Businesses are rushing to try out emerging marketing technology (martech) at alarming speeds. With companies allocating more of their total marketing budget toward tech  in 2021, many are experimenting with hyped-up technology to stay competitive and crush future campaign objectives.
However, it’s risky to adopt new martech when few have vetted it and the outcomes don’t always pay off—at least not right away.
According to GetApp’s 2022 Emerging Martech Trends Survey, two in five marketers who invested in new, disruptive or emerging martech in the last 12 months say the outcome of the technology investment fell short of or only met their expectations. (See our survey methodology at the end of this piece*.)
This raises an important question—is it too early to invest in emerging martech? Let’s start with a few examples of what we mean by “emerging martech.”
Emerging or disruptive technologies are those that are gaining traction, but have not reached mainstream adoption across businesses. Here are some examples:
Artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning (ML): These technologies apply advanced analysis and logic-based techniques, including machine learning, to imitate intelligent human behavior.
Blockchain technologies (e.g., NFTs, bitcoin, cryptocurrencies): Blockchain is a distributed, write-only ledger that records transactions between participants. Distributed ledgers such as blockchain offer a way to securely and efficiently create a tamper-proof log of sensitive activity.
Chatbots: Chatbots are domain- or task-specific conversational interfaces that use an app, messaging platform, social network, or chat solution for conversations.
Internet of things (IoT) platforms: IoT describes the network of products or devices that are embedded with technology for the purpose of communicating or exchanging data with other devices or systems online.
No-code or low-code platforms: These platforms provide drag-and-drop tools that allow end-users to automate or completely eliminate coding tasks from the software development or integration process.
Voice interfaces and search technologies (e.g., Siri, Alexa): These technologies allow people to request information or perform actions using voice interactions.
Virtual reality (VR)/augmented reality (AR): VR describes a computer-generated environment intended to fully immerse users in a virtual world. AR is the overlaying of digital information on the physical world.
Risks aside, marketers want the opportunity to use emerging technology. The majority say emerging martech inspires them to do their best work, despite the fact that about half (49%) have faced challenges with emerging martech such as integration issues, governance complications, and cost hurdles.
It’s unmistakable that there’s a strong interest and desire for emerging martech. So, what should marketers do to better avoid risk, understand which emerging tech investments will yield positive return on investment (ROI), and feel confident venturing into uncharted territory?
Our survey asked marketers from small, midsize, and large businesses that have invested in emerging martech over the last 12 months to weigh in on how it performed. We also explored the top benefits and challenges of investing in new, emerging, or disruptive marketing technology.
GetApp’s guidance for investing in emerging martech will help you determine if investing makes sense and find out which technologies are the best fit for your company’s specific needs and infrastructure. Let’s dive into the results!
To begin, we’ll look at the hottest emerging technologies and what marketers need to consider when adopting these solutions.
Fifty-nine percent of marketers say their company invested in voice interfaces and search technologies in the last 12 months. Additionally, 20% of marketers say their company plans to invest in this technology within the year.
This aligns with the latest voice search statistics from Google reporting that 27% of the online global population is using voice search on mobile . Additional research predicts that the screenless display market (technology that allows users to transmit data without the use of a screen) is expected to grow from $1.4 billion in 2021 to reach a value of $5 billion by 2026 .
As voice search technology continues to improve, companies are capitalizing on the evolving search habits of consumers. Customers now expect products to be compatible with voice assistants such as Alexa or Siri.
Improved products or services. Among those that have invested in voice search technology in the last 12 months, 59% say an overarching benefit of emerging technology at their company is creating improved products or services. Voice technology offers many product-related advantages such as improved efficiency and convenience compared to typing, or making interactions feel more conversational. Companies that want to offer a sophisticated, seamless, and human-like user experience should consider offering products that support voice technology (if they aren’t already).
Comes with risk. Among voice interface or search technology investors, 44% have difficulty with risk and governance (e.g., security, privacy, data quality, etc.). This could be a big hurdle for businesses with limited IT support at their organization.
IoT refers to a network of physical objects or smart devices that collect and share data online. From smart appliances to speakers, the increasing number of IoT devices means more big data for marketers to leverage, helping with tasks such as managing campaigns, tracking progress, and audience targeting.
