How Emerging Technologies Allow Businesses to Merge Their Digital and Traditional Marketing

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It’s easy to think digital marketing is the final word on advertising, but so long as we all live with our feet on the ground, commute to work, congregate in public places, watch TV and listen to the radio, traditional marketing will be with us. But there’s a lot of overlap these days, too. Consider that e-commerce isn’t erasing physical retail — what it’s doing is blurring the line between the two.

New technologies (and new spins on old ones) are the modern company’s ally in merging digital and traditional marketing. The brands that find a sensible balance between the two are the brands that will outperform the competition. Let’s take a look at four major examples of innovation in this arena.

1. Quick Response (QR) Codes

There’s nothing especially new about QR codes, but it seems like we’re only beginning to appreciate their potential. “Quick Response” codes made their public debut in 1994, and the first iPhone was released in 2007. Apple didn’t even get around to adding native QR scanning to the device’s camera until iOS 11 in 2017.

So, what can we do with these little gems now that we’ve finally addressed this pain point? When used creatively, they provide a compelling and convenient bridge between the physical and digital realms.

Companies that are standing with one foot in both of these worlds can find lots of novel uses for QR codes. You can encourage your users to “check in” using a QR code in your brick-and-mortar store to unlock a discount. You can also include codes on flyers, mailers, posters, and other physical ads and signage — either to unlock additional functionality and perks or to simply save potential customers the trouble of navigating to your website or social channel the “old-fashioned” way.

2. Civic Engagement and Live Video

Civic engagement is one of the most important competitive advantages that brands all over the world are chasing down. Consumers increasingly want to give their business to companies that take part in, and give back to, their community and practice good stewardship of the earth and its resources. These efforts can include anything from adopting a highway to volunteering to cleaning up a local park or a network of hiking trails, or engaging in low-emission and low-waste manufacturing.

Meanwhile, research on the popularity of live video reveals that 80% of consumers prefer live video broadcasts over reading blog posts or interacting with brands over social media.

So, let’s tie this phenomenon together with your customer base’s need for insight into how your business operates. Smartphones provide the equivalent of a television camera in everybody’s pocket — so use it!

Get your start with live video — and deftly merge your online and offline presence — by filming your employees at a run for charity or maintaining a local or state park in your area. If you make a proper event of it, you’ll capture the attention of local folks, as well as those watching from their smartphones and laptops back home. It’s local event sponsorship taken to the next level.

You can also use live video to give a behind-the-scenes look at how your factory repurposes materials or what a sustainable company headquarters looks like. This kind of “live marketing,” when done correctly, doesn’t look like marketing at all.

3. Virtual Reality

When you’re ready to kick things up a notch, consider virtual reality. It’s another one of those “next big things” you’ve been hearing about, with implications for industries far and wide. This is your chance to get ahead of the competition, since surveys indicate that just 6% of companies have VR marketing on their radars.

So, what can you do with it? Like live video, VR-based marketing helps blur the line between traditional and next-generation storytelling — and it helps your customers forget they’re even seeing advertisements. It could breathe new life into trade show displays in the form of interactive games and other experiences. And it has a lot more to offer, too. Here are two examples of companies leveraging VR to great effect:

  • Lowe’s: Some Lowe’s Home Improvement stores provide virtual in-store clinics, called “Holoroom How To,” to help DIYers and new property owners hone their skills and learn to use different tools and materials in a safe and entertaining virtual environment. It’s on-site marketing (since it takes place in-store, one might even consider it a form of “upselling”) with a futuristic twist.
  • Toms Shoes: Toms Shoes provides a VR experience for its customers in the form of “Virtual Giving Trips.” It feels like a lifetime ago that companies were leaning on 30-second TV spots to tell the whole story of their company and their mission. These virtual giving trips can be viewed like a “traditional” internet video, and Toms still regularly buys TV ad time, but bringing VR into the mix adds a whole new dimension and helps the company tell its whole story: by putting customers in other people’s shoes and on the ground in the areas this charitable company helps to uplift.

As the small number of companies investing in this technology suggests, now is a great time to flex your creative muscles and see what you can do with it.

4. Artificial Intelligence

Is artificial intelligence an emerging hero in marketing? Lots of marketers are beginning to think so.

In an IDC/Criteo survey, 83% of marketers indicated familiarity with some of the implications of AI and machine learning for marketing success. Some 33% of respondents said they were targeting machine learning investments for future use, and 14% said they were already using it — but how?

Artificial intelligence has several potential uses in digital and traditional marketing. In the very near future, lots of marketers will turn to AI to help them optimize and customize everything about the customer journey — including personalized web copy and headlines, bespoke web layouts, designs, and even color schemes based on each user’s preferences; personalized delivery of relevant creative content and pieces of content marketing; and improved outreach and expansion into local areas based on intelligent analyses of demographics, conditions in the market, competitors’ presence in various regions, and more.

Then, there are chatbots. Companies with customer service phone lines are all too familiar with the challenges of juggling general questions, specific account inquiries from existing customers, and “closing the deal” or upselling somebody who’s interested in your brand but might need a gentle push. Brands that incorporate AI-powered chatbots into their websites or social channels can realize the benefits of “employing” a knowledgeable “brand ambassador” who never tires, can answer customer questions any time of day and night and can make suggestions on products and services in which customers might be interested.

Nathan Sykes writes about the latest in business technology online. He has been featured on The Next Web, Information Management, and BestTechie. Nathan is the editor of Finding an Outlet.