Marketers need to adapt to generational and technological changes that impact consumers.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane for a moment. Do you remember when flip phones were considered state of the art technology (2007)? When Garmin was the newest way to get GPS directions in your car before the launch of Waze or Google Maps (2008)? How about the first time you used a touch screen on a mobile phone or tablet, or downloaded an app (2008)? Or when you first created your Facebook profile (2006)?

As digital marketers, we have seen firsthand how the technology landscape has impacted consumer behavior and their buying journey over the past 10 years. The rise of Google, smartphones, social media, tablets, apps, mobile first and streaming media are just a few of the changes that have significantly disrupted how people live and work, and how they buy things. And of course, when people change how they act, live and buy, it requires business to change how they market and sell products and services.

There is no doubt that the world, and specifically technology, will continue to change in the coming decade. Here are the five big changes we believe will impact the marketing world for businesses:

1. AI Assistants (think “Hey Alexa,” or “Hey Google”): While voice technology today is still gaining momentum in mainstream use, it is predicted that artificial intelligence, or AI Assistants, will change how companies interact with consumers over the next decade. According to the Harvard Business Review, the growth in the use of AI Assistants means consumer loyalty will shift from allegiance to a specific brand to allegiance to their trusted AI Assistant that will handle everything from shopping to booking appointments. For marketers, this means that consumers will rely more and more on the recommendations of their AI Assistant for making purchases. For example, someone looking for running shoes will just say “Hey Alexa, find me new running shoes” instead of looking for shoes either online or in a brick and mortar store. To prepare for this shift, companies will need to start being avid users of AI Assistants and learn about what brands need to do to ensure their products can be found and recommended to users by AI technology.

2. Personalized Marketing: Personalized marketing is all about businesses using the data they have to personalize and enhance the customer experience. A whopping 86 percent of consumers report that personalization plays a role in their purchase decisions today (Kahuna, 2015). While personalized consumer experiences have been created largely by big brands like Starbucks (think those customized purchase recommendations in their app) and EasyJet (that used consumer data to build individual profiles of where people have traveled and make recommendations for future destinations), the technology and affordability has not yet advanced to make this level of personalization feasible for small- to medium-size businesses. However, the growth of personalized marketing technologies over the next 10 years will help level the playing field and allow smaller companies to leverage data to personalize the customer experience. Businesses today should identify what is known about their customers, where that data is located and what opportunities exist to use data to deliver a more personalized experience. 

3. Amazon’s Continued Domination: Amazon has already revolutionized online shopping. Today, 80 percent of U.S. consumers purchase from Amazon at least once per month (DMR Business Statistics, 2016), and almost half of consumers turn to Amazon first when shopping for products online (Survata, 2017). Therefore, consumer product companies must ensure that they are where the consumers are, and that is on Amazon. And Amazon is not just impacting consumer purchasing. Remember, business buyers are also consumers, and Amazon is already impacting business-to-business sectors through Amazon Web Services, Amazon Business and their foray into the healthcare industry selling medical supplies. To compete, companies need to assume that Amazon’s work may impact their industry, evaluate exactly what Amazon is doing, what their competitors are doing (i.e. are they on Amazon and in what capacity) and what markets Amazon is entering next.

4. The Buyer’s Path to Purchase: Today, the path to purchase for any buyer (B2C or B2B) is anything but linear. Consumers are bombarded with many messages each day, which may or may not impact their purchasing behavior. Traditionally, marketing has focused on the “bottom of the sales funnel,” with the goal of influencing customers to make a purchase decision through direct sales or direct leads. However, companies now need to think beyond the sale and make sure they are present in all parts of the buying journey, from awareness to consideration to decision and purchase. This means it is more critical than ever for companies to have an accurate picture of who their customer is and what their path to purchase looks like. Rather than relying on implicit bias or assumptions about what their customer is really looking for, companies should inform their marketing efforts by reviewing all the data available to bring objectivity and insight to the strategy and align the appropriate marketing tactics to support their customers.

5. Generation Z: Forget about Millennials. Generation Z (those currently 8-23 years old) will make up 40 percent of consumers by 2020 (AdWeek), and in 10 years will be those making B2B buying decisions. This is truly the first digital native generation, so businesses need to adapt to their preferences to appeal to this key demographic group. This means personalization—forget voicemail and email, instead, just text, user generated content—think user ratings, video communications and looking beyond Facebook for social media marketing—they hate it.

Ten years from now, who knows what will end up being the biggest behavioral and technological changes of the decade. But we do know that consumer behavior will continue to change with advances in technology, and businesses and marketers will need to adapt to remain relevant. 

Justin Spring and Danielle Walton are co-founders of Adept Marketing, a full-service digital marketing agency focused on building digital campaigns that deliver quantifiable growth for clients. The agency is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2018. Learn more at AdeptMarketing.com.