As the name suggests, Econsultancy’s Future of Digital Marketing conference is about looking ahead to emerging trends and technologies.

In a talk about changes to interactive experiences, Foolproof founding partner Tom Wood looked at four technologies that are becoming more common in marketing campaigns, and whether they are likely to be around in the long term. 

He said the real difficulty is predicting the moment when technologies move over into mass adoption and start being used in the real world. 

It’s the innovators dilemma – back it too soon and you’ll look stupid, but too late and you may have missed the moment.

Often economics play a key role, as the technologies have to be cheap, thin and licensable before they can catch on.

The four technologies Wood discussed were:

Augmented reality (AR)

AR is something we have written about extensively on this blog, highlighting new and interesting uses of the technology in marketing campaigns. It essentially uses image recognition to allow consumers to access interactive digital content.

Blippar and Aurasma deliver some of the main apps, while the likes of WaitroseNestle and Tesco have run AR ad campaigns. 

Wood said that the software has actually been around for a number of years, but marketers are only just beginning to see the value.

The technology is now stable enough where someone with a low level of skill can create something that’s usable in brand marketing.

Voice interface

Voice recognition came to prominence with Siri, but despite an initial rush of enthusiasm it hasn’t really caught on. Wood gave a demonstration of how easily voice interface can be used in search, and said it can also be used for everyday tasks such as turning on the TV.

It’s interesting because it is so widely available and many of the tech superpowers such as Google and Apple are ramping up their involvement.

Gesture interface

The most well known use of gesture control is probably the Xbox Kinect and other games consoles., but beyond the gaming community, consumer applications of the technology are still rare.

Wood gave one example of gesture control being used in an iPad recipe app, but other examples are difficult to find.


As with AR, we have written a lot about NFC on the Econsultancy blog and Visa is planning to trial the technology at the London Olympics.

Wood said that though the technology appears complicated, in truth it is “simply a new set of standards around radio communication between devices.”

It achieves what a QR code achieves but without the fumbling to open an app. It’s a very seamless experience and is now very cheap, so you can put an NFC chip anywhere.

NFC chips can be embedded in advertising posters, bus stops or at the point of sale. Consumers can then access content by touching an NFC enabled smartphone onto the chip.

But which are here to stay?

Wood said that the key factor for whether new technologies catch on tends to be convenience of use.

Customers care about reduced friction, while marketers care more about a richer experience.

For that reason, while AR offers the richest experience the fact there is currently no universal app means it isn’t very user-friendly for consumers so is less likely to catch on.

Voice control offers a better experience than NFC but is not as easy to use, whereas NFC is extremely convenient for consumers.

Finally, Wood said that the experience offered by gesture control is the worst out of the four technologies, although there is relatively limited user friction.

Of all four, he suggested NFC is most likely to gain widespread adoption.

David Moth

Published 14 June, 2012 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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Comments (2)


Dennis Miedema

Interesting piece about future technologies and it's always a confidence booster to confirm that you know all the technologies discussed haha.

I am missing some factors that determine which technologies stay or go though:

Customers either try to avoid pain (reduce friction) OR gain pleasure. That's psychology 101 for you: people avoid pain and chase pleasure and are thus likely to act in the same way as consumers. Thinking along those lines, AR and gesture interfaces deserve more "points" and perhaps voice interfaces as well.

But perhaps an even more important metric: the ease of substitution. I mean, NFC is very easily replaced by a whole range of apps with multiple functions. Think Square as a replacement for mobile payments for example. Gesture interfaces are a lot more difficult to replace, while AR apps and voice interfaces are more easily replaced (but less easily than NFC).

Interesting discussion to have about which technologies will actually succeed. My money's on a combination of gesture + voice interfaces because they can easily replace keyboards and mouses as we know them + any type of vending machine or any other type of buttonized system.

about 6 years ago

Tom Howlett

Tom Howlett, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai

I believe augmented reality will grow and we will see some interesting developments with regards to this.

Voice interface may do if it gets better, at the moment this is more of a novelty than being useful.

about 6 years ago

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