3 Technology Trends Marketers Should be Watching

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As technology evolves, consumer behavior evolves with it. People buy new types of products and use new channels to discover those products and make purchases.

Past examples include the proliferation of smart phones and social media platforms. These developments led to the creation of the digital-first economy we find ourselves in today.

They made it possible for people to buy and sell goods online, and brought on new norms for human connection—like social media engagement.

It’s our job as marketers to monitor macroeconomic trends like these so we can:

  1. Understand how consumers behave.
  2. Keep up with the channels consumers spend their time on.
  3. Identify the points of sale where people make purchases and the types of products they buy.

The marketers and brands who best understood and leveraged the aforementioned trends saw the most success in the past two decades. They became e-commerce pioneers, built the first major social media brands, and ushered in the practice of digital marketing as we know it today.

As marketers, our understanding of the consumer landscape we operate in is the foundation for every marketing campaign we come up with.

And that landscape is about to change again.

The Current Technology Innovation Cycle

The current technology innovation cycle is a fierce one. Perhaps even fiercer than its predecessors.

Trends like remote work, the gig economy, the hyper growth for platforms like TikTok, and the mass adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) have us living in unprecedented times.

These trends are changing where people allocate their attention, and in turn, are changing how brands and marketers vie for that attention.

Out of the trends poised to shape modern consumer behavior, there are three trends that I think have the potential to significantly shift what the field of marketing looks like in the future:

  1. The Future of Search Engines
  2. The Adoption of Generative AI by Marketers and Consumers
  3. Higher Value Being Placed on Digital Assets

Let’s take a look at how marketers can think about these trends and best prepare for their impact.

1. The Future of Search Engines

Key takeaway: Monitor the search engine and AI chatbot competitions so you are prepared to market on the winning channels.

Search engines and search engine marketing have been a staple of the marketing industry for decades. The search ecosystem fuels huge portions of our industry — from brands advertising in search to content marketers, bloggers, and search engine optimization (SEO) professionals creating the content that fills search results.

That entire ecosystem is being challenged by new technology, like the utility of AI-powered chatbots that can curate and deliver responses to queries — the same role search engines play.

Social media applications are also seeing their search usage grow. For example, 40% of consumers now use TikTok to search for things they need or are interested in learning about.

Let’s discuss what these search trends mean for marketers.

Vertical Search Engine Adoption

The TikTok statistic above is evidence of a trend toward people adopting specific applications for certain use cases vs. going to a tool like a search engine to find those results.

This is called vertical search — where people go to applications that offer deep expertise and high volumes of content on a specific topic, or of a certain type.

Examples of this include searching for videos directly in YouTube, searching for music in Spotify, and searching for journalism on platforms like Medium. Many of these platforms have AI-powered content curation and suggestions built in, or are in the process of adding them.

These features make for a tailored user experience. When you search for something, the results you see are influenced by things you already like. As are the smart suggestions these platforms make for the next piece of content you should read or watch.

ChatGPT, voice search, and other AI-powered chatbots also fall into this discussion. While they are not technically vertical search solutions given the broad nature of the results they can provide, they present themselves as alternatives to traditional search engines.

Examples of their adoption could include:

  1. More people start using ChatGPT to get the same information they used to utilize search engines to access.
  2. More people use voice search solutions like Amazon Alexa or Siri to answer questions they used to ask in search engines.
  3. Individual applications, or vertical search solutions, introduce AI-powered chatbots like ChatGPT, but specifically tailored to their vertical. These may be introduced at the company level, with individual companies and software platforms introducing their own chatbots trained on their organization’s specific information. A marketing professional could use a Hubspot chatbot to learn more about Hubspot, for example. This type of behavior would replace searching for that same information in a search engine or on 3rd party websites.

Should consumer behavior trend in a direction where more people choose to spend time searching for content in specific applications vs. using search engines as a conduit to the broader internet, it will impact the value search engines and websites present as marketing channels.

If AI-powered chatbots, or copilots, become the primary tools people use to search for things, the way marketers get exposure for brands would change. Companies would no longer be creating websites and blog posts to get in front of people via search engine results and web traffic, for example.

Gartner predicts a 25% decline in traditional search engine volume by 2026. This prediction is based on the prevalence of AI chatbots and alternative search engine solutions.

Zapier Chief Marketing Officer Kieran Flanagan walked out what this potential future would look like in this LinkedIn post and this one.

