Don’t Worry, AI Isn’t Taking Your Job Yet

As plans for artificial intelligence (AI) come to fruition, chatter about the imminent decline of marketing jobs has become inevitable. But as we researched for the 2018 State of Martech report, we found that marketers are optimistic about their job security.

In fact, a majority of marketers aren’t actually worried about their jobs. Nearly two-thirds say they don’t feel like the advancement of marketing technology threatens their roles. Marketing tactics require more than technology alone to be successful, and 56 percent of marketers believe an equal mix of creativity and technology will drive marketing strategies five years from now. While we can’t predict what will happen after that, the data confirms that humans are a useful and productive part of marketing, and they view martech as a complement to their own jobs.
shutterstock_795056359Technology’s Role
That’s not to say that marketers don’t rely and depend on technology to create more efficient practices for their companies, though. SOM blog 2 picThe data says marketers are eager to experiment with and apply new martech. Thirteen percent say their company has fully implemented IoT – and 56 percent say their organization is planning to implement the ever-growing network of connectivity and communications.

While widespread adoption of tools such as IoT can play a pivotal role in the evolution of martech, there doesn’t appear to be a one-size-fits-all solution. Nearly 70 percent of marketers say the perfect marketing stack doesn’t exist – and it may never.

Martech at Work
Technology like chatbots, blockchain or AI can create exceptional marketing campaigns – like when luxury luggage brand Tumi partnered with AgilOne to overhaul its marketing strategy. The smart AI crawls for customer data to send crafted one-to-one messages, push notifications and personalized recommendations. The company sent 40 million fewer emails in 2017 and saw e-commerce sales increase six times over. But it’s important to note that all technology carries risk of imperfection, like when several Amazon accounts were automatically shut down last April without an apparent reason.WS_SoM2018-Cover-300x300 (1)

Simply put, even the most advanced technology can’t replace human creativity or instinct – and marketers see the value in that. Even with rapid growth, martech isn’t cannibalizing human jobs yet. Humans remain vital to the execution of effective marketing campaigns, and by removing the human element completely, marketers risk losing touch with their most valuable assets: consumers.


To learn more about how marketers feel about technology, download State of Martech 2018.

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The State of Martech 2018: Maximizing Value

In early April, my colleague and I sat in eager anticipation for the latest Martech Supergraphic at the Martech conference in San Jose. If this sounds exciting to you, you clearly know something about the space, which is centered around enabling marketers to better connect with their customers via technology.

At Walker Sands, we’ve been eagerly watching the number of available marketing technology solutions grow from under 200 in 2011 to nearly 7,000 with the latest Supergraphic release.

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This year, we once again partnered with the Supergraphic’s creator and martech thought leader Scott Brinker to survey marketers on their attitudes, perceptions and beliefs regarding their own use of technology and thoughts on the future.

Our 2018 State of Marketing report shows that, as in the past three years, marketers remain eager and invested (emotionally and financially) in the tools that they’re using. In 2018, however, we discovered that marketers have abandoned the “set and forget” mentality and the desire to make one major purchase. This is a natural evolution from our findings last year, which found that marketers are forgoing all-in-one cloud-based suites in favor of comprehensive stacks. According to Brinker’s Martech keynote, these stacks contain an average of 91 different SaaS solutions.

How are they managing those solutions? Our annual survey of 300 marketers found:

Adoption Isn’t the Challenge

When it comes to the use or concept of martech, marketers are all in – so much so that they’re evaluating their stack every six months to a year. Twenty-four percent of respondents said that they evaluated their tech at the half year mark; the same proportion evaluated solutions annually.

Martech chart for blog

This indicates that solutions are so plentiful that marketers have myriad options to meet their needs – and are content to play the field. As Brinker stated in the report: “Marketing technology is evolving faster than most marketing organizations can absorb it.”

Agility Follows Adoption

Nearly half of marketers feel that the space is evolving rapidly, which is not a surprise. The largest proportion of marketers, however, feel that their company is one step behind in the space. Thirty-seven percent of marketers say their company’s use of marketing technology has evolved steadily, but only one-fifth of marketers say their company has kept pace with the industry and evolved rapidly.

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The discrepancy isn’t universally due to budgets, however: over half agree or strongly agree that their companies are investing the right amount in martech. Internal resistance to change may be the culprit: after cost and implementation struggles, it’s the factor most often cited as a hurdle to martech success.

