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June 29, 2016

The Future of Marketing is Extreme Complexity

by Tom De Baere

Are you in denial?

Marketing leaders in B2B and B2C are confronted with high customer expectations and a trend towards advanced technology that customers use during the buying process.

This is is turning marketing into an extremely complex discipline, providing challenges that need to be faced today. When is this complex future of marketing going to happen? Faster than you think…way faster…

In this blog series (this is the first post) I want to discuss:

  • the drivers for this extreme complexity, from a buyers perspective and from a marketers perspective;
  • what marketers can do to handle this extreme complexity

How People Buy in 2016

In this first part I want to explore the changing world of consumers and buyers in general. Some of the examples might seem futuristic, but they are actually in use today.

It’s important to understand how modern customers go about when buying products or services. Because this modern behavior is the source of the complexity that is entering the world of marketers.

Louder voices and new powers

how people buy_louder voices and new power_future of marketingIt should not be a surprise to you that the way people buy today has changed. They literally found the start button that gives them access to much more power.

Today consumers and businesses have access to a massive amount of content, and new entrants that provide intelligence to consumers and businesses.

In the technology world, new entrants like Business Insider Intelligence, VentureBeat Intel, GigaOM research, Trustradius, G2 Crowd, etc. are providing new informed ways of decision making for high value purchases in B2B.

Social media, review sites, comparison sites and the “Yelpification” of buying in general, are informing customers better than ever, giving them new powers against brands.

This trend is set, and will continue to change the way businesses and consumers make decisions and buy ‘stuff’.

Instant gratification

how people buy_instant gratificationCustomers today have new expectations. This is because their world is full with new real-time communication apps like Whatsapp and others, instant buying buttons and video’s instantly playing in Twitter and Facebook, and increasingly faster logistics (Amazon Prime, Drones and even 3D printing).

Humans are hardwired to want things — now. It’s called instant gratification, and it’s a powerful force. It can make people convert, as long as you’re doing the right things.

Today, instant gratification is expected in many ways. We gain instant feedback from our devices, because we’re constantly plugged in and turned on. Social media gives us instant ability to upload videos, photos and status updates. We receive instant feedback from our social followers. We respond in near real time to emails and tweets. We have the ability to make things happen without having to wait.

These higher customer expectations are putting organizations under pressure to invest into:

  • ever faster delivery times;
  • real-time customer services;
  • real-time content;
  • chat bots with artificial intelligence and machine learning.

As an example of real-time customer services, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is now giving passengers the option to receive flight updates through Messenger. If they agree while booking a ticket, KLM will then start up a chat thread, where it’ll send booking confirmation, flight status, and any scheduling changes. It’ll also send over a boarding pass, which passengers will be able to use to get through security and onto their flight.

KLM using messenger_future of marketing

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is now giving passengers the option to receive flight updates through Messenger, chat with customer services, and much more…


Future of Marketing – Trend towards software, bots & algorithms

More and more, software and algorithms are used to buy products and services. We do not always realize this as a consumer, but e-commerce websites that recommend products, or digital shopping assistants that predict our needs, are entering our world.

It starts with a simple search on Google, where Google gives search results and Google Merchant results. We have become so accustomed to Google doing this for us, but this simple search is already digitally supporting buyers. Recommendation engines from Amazon and Alibaba exist to support users in choosing the products they seek, want or need.

New chatbot apps like Kik and Mezi are entering the market.

  • Mezi is a personal shopping bot, assistant and concierge. Simply ask for what you want to buy and let Mezi handle the research, present you with options, and help you order the perfect item. Every request is served by real life experts, aided by artificial intelligence.

Trend towards software, bots & algorithms_Mezi

  • Kik, one of North America’s most used chat apps has jumped on the bot wagon, by opening its doors to bots in the form of a bot store.  The bot store resides inside its app, and they provide the tools to allow any developer or brand to create their own bot. I’ve tried it, and both functional as fun bots are available today in that bot store, and probably much more to come. Make sure to try out the bot from H&M.
Trend towards software, bots & algorithms_Kik_future_of_marketing

Kik now has launched a bot store, where brands can create and launch their own bots.