Disclaimer: these are all hypothetical outcomes, and I do not share them lightly as someone who has been working in SEO and website creation for 10 years. However, some very accredited companies and members of the marketing community are discussing these possibilities, and they are more than worth mentioning:

  • Websites could become more like digital resumes or pitch decks for companies, and are no longer a primary inbound marketing channel (yikes!). Brands predominately share their website with people in an outbound motion to explain who they are and what they do. The number of inbound website visitors greatly decreases due to the overall decrease in search engine usage.
  • New channels of discovery emerge, with chatbot platforms offering brands ways to get in front of their users. This could look like a combination of paid advertising as well as organic content, similar to the way search engines function today.
  • Chatbots become individual marketing channels. Marketers approach them like they approach social media applications, using the platform’s tools to present their brands in the best light, and to take advantage of whatever content creation and advertising options they offer.

This potential future for search engines may play out, it might be nothing like this, or it may be somewhere in the middle.

The point is that vertical search solutions are challenging search engines and consumer search behavior in a significant way. Marketers should be paying attention.

AI-Assisted Search Engines

Another piece of the search puzzle is the change that may come to search engines themselves.

Alternative search solutions aside, we’ve seen Google and Bing experiment with adding AI chat features to search engines. These experimental features explore redesigning the user interface of search engines to include a ChatGPT-like experience at the top of the page where users would previously see the first few website results for their search.

Image shows a searh results page for the search term “link whisper.” The image shows what Google’s new generative AI assisted search results are like, with a chatbot-generated answer to the query displayed at the top of the search results.
This image Spencer Hawes posted on X shows what Google’s experimental generative AI search results look like.

Even small changes like this play a significant role in determining the search engine traffic websites receive. For example, should a change like this be implemented more broadly, being in the 5th search position for a particular keyword could be the equivalent of being the 10th search result, with a new AI-generated section bumping down links to 3rd party websites.

A search query like “in what year was Medium founded?” may yield a search engine results page where an AI chatbot provides the year at the top of the page. This may stop people from choosing to scroll and browse different websites that provide this same information.

If search engines do not continue to look like the list of blue website links we’ve grown accustomed to, it will change the opportunity that search engines present as a marketing channel.

This could look like Google changing which types of content it prioritizes in search rankings, websites receiving less traffic as they compete with AI-generated results in search engines, and plenty of other possibilities.

What should marketers do to prepare for this trend?

Of the trends discussed in this article, this is the most uncertain, controversial, and potentially impactful.

Websites and search engines are cornerstones of digital marketing, and the primary channels many brands and businesses rely on as their primary source of customer leads and income.

Assuming no change is coming to this ecosystem could be dangerous, as we do not know how fast AI technology may change search engines and search engine usage, or to what degree.

I’ve seen people predict we are 5–10 years out from seeing any major changes in search engines or search engine behavior, like significant drops in web searches and web traffic. I’ve also seen estimates that are as short as a 2-year timeline.

With these unknowns in mind, here are the tangible steps I think marketers should take to prepare themselves for the future of search:

  1. Monitor search engine changes. This includes tracking news from Google, OpenAI, and other key players in the space. It also includes conducting your own research. For example, if you have a website, you should closely monitor your web traffic in the coming months and years to look for fluctuations or downward trends.
  2. Monitor vertical search solutions, like chatbots. Are chatbots popping up in our social platforms? Are brands rolling out their own chatbots at scale? We should ask ourselves these questions, and be prepared to follow suit if AI-assisted chatbots emerge as a significant marketing channel.
  3. Diversify your traffic and lead sources. Should search engine traffic decline, content creators and brands need to have new traffic sources. You should start putting those in place now. Look to growing platforms and mediums, like LinkedIn, YouTube, TikTok, and newsletters. Having audiences on multiple channels is a safe position should we see search engines and websites decline as a valuable marketing channel.

We may end up in a world where search engines are eventually replaced by other technology. We could also end up in a hybrid scenario where search engines share search market share with chatbots and other solutions. Marketers need to be ready to answer the call and adjust their marketing channel strategies accordingly.

2. The Adoption of Generative AI by Marketers and Consumers

Key takeaway: Keep up with AI technology so you have the latest marketing tools at your disposal, and understand the touch points consumers have with AI.

Generative AI has arrived in the marketing industry in a big way. I recently wrote a dedicated piece discussing how it is changing the skills marketers need to focus on developing for their career growth.

I’ll look at this trend from two angles:

  1. Generative AI as a tool for marketers
  2. Consumers engaging with AI

Generative AI as a Tool for Marketers

Generative AI is now a tool in our respective marketing toolkits.

New tools for AI-generated text, images, and video are on the market. The established tools we use every day as marketers are finding ways to integrate AI, with platforms like HubSpot, Salesforce and Canva adding features to help marketers create content and execute marketing campaigns.

These changes are predicted to continue. Marketing is one of the fields where AI is seeing the fastest adoption by professionals.

Tangible examples of ways marketers can use AI today that will only improve in the future:

  1. Image, text, and video content creation.
  2. The creation of AI-powered chatbots that can engage directly with customers.
  3. AI-powered marketing automation that can create personalized versions of every possible customer journey.

