6 digital tools that will transform direct-to-consumer brands

Straight talk to help the CMO make smart tech choices and invest wisely.

Technology’s role in the marketing universe continues to expand—so much so that Gartner analysts predicted that in 2017, marketing would outspend the CIO when it comes to digital tools and systems.

The increased demand for immediate and hyper-personalized customer interactions—coupled with demonstrable results—requires a plethora of digital platforms. Managing it all across dozens of customer touchpoints, departments, vendors and legacy systems makes the CMO’s job more complex.

Internal perception issues can add to the challenge. Only one-third of marketers fully utilize the systems already in place. Forty percent lack an effective technology strategy, which creates a significant barrier to reaching their goals.

Yet CMOs have no choice but to move forward; efficient digital transformation is essential to a brand’s survival.


To act fast and invest wisely, cut through the hype

As companies shift a larger portion of their budgets to new marketing tools, it’s paramount for the CMO to make smart choices and invest wisely. Moving beyond the hype that accompanies most new tools is a great place to start.

Below, we’re giving you a head start with six digital solutions that every direct-to-consumer brand should have on its radar for 2018—or better yet, already in pilot at your company.


Event thinking.

Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all interactions with your brand. Consumers now expect situational experiences that are immediate and highly relevant to their daily lives. That means flexible platforms that can execute a range of functions, in real time, based on each consumer’s unique behaviors and characteristics. 

Marketing automation platforms can establish the foundation, but to stay competitive, you’ll need to expand beyond simply triggering outbound emails. Analysts expect that by 2020, event-led interactions will be a requirement for 80% of digital business solutions.


Cognitive computing.

Accurately described as game-changing, cognitive computing has moved from futuristic buzzword to boardroom priority, across nearly all industries. Cognitive computing encompasses any solution that can tackle massive amounts of unstructured data in the same way humans do, using techniques like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and natural language processing (NLP). These systems can identify patterns, predict outcomes and make recommendations—all of which power contextual, interactive and intuitive customer experiences.

Nearly half of businesses are already piloting or adopting AI-driven solutions somewhere in their business. The Home Shopping Network, for example, has deployed IBM’s Watson platform to improve customer acquisition with more tailored stories, product videos and touchpoints.  


Intelligent agents.

A second outgrowth of cognitive platforms is AI-driven chatbots. These new “intelligent agents” are available 24/7 for acquisition, lead nurturing and customer service activities. Here at Marketing Architects, direct-to-consumer brands value our very own Abbot® to support their broadcast television and radio campaigns.

Forrester predicts that in 2018, intelligent agents will directly influence one out of every 10 purchase decisions. At the same time, they estimate only one-third of retailers are prepared to realize the potential and grow their brands.


Search by voice.

The introduction of voice-activated assistants adds a new dimension to how we search, browse and shop on the web. Devices like Apple’s Siri, Google’s Alexa, Amazon’s Echo and Microsoft’s Cortana now act as intermediaries, translating our requests across the internet. Analysts expect a full one-third of web browsing will occur without a screen by 2020.

To remain relevant, businesses must revamp their entire web presence with a focus on voice-driven search. Longtail keywords and question-and-answer formats will be essential, as well as dynamic web platforms that can simultaneously support voice, desktop and mobile interactions.


Augmented and virtual reality.

The Pokémon Go phenomenon of 2016 brought augmented reality into the mainstream. Today, it’s not just for gaming but for any company that wants to engage its audiences in completely immersive experiences that blend the physical and virtual worlds. Picture utility technicians able to visually overlay schematics while repairing lines in the field, or consumers able to try on clothes or sample makeup virtually, before buying.

Price reductions and greater adoption of wearable headsets are fueling the trend. By the end of 2017, one in five global retailers will be using it, and by 2020, analysts predict 100 million consumers will shop in augmented reality.


Mobile-responsive technology.

Five years ago, brands rushed to deploy a killer mobile app. Many dived into the space without a solid use case for their new digital tool and now are reconsidering the value of the channel, especially when it requires ongoing enhancements and development dollars. Instead, organizations are redoubling their efforts with mobile-responsive websites. By 2019, expect up to 20% of companies to allow their apps to expire.

The bottom line for marketers? The pace of digital transformation shows no signs of slowing. Brands must invest to upgrade their customer experiences and end-to-end measurement abilities in order to remain relevant and competitive. To survive (and thrive) will require CMOs to develop a cohesive vision, find trusted technical allies and then act decisively as they lead their brands into an exciting future.


Go forward boldly. When you’re ready to talk tech that drives bottom-line results—without the hype—contact us to discuss your goals. We have 20 years of experience developing proprietary digital tools to support our customers, and employ a full-time staff of analytic experts and data scientists.  Innovative technology and meaningful analytics are part of our DNA.