Earlier this month, Gartner released the 2013 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies. Gartner’s Hype Cycle is an annual report and trend curve that follows the progress of new technologies in the market. According to Gartner, emerging technologies typically move through phases of inflated expectations — overpromising and underdelivering — and disillusionment before becoming commonplace reality.
This year’s report and trend chart emphasized the growing relationship between humans and technology — specifically smart machines, cognitive computing and the Internet of Things. As technology forces customers to reevaluate all of their relationships, brands are no exception. Customers are redefining their relationships with brands and developing heightened expectations for their experiences in the process.
The Hype Cycle can be a useful model for marketers and public relations professionals to evaluate new strategies and tools that may improve the customer experience. In fact, this year there appears to be three main trends at play among early adopters.
Augmenting our experiences with technology
This phenomenon explains how people are using technologies to improve their performance or experience. Augmenting the human experience with technology like wearable user interfaces, gesture control and quantified self devices can create a more educated customers and a more capable workforce.
With the ability to enhance and improve their own everyday experiences, customers’ expectations of their experiences with businesses are greater than ever before. And brands with content that’s helpful and displays a human touch will succeed at “augmenting” the customer experience with their business. Content marketing and public relations plays a major role in setting customer expectations.
Relying on technology for undesirable responsibilities
Representative technology like virtual assistants, mobile robots and autonomous vehicles—capable of replacing humans to perform dangerous or tedious work—appear at nearly every stage of the Hype Cycle. As technology replaces humans it often leads to improved productivity, less danger to humans and more consistent, quality work. As a result of technology picking up the slack of less desirable tasks, customers now have a lower tolerance for difficult buying experiences. And with customers becoming accustomed to human work being replaced by technology, the importance of relevant quality content could not be greater.
This reliance on technology also means that customers expect to find solutions to their problems more often. If customers have questions during or about their relationship with your brand, you’d better have an answer — and it had better be easy for them to find that answer. Content marketing can counter for the “undesirable” tasks in the buying process. Through content marketing, customers should be met at all stages of their journey with relevant content. Each stage of the customer journey can be aligned with helpful TOFU, MOFU and BOFU content that will meet customer expectations and improve their experience with the brand.
Collaborating with machines for maximum efficiency
There are many times when machines working alongside humans are the best choice. Machines and people working together provides access to the best of both worlds — productivity and speed from machines and emotional intelligence and the ability to handle the unknown from humans.
Hung LeHong, research vice president at Gartner, believes that the Hype Cycle can also signal how brands will use the increasing collaboration between human and machine to win their markets. “Enterprises of the future will use a combination of these three trends to improve productivity, transform citizen and customer experience, and to seek competitive advantage,” he said.
With people harnessing technology for maximum impact, the time is right for marketing to embrace the immense amount of data generated by customers. Using insights from big data, marketers can use marketing technology to deliver their content in the best format at the most relevant time in the customer experience. Marketing technology coupled with content marketing will be a powerful force in the next generation customer experience.
Marketers must embrace change
Hype for big data, marketing technologies, content marketing, cloud computing and more only keeps growing among stakeholders in the enterprise. Sometimes marketers may feel like victims of hype cycle technologies.
But the hype is only hype if you allow it to be. Armed with the mentality of an “early adopter,” marketers can learn and experiment with new ideas as they evolve. A healthy balance of optimistic skepticism and pragmatic curiosity will cultivate realistic strategies that incorporate new technology trends.
Marketing as enterprise experimenter for a social business
As the enterprise experimenter, marketers can help cue their business into major market changes that will affect the business as a whole. While not every trend will take off, placing little bets on a number of emerging opportunities can help your company stay several steps ahead of the competition. Even trends that don’t blossom can still provide valuable insight into how the world is evolving and help you better understand your customers.
Staying agile and adapting to change as an entire organization can be extremely difficult. Marketing that has a head start on new technology trends and is already experiencing its impact can lay the foundation for a business that can more quickly embraces market trends at scale when necessary. Use the Hype Cycle to anticipate change in your market, and to help effect change in your industry.