Digital marketing, which can most simply be defined as the use of Internet technologies to stimulate demand for goods and services online, has become an integral part of our lives over the last twenty years. Today, one might even say that Internet-based forms of advertising power the Web.
This is certainly true if we consider the companies behind the current era of the Internet (Web 2.0). Google, which provides the operating system for most mobile devices (Android) and much of the infrastructure for the Internet, gets around 80% of its revenue from ads. Facebook (now Meta), which dominates social media — and which is now pushing to construct the next generation of the Internet ('the metaverse') — gets virtually all of its money from businesses trying to sell products online
If there's one thing we've learned over these last couple of decades of the Internet, it is that things change quickly. When digital marketing first appeared in the era of 56kb per-second Internet in the mid-1990s, ads were very simple, rarely escaping the confines of 2D graphics.
Faster Internet speeds that came with the new millennium led to more attractive — and oftentimes more distracting — promotions. Then, as tech improved in the 2010s, flashy banners and annoying pop-ups were gradually replaced by less mind-numbing forms of advertising. Now, in 2021, digital marketing has practically gone incognito, embedded into things like clickbait content that some internet users may even find appealing.
The obvious question, then, might be “what's next for digital marketing?” To find out, It's worth taking a look at the technology that will shape our future. Digital marketers are a highly innovative bunch, and they are sure to add this tech to their toolboxes.
In the report, the consulting firm remarks, first, that they see the most momentum in the fields of process automation and visualization, which is powered by technologies like robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), and by 3D and 4D printing. This trend will be combined with enhanced connectivity brought on by fifth-generation (5G) broadband networks, which will enable businesses in many sectors to shift their workforces to a more remote format.
Another direction of innovation will be new forms of computing. Not only will computers run more quickly, (quantum computers are expected to come along soon) but computers will also become distributed. In fact, already by 2025, as much as 50 percent of software is expected to have moved to the cloud. A jump to 80% in ten years is foreseeable.
Furthermore, over the next decade, the software that powers our increasingly connected economies and private lives will become increasingly complex. As the report outlines, this software can only be made possible through a gradual shift from manual programming to neural networks that use machine learning to write the best possible code.
Finally, as the rate that data is transferred to the internet grows exponentially, a better infrastructure for trust will need to be established. The report postulates that this role will be fulfilled by distributed-ledger technologies, including public and private blockchains.
Based on these upcoming tech trends, there are quite a number of directions we might predict digital marketing to take going into the future.
While McKinsey mostly talks about IoT within the context of its industrial applications, the same technology is set to transform our personal lives, as well. This will go beyond the digital assistants, like Amazon's Alexa, that we're familiar with today.
Smart home devices and wearables will in the near future begin to grow in adoption at an exponential rate. As a result, data processing and collection will become a part of how we interact with virtually everything, from face scans that we use to pay to wristbands and other trackers we will use to keep our health in check.
Whether we like it or not, it appears inevitable today that this data will be used to target consumers with advertisements. The sheer wealth of data that will be available in our ultra-connected future will mean that these ads will be personalized to an extent that we have yet to experience.
In 2021, social media platforms have a pretty good idea about your personal preferences and interests, your professional history, where you live, where you work, and with whom you tend to communicate. By 2030, the IoT-powered ecosystems through which we will live our lives will know about our every purchase, our routes to and from work, and the degree to which we actually like each of our friends. Neural networks won't have any issue using this information to help brands select you as their ideal customer and get the perfectly tailored message broadcasted out to you throughout your virtual surroundings.
It might seem strange today, but people used to preferto shop in brick-and-mortar shops. When buying clothes, it was the only way to try things on. For groceries, it used to be necessary to actually touch and smell produce to make sure it was fresh. Not so long ago, people even went to record stores to listen to a track on a band's latest album before making the purchase. Over the next decade, advances in AR/VR, 3D printing, and internet speeds will bring these kinds of 'hands-on' experiences back to shopping.
Over the last few years, augmented reality representations have already been implemented as a part of mobile advertising. For example, the IKEA app enables users to see a digital representation in their phone of how a piece of furniture might look in their home. These kinds of features, going into the future, will become commonplace across industries, from fashion to food recipes, to home repairs.
Increased adoption of 3D printers will make it possible for some retailers and manufacturers to distribute certain kinds of objects directly into homes. One prospect for digital marketers, here, will be to provide free printing designs to 3D-printer owners that include some brand-specific styling or text that promotes a company. Another will be to provide 'samples' of certain objects so that consumers can better understand if they would like to have them in their homes.
One of the biggest impacts on digital marketing over the next ten years will likely be made by 'visual search.' Today, the primary way that we 'ask' the internet about things is through text-based searches through engines like Google or Yahoo. In the near future, our devices will begin to feed us information about anything we point our phone cameras (or smart glasses!) towards.
Let's say you are sitting at a café with your friend eating breakfast. If you like how the coffee cup looks, all you will have to do is take a picture of it. The photo-processing algorithms in your operating system or on the cloud will be able to find it, then process the payment with a quick swipe. With time, this technology will get really sophisticated, and you'll be able to click on virtually anything you see online in any photo and make your purchase in just a few taps on your phone's touchscreen.
Chatbots, which are already applied by companies worldwide in order to automate a range of sales- and customer service-related tasks, stand to revolutionize, at a minimum, B2C commerce online. In the not-so-distant future, most kinds of digital ads will be seamlessly integrated with automated, text-based, portals through which clients will be able to ask questions about products, receive exclusive offers, and make purchases.
From the client's perspective, online shopping will feel more streamlined than ever. They will be able to, for example, click on an item they would like to purchase in an Instagram picture (visual search), then be directed to a sales bot. They will be able to automatically find out all necessary details about this item and, if they like, complete their order.
This technology will also be used to market services. Automated systems will be developed that instantly dispatch any kind of service provider, from IT specialists to home cleaners and couriers. With improved speech-to-text processing, these tools will only become more harmoniously incorporated into our everyday lives.
When reflecting on how they spend their money today, many consumers would probably agree that e-commerce dominates. As a result, digital marketing, which drives traffic to online businesses, has become one of the world's most influential industries. As technologies like AI automation, AR/VR, 5G, and blockchain grow in sophistication, their use for the development and distribution of digital ads is assured.