Nowadays, it’s a scene you’ll only see in movies: brokers dressed in brightly coloured jackets that frantically scream at symbols flashing on trading floors. But that’s how stocks were bought and sold for most of Wall Street’s history.
Then, in the 1990s, electronic exchanges entered the picture. In a short time, powerful PCs made transactions in milliseconds, leaving even the fastest brokers in the dust.
Today’s high-frequency transactions are fueled by increasingly complex algorithms that analyze multiple markets and then process a large number of orders at blinding speeds. The decision to buy and sell is largely out of reach of humans. High frequency trading is not free of criticism, but the lucrative gain has spurred a technology arms race among the biggest players in the industry.
What does all this mean for the marketing world? A lot, it turns out.
The technological problem of traditional marketing
Unlike the stock market, technology has come slowly and unevenly to marketing. Only in the last decade or so, there are digital tools to streamline the way we promote and sell our products.
Cloud-based customer relationship management platforms have simplified the process of compiling and tracking leads. Advanced content creation software facilitated the creation of designs and graphics. Marketing automation tools allow businesses to expand their campaigns and reach a wider audience.
But overall, we haven’t completely changed the traditional way of marketing. The marketing teams, helped by the creative agencies, have come together to propose catchy campaigns. Data and research could play a role but these efforts were based on a decidedly human process enlightened by experience, your guts and your intuition. The art will be generated by a design team. The copy will be examined and finalized by the publishers. Announcements will be placed, blog posts written and email campaigns sent.
Then we would wait for the fingers crossed. Some campaigns crashed and made a splash. Others have exceeded expectations. But even in the era of Google Analytics and Insight, it was hard to predict what will work and what will not work.
In some ways, we had not made much progress since the days of marketing pioneer John Wanamaker, who in the late 1800s joked: “Half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the problem is, I do not know which half. ”
The data collection
The first source of collection is the customer relationship. Data mining and analysis, lead nurturing, analytical data of commercial transactions, commercial events, call center collection and customer services, after-sales service to send a satisfaction questionnaire after the processing of a claim, targeted email campaigns, connected objects, reactions to social networks and finally the automation of processes.
Then, standardize data collection, normalize information, deleting duplicates, and evaluate marketing tools and solutions.
The rise of computers
But since 2011, the handful of tools on the marketing technology market has exploded to over 3,800. And they have evolved from a simple automation of repetitive tasks to generating their own competitive ideas. Info Clouds of marketing solutions, such as Adobe, IBM, SAP, Oracle and Microsoft, combine the best of these tools into integrated packages.
At the heart of these clouds are more and more sophisticated Artificial Intelligence minds powered by, you guessed it, algorithms – from IBM Watson to Einstein of Salesforce. They process large amounts of raw data to better target customers, place and edit ads, customize campaigns and measure results, and they do it automatically.
Right in front of us, the cycle of creation, distribution and optimization of marketing content is radically compressed. Instead of relying on human intuition, it is fueled by extensive consumer data collected from social media and other sources. More and more complex algorithms are calling the spotlight and eliminating the guesswork on the marketing materials that will drive the results – and they are doing so almost in real time.
Suddenly, we are no longer old-fashioned stock traders who sweat in the pit, making frantic gestures and hoping for the best. We have entered the era of millisecond marketing.
Quick marketing in action
The ad space offers one of the clearest illustrations of the potential here. Not long ago, digital advertisements were largely the domain of specialized advertising agencies, which had the design know-how to create ads and the industry connections needed to place them.
The advent of ad buying options on Google and Facebook has democratized the process, but the design and targeting of ads has until recently been a trial and error process that required a lot of expertise to work well.
But over the past few years, AI tools have emerged that allow anyone to create and test hundreds of ad variations in minutes, from copying and imaging to audience and audience expenses to get the best results. Successful ads are automatically optimized, while less powerful ads are cut off. Real-time reports spit out engagement and instantly click on numbers, with results no human can hope to replicate itself.
This tendency extends even to the creative process itself. For decades, tools like Adobe have gradually streamlined the work of creating content, from editing photos to creating graphics, creating web pages, creating visual effects, and managing all of the elements. In fact, Creative Cloud has more than 9 million paying users.
The latest iteration allows users to instantly pull millions of stock photos and brand assets from a central database. These can then be introduced into a compatible social media management platform and posted on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other platforms without any specialized design work required. Customer engagement is automatically tracked by Adobe Analytics, which also uses Artificial Intelligence to optimize content and uncover overlooked opportunities.
The next step in this process: tools that support the role of designer, creating the content by themselves.
Preparing for the marketing era
When content can be created instantaneously, targeted and distributed instantly, and then modified and optimized instantly, marketing becomes a completely different situation from the way things were before. Inference, inspiration and intuition are, for better or for worse, at their output, replaced by an accelerated loop of testing and optimization.
For businesses, keeping pace requires investing not only in the right people, but also in the right tools. Ecosystem and compatibility technology that works well together, so that data can become content and content can be reintegrated into the data. First and foremost, having access to rich, real-time customer information – the kind of information shared day after day on social networks – makes a difference. Without the right data, even the best AI engines sputter and stall.
The end of the game is far from clear, but one thing is certain: marketing, for a creative and “human” function, is becoming technical. Success – or failure – may soon appear like lightning.