Big, Bold Predictions for Crazy Disruptors in Digital Messaging

Where once was the carrier pigeon, now there’s email. Smoke signals have become Snapchats, telegraphs are now texts, so on and so forth. The way we communicate with each other is constantly evolving, especially when it comes to digital messaging. Technology advances, what used to be brand new quickly becomes obsolete and marketers have to scramble to keep up.

As the year comes to a close, dozens of “end-of-year-predictions” posts are cropping up, and people like to play it safe. At Nebo, we don’t play it safe. So rather than parrot what everyone else is saying (“Deep machine-learning AI algorithms are the hottest new technology for the tenth year in a row” or “someone will finally find a problem where blockchain is the best solution”, blah blah), we’re taking it a step further.

Will our predictions come true? Maybe. Maybe we’ll go down in history the way Marshall Mcluhan did for predicting the internet way back in 1962. Or maybe we’ll be like Steve Balmer with his 2007 iPhone prediction: “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.”

While we won’t be able to give Vegas odds on anything we’re predicting, we will provide a scale of prediction accuracy, ranging from “hard statistical analysis” to “rodent coming out of the ground and predicting the weather for the next 3 months”. 

Prediction: Relying on AI is gonna be trouble

Accuracy Level: A fortune cookie that was probably written by an AI

Let’s get the safety pick out of the way first. Two of the most prominent uses of AI are looking to take the guesswork and endless testing out of digital messaging marketing, with the ability to craft the right messaging, timing and medium. Companies like Resulticks figure out what medium and times are most likely to see engagement per customer, and Phrasee will have their AI write perfect copy for your brand.

What’ll happen when technologies like that are the norm? You’ll get 3012390 messages during your 10 AM coffee/email break. Good luck sorting through that. But, luckily for you, you won’t have to, because inboxes will be using AI to sort your messages for you, which means the other AI will need to get smarter to actually reach you, which means the other other AI will need to get smarter to filter even more, and that’s how the AI takeover starts and as the machines conquer Earth. Humanity’s last voice will ring out saying, “Assisted revenue was up 3.8% YoY.”

Prediction: Voice is only getting louder

Accuracy Level: “Hey Alexa, show me my true love.”


Where once were screens, now there’s voice. As more and more people turn to Google and Alexa to manage everything from how they order delivery, to how their personal info gets delivered to the NSA, they’re going to expect big things from the brands they love. Traditionally, digital marketing has used imagery and linking to website to drive sales, but that’s going out the window with the screens. Voice assistants will offer conversational back-and-forth with consumers that’ll allow for a more personalized approach. Is it going to snow when you’re going home for the holidays? Alexa will interrupt your evening meal to let you know there’s a relevant sale on outerwear somewhere in your inbox.

Currently, all voice assistants sound the same. “Ten percent off rat poison” currently has the same intonation as “One million dollars off your next trip to Disneyland!” 

Enter voice assistants with personality. Brands will be bringing their beloved, sassy social media personalities to voice, and having a feisty brand voice will matter more than the content does. Welcome to The Real Voicewives of Every Brand You Know. 

Prediction: You get a merger. You get a merger. Everyone gets a merger.

Accuracy Level: Lots of shake-ups, not a lot happening — just like a Magic 8 Ball


In 2000, Netflix founder Reed Hastings offered to give away his company for $50 million. The potential buyer? Blockbuster. Now Netflix is worth over 100 billion and Blockbuster has 1 measly store in Oregon (because hipsters). Obviously no one could’ve predicted how popular Netflix would get, but the lesson is this: buying your competition is easier than competing with them.

Enter Salesforce Marketing Cloud, the marketing software behemoth that has spent billions in acquisitions so far with no signs of stopping. Does any one person need to use the full suite of Salesforce’s power? Obviously not (and especially not at that price point), which is why small boutique ESPs are going to keep cropping up who will either A. Try to compete or B. End up being bought. So what does that mean for the future? Not much.

Same shit, different decade. 

Prediction: RIP Outlook July 31, 2002 – Too long

Accuracy Level: The death card has been dealt 

Outlook, having long been the bane of many marketers for its tendency to throw rendering errors into even the finest email, will finally meet its end. Or at least be killed and reborn as something less terrible. Email is only going to continue to provide a strong ROI and an email service provider is going to need to adapt or die. Even Yahoo Mail recently did its own glow up as the brand tries to stay relevant. And with the next version of IE Edge being built on Chromium, i.e., the open source browser provided by Google, it's safe to say that at some point Microsoft is going to want to ditch Outlook’s clunky reliance on Office to move on to better tech that will allow users to keep up with evolving emails.

Prediction: We’ll want to give companies our data

Accuracy Level: Like a paper fortune teller, you’ll think you’re in control, but the end is already decided

For years companies have been trying to get their hands on as much of our data as they possibly can. Sometimes this is great, like when you vaguely mention you need dog food while your phone was nearby and Amazon serves you an ad for the exact dog food your dog prefers because they somehow know that, too. Sometimes it’s less great, like when retargeting alerts your SO to their holiday gift. But the question has always been the same: what are they going to do with your data? That’s what really matters. And we have answers.

Locational data is going to blow up, and it’s going to blow up big. Last year, Burger King sent push notifications to anyone with their app who was within 600 ft of a McDonalds and offered them a Whopper for a whopping one cent. A fantastic marketing strategy, and one that’s begging to be copied. The first to hop on the band wagon plane will be airlines and airports. Your flight got delayed and you’re pissed off? A rival airline will send you a coupon for X amount off your next flight, right when you’re ready to rage quit Delta forever. Or maybe your flight gets delayed, and the Denny’s in the terminal you’re at wants to cheer you up (and/or get your business), and persuades you to eat there for a percentage off.

But it won’t stop there — oh no. Location and behavior based deals will only get better, cooler, and more exclusive. We’ll be chomping at the bit to give companies our data so they can target us with the best, most exclusive deals. We’ll be syncing up our smart wearables to workout classes because only someone with a RHB of under 40 BPM will be allowed in this super cool sports club. Only people who wake up before 5 a.m. will be allowed at this one brunch place. If you’re a good sleeper, you’ll qualify for 50% off a new mattress you can only get if you toss and turn 44+ times a night. We’ll be begging to share our bodily data.

Prediction: Our new marketing targets will be pets

Accuracy Level: Groundhog coming out of the ground to predict weather — crazy but people love cute animals so you can’t dismiss it

Ninety-five percent of people who have pets consider their furry children to be part of the family, and we all want what’s best for our family, right? What logically follows is that companies are going to be more and more interested in marketing to our pets. Gone will be the days where we have to guess what Fido’s favorite food is — he’ll be able to tell us. Smart watches will become smart collars, that’ll allow your pets to do everything from loudly demanding treats with the bark-to-talk features, to texting your human phone asking when you’ll be back already because they’re sure they’ve been abandoned because you ran to get the mail 0.34 seconds ago.

It’s Barketing. Patent pending.

Written by Steven Hall on December 16, 2019


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Written by
Steven Hall
Front-End Engineer