Consumers Engaging With AI

On the other side of the equation, consumers are engaging with AI more in their daily lives as AI technology is integrated into consumer devices and apps.

Tangible examples include:

  1. The rise in popularity of voice technology. Voice platforms like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa are poised to see AI advances that make them even better at serving as people’s AI companions. Our smartphones and other smart devices will continue to get better at curating content based on our preferences, and answering our questions.
  2. Consumers are already used to engaging with customer service chatbots deployed by organizations like banks and airlines. This trend will continue, as more businesses deploy AI customer experience tools for consumers to engage with.
  3. Larger percentages of the  content on the internet will be created by AI. This includes blog posts, newsletters, social media content, and video.

What should marketers do to prepare for this trend?

As individual marketers, we can’t control these macro trends.

However, what we can do is learn to use AI tools now that have clear, tangible use cases (ex. content creation) and observe how larger unknowns like those mentioned above play out. That way, we are best positioned to ply our trade in a new, AI-augmented marketing landscape.

The steps I would take now are:

  1. Experiment with new AI tools. Try creating images in Midjourney, see where ChatGPT can help you plan content, or try your first AI-generated videos. Knowing these tools will be important as they become more standardized as marketing solutions, and the rest of the marketing community adopts them.
  2. Monitor how the touch points consumers have with AI evolve. This includes search engines, chatbots, and voice technology. Understanding this landscape will help you stay ahead on which consumer channels are growing vs. declining.

3. Digital Assets Gaining Real Value

Key takeaway: Monitor digital asset trends so you can identify digital product and brand development opportunities.

Another important trend for marketers to monitor is the value people are placing on the digital components of their lives.

For example:

  1. A survey conducted by immersive e-commerce company Obsess found that 62% of respondents and 74% of Gen Z respondents have purchased a digital item within a digital video game platform, such as Roblox.
  2. Global gaming audiences spent approximately $54 billion in 2020 on in-game content. Total in-game spending is projected to be upwards of $74 billion in 2025, according to Statistica.
  3. A survey conducted by Virtua and a consumer behavior professor from Bournemouth University found that 71% of consumers indicated that digital items are a part of who they are.
  4. Furthermore, 70% of survey respondents indicated their digital items help create the perception of who they want to be.

These are just a few examples of a broader trend toward people placing real value on virtual products, virtual experiences, and the way they present themselves online.

Streaming service subscriptions, editorial content platform subscriptions (like the one you are on now), and digital courses and books are additional examples of how people invest in the digital portions their lives.

What Does Increased Value Being Placed on Digital Assets Mean for Marketers and Brands?

You can guess why this is important for marketing professionals to be aware of: there are opportunities to leverage digital assets as products and brand engagement tools.

With consumers proving to be comfortable investing in digital assets, brands are taking advantage and staking their claim:

  1. Fashion brands like Balenciaga have rolled out several digital fashion products for Fortnite and Roblox players to don via their digital avatars.
  2. Nike created a virtual Nike storefront in the game Roblox that more than 21 million consumers visited.
  3. Meta launched its own digital fashion marketplace for Instagram and Facebook users. The marketplace enables users to buy virtual clothing and accessories for their avatars from brands like Prada, Balenciaga and Thom Browne. Users will first be able to display these clothing items on their avatars on Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger.
  4. A report from ResearchAndMarkets.com estimates that digital asset marketplaces like those run by Meta and Roblox will be a $224.9 billion business by 2027.

Our interest in curating how we look and present ourselves online is clearly fueling a market opportunity that top brands are leaning into.

What should marketers do to prepare for this trend?

As marketers, it is now the norm to focus on the digital portions of consumers’ lives. Outside of event marketing and retail marketing, most of the campaigns we run are digital and most of the purchases we influence take place via e-commerce.

I think we should be tracking the evolution of digital identity and digital commerce. This evolution will see people use digital assets to express and shape their identity online. It will also see larger portions of purchases take place online, as well as larger portions of those purchases being digital item purchases.

Final Thoughts

The landscape we operate in as marketing professionals is constantly changing, with the present being no exception.

The trends discussed in this article have the potential to mark paradigm shifts in the ways consumers behave, specifically in the digital portions of their lives.

Marketing professionals should closely watch as trends like search behavior, the proliferation of AI, and digital asset value present new opportunities for commercialization and engagement.

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About the Author

Hi, I'm Justin and I write Brand Credential.

I started Brand Credential as a resource to help share expertise from my 10-year brand building journey.

I currently serve as the VP of Marketing for a tech company where I oversee all go-to-market functions. Throughout my career I've helped companies scale revenue to millions of dollars, helped executives build personal brands, and created hundreds of pieces of content since starting to write online in 2012.

As always, thank you so much for reading. If you’d like more personal branding and marketing tips, here are more ways I can help in the meantime:

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