This is a cross-post of a piece I originally wrote on the Altimeter Blog, seen here.


One question Altimeter hears frequently is “What’s next?” A better way to ask this is “What should we care about?” Often with emerging technologies, there is a disconnect between what people are excited or care most about versus what they will actually invest in. As a research firm focused on business disruption, Altimeter lives at the crux of this distinction.

To this end, we asked more than 100 Digital Strategists at Enterprise companies to delineate between interest and investment in emerging technologies (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Interest versus Investment in Emerging Technologies

There were four trends that we would like to highlight:

1Omni-channel marketing needs investment. The top 5 categories in terms of investment activity all reflect a desire to touch customers throughout their journey, in ways targeted to their behavioral, technological, temporal, geographical, and buying preferences. When it comes to dollars spent, Gamification (driving engagement and other intended actions), Digital/Social TV, and Mobile Payments receive the highest level of investment. Location-based technologies ranks highly in both investment as well as interest. As other technologies enter the mix— enabling more precise, personalized, and geo-targeted touchpoints— this area will grow in scope and scale.

2.  There is general interest in a wide variety of technologies. Note the “blue” portion of each bar, where between 20-32% of all enterprises surveyed have their collective ‘eye’ on a long-tail list of emerging technologies, few of which are mainstream today. Even though investments may not be forthcoming in 2014, it’s clear that digital strategists are watching many emerging technologies closely.

3.  Some “hot” technologies may be on the cusp of greater investment. Several technologies that are perennial press darlings like Near Field Communications, Permeated Surfaces, and Wearable Embedded Technologies rank only moderately in investment, but are among the highest in interest. The common thread between these technologies is that they are all related to the emerging “Internet of Things” space in which various types of sensors are embedded in traditionally offline “things, “ effectively bringing them online.  Location-based technologies stand out as a frontrunner driving this space, in part because of the rise of mobile devices (including many GPS-based services) over the last five years.

4.  Perceived business value of some technologies remains murky. Technologies like 3-D Printing, Peer-based Currency, and Wireless Power, rank lowest in both interest and investment, as their mainstream business value is unclear to digital strategists today. That said, we’ll continue to see large enterprises experiment with these technologies, as murky business value doesn’t always equate to low interest, especially when you have deep pockets. Just ask Google about their recent acquisition of DeepMind, an artificial intelligence company.

What other trends do you see? Where are you focusing emerging technology investment dollars in 2014? How does that differ from where you’re focusing interest, and potentially research? We would love to hear from you!


Methodology: Our sample was comprised of 103 Digital Strategists from enterprises across a wide swath of industries, with more than 500 employees and revenues of more than $50M. Altimeter Group collected this data between August and October of 2013 using an online survey tool. You can see data charts and slides for this research here.