We, as humans, have always been fascinated by the future. From oracles to AI driven predictive algorithms, our imagination is often captured by the predictions of the future. As a marketer, I am constantly looking for trends and patterns. As I go along on this journey, I realize that the future is unfolding right in front of me, and I can find some of the clues about the future simply by observing my child more closely. Here is what I learnt from my 10-year-old son about the future of marketing.
The virtual world is for real
On his 10th birthday, my son wanted us to buy a virtual gaming currency which you purchase with actual money! That virtual currency allows you to buy virtual items and seasons in a popular online game. While we were grappling with the idea that we are spending real money for “nothing”, there was nothing that our son wanted more for his birthday. For him, it was well worth every real penny!
The market for in-game purchases is estimated to be in billions of dollars over the next few years. To win in the future, marketers will need to be in a virtual-first mode, to capture the attention of generation Alpha. Among Gen Alpha, there is a growing trend of digital campfires. They are increasingly gravitating towards shared digital experiences on specialized online platforms. Making inroads into these digital campfires will be crucial for brands and marketers, to get their message across to this audience group.
So, as marketers, we will need to be where the next generation is, and find ways to engage with them and create experiences that they care about. To find out how ready you are for the virtual world, sit down with your tween during their next multiplayer online gaming session!
The rise of smartness
When Deloitte gave us free a smart speaker during a celebration, I wasn’t sure if we had much use for it. So, it remained intact in its packaging in a corner at home, until my son discovered it. It took him less than a week to figure out how to use it for everything ranging from songs to games to jokes.
While we might still be a few years from IoT devices becoming mainstream, it is safe to assume that smart devices and digital assistants would be deeply ingrained in the life of the new generation. My son would expect his smart refrigerator to automatically fill up with the food items he likes, his wardrobe to recommend and purchase clothes as per his style and preferences, and his smart assistant to anticipate his needs and wants, and buy almost anything at the right time, with little to no effort on his part!
This would mean that the marketers may be marketing more to AI enabled assistants, instead of actual humans, in the future. Marketing will increasingly need to be hyper-personalized, one-to-one, real time and more technology and data driven. The era of intrusive, meaningless, and irrelevant advertising will be over, and marketing may fully morph into customer advocacy. As a result, our job as marketers may be to look out for our customer’s best interests, and as brands, being there in the moments that matter.
Appealing to a capricious audience
When he grows up, my son wants to be a footballer and a scientist both, professionally, while creating videos on origami and rap music on the side! All this may be replaced by another set of interests in a few years. Gen Alpha likes to explore and experience new things, and this fluidity may pervade all aspects of their life.
We all have noticed an increase in rentals, ranging from homes to cars to furniture to clothes, pointing at a trend towards less commitment and more flexibility. The future generation may change its mind quickly and often, and this may make it difficult for brands to build relationships with this audience. In fact, most of the next gen customers may not care if most of the brands today disappeared.
To stay relevant in future, brands may need to identify their tribe of loyal followers, and build a niche and close-knit community based on a shared purpose. They will have to find ways to continuously reinforce these bonds, while being expected to communicate with their audience quick and seamlessly. Further, they will need to have shared values with their customers and strive to “understand” each customer. For us marketers, there will be a growing need to up our game, when it comes to the 4 E’s of marketing—experience, emotion, engagement and exclusivity.
The age of influence
My son venerates a famous American YouTuber who started making videos at an early age, and today, boasts of millions of subscribers and viewers. Not only does my son love his content, but I see the influence extending far beyond that in my son’s life, in terms of how he thinks, or what he wants to buy.
The influence of Influencers has been predominant and on the rise for a while. With the ability to speak the same language as their audience and be directly relatable to their audience, the power of these influencers can’t be overstated. 55% of generation Alpha wants to buy what their favorite influencers wear. If influencers become retailers themselves, that may result in even more competition for brands, and would create its own set of challenges.
Given the rising influence of influencers, marketers will need to bolster their ability to identify and collaborate with the right influencers to get their message to their audience. Also, marketers will need to be savvy to ensure that reach and influence translates into the right customer action.
3D print it now!
“What do you mean it will come tomorrow? Why can’t I get it now?” My son needs everything right now. The rise of instant gratification is an unstoppable trend. Our generation progressed from buying things in store to buying things online at the click of a button, with next day, same day and 4-hour delivery. However, the generation Alpha may want to instantly print it now!
When 3D printing becomes mainstream, the consumers will have the ability to uniquely build something for themselves in their own style and size, in a fraction of the time and cost. While this will have great implications for manufacturing, it will also mean overarching changes for marketing. Instead of marketing products, we may be marketing concepts and selling printing instructions. Instead of designing our products, we may be engaging our customers to design the products. There may also be a rise of highly time sensitive, small batch products, which may be marketed “in the moment” to capture that short-lived demand.
The future often seems more far-fetched than it actually might be. To remain relevant in future, we must pay attention to these trends and indications and prepare ourselves for the needs of tomorrow. That may start by understanding the thought patterns and preferences of children today, who will not only be the customers tomorrow, but are already shaping our own buying behavior. We already know that kids greatly influence a family’s purchases. So, to embark on your own journey to be future-ready, ditch your next meeting, and set up time to talk to a tween!
The views expressed here are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of her current, former, or future employers or any organization with which she is associated.
Neha Verma is a Senior Manager within Customer & Marketing at Deloitte Consulting India Private Limited. Neha is focused on growing marketing capabilities and is experienced in delivering omni channel marketing and campaign solutions for clients, to drive their branding and revenues. Neha is passionate about “elevating the human experience” by orchestrating engaging campaigns across channels such as Email, Search, Social, Display and others.