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AI is Here to Refine the Future of Communication in 2019 As we move towards the future, in 2019 what matters is how you're keeping your customers engaged

By Kshitij Kulkarni

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Brands that communicate with their audiences with a 2-way communication that engages and excites the prospective clientele without shying of from creating appreciative content and embrace digital technologies, are the once who will survive in 2019! 2019 is year of expressive communications!

We live in an era where "Digital" and "Marketing" are terminologies, that are changing its essence & meaning, every single day. Users that brands wish to engage with have a different set of expectations and are paying attention only to brands who are communicating content that they want to hear. Gone are the days of one-way communication, where a brands Target Audiences' Consumer Journeys are based on "ADVERTISEMENTS"

Since we've entered digital era and have been communicating with our audiences in 2-way conversations, audiences have been interested in a brand, only if the brand talks to them "things' (content) that they want to hear. But as we move towards the future, in 2019 what also matters is how you're keeping them engaged. Hence, how a brand takes this content, what mediums they use and how well do they exploit digital technologies, matter. The key lies in great content being delivered in an engaging pattern. 2019 is the year of the ones who think and do out of the box, and not of the ones with big marketing budgets! Thus, this is a race which can be participated and won by SME and Newly Founded Start-ups too.

Chatbots & AI are Here to Redefine the Future of Communications

Brands with large marketing budgets execute high spend roadshows and make their promoters create leads. An outdated and redundant activity which still proves to be beneficial to brands with big budgets. But in the digital era, Users, Prospects & Target Audiences are pleased with Quick Response Times, they tend to develop faith & loyalty with QRTs and Chatbots are here to fulfil this wish of its users. Facebook has already integrated its own chatbot within brand pages. On the other hand, there are several chatbot tools that brands can build and integrate on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and other Social & Digital Media platforms, AI Chatbots are easily integrable in digital display campaigns.

Chatbots have the capabilities of helping users completing an entire online purchase, booking a ticket/cab/hotel/restaurant table/online food delivery, right across a digital media platform. That means, if the user is interested in a product or service offered in a digital ad, it is now quite possible that the user can make a purchase right at the ad, or social media platform without having to visit the selling platform and yet allow brands to collect the data of these users.

While some brands are still stuck to old school lead generation activities, some brands have already started building chatbots and letting users complete their purchases, feedbacks and several other aspects within the social media platform. However, some brands yet prefer making users complete their purchase via the brand's propriety digital platforms. Users, on the other hand, are bored with chatbotading multiple apps for the same purpose, and users are getting even more pampered with development in Digital Technology. In 2019, big brands will have to allow users to complete transactions on any digital media platform and make a user journey more comfortable & engaging.

A chatbot is not necessarily an extremely difficult & expensive tool to build. If developed smartly and efficiently, chatbots can be made with low expenses that can allow SMEs & Start-ups to have their own tool and be a powerful competition to their monster competitors.

Video Content Will stay to The Top, With Added Avenues of Engagement

Videos as a content format that will accelerate even to the top, because users have a small amount of time they want to spare, hence give preferences to a clip rather a blog post. But in 2019, against expensive TVCs, that involve a humongous cost of production, air time and often brand endorsements, what would matter is how engaging and interesting a video is.

Interactive Digital Videos allow users to browse through your content, users decide the direction they want to move in and consume the part of a video that is more appealing to them. If users find a section of video more interesting, they would love to see a clickable link that takes them to more details about that section of the video. But the biggest advantage here is that the video makers can track where users have shown interest and can remarket more efficiently.

The Reality Zone

Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and 360 Degree Videos, 3 content formats that have taken a while to hit the big league, but 2019 will definitely witness the growth of these amazing formats. Facebook has already launched its augmented reality studio & 360 Degree Videos and other social platforms will follow soon. Some brands have made use of these technologies on Facebook and have delivered TG Convenience and Fan Excitement. 2019 will be a race between the brands that can excite and comfort their TG.

Developing highly engaging video content using different video formats can be a slightly expensive affair. But a bold move with a strategic framework, will accelerate brand perception and recall within the minds of the target audience.

Voice Advertising is the Next Big THING

Google Home, Alexa, Siri, Bixby, Cortana are names that are becoming an integral part of users. India might be a little behind in accepting & using Voice Assistance, but this will not be the scenario for a long time.

Remember the time when a major chunk of search queries shifted from desktop to mobile?

