In the last two posts, I have discussed seven trends in business and how marketing strategies need to adapt to these new realities. Below, I finish this series with four more trends that need marketers’ attention.
1. Social Learning Outperforms Remote Learning:
When I was a sales rep, remote learning was the rage. We could go on the company’s intranet and there were hundreds of articles which we were highly encouraged to read with penalties attached if we didn’t. There were articles on leadership perspectives, critical thinking, sales funnels, dealing with an impossible customers and even bosses.
Learning paradigms are shifting. Studies indicate that emphasis on social learning is one of the biggest trends in business. Social learning is the process of learning through social interaction with peers, e.g., at the water cooler. One study estimates that 50% of companies already use social learning in some way and two-thirds plan to use it in the future.1 Businesses are discovering that social-learning is more intellectually stimulating, promotes autonomy, self-direction, and increased learner engagement. If employees are put in an online training program without avenues to communicate, they will internalize the material but that’s about it. However, if there are ways to communicate and bounce ideas, interactive training will foster interconnectedness, elicits wider perspectives, promote critical thinking, and produce more creative results. Needless to say, it will also be much less boring and more memorable.
However, more than half of these companies consider their programs unsuccessful.2 One reason is that companies may not be using the right social tools. Instead of using document sharing, discussion forums, and blogs, more effective options are video or micro-blogs.
2. Artificial Intelligence (AI) will Become More Pervasive:
Most of us display natural intelligence. AI is the intelligence demonstrated by machines. Machines can crunch massive amounts of data, learn from patterns, adjust to new inputs and perform human-like tasks. It is changing the way work gets done. Common examples include Nest, chess-playing computers, and autonomous cars.
What many companies consider AI today isn’t necessarily correct. A true artificially-intelligent system is one that can learn on its own, making connections and deciphering meanings without pre-defined behavioral algorithms. AI learns from past iterations to enhance its capabilities. AI is different from hardware-driven, robotic automation which can automate repetitive manual tasks. Instead, AI performs frequent, high-volume, computerized tasks accurately and reliably and can improve existing products by adding intelligence, much like voice-powered personal assistant Siri which improved Apple products.
Hallmarks of AI include:3
- Find structure and signals in data, develop learning algorithms and let data do the programming.
- Analyze large amounts of data using neural networks with many hidden layers.
- Progressively achieve greater accuracy through deep learning, AI can utilize image classification and object recognition to find cancer on MRIs with the accuracy of highly trained radiologists.
AI gets the most out of data and creates a competitive advantage. Leading companies are utilizing AI to perform repetitive tasks and enrich human interaction.
3. Emphasis on Features Replaced With Focus on Solving Customer Problems
Too many companies still focus on features of products and services they offer. This is increasingly falling on deaf ears because customers want their problems solved. They may need assistance doing their taxes, changing their alternator, or creating a website or a LinkedIn page. The challenge is finding out what problems your potential customers want solved. If you make a living preparing taxes, you don’t want to market your services to an accountant or if you have an uncanny knack for fixing alternators, you won’t want to promote it to car mechanics. In other words, the problem you solve may not be the problem a customer wants solved or gives it high priority.
Sometimes a customer may not realize a problem exists. Personally, I did not know that radon levels in my house were too high until someone told me that it is a common problem that can be easily corrected relatively inexpensively. So someone identified an important problem I did not know about and I became their customer enthusiastically. Drug companies do this well. DTC commercials are always talking about symptoms you should not be ignoring. Are you always tired, do change in seasons depress you, do you have this uncomfortable hard-to-describe pain in your legs? The idea is to help customers identify a problem and seek help.
Moving forward, we can expect to see marketing messages steering away from product features and geared more towards identifying and solving specific customer issues. A marketer may need an organized and systematic approach. It generally entails identifying the problem, determining level of importance customer attaches to solving that problem, analyzing the causes, frequency, and severity of the problem, determining what criteria customers use to make their buying decisions, and identifying optimum solution.
4. Rising Importance of Sustainability:
A clear shift seems to be happening in how consumers make their purchasing decisions. According to one study, consumers for the first time think that their purchasing decisions have a greater impact on society than their vote.4 There is greater focus on healthy living and food sustainability. Sustainable food means it is produced, processed, distributed, and disposed of in ways to protect welfare and diversity of plants and animals. It avoids damaging and wasting natural resources, does not contribute to climate change, and is safe and healthy to eat. Local, organic, and non-genetically tampered foods are considered cleaner, healthier, and safer and are gaining popularity. In a 2013 survey, 50% of consumers were willing to pay premium for sustainable brands. That number increased to 66% in 2015.5This sustainability mindset is not confined to food, but more broadly to brands and companies as well.
So as marketers we need to develop strategies which keep in mind how our world is changing around us. It is necessary to survive and thrive in the marketplace.
I’d love to hear what fresh marketing ideas you may have implemented.
— Brad Saeed, firstname.lastname@example.org