Whether it’s Elon Musk making dark predictions about AI, or Hollywood adding another chapter to the Terminator franchise, the idea of a robot takeover is as mainstream as ever. While movies like The Matrix and iRobot have their own unique wrinkles, we know the broad strokes of the story — AI surpasses human intelligence and robots realize they don’t need us anymore. Great stuff.
But what will that look like? I don’t care about the surveillance issues, psychological damage, and robot relationships that are obviously decades away. I care about the near future. What’s going to impact me? How do I get snuffed out?
Recently, while putting together the Download on Digital, I found something. Something that signals the end for not only me but my fellow digital marketers. Here’s how it all goes down:
Amazon is Skynet
For those who haven’t seen Terminator, Skynet is the company that eventually manufactures Terminators, who (spoiler alert) go on to slaughter humanity.
Believe it or not, Amazon started writing digital marketing’s eulogy back in 2014 with the launch of Echo and Alexa. Sure, our home assistants seem harmless enough and voice activation has been great for navigating podcasts while doing the dishes, but they come with a behavioral byproduct that’s key to digital marketing’s demise.
We throw around terms like “hands-free” and “voice-activated” all the time, but we never refer to these assistants as being “screen-free”. In a time where we have entire apps geared towards reducing screen time, why isn’t this a more talked-about feature? Remember this point.
Amazon unveils Echo Buds, Alexa Frames, and Alexa Loop
Back in September, Amazon held a media event in Seattle where they announced three new wearable products: Echo Buds (Echo-enabled earbuds) Alexa Frames (Alexa-enabled eyeglasses) and Alexa Loop (an Alexa-enabled ring). These products will allow users to engage with Echo and Alexa on the go, outside of their Alexa-enabled homes.
You might be thinking, “That’ll never catch on. Who’s going to walk around in public talking to their glasses?” Fair point, but did you ever think you’d see people live-streaming their walk to work or taking selfies with their Starbucks? Technology doesn’t care about our preconceived notions of what’s normal and what isn’t. When these puppies hit the market at the end of the year, don’t be surprised when your Weezer-looking Uber driver blurts out “Alexa, order toilet paper”.
The end of digital marketing
So how do Echo-enabled wearables wipe out digital marketers? Here’s my prophecy:
At the very reasonable price of $130-$180 per unit (this is not a sponsored post), these devices will catch on. Don’t believe me? A 2018 study showed that nearly a quarter of American households were equipped with a smart speaker — that’s a lot of people who’ve gotten used to doing things hands-free. More importantly, the widespread success of these items will further take people away from their screens — the very place digital marketers reach audiences.
Consider this scenario. You’re wrapping up a movie date and decide to grab a nightcap. In 2019, you pull out your phone and look up “bars near me”. From there, you’re hit with ads for different bars and alcohol companies, not to mention the ads for Cineplex and SCENE triggered by your location outside the theatre. You click a few listings to see reviews and menus, all of which hit you with retargeting ads later on. With this simple search, you’ve sprung a trap set by me and my digital marketing peers. You’ve validated my work and essentially put food on my table.
Now, let’s look at this scenario in 2030. You wrap up your cyborg date at the hologram cinema and you decide to grab a nightcap. You quietly say, “Alexa, where’s a good bar?” and Alexa just tells you. No screen. No ads. No retargeting pixel. Nothing. Flip to me and my digital marketing peers explaining to clients why Impressions continue to tank.
Online shopping will go offscreen, too, with Alexa calling the shots on what to buy. What does this mean for ads designed to sway buyers towards one product over another? Will I have to put myself in Alexa’s shoes when writing sales copy? That’s not even the darkest timeline — Amazon is already figuring out what you want before you want it. Where do digital marketers belong in a screenless world where shopping is completely automated?
There’s still hope
This is where I say, “I’ve traveled back in time with this message to help digital marketers change the future!”
As someone who works on a computer all day, I love the idea of technology that reduces my screentime without disconnecting me from the digital world. Automated shopping sounds pretty awesome, too. Sure, these advancements could very well put some digital marketers in a tough spot, but Stryve will be fine. We’re obviously thinking about the future already, which is key to survival in an ever-changing industry. The marketers who fail to adapt will be the ones who go extinct and it’s always been that way. An Amazon revolution would be no different than the shift from print to digital or the advent of social media.
Amazon’s Echo and Alexa-enabled wearables could be the beginning of the end for digital marketing as we know it today, but it will lead to a new era of digital marketing, complete with new tactics, platforms, and strategies to add to our stack. As long as we ride the waves of change the future will stay bright.