You probably also have learned about Amazon Dash from Amazon:

  • Amazon Dash is a single, Wi-Fi enabled button that serves one purpose: to order a single, pre-programmed item from Amazon. It attaches to any surface, and for things like diapers and garbage bags, it’s a slight boost to efficiency for people looking to streamline everything.
  • Amazon seems to be planning something new under the umbrella of AmazonFresh (AmazonFresh is the retail concept of Amazon which brings groceries and fresh goods to your home). Under that umbrella, Amazon is now planning to launch what seems to be a voice commanded Amazon Dash button. By simply saying what you need, or scanning bar codes, you add items to your cart from anywhere in your home. I haven’t been able to find a lot about this new product, but it seems brand new. For now, I’m calling it Amazon Dash Echo ;-). If you have more about this new product, feel free to contact me.
AmazonFresh_Amazon Dash Voice Commanded

A voice commanded Amazon Dash, soon to be launched by AmazonFresh?

But beyond this “simple” device is a much bigger trend.

Voice commands are going to take over the screen of our smartphone.

  • Siri, we all know from the iPhone is coming to Mac’s. Hopefully Apple is going to give Siri a boost, as it seems behind on most players in this field in term of accuracy and intelligence.
  • Next to Apple you have Google.  Google today has Google Now, Google Voice Search, and Google Home .
  • Microsoft Cortana is already on the desktop and on smartphones.
  • And finally Amazon has Echo and Amazon Dot, which answer to the name Alexa.

All these players now have devices that can listen to your voice, and respond to voice commands. These commands can range from turning on the lights, to buying products or services.

As such, each of these companies are creating its own version of the post-hardware, post-app future.

Do we still need sales people ?

A lot has been written about sales people entering late to the party. It is true that buyers are more informed, and that sales people are only involved very late in the buying journey of B2C and B2B buyers.

At a certain moment the question arrises: do we even still need sales people? Forrester forecasts that 1 million US B2B salespeople will lose their jobs to self-service eCommerce by the year 2020. Now that’s in B2B. Initially not all salespeople will be impacted equally, in which especially order takers are impacted the most. Because these people add little value.

But when machines and bot are going to take over an important part of the buying process, you can be sure this will have a serious impact on the role of salespeople. I have written a lot more about this subject in a previous blog post on the changing role of salespeople in a digital world.

do we still need sales people

The Tipping Points in the Future of Marketing

Frank Diana, principal at Tata Consultancy Services, has provided insight into future scenarios describing the complexity and impact of our emerging future, and the impact they have on the future business landscape.


Future scenarios_future business landscape_frank_diana


In an interesting chart, he plotted a sequence of technologies which provide the foundation for future scenario’s. Frank Diana’s future scenario predictions deal with big world scenario’s like radical life extension, sharing economy, money 2.0, etc.

These subjects are a bit out of scope for this blog, but what you should remember from this chart is that many of these technologies are entering our world as we speak, ranging from 3D printing, renewable energy and internet of things.

You might think that many of these technologies will require years and years to become mainstream, if they even reach the so called “tipping point”.

In a very interesting “Six Megatrend” report  (PDF) that came out of the World Economic Forum of September 2015. 800 executives where asked to respond for their perception of when these tipping points would occur for any of these technologies. The results are surprising: a significant number of shifts are expected to occur already in the early years of the next decade.


tipping points megatrends future of marketing

Extreme Complexity in Modern Marketing – Anno 2016

I my next blog post I will provide further insight into how the world of modern marketing is shifting into a world of extreme complexity:

  • Behavioral… everything: more and more data about the behavior of customers will be used in marketing
  • Instant… everything: marketing is going towards instant and real-time interactions.
  • Predictive…everything: in discipline of marketing the field of predicting is becoming importing.

How do you shift gears as a marketing leader in that complex world? That’s what you’ll get in my next blog post.

If you want to get notified when I publish my next blog post, make sure to subscribe to this blog.

Warm regards,

Tom De Baere

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