More than half of all marketers (53%) in our survey indicate that their company currently uses an IoT platform, with 26% stating they plan to within the next year.
Cost savings. Among companies that have used IoT technology in the last 12 months, 43% cite cutting costs as an overall benefit of emerging technology. For example, including sensors or software on products allows businesses to remotely monitor inventory or detect problems or issues, helping prevent stock loss and lowering replacement costs. IoT can also relay location data, providing valuable information to companies wishing to prevent lost packages.
Requires a skilled workforce. Among IoT users, 41% say that a lack of skilled staff to use the technology is a challenge. It’s important that marketers planning to adopt IoT have the right IT staff support to navigate the complexities big data can bring: migration issues, management issues, etc.
Chatbot technology is aimed at responding to, engaging with, and assisting customers. This software can be very useful for companies that want to improve their customer experience.
Nearly half of all marketers (49%) say their company currently uses chatbot technology with 22% indicating that they plan to within the next year.
Improves the customer experience and offers a competitive advantage. Among those that have invested in chatbot technology over the last 12 months, 71% indicate an overall benefit of emerging technology is an enhanced customer experience while 59% cite a competitive edge or differentiation. This technology is great for customers as it offers 24/7 support for customers without them having to wait on the phone or stand by for an email.
Integration is difficult. Among chatbot users, 45% find it a challenge to integrate the emerging technology within their existing infrastructure. It’s important that companies considering this technology have the ability to monitor and optimize this technology based on how consumers are engaging with it.
Beyond the emerging technology that is popular right now, there are the companies that want to be first in line. Let’s take a look at the early adopters of emerging martech and what your company can learn from them.
We found that many marketers want to get their hands on new technology as soon as they can. But are the early adopters (those that prefer to try a new marketing technology as soon as it is released) better off?
Over a third (37%) of marketers surveyed are early adopters of emerging martech.
Early adopters are more likely to invest in all types of emerging technology: 70% have invested in voice interface or search technologies, 57% in artificial intelligence or machine learning technologies and 45% in blockchain—that’s 11% percentage points higher compared to total marketers for all three of these technologies.
The early adopter group is also particularly more likely to invest in no-code, low-code platforms. Among them, 46% have invested in no-code, low-code compared to only a third among total marketers. Fast-paced early adopters are likely drawn to the benefits of lower cost, greater customization, flexibility, and quick-turn innovation that no-code, low-code solutions offer.
Early adopters are also willing to spend more on emerging technology. When reviewing the technology spending habits of this group, we found that the majority (61%) say that their company is willing to pay extra for new, emerging, or disruptive technologies compared to 56% of total marketers.
We know early adopters have rose-colored glasses when it comes to new martech, but what are their results?
Our data shows that early adopters are more likely to claim that their emerging technology investments have exceeded expectations compared to total marketers.
When asked if the outcome of their company’s emerging technology investments exceeded or fell short of their expectations, 64% said investments performed better than they thought compared to only 57% among total marketers.
However, when we asked the same group of early adopters about the ROI of their emerging technology investment over the last 12 months, only slightly more respondents (five percentage points) reported a positive ROI compared to total marketers. This data suggests that being an early technology adopter doesn’t offer a significant ROI advantage.
Let’s take a look at how the various emerging marketing technologies are measuring up.
To better understand how emerging martech is performing, let's look at how companies are tracking performance metrics and measuring martech ROI.
When it comes to measuring ROI for emerging or disruptive technology investments, our research found that companies use a variety of methods—some easier to quantify than others:
54% of companies measure ROI using financial returns (e.g., sales, profit margins, etc.).
46% of companies measure ROI using improvements to organizational effectiveness.
The same percentage (46%) measure ROI using improvements to the decision-making process efficiency.
44% of companies measure ROI using factors such as brand awareness, goodwill towards the company, etc.
Among total marketers that have invested in some form of emerging martech over the last 12 months, 17% say their tech investments have had a negative ROI or they’re unsure of how they’re performing. The data suggests that marketers should manage their expectations when it comes to new martech investments. If you're expecting a huge ROI within the first 12 months, proceed with caution.
