new Intelligent Personal Assistant represents a step into the future that, if embraced, will revolutionise the concept of interacting with brands on the web. The idea of voice activated search is far from new, but conversational commerce is. This is what VIV brings to the table.
The very clever thing about VIV is the application’s remarkable ability to write its own programs to answer complex queries. This is called “dynamic program generation”. The user specifies a query, and the application generates the code to answer the problem, including designing any dialogues and layouts required to answer the query.
The breadth of capabilities of VIV is astonishing; it’s well worth watching this short video:
The load lightening effect for consumers is completely obvious. As a marketer, the penny drops.
For Brands, Integration with IPAs Will Be Everything
This will be one of the biggest challenges to brands in the future: understanding how to integrate with intelligent personal assistants.
Back in April 2015 we said that a future search device might take your data and adapt it to Google’s design interface. We thought this might look like Google Now.
“Looking far into the future, would an evolved version of Google’s search product skip our own sites, choosing to play back the content we’ve carefully packaged up as JSON-LD using their own presentation layer? … Voice search queries get vocal responses – very, very far into the future could this format of search make visits to our own sites unnecessary?”
Perhaps this prediction assumed incorrectly that Google would be the masters of the data we provide. Unless Google Home is a game changing concept, compared to VIV they’re already behind the times.
This leads us to an important question. How should we, as marketers be preparing ourselves for this future of discovery?
If VIV has the headstart on Google, then the brands integrated with VIV have the headstart on you. The demonstration queries provided in the video were powered by data provided by Booking.com, payment capabilities from Venmo, flower delivery from Proflowers and transportation from Uber.
Viv is looking to achieve deep integration with third-party data in a way that “opens the conversation”. Joining data from different sources and brands to make conversational search and conversational commerce a reality. If successful, the app store ecosystem that we know today would become obsolete almost immediately.
My best advice for now is this: be aware of the need to understand your structured data strategy for your website and be prepared to make your data available as an API service at a moment’s notice.
Engage Your Agency: The R&D Led Line of Digital
We can’t sit still. If a percentage of your digital budget is allocated to R&D of some type, then you’re spending your budget wisely.
Rebecca Minkoff’s stores that have cutting-edge features like “magic mirror” interactive displays. Customers can order a drink and browse the store till they receive a push notification that lets them know a fitting room is available.
The Rimmel London app that allows you to see what you like with different makeup styles. Referred to as the Shazam of beauty; take a photo of a look, see what it looks like on you, then buy the makeup.
The hotel room with mini bar stocked to your personal taste and your favourite Spotify playlist pre-loaded into the entertainment system.
There are so many emerging new channels that have their unique audiences and possible outcomes that in the very near future, it will be a given that your budgets allocate for marketing R&D. This has been the case for a long time with major, high spending brands but a required emerging trend for all SME’s.
Make a note the next time you see a case study about Messaging Apps, VR, Augmented Reality, Live Video, Chatbots, 360° Videos, Intelligent Personal Assistants and Connected Cars.
Ask your agency to do the R&D and put a test case together to examine how to take your brand into the future.
Future Facing References and Further Reading
How TFL is Exploring the Future of the Commute: http://www.thememo.com/2016/01/18/tfl-the-future-of-your-commute-virtual-reality-big-data/
Money from Messaging: The Impact of Brands In the Messaging Ecosystem:
Watch the futuristic Rolls-Royce ‘roboship’ that will be sailing the seas by 2020 – without a crew: http://www.mirror.co.uk/tech/watch-futuristic-rolls-royce-roboship-8292849
What the BBC has learned from its virtual reality efforts: http://digiday.com/publishers/bbc-learned-virtual-reality-portfolio/
What the “next” search engine will look like:
Intelligent Personal Assistants & New Types of Search: http://www.slideshare.net/TomAnthony/intelligent-personal-assistants-new-types-of-search
Hound, a voice-powered virtual assistant app, launches publicly: https://techcrunch.com/2016/03/01/hound-a-voice-powered-virtual-assistant-app-launches-publicly/
Fast food by adorable drone is coming to London: http://www.thememo.com/2016/07/06/just-eat-fast-food-by-adorable-drone-is-coming-to-london/
How retailers can keep up with consumers: http://www.mckinsey.com/industries/retail/our-insights/how-retailers-can-keep-up-with-consumers
13 Retail Companies Using Data to Revolutionize Online & Offline Shopping Experiences: https://www.umbel.com/blog/retail/13-retail-companies-already-using-data-revolutionize-shopping-experiences/
VR and Augmented Reality Will Soon Be Worth $150 Billion. Here Are The Major Players: http://www.fastcompany.com/3052209/tech-forecast/vr-and-augmented-reality-will-soon-be-worth-150-billion-here-are-the-major-pla
6 iBeacon Campaign Ideas You Should Steal: http://blog.beaconstac.com/2015/08/6-ibeacon-campaign-ideas-you-should-steal/
Ollie the Self Driving Bus Powered by IBM Watson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K564rXrlZbc&feature=youtu.be