What’s trending in 2017 b2b marketing?

b2b is often perceived as being less sophisticated than b2c, but with so many innovative technologies coming to market, there are plenty of examples of b2b successes that are challenging that view, and will transform the way we interact with customers.

Customer experience is a major focus point for most b2b marketers. Unfortunately, it’s more difficult for b2b to employ the successful tactics favoured by consumer marketing, which often has one or two very clear and specific audience segments, so we must work harder to create compelling and targeted content to reach the core markets and multiple and diverse audiences.

With a seemingly never-ending stream of technology available at our fingertips, there are so many opportunities to implement innovative strategies and overhaul the b2b marketing approach. One of the major, underlying trends for 2017 is set to be the implementation of a so-called ‘digital mesh’ – essentially a network to support digital business, the platforms it works from and IT practices it uses.

recent Gartner report explained how this digital mesh is very much focused on the endpoints of people and the Internet of Things (IoT), as well as the information and services the endpoints have to access. With such wide-reaching capabilities in technology, it’s becoming increasingly feasible to bring physical and digital campaign elements to meet together and support business growth.

One fast-developing trend with huge potential is artificial intelligence (AI), which could provide b2b marketers with the ability to create real-time personalised adverts that are specifically targeted to a buyer’s interests. AI could also spell the end for those dreaded mass-emails and the outdated tools supporting them. It can pick out any obsolete leads and instead provide custom communication to customers – again, personalised to the end user. Chris Golec, Founder and CEO of Demandbase has suggested that as AI develops, we can expect to see some form of b2b business concierge – “a completely automated and customised buyer’s journey through the funnel”, which will be completely driven by AI. That’s a very appealing (and increasingly tangible) prospect for marketers.

The trends of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are helping to overhaul visual assets into today’s tech equivalents – apps, infographics and truly media-rich advertisements. Such immersive technologies have the power to transform the way we interact with both people and systems. Wearable technology, like head-mounted displays (HMD), have been shown to increase productivity in a wide range of industries – DHL teamed up with Fujitsu to trial AR in wearables in its warehouses and saw a 25% improvement in the picking process.

The aviation industry – a massively profitable sector which sees exponential growth year on year – has been quick to adopt new tech innovations. Airlines including Iberia and AirBerlin provide the option of smartwatch boarding passes, and Copenhagen Airport has trialled Google Glass with its passengers. EasyJet is also trialling wearable tech integrated into staff uniform; with LEDs to provide additional lighting should an emergency arise. Its uniform for engineers will feature in-built video cameras to aid with remote inspection of technical issues with aircraft, as well as surround sound and microphones for instant communication capabilities. The uniform could also include air quality sensors and barometer features to help monitor the airfield and even air quality.

Integrating VR and AR with mobile platforms and intertwining them with IoT will help to extend the systems and applications we use on a daily basis, taking them beyond a ‘single-user’ experience and widening the scope for further adoption. To put it into a business context, consider the possibilities that these technologies can offer in terms of providing companies with a large amount of information about the overall systems, making suggestions for areas of improvement, and potentially even implementing those suggestions via an automated system.

To take another example from the aviation industry, research underway at University College London is using AI to make a more resilient autopilot system with the ability to adapt to changing conditions. It uses the rapidly developing trend of advanced machine learning (part of computer science that gives a computer the ability to learn without actually being programmed) to watch humans fly real aircrafts on real flights, meaning it is storing hundreds of hours of data which it can use to form a whole library of potential scenarios. When faced with a challenging flight, a traditional autopilot system may not be able to cope with certain circumstances that are beyond its programming so could catastrophically experience failure should the aircraft lose an engine, for example.

Of course, there’s a lot of work still to be done before it could be considered a failsafe option in passenger jets, but the research to date is promising and is a shining example of how innovative technology from emerging trends can be applied in a wide variety of ways in a range of industries. And, most importantly, the positive impact such tech can have in terms of the way we interact with customers, systems and experiences.

Kate Howe is Managing Director at gryo:

This piece was first published on LinkedIn

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