The rate of absorption is a formula that typically applies to three areas. In accounting, it refers to the rate at which costs are picked up by goods or services sold. In real estate, it is the rate at which listings are sold, as an inverse to the amount of supply in the market. And biologically, absorption rate refers to how quickly one’s body absorbs alcohol into the bloodstream.
Business leaders are dealing with a less clearly defined absorption rate that relates to the time it takes to master and see a return from using a new marketing channel or technology. I wish I could say it was a set formula like the ones above. But while there are companies that have mastered the art of digital, social, and mobile (each a shiny object of its own at one point), I am always amazed by how some companies are not willing to drink the Kool-Aid until competition proves them wrong. It’s always harder to catch up than to be a fast follower.
But ... the reason why this absorption rate of digital matters is becoming very apparent. Those who have mastered earlier digital channels have now moved from experimentation to return on investment. And those who are still struggling are losing market share, customer awareness, or even revenue and are now trying to catch up with the competition.
Now the next wave of innovation is about to hit the scene. After a few years where mobile apps and sites were the “big new thing,” 2017 will go down as the year that AR, VR, and AI went from acronyms to actions, and the blockchain moved from the basis for esoteric currency concepts to possibly the solution to the ad verification problem created by digital. Those with slow absorption rates for earlier innovations just got handed a list of new concepts to decipher, test, and put into action–on top of what they still need to absorb.
What is the timetable for soaking up these emerging approaches to marketing?
• AR and VR are showing tangible signs of “life”: In a recent AdobeChat, a group of marketers and innovators discussed the timing for marketers to adopt new forms of reality. While some are actively using augmented reality (for digital extensions of print ads, location-aware recommendations, and the ever-engaging overlays on Snapchat) and virtual reality (see examples from TOMs, Oreo, and Mercedes), these are still early days. What we’re seeing is just 1.0 versions of what AR and VR might look like, but they start to build the use cases for what an immersive experience will be. Expect this to be as common as talking about apps by mid-2018.
• AI is past, present, and future: For many marketers, the concept of automation and machine learning is not new. And naysayers of artificial intelligence often point out how long machine learning has been around. But the next wave of AI will be new in two ways. On the productivity side, AI will allow marketers to create content, run copy tests, and assign programmatic data sets in order of magnitude more quickly. For the consumer, AI will emerge as conversations that seem to be happening with people, but the front line and routing will be personalized by a bot. Both new messaging and new products will result. This will be ongoing, but get your “*.ai” URL fast because a lot of dedicated players are emerging.
• Blockchain is going to fix digital media problems, but it will take time: The challenges for media sellers, agencies, and executives is that the scale of message placement exploded but the tools to measure and validate did not. As marketers look at what the blockchain can provide, media quality, ad placement options, and ways to access data will all take a leap in security, trust, and privacy protection. It will take time, but blockchain ledgers will form the foundation of media and marketing for decades to come. Note that companies including Comcast and Nasdaq are developing blockchain-based solutions for ad tech, not just startups.