Advanced Marketing Technologies – More Hype Than Help?

Artificial intelligence tools - are marketers ready?

Advanced marketing technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR) have the potential to revolutionize brand messaging. Customers and prospective buyers can be served ever more personalized, relevant, and compelling content, at the ideal points in their decision process.

However, recent research suggests this future may be a way off yet. Most marketers, particularly in small to midsized businesses, aren’t ready to capitalize on these cutting-edge technologies. They have more immediate priorities. Many are still struggling to effectively implement more basic marketing technology (martech) tools.

The Case for Optimism…

Recent studies from the Economist Intelligence Unit and other sources indicate a significant share of business leaders expect AI to help their companies improve decision making, customer service, operating efficiency, and sales revenue.

Further, the positive impacts of AI are expected to be felt soon. Per the Economist, “75% of…business executives surveyed said AI will be actively implemented in their companies within the next three years…(and) 79%…believe artificial Intelligence will make their job easier and more efficient.”

Separate research summarized by Carla Johnson shows marketers expect AI will help them “deliver highly personalized and relevant messages” and eliminate waste in marketing operations.

…Meets the Reality of Advanced Marketing Technology Adoption

In practice, however, organizations of all sizes are struggling to maximize the value of their existing investments, much less adopt cutting-edge applications. Issues like the difficulty in integrating different tools and finding or developing the talent to fully utilize the technology in place remain obstacles to moving forward quickly.

Gartner research director Kirsten Newbold-Knipp, interviewed by, revealed some stunning findings:

“Things like web analytics, web content management, and e-mail marketing, which you’d assume are pretty widely adapted and would be considered table stakes, (are) still not being used by 20% of large enterprises. These are things that we consider to be the bare minimum for a fully functioning marketing team today…

“Marketers aren’t getting all the value they should from their existing marketing technology. In some cases, clients come to us asking what is the best new personalization technology, yet they haven’t even tried the standard personalization that comes with their web content management system. They’re out there chasing new, shiny objects, without really knowing what they are already capable of doing

“If they’re not currently using technology that everyone else considers table stakes, are they able to move and scale as fast as they need to be, or should they question their strategy?”

When the largest enterprises struggle to optimize their use of fairly standard marketing technology, it’s likely smaller firms will be even less inclined to tackle more advanced marketing technologies in the near term.

Boost social media engagement with Post PlannerAccording to a broader study reported by ClickZ, nearly two-thirds (65%) of marketers “have no plans to invest in new technologies like 360-degree video, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), chatbots and beacons in 2017.” Even the simplest applications of AI are likely to be adopted only gradually: just 9% of marketers said they would invest in chatbots in 2017.

The research cited by Carla Johnson further notes that both marketers and customers have mixed feelings about AI (when does it cross the line from personalized to creepy?), and that CMOs face challenges in adopting AI: “60 percent of marketers said they worry about integrating AI into their existing tech stack.”

Instead, most plan to invest in more established marketing technologies this year, such as marketing analytics, social media monitoring, content management systems, and marketing automation tools.

Walk Before Running

There’s no question advanced marketing technologies like AI, AR, and VR have the potential to significantly enhance the customer experience, or that they will be widely adopted (eventually).

Marketers do need to keep an eye on these technologies and look for ways to experiment with small projects. Standing still means falling behind.

But most midmarket CMOs and marketing professionals recognize the practical imperative to optimize their use of current technologies rather than chase shiny objects.

Create a marketing technology strategy based on your marketing process model. Start with tools to develop compelling content, share and amplify that content, and measure results. Establish basic contact list segmentation before moving on to AI-driven personalization.

Advanced marketing technologies will move from “hype-full” to helpful when they are able to combine measurable improvement in operational efficiency and customer experience with pragmatically simple implementation and use.