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How Starbucks, DuPont and GE are expanding the possibilities of digital marketing

Marketing? There’s an app for that. And it might be more advanced than you think. We know big brands – B2C and B2B – are employing mobile technology to enhance sales and after-sales processes. But these companies also are stepping up their efforts to integrate apps with new technologies that help customers become more efficient no matter where they are. Here are few recent examples:

1. Starbucks Voice Ordering

Starbucks is betting big on the growth of “conversational commerce.” They’re working to optimize voice ordering capability by integrating with Amazon’s Alexa skills system and with Ford’s Sync3 system. Why wait to order in a store when you can order in your home or car? And why bother using your fingers on your phone when you can simply speak up? Taking this concept a step further, why shouldn’t industrial manufacturers think about the same thing for supplies on the factory floor? And why shouldn’t auto parts companies consider conversational commerce for mechanics in service repair bays?

2. DuPont Product Recommendations

DuPont’s Evalio Field Partner US app allows farmers to research and select the best crop protection products instantaneously. Data on geographic region, type of crop, crop rotation schedules and interaction with other products is all combined to provide answers in real time. After purchasing the app, a farmer can reference labels and safety data sheets on a different app from Adobe that replaces a 400-page printed binder.

3. GE Machine Apps

GE Predix is a technology to drive machine apps on the industrial internet, part of the Internet-of-Things (IoT) movement. A great video describes how locomotives contain sensors that collect information constantly, triggering adjustments, discovering maintenance issues earlier and even reordering maintenance supplies. GE is incorporating digital technology across all their businesses, making the company a newly respectable place for young engineers to make a career.

4. Microsoft Marketing Analytics

Ad giant Publicis has teamed up with Microsoft to combine the Cosmos A.I. technology with the Cortana Intelligence Suite. Prepare for jargon. If you sell online and want to improve mobile search, enhance recommendations and boost conversion rates, we’re told we need apps with prescriptive analytics, natural language machine-learning algorithms and fully managed cognitive intelligence. Throw in a little Watson from IBM and one might get very confused on the way to getting very smart.

But this is our reality now. It’s not just around the corner. It’s here. Futurist Kevin Kelly explains that in the industrial revolution, electricity was applied to almost all machines to transform industry. Now, artificial intelligence (AI) will be applied to nearly everything to create another kind of revolution. We’re seeing it in marketing with the apps mentioned above, in finance with robots making investment decisions and even in the communications realm with computers writing content (though I assure you, this post was written by a real human).

While there’s no turning back, there’s still room for thoughtful strategy and good old-fashioned critical thinking. Where and how should we apply new digital technologies? When is a cool app not the answer? The best approach to solving marketing problems will always be to understand the situation first, select the right communication approaches for the target market and implement tactics that connect with customers.

Chances are, any solutions will now involve digital – and maybe even uber-digital. You may not have the reason or resources to do what the world’s biggest brands are doing, but you might be inspired to borrow a few ideas. “Okay Google, order new ball bearings for the Model EX-7 wind turbine.” “Thank you, David, that order was already placed based on sensor data and predictive maintenance parameters.”

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