"Alexa, How Do I Keep Up with Technology?"

"Alexa, How Do I Keep Up with Technology?"

What is the age of assistance, and as a marketer, should you be concerned?

Although it sounds more like home-care services for the aged, the age of assistance refers to digital assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. And yes, you should be concerned.

Marketing channels continue to splinter at an unmanageable pace with the rapid introduction of new devices to the Internet of Things (IoT). According to the International Data Corporation, IoT is expected to be a $1 trillion market by 2020, so this is a challenge marketers can’t ignore.

What is different about age-of-assistance channels is that they are learning devices that are creating relationships with their users. The familiarity they develop creates an expectation among consumers that brands should know them wherever they are. 

Understanding how individuals want to interact with brands in each channel is critical for marketers. This isn’t a new concept, but what is new is that marketers are expected to be aware of all the new technologies hitting the market and have a profound understanding of how the technologies work and how the consumer interacts with them. 

As marketers are expected to be early adopters of technology and consider all of the touch points with consumers to provide the best customer experience, we will see a more rapid shift from chief marketing officers (CMOs) to chief experience officers (CXOs) and from marketing tactics to true relationships with consumers. The age of assistance will further blur the lines between marketing, IT, customer service and culture. 

Companies that get a jump on the age of assistance are going to be winners, as consumers will build deeper relationships with those brands because those brands will know them intimately.

The good news is marketing principles haven’t changed even though the channels have. Brands must be relevant to audiences, engaging them with the right content in the right channel at the right time, making it easy for consumers to choose them over another brand. 

So, while introducing a new channel, now is a great time to get back to basics:

  • Know your customer. Who are they, what do they care about, what are they shopping for?
  • Understand why and how they are buying. Is it in the store, online, through a partner channel?
  • Learn how they learn about products and services. Do they research, ask friends, sample products?
  • Create content they want to consume. Do they listen to podcasts, watch YouTube videos, follow bloggers?
  • Be honest about your value proposition. What do you offer that the competition can’t?  

Once you’ve taken the time to review these basic principles, take a look at your marketing strategy. Is it taking into consideration all of this information? Is it tailored to your brand? Are you spending time and money on things you no longer need to be? Remember, just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should do it. For example, having a voice strategy for digital assistants isn’t necessary for everyone — yet. And just because a tactic isn’t digital, doesn’t mean it isn’t effective. Many traditional marketing tactics are making a comeback, such as billboards and direct marketing. Do what’s right for your brand and your audience. 

If you don’t have the internal resources to do this, you’re in luck. Minnesota is a mecca for strategic marketing firms, as well as digital shops, traditional agencies and consultants that can help you wherever you are in your digital transformation. Don’t believe me? Just ask Alexa. 


Defining Traditional to Digital Marketing
Marketing has evolved in the last few decades from traditional marketing when print and TV ads reigned — marketing to the masses — to today, when highly personalized marketing is made possible with digital marketing. 

Traditional marketing includes print ads, direct mail, in-store signage, billboards, and radio and television advertising. These tactics are typically static — a one-way communication to larger audiences. They are still very relevant but are complemented by a digital marketing strategy. 

Internet marketing includes websites, display and banner ads, blogs, social media, email and mobile marketing. Audiences can choose to interact with this type of marketing by clicking on a link, responding to a post or sharing a message with a friend. Internet marketing is a sub-category of digital marketing and often gets lumped in with digital marketing.  

Digital marketing may require the internet to create marketing, but consumers don’t have to be connected to the internet to interact with the marketing. Think about apps that you’ve downloaded to a device. You used the internet to get the app, but you don’t need the internet to use the app or get in-app ads. Other tactics include SMS messaging, geo-fencing (location-based marketing using tools such as GPS) and video. And now the Internet of Things is expanding digital marketing channels even further. Stay tuned!

This story appears in print in our March/April issue. Click here for a complimentary subscription.