Two decades ago in 1996 with the advent of the Netscape browser we entered the first connected age where the key connection artifact was the web link. Click on a link and you found yourself in a different space and experience including the ability to shop. The companies that were built on best exploiting the link in the first connected era which lasted a decade was Google and to a lesser extent Amazon.
In 2007 we entered the second Connected era built around the smart phone and social networks where it was a constant take it with your connection and the ability to share and democratizing of publishing. Apple, Facebook and Tencent were the big new winners of this era, while Google and Amazon continued to thrive as they adapted to a mobile world.
In 2017 at CES one began to see the third connected era which builds on the link, mobility and social networks with three new connection paradigms.
- Deep connections between data which enable machine learning that powers Artificial Intelligence. (AI)
- Distributed computing and connections across a spectrum of objects which connect to everything resulting in the Internet of Things including big things called automobiles(IOT)
- New ways of engaging and connecting utilizing Voice, Augmented, Virtual and Mixed reality to enable communication and tell stories in new ways (Voice/AR/VR/MR)
This Third connected era which builds on the first and second decades of connection is likely to be the most impactful, wealth creating and industry/society disruptive era of all.
It is also likely to be the most competitive.
At CES it was clear that the leaders of the first and second eras were likely to be dominant players in the third era joined by some new players from the computing eras of the 80’s and early 90’s.
Amazon with Alexa dominated the show as its voice operating system was found embedded in toys and cars. Google with Google Assistant, Google Home, a super powerful new Google Translate, Deep Mind and its AI first mantra highlighted that this generation of leaders will not be easy to displace. But in the wings IBM with Watson, NVidia whose chips seem to be the chips for AI and no longer just fancy gaming graphics and a re-invigorated Microsoft with Cortina, LinkedIn and Azure will ensure that this third era will be more competitive than ever before.
Implications for Marketing and Marketers
- Next Generation CRM and Customer Service: AI and Voice will change customer expectations on relationship management and customer service. They will expect that next generation recommendation engines driven by AI will anticipate their needs and will be easy and simple to interact with using Voice. Marketing will become increasingly anticipatory versus reactive. If Netflix and Amazon can recommend what I need these same algorithms should be available across all service interactions.
- Search will be revolutionized: Recently Google replaced its head of search with its head of AI. Google realizes that increasingly as shown in Google Now we expect answers before we query the search box. Over time as voice becomes a key interface what will search advertising look like and how will it affect the ecosystem?
- Frictionless Commerce may be so smooth that there could be a backlash: If every object around the voice can be addressed to order things could we find ourselves so impulsive that we find ourselves swimming in debt. Alexa order me ….
- The rise of a new generation of Creative story telling: A combination of voice based search, ad blocking, and increased penetration of ad free content like Netflix and Amazon will result in fewer and fewer opportunities to engage and interact with people, thus placing a premium that every single interaction be as resonant as possible. One can anticipate a new creative renaissance which uses smart bots, deeper engagement palettes like VR/AR/MR and “ads” being replaced by “connected experiences” which combine intelligence, creativity and technology will grow in importance.
- The Third Connected Era may reduce Google and Facebook dominance in marketing: Google and Facebook will continue to very powerful platforms but as we move from ads to connected experiences, IBM, Microsoft, Adobe, Amazon, Apple and many others will make it a far more competitive landscape as marketers focus on marketing experiences versus advertising experiences in the third connected era.
- Control and Sharing Fetish may indicate growing uncertainty and isolation: There was a plethora of devices which allowed consumers to monitor, control and calibrate every aspect of their home, health and much more. Drones, robots and other mechanical objects listened and obeyed. All the data and images could be shared. But is this control really a pacifier for a world changing fast and in uncertain ways and if we are constantly streaming does anybody have the time and the bandwidth to watch or listen?