About 1/3rd of the billions of searches performed across the web are directed from a voice assistant. India though contributes to a very tiny portion of the voice searches, ComScore has predicted an estimate of 50per cent of global search queries coming from a voice assistant by the end of 2020. But this does bring in a major advantage and an equally major complication for marketers.

Voice Search will shift a major focus every brand's marketing strategy towards SEO. The race for a less-expensive activity will become a crucial part for every brand. However, the searches coming from different devices will have preferences for different search results. A google home will enlist search results from google search engine, whereas an Alexa will enlist & give preference to search results on the Amazon Marketplace. While on a google search or an Amazon market place, the results displayed on a search query can be infinite, the voice device will read out only the top few listings. This does increase the work of every SEO specialist and makes them optimize their brand across platforms, but it does bring a big opportunity for SMEs & Start-ups who are willing to dedicate a less expensive effort on their SEO activities, helping them witness a large set of audiences taking note of their offerings.

The rise of Voice Assistants will also bring in the need for brands to integrate their services with various service providers and get preferences against the competition. Integrating an existing service with a Voice Assistant is not a very expensive, neither extremely complicated. The brands who would take the step forward will have a heads-up in this race of the survival of the adopters!

Marketing by Influence

Today, audiences know that when a celebrity endorses a product or service, the chances of the celebrity using the brand are low. However, users look up to digital influencers too and are keen to have a peak of their personal lives. when they see a subtly endorsed brand being used by a digital influencer they follow, chances are they feel the influencer uses the brand for real. Users, especially urban users have the faith and belief in reviews and discussions taking place on discussion forums and groups. These activities create a look and feel of Real People Recommending a Brand rather Celebrities Being Paid for Endorsing A Brand, hence these are all types of word-of-mouth marketing activities that will see a rise in 2019.

While big brands will still chase celebrity endorsements, SMEs and Start-ups can focus on getting real (and real-like) reviews across digital platforms. Activities like asking consumers to review on a review app or initiating conversations on discussion forums like Facebook groups, Quora, Reddit, will not only generate visibility for brands but also win a trust factor within the minds of the prospective TG. Executing strategic step-by-step influencer campaigns can also make the TG believe in the goodness of a brand and increase its brand value.

The Rise of Co-Existence

Affiliations, Cross Selling & Partnerships – 3 terms that could be the next big thing in marketing, because the power of unity can never be challenged upon. In an era where discounts, cashback and valuable freebees thrive, every start-up is looking for a partner to cross-sell and promote each other. Who better than an equal enthusiast SME or another Start-up to collaborate with?

The ever-growing Digital Payments have penetrated the Indian Markets by using cash back, cross-selling and enticed users to become a part of the digital payment ecosystem to such a level that Traditional Payment Systems had to hop-on, offer their users a similar enticing value to sustain themselves. But while Digital Payment providers grew, they ensured that their partnering brands get equal visibility, access to data and a lot of other perks. Several SMEs benefited with such win-win partnerships and this trend is thriving and waiting to be explored furthermore.

Taking it Offline, but Digitally

2019 is a year of Digital Technologies! While large brands focus on ATL & BTL in a different way, start-ups & SMEs can look at disrupting ATL & BTL with the use of digital technologies. Brands with big marketing budgets are engrossed in flooding the city with Outdoor Billboards, Newspaper Ads, Title Sponsorships & Mega-Events and the other traditional ways of advertising. But a start-up or an SME installing a handful of augmented reality or virtual reality booths at prime spots in the city or at a mega event, where users can virtually experience the brand's offering and engage themselves, this can create a long-lasting recall over the 50 billboards that a large brand has installed across the city, or a title sponsorship it has opted for at a mega event.

How does having a Marketing Consultant Help?

While brands with large HR & Marketing budgets can onboard experienced marketing professionals with 7, sometimes 8 Figure Salaries, Start-ups and SMEs can onboard consultants at 1/4th of the salary of an experienced marketing professional at a leadership level. Having a consultant on board allows the Start-up founders and SME Directors to build brilliant products and services, while the consultant being a professional marketer would always be up-to-date with the new trends, audience behaviour and would consistently explore ways & means to focus on developing ideas to make the brands offerings visible, desired and loved by its TG. Having an experienced consultant helps in crafting the above-mentioned ideas and directs the brand's movement towards becoming a brand standing next to the big-league brands, without having to allocate equivalent marketing budgets.

Kshitij Kulkarni

Consultant and strategists

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