Optimism is on the Rise

Along with budgets, marketers’ willingness to embrace change means that vendors will have big potential in 2018. Forty-one percent of marketers say they have the tech skills to elevate their entire department. That optimism, however, is tempered by the additional challenge in ensuring that martech stacks are up to date and sufficient. Fewer marketers felt that their tech was up to date and sufficient to help them do their jobs (63 percent this year vs. 69 percent last year).

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Download the latest version of Walker Sands’ State of Martech 2018 here, and check out past studies here to view the evolution of marketing technology and marketers’ attitudes toward it over the past three years. If you’re interested in learning more about how Walker Sands can elevate the awareness around your solution and drive leads, check out our martech capabilities here.

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Retail and Logistics Experts Discuss the Future of Commerce at Walker Sands Panel

On Wednesday we hosted a panel of experts to discuss key findings from our 2018 Future of Retail report at Walker Sands’ HQ in Chicago. The panel, titled The Future of Retail Is Beyond Retail, featured a group of retail and logistics experts, including Scott Webb, President of Avionos, a Chicago-based digital experience company; Lauren Freedman, Founder of the e-tailing group, focused on research in the retail and logistics space; Jim Okamura, Partner at McMillan Doolittle, a retail consultancy; and Erin Jordan, Senior Account Director, Partner at Walker Sands and author of the annual Future of Retail report.


The panelists kicked off the night with a discussion on where they have seen the biggest changes in the industry over the past five years. Some of the most notable changes mentioned were the mobile takeover, consumers’ comfort level in giving out personal information and the increasing desire for convenience in shopping. In addition to the changes we have already seen, here are some highlights from the night about the direction retail is moving in the near future:

  • Online vs. In-Store Experience – The perception of saving time and money is one of the major draws of Amazon. However, Scott Webb stated “It wasn’t Amazon that killed retail – it was the existing in-store experience that killed retail,” highlighting the inconvenience and effort it often takes to go to a physical Audiencestore. An audience participant argued that the experience people look for when buying online and shopping in-store are very different and, in the future, the most successful stores will be able to marry the two.
  • Amazon Go Stores – The new cashierless Amazon Go stores are fascinating to consumers as they promise more convenience and speed with little to no human interaction. However, retailers were warned of trying to copy this model because Amazon is a tech company and doesn’t follow the same retail economy rules. At the very least, it was predicted that the existence of Amazon Go stores will push retailers to figure out ways to make their in-store experiences faster and more convenient.
  • Voice-Controlled Devices – 39 percent of people who own a voice-controlled device now own at least two, showing that people are becoming more comfortable relying on these devices in many different areas of their lives. Erin Jordan and Scott Webb Erin:Panelbelieve that voice-controlled devices are acting as a transitional stepping stone that will lead us to higher efficiency, without the physical device, in other ways of life. They predict a future where voice technology is integrated into every aspect of our homes, making purchasing commodities and other everyday tasks much more efficient.
  • Recommendations – The general consensus was that the retailers who will continue to find success are the ones with high quality in-store experiences with employees who are fully educated on the brand and knowledgeable about the value of their product. Service is important because it helps to build trust which then leads to an increase in brand loyalty. Specifically cited as examples of companies currently doing this exceptionally well were REI, The North Face and Glossier. Lauren Freedman’s advice to consumers who don’t want to see the retail world go completely digital is to “support the people [and companies] that know the product.”Lauren Freedman2

The discussion predicted a future where brands will try to take control of the purchase channel and go directly to the consumer. However, Jim Okamura pointed out the difficulty brands will face in this feat as they haven’t had experience navigating the complex world of retail on their own. And while Erin Jordan anticipates advancements in voice commerce providing a more fluid way of life when buying commodities, she and Lauren Freedman believe a split will happen between consumers who will still be looking for the classic, but elevated, in-store experience.

Mirroring the discussion from the panel, our 2018 Future of Retail report revolves around connected lifestyles, the expansion of Amazon, the dramatic rise of voice and the need for supply chain optimization, essentially showing that the future of retail goes beyond retail. You can download the report here for a more in-depth look.

Thank you to everyone who joined us for this event! We enjoyed discussing how factors beyond retail are shaping the future of commerce with the brightest industry leaders in Chicago, and we look forward to seeing you at another Walker Sands event soon!

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Walker Sands Welcomes Three Agency Veterans as Newest Partners

2018 has been an incredible year of growth at Walker Sands. So far, we opened a brand-new office in Seattle, won multiple awards for client work and office culture and our headcount is quickly approaching 100 full-time digital and PR experts. With all of this exciting progress, we are thrilled to announce that our leadership team is growing once again with the appointment of three company veterans to partners!