Below, we further break down the performance of emerging technologies companies have invested in recently and value the most. Here are the highlights:
VR/AR could be worth the hype. Virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) investors are more likely to indicate having a positive ROI for emerging martech in the last 12 months compared to total marketers.
No-code, low-code is not… at least not yet. While it’s popular among early tech adopters, those that have invested in no-code, low-code in the last 12 months are about twice as likely to report a negative ROI within the same timeframe.
Chatbots get fast returns. Among companies that value chatbots for meeting marketing objectives, 69% said it took less than two years for this technology to have a positive ROI.
Blockchain technology (which has actually been around for a good decade), took the longest time to generate a positive ROI according to our survey results. Among companies that value this technology for meeting marketing objectives, 42% said it took within two to five years to get a positive ROI.
If you still aren’t sure whether or not to invest, it’s important to take a step back and evaluate your company’s unique needs for technology. Our data finds that time-tested software should be your first focus.
When we asked marketers about the most valuable tech for meeting marketing objectives, we found emerging technology wasn’t at the top of the list. In fact, 30% of marketers find that using emerging martech offers little improvement over existing technologies.
Your company should consider investing in the below tried-and-true technologies that our survey respondents say are the most valuable. Check out GetApp’s guide for each of these software categories if you are interested in learning more:
Social media management platforms: Over a third of respondents (37%) selected social media management platforms as a top three most valuable tool for meeting marketing objectives. Among them, 40% say they saw a positive ROI in less than 12 months.
Customer relationship management (CRM): Close to a third (28%) of marketers say that CRM platforms are among the top three most valued technologies at their company. Of these respondents, 38% saw a positive ROI in less than 12 months.
Marketing automation platforms: About one in four marketers (24%) say that marketing automation platforms are one of their top three most valuable technologies for meeting marketing objectives. Among them, 38% observed a positive ROI in less than 12 months.
Surprisingly, top responses among marketers were basic needs such as updated hardware (computers, phones and checkout equipment).
As for the software wishlist, several marketers say they are interested in artificial intelligence and virtual reality. However, many also note that they would rather receive updates to their current software.
How can you make sure your company is investing in the emerging martech that is the best fit? Start by asking yourself these questions:
How long do you realistically expect to keep the martech? We found that the majority of emerging technologies didn’t receive a positive ROI until at least one year out or longer. If your company expects a payout sooner, you might be better off going with traditional solutions (like we listed above).
Can your current infrastructure support it? Another top challenge when adopting emerging martech is integrating it within the company’s existing infrastructure. If your company lacks solid IT support to aid in integration, perhaps adopting emerging martech should remain on hold.
What governance policies does your company have in place for martech? Our survey found that 41% of marketers experienced risk and governance issues (e.g., security, privacy, data quality, etc.) when using emerging technology. Keep in mind that your company should have (or will need to create) clear policies on who and how to use new technologies.
What’s more important: staff or tech? A top challenge when adopting emerging martech is having skilled staff available to use it. Almost a third of marketers say that emerging martech is too difficult to use or deploy. If you are already short-staffed or if you’re a small business, getting the most from emerging martech could pose an even greater challenge.
Adopting emerging martech can offer businesses great value by improving products, services, operations or enhancing the customer experience. However, don’t invest in emerging martech unless it’s a good fit with your company’s current budget, staff, or infrastructure and you are prepared to play the long game.
Because it takes the right people on board, the right infrastructure, and some time for those tech investments to yield a positive ROI. Those that have the opportunity should invest with caution. Otherwise, the most valuable technologies for meeting marketing objectives are tried and true social media management platforms, CRM, and marketing automation platforms. Consider adopting these first if your organization hasn’t already.
If you are interested in learning more about martech, check out these additional resources:
* GetApp’s 2022 Emerging Martech Trends Survey was conducted in May 2022 among 301 U.S. marketers to understand how they are investing in or using emerging or disruptive technologies. Respondents were screened to work full-time in marketing, advertising, sales, or IT departments and have some level of involvement in marketing-related activities. Respondents were also required to have invested in some form of emerging or disruptive technology in the last 12 months.
3. Global Screenless Displays Market, Research and Markets
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