Each year &THEN, the DMA’s annual event, attracts the best and brightest in the data driven marketing industry. The event is an opportunity for marketers to connect and gain actionable insights on the latest, most effective marketing trends and tactics. Some major takeaways addressing the best practices of emerging technology and innovative thinking around how marketers are refining an omni-channel strategy.

The first takeaway was that customer experience is the new “brand.” This came from the common question all marketers were asking: how to merge virtual or digital experiences with the physical one? American Airlines’ augmented reality airport mapping and Charlotte Russe’s soundtrack-to-shopping paired playlists were just a few examples of this in action during the conferences. At FRSH we have been able to create an experience like this in our recently launched UNICEF Kid Power skill, allowing families and kids around the US to share in an adventure experience that keeps kids active and enables them to be heroes on their own.

The second takeaway is that customer satisfaction hinges on voice-activated UI. FRSH CEO, Doug Robinson spoke about this during his panel, Alexa, Google, Cortana, Siri, Viv: The Marketer’s New Bestie? He spoke directly to the challenges and implications from integrating voice-activated customer experiences through Alexa, cortana, Siri and other digital assistants. Doug described the way in which consumers get used to voice-based technology and how this increases their expectations for what is possible. Brands must consider any customer action as something that can be done using a virtual assistant.

The third takeaway from the DMA &THEN conference is that the human element is paramount. Robert Scoble’s keynote discussed how technology will be a disruptive forces in consumer behavior, needs consumption, and thus marketing. However, others emphasized the human behind the purchase decision will always be there.

While data and innovative, emerging technology were only some of the hot topics, there were many reminders that marketers should remain focused on humans and their emotions. From artificial intelligence, to mobile app engagement, to social media, to knowing what to do with the constant influx of customer data being collected, speakers all emphasized the emotion and human behavior at their core. Purchase decisions are made from an emotional or human core; thus, it is about knowing how to extend the relationships with consumers that will make certain brands and marketers stand out more than others.

In order for marketers to thrive they must stay on top of one technological advance in particular: intelligent assistants. “This little landscape is going to move a lot faster than… pretty much everything before it,” said Doug Robinson. “If you don’t move pretty quickly you’re probably going to be irrelevant a lot faster than you might think.” The voice capabilities of these assistants extends the relationship between the consumer and the brand, and the rise of digital assistants will yield more interactions between the two and marketers must build upon that.