Walker Sands’ newest partners are Chicago PR leaders Allison Ward and Erin Jordan, along with Seattle team lead Annie Gudorf. All three have given so much to the agency over the years and truly exemplify our core values of learning, supporting and getting things done.

New Partners

At Walker Sands we are proud to have created a culture of constant learning where employees have numerous opportunities to advance their careers. Each with 5+ years of experience at the agency, these three incredible women have climbed the ranks  two from interns all the way to partners  to become true leaders in their respective practice areas.

Annie Gudorf joined Walker Sands in 2012 and worked her way up through media relations and account management roles before heading to San Francisco, then Seattle, to expand Walker Sands’ west coast presence. With client experience that includes CompTIA, Owler and Nintex, Annie and her team are responsible for some of the agency’s best campaigns  work that regularly receives recognition from the Public Relations Society of America, among others.

Erin Jordan joined the firm in 2012 and has grown to lead the agency’s retail technology practice. In addition to her experience with brands including CloudCraze and Globant, Erin leads Walker Sands’ annual Future of Retail research, now in its fifth year. Erin is a board member at PRC Next, a small group of rising leaders within the PR Council.

Allison Ward joined Walker Sands in 2013 as an account manager after prior experience in both agency and in-house PR roles. As a senior account director managing a book of business across FinTech, electronics and other areas, Allison’s client experience includes work with Newark element14, Worldpay and Billtrust. She also serves as the PR partner for the Illinois Technology Association’s Women Influence Chicago initiative.

By including senior leaders in the agency partnership, we are excited to not only be investing in our employees, but also in the continued success of the company. We are so incredibly proud of these three partners and can’t wait to see where the future takes us!

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Walker Sands’ 2018 Future of Retail Report – The New Age of Voice Commerce

Amazon dominates today’s retail landscape. If you’re like most U.S. consumers, you probably order regularly from the marketplace. The 2018 Future of Retail report reveals that 42 percent of consumers receive 1-2 packages per week, and that number rises as high as 57 percent for those ages 26-35.

And our research reveals that Amazon leads the charge in another area significantly reshaping how customers interact with brands: voice commerce. As more users adopt voice assistants, they expect more from these devices than the ability to quickly play music or ask for the time. This means retailers must adapt to a zero UI model of e-commerce — one that operates with no visual interface — sooner rather than later.


In our blog series about this year’s Future of Retail report, we continue to examine Amazon’s lasting impact on customer expectations. Here’s what our research reveals about voice commerce and the implications for retailers:

  • Digital assistants will become household staples. Twenty-four percent of U.S. adults (nearly 39 million consumers) own a voice-controlled device. And typically once consumers purchase their first device, they’re eager for more. Of those who own a voice-controlled device, nearly two in five (39 percent) report having at least two devices, and 7 percent report owning four or more devices. Sixty-four percent of consumers who own a voice-controlled device use it at least once a week and nearly one in five (18 percent) use it at least three times a day.
  • Voice-controlled assistants are everywhere (yes, even in the bathroom). The most popular places consumers use their voice-controlled assistants in their homes include the living room (57 percent), kitchen (33 percent) and master bedroom (27 percent). They are open to keeping Images within the study-3these devices in more private places as well, with 14 percent of consumers placing them in their bathrooms. The normalization of voice-controlled devices over the past year means consumers are more comfortable interacting with voice assistants in many different ways throughout their homes.
  • Customers aren’t using devices to their full potential yet. Voice assistants are popular, but most owners use them for basic tasks only. The most popular function? Playing music. Fifty-seven percent of consumers identify that as their go-to task. Our study shows consumers use voice-controlled devices more often as an assistant, rather than a commerce device. Forty-eight percent report using a voice-controlled device to answer a question, 38 percent check the time and 27 percent create a shopping list. In the past year, more people used Amazon Alexa to tell jokes than to connect to their smart home (25 percent vs. 20 percent).
  • Voice commerce is on the rise. As consumers become more comfortable integrating voice into their daily lives, commerce is set to grow in popularity. But barriers to adoption still exist. When asked what might prevent them from shopping via voice, consumers note concerns about security (45 percent), privacy (42 percent) and a lack of visuals like images and videos (35 percent).

Voice-controlled devices are making major impacts on consumer lifestyles in a very short time.Walker-Sands-Cover-530x430 Retailers that understand how customers interact with voice assistants now may be more likely to overcome barriers to adoption down the road. To learn more about voice commerce and what it means for retail, download the full Walker Sands 2018 Future of Retail here. And follow along for the last installment of our three-part blog series.

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