Each new year brings many of the same marketing challenges and technology opportunities, but a new year can also bring some surprising disruptions to your marketing plans. While you can’t accurately predict everything that will occur throughout 2018 and beyond, you can anticipate some of these disruptions by noting current trends. Take a look at two of the most rapidly evolving technologies you should account for when making your marketing plans for next year: voice-enabled content platforms and autonomous vehicles.

Voice-enabled content platforms

In the 1920s, radio was a primary method of advertising for companies and their marketing teams. With the advent of the television in the 1950s, companies who wanted big-impact advertising switched to visual media. Now the pendulum swings back again, as audio advertising becomes more relevant again thanks to voice-enabled content platforms.

The big three

The Amazon Echo or Echo Dot are now fixtures in many homes, with small children learning to say, “Alexa, play music,” and adults using Alexa to add items to a grocery list, find a misplaced phone, adjust home lighting, or get the latest sports statistics. Google Home, Google’s version of the Echo, is another popular home assistant and smart speaker; and the more compact Google Home Mini is an affordable and versatile unit with great sound, a very responsive AI, and individual voice recognition for each member of the family. Apple was later to the game with the HomePod, but its service is a boon to avid iPhone users, and its audio quality has received rave reviews.

Interactive content and audio advertising

Providing some unique, interactive content for Alexa, Siri, or the Google Home AI is a great way to get your company’s foot in the door of this new marketing opportunity. Create a voice-activated adventure or trivia game, or invest in placing audio ads with a podcast source or a music streaming service (such as Pandora).

Voice search opportunities

Keep in mind that when someone asks Alexa or Siri to find something, there is still search engine optimization involved. There are algorithms underlying the results; and though they might be different than those used for text search engines on a desktop PC, you can still find ways to boost your brand’s rank in the results. Your customers are using voice-enabled content platforms in one or all of the following capacities:

  • Provider of general information (recipes, web search, news)
  • Source of local information (shopping, dining, activities, reviews, home services, traffic and weather)
  • Entertainment center (music, podcasts, games, video search, TV listings, social media access)
  • Personal assistant (calendar events, appointments, shopping lists, phone calls, dictation of texts)

When you know how your target audience is using these units, you can find creative ways to insert your product or service into their lives through search results, interesting activities, games or ads. To get an edge in this market sector, do some investigation to discover which voice search phrases people are using for products and services similar to yours. Then work on including those keyword phrases in your content and marketing. Remember, these voice-activated platforms yield just one search result in most cases, so you may need some extra help to get your product to the top of the list.

Autonomous vehicles

If you’re in tune with changes in the auto market, you know that autonomous cars are coming to roads in California in 2018, and are already on roads in the Phoenix, Ariz., area! Yes, these vehicles are completely autonomous, meaning that they will be skimming along without a human driver. They will essentially drive themselves.

The companies testing these self-driving cars include big names like Google/Waymo, General Motors, Uber, and Zoox. Thanks to updated policies from Arizona and California DMVs, these companies are now able to begin seriously pursuing the implementation of this next-generation technology. In the meantime, Lyft and Ford are also partnering together on developing autonomous vehicles.

For widespread implementation of this type of technology, the federal government will need to observe what’s happening in California, and — once the auto designs and technology are finessed — follow suit with some broader regulations allowing autonomous vehicles on roads throughout the country.

Because of the federal regulations that will likely need to be in place, I’m not anticipating a full move to autonomous vehicles in 2018, but it is definitely starting and will have some considerable effects on the world of marketing.

A smart marketing team is always looking ahead, planning for the next trend even before it arrives; so even though you likely won’t see self-driving vehicles on your city streets for a few years, it makes sense to start positioning your brand to meet this new challenge.

A snapshot of the future

Imagine for a moment that you are inside a self-driving vehicle. Imagine that all safety issues have been dealt with and you feel perfectly secure in that car’s ability to get you from point A to point B. What will you do with your extra time?

Voice Search Autonomous Cars

For many people, those additional minutes will be time to get more work done. They will need screens in the car that can easily link up with their smartphone or tablet, docks for charging and connectivity, pouches and pockets to store extra electronics and accessories, a multi-zone sound system, and possibly an extra full-sized keyboard for typing up reports on the go. They will want built-in touchscreens in the car, hotspots and fast internet access. Internet service providers will proactively line highways through remote regions with internet tethering towers so that even when driving through the Mojave desert, you’ll still be connected.

With this added connectivity, picture the marketing possibilities using the built-in screens in the autonomous vehicles. Think about the software and apps that people will want to download while they are not driving. There will be in-car video ads, ads that you can click or voice-activate to adjust your destination or make a stop on the way. There will be ads that offer extra bonuses or discounts only to users of self-driving cars. The possibilities for surveys and data collection while people are traveling are endless.

And that’s not all. When people don’t have to drive themselves, they’ll be looking at their screens more, but they will also be looking out the windows more frequently. Billboards and roadside ads may become more popular. Advertisers will have to pay more for ad space in the car as well as ad space along routes most commonly selected by autonomous vehicles.

Of course, not everyone will be working in their self-driving car. Options for mobile entertainment will be in high demand as well. In-car kits for on-the-go personal care, such as makeup or hair care, could become popular; so companies with concrete product offerings can look toward developing options for the autonomous vehicle owner.

Forward movement in 2018

Whatever products or services your company sells, there are probably some ways that you can tweak those offerings to suit owners of self-driving cars. Begin to brainstorm those possibilities right now, and start aiming some of your company’s advertising at the mobile consumer, the one who is constantly commuting or traveling. Work on highlighting your product’s “smart” aspects or its connection with the Internet of Things. That way, when the world of self-driving cars becomes a reality, your team will already be poised to dive into the new marketing opportunities.

Your martech plans for 2018 and beyond

Imagination, creativity and market research are the keys to successfully planning for these two big martech disruptions. Invest a little extra money in of-the-moment voice search statistics and user data collected from Echo, Google Home, and Home Pod. Take time to brainstorm the possible product or service variations that you could angle towards a future market segment of non-drivers. Begin now, for 2018, and you’ll be on the front lines of the transportation changes and home assistant revolutions coming soon to your marketplace.