‘THE’ hot topic of 2020 in the technology industry: Covid-19 recovery and what it means for b2b marketing
While it’s been technology that has allowed the business world to keep going during the pandemic, it hasn’t just been all good news for the tech sector. They, like most other businesses, are in full recovery mode. The pandemic has impacted everything from raw materials supply, disrupting the electronics value chain, and causing a huge bottleneck in the manufacturing of hardware. Like most sectors, this year and next will likely be around recovering from 2020.
In the short term, IT spending has declined; as of April 2020, IT spending for the year is forecast to fall by 3 percent, revised down from a 5 percent increase in January, according to this report from Deloitte.
However, there is a positive side for the tech sector that others don’t have. During the pandemic, the reliance on technology and the work that has been achieved because of technology will not have gone unnoticed by technology buyers. This means there could well be an upturn in the sector in the second half of 2021. If nothing else, it has accelerated remote working and placed more emphasis on specific areas, such as data sharing, security, business continuity, and sustainability.
Key trends in technology for 2020/21 and beyond
Trends in the tech sector move at a pace that is faster and more dramatic than other sectors. While vendors speak in one vernacular about a technology or strategy, it is often a long way from being a reality for many businesses. Cloud computing being the perfect example of this – coined 25 years ago, it reached hype cycle about 15 years ago and only really hit most businesses about 5-8 years go.
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
The pandemic has proved to be a turning point for AI. A hot topic for years, many companies were reluctant to invest. However, the need to create competitive advantage, the drive towards automation, and the need to process data more quickly has convinced companies that now is the time to start using AI. According to Gartner in this report, by the end of 2024, 75% of organisations will shift from piloting to operationalising AI, driving a 5 times increase in streaming data and analytics infrastructures.
As the quantity of data we’re dealing with continues to increase, we’ve realised the shortcomings of cloud computing. Edge computing is designed to solve some of those issues by bypassing the latency (ie wait time) you have using the cloud.
With edge computing, it’s about processing and managing data near the source of where it’s collected, rather than relying on the cloud in a datacentre that is thousands of miles away. Edge will increase as the use of the IoT devices increases. By 2022, the global edge computing market is expected to reach $6.72 billion.
Ethical technology and trust
Technology companies are having somewhat of a brand realignment and they realise B2B consumers want real companies – not faceless huge corporates they no longer trust. Think of the hit Facebook has taken over Trump and BLM. This article from Deloitte claims ethical tech and trust is now high on the boardroom agenda – companies want to be seen to be doing good, not just making a profit.
As hype cycles go, 5G is up there with Y2K and 3D printing. Speeds 10 times faster than 4G, traffic capacity of 100 times, dramatic low latency – offering society everything from smart cities to remote surgery, drone deliveries to virtual reality worlds. However, while 5G will deliver new ways of working, living, and playing, it’s going to take time. It’s being rolled out, but there is little coverage available today, and even less content or applications that are optimised for 5G networks.
Major handset manufacturers, including Apple, have yet to set release dates for 5G handsets. With 5G, any real uptake is likely to be well into 2021/22 – comparatively, it took five years before 4G was achieving widespread coverage. And, even now, some operators are struggling to deliver a full 4G service.
Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality
With 5G bringing low latency, high bandwidth, and breakneck speeds, cloud-connected AR and VR implementations will increase dramatically. According to this report, AR/VR could bring an extra $1.5trillion to the global economy by 2030. It can help everything from product development to surgery, from customer experience to training and development.
For example, AR-enabled smart glasses already help warehouse workers fulfil orders with precision, airline manufacturers assemble planes, and electrical workers make repairs. The potential of this technology is huge and is likely to impact our lives as business people and consumers.
Most people think of blockchain underpinning the bitcoin cryptocurrency. The reality is that blockchain, due to its nature of allowing people to securely share digital assets, is going to impact many of the business and consumer sectors around us.
There are thousands of blockchain definitions, but essentially information on a blockchain is a shared and constantly reconciled database – a digitally distributed ledger – across thousands or millions of computers, which means it’s open to all and easily verifiable.
Trust is created because there is no central owner or repository – it’s owned and verified by the network. Blockchains can be open or private and all users have a record of the transaction.
Digital transformation means everything and nothing – it has become a nebulous term. It’s not new and now even a bit tired, but it’s something that most companies (end-users) are just understanding because it’s hard to achieve, as McKinsey states in this report. It’s the idea that digital should permeate all aspects of a business – process, operations, culture, and customer experience.
And it’s a big part of the tech spend – forecast to grow 10.4% in 2020 to $1.3 trillion. Updating traditional digital transformation concepts, McKinsey has developed the idea of scaling transformation using Digital Factories.
IoT (Internet of Things)
5G and edge computing have boosted the potential of IoT, because of improved data transport speeds and reduced data latency. As a result, IDC estimates there will be 41.6 billion connected IoT devices, or “things,” generating 79.4 zettabytes of data in 2025. Spending on IoT deployments is expected to be $726.5 billion worldwide this year. According to this article, 85% of IoT decision-makers are either deploying or scaling the technology and 94% indicated their businesses planned to use the technology by the end of 2021.
There has been a skills shortage in the tech sector from the beginning. However, because of the pace of technology, this has become even greater, especially around AI, data analytics, hyper-automation, IoT, and machine learning. The European Commission believed there could be as many as 756,000 unfilled jobs in the European ICT sector by 2020.
Like the Industrial sector, many companies have signed up to Women in STEM, which promotes the opportunities for women in science, technology, engineering, & maths. It starts at school-age, encouraging young girls to be interested in these topics and continues throughout corporate life with STEM seminars and online associations.
So, what does this mean for technology B2B marketers?
Tech is hoping for a V-shaped recovery – and given its importance during the pandemic, it seems likely. Now is the right time to tap into budgets to help our clients ready themselves for the upturn next year.
Given the pandemic, everyone is going digital. The tech sector is traditionally a place for face-to-face conferences, deals, and activities. Every vendor has its own technology conference because tech sector gatherings are where innovation happens – think of CES in Las Vegas. Post-COVID, this will all change, and whether we have virtual conferences or whether it’s just postponed until 2021, there are few announcements.
But this means there are possible marketing budgets to spend on other digital activities. Webinars have become huge, video is a key mechanism for getting messaging across, email campaigns are back, and even traditional direct mailers are seeing a return.
Due to the highly targeted nature of the platform, LinkedIn has become THE place of choice for most marketers within technology companies. They want the right audience to see their content. They are getting company profiles redone, making sure execs are following the right people and organisations, and have the right connections.
Campaigns, ads, and creatives are driven towards engagement on the platform, especially when part of a more integrated marketing approach.
Data-fuelled marketing is all the rage – using data to reach the right customers on the right platform at the right time is everything to vendors. They need to show data-backed return on investment (ROI) to get buy-in from their stakeholders. Measurement of all marketing activity is also crucial – CMOs and marketing managers want to see the business outcomes of their marketing spend.
Vendors have realised the benefits of personalised targeting of specific customers, using ABM. They need to create competitive advantage and having true ABM (one to few accounts) means they become highly specific with their campaigns and activities, so are more likely to get cut through.
Content, messaging, and value propositions
Competitive edge is more important than ever – companies want to come out of this pandemic stronger and fitter and for that, they need a powerful value proposition, some engaging content, and a way to amplify that content through their marketing.
Many have taken this time to revaluate their proposition, including looking at their assets – marketing materials, website, collaterals etc. Refreshing a lot of this material could be big over the coming months, as the next ‘new normal’ ways of working emerge post-pandemic.