In 2016 the marketing world demonstrated a readiness to change, that’s been encouraging to be a part of. More and more integrated campaigns are showing higher returns, multi-channel is finally giving way to omnichannel, agencies and clients are understanding the need for change, companies are paying closer attention to digital business roadmaps, and platform and systems integration are giving rise to optimised simplicity.
Digital transformation, customer experience and personalisation are still the buzzwords and the conversations that surround them continue to be relevant in this marketing coming-of-age. And whilst some companies are still teetering on being risk averse or undermining their forward thinking with old fashioned processes, we have seen big shifts in strategies from others that are gearing up for the Experience Age.
As Forrester’s latest report (“Predictions 2017: The Post-Digital CMO Appears”) states, a personal, high value connection with customers at their precise moment of interest and transaction is the yellow brick road that most C-suite strategies for 2017 should head towards. The reality however is that to deliver the personalised customer experience, a quantum shift needs to take place at a cultural, organisational, data and systems level first. Beyond just a simple restructure, we’re talking reinvention in 2017.
We expect a lot of internalising to happen as companies focus on restructuring their teams and processes across disciplines and silos. We predict that companies will pay more attention to scalability in every way possible; from ways of working to new systems that enable amplification and data delivery in a productive and meaningful way. Disruption looks set to remain the order of the day with organisations looking to millennials, outlier competitors and the Internet of Everything to change business models. Finally, big data will be core to all of this and we’re sure that there will be greater emphasis on how it’s organised, where it’s hosted and what intelligence it produces.
Here are our top 6 trend predictions for 2017:
1. Connected Customer Journeys
Marketing has for a while now been faced with a millennial challenge. This is the generation that values brands with purpose and authenticity, experience over ownership and short term consumption over product ownership. The customer journey has become the product. Consumers will continue to look for value exchange in marketing practices rather than the age-old push messages as they continue to control the brand interaction through multiple channels and on multiple devices. The most significant trend here is that marketers can no longer place customers in a predictable customer life cycle and expect the traditional rules of awareness, through conversion and advocacy to remain.
Instead, they need to work towards an effective omnichannel strategy enabled by two core capabilities. Firstly, the data and analysis that identifies an individual interacting with the brand, product or service as they hop between channels and touchpoints and, secondly, the ability to maintain a consistent experience across those channels, particularly as CX changes can now be made so rapidly in response to analytics and testing.
2. The Experience Wave
Where technology is concerned, we are experiencing the 3rd major wave of enterprise disruption since the digital revolution. The first, the back-office ERP era, was concerned with finance, with HR, with the supply chain when the first digital business ecosystems gave forward-thinking companies the competitive advantage. The second phase was all about front office, CRM was the catalyst, and companies who successfully digitized their customer relationship management came out on top. This 3rd phase is all about managing both content and data to optimise customer experiences. It’s about streamlining content for individual conversations and deploying the right technology to drive consumers down the purchase funnel and into ongoing personal relationships with brands.
A combination of innovative technologies, new devices and higher access speeds means exciting opportunities for digital marketers. Live streaming platforms, augmented reality apps, like Pokemon Go, and immersive video are going to become even more popular in 2017.
3. Accelerated rate of change
The ever-accelerating rate of change means companies need to innovate faster and adapt rapidly to new technologies, devices and behaviours. On a technical level, it means trying more things, more often, without waiting for the development process to be completed to spec. We often hear the words ‘fail fast, fail forward’ but what this mean is that quick feedback helps organisations to iterate and improve in much shorter cycles. In simple terms the idea is to learn sooner rather than later what will and won’t work so that resources and productivity can be optimised.
In 2017, as trust continues to grow, more companies will shift services to both the public and private cloud. As these cloud services help companies transform, the marketers and technologists must look to a combined strategy that puts important customer data here, as this is where insights are more easily and speedily accessed and acted upon by the business.
Marketing organisations should look to invest in a single system and integrated content strategy - including design and development, author experience, omnichannel publishing capabilities and tracking and reporting. Personalisation has significant implications for the number of content assets produced, and marketing teams that don’t step up to the challenge simply won’t have the manpower to succeed. Having a single system to manage a distributed team, that links to insight from cloud hosted customer data, and is supported by machine learning technologies that help produce and track content assets, is the holy grail that marketers should be working towards.
4. IoT or IoE
The Internet of Things or, as it’s now being touted, The Internet of Everything, harnesses the power of billions of connected devices and the vast amounts of data and insight that these will produce. For companies to scale at pace, they need to look at solutions that allow them to expose their core data and services through open API’s securely and safely to be consumed on any IoT device, at any time. What is most important perhaps for marketers is the network that your brand becomes a part of. Expanding influence, high volume and high value data will unlock new opportunities, markets and customers. So even if you don’t have plans today to expose internal services to the world; investing in creating secure, scalable, APIs will prepare you for the explosion of different client access devices to come.
5. Chatbots and AI
We already have Siri, Cortana and Alexa. AI and - particularly the conversational interface - is unquestionably set to become a game changer in 2017 in the face of the demand from the consumer for a 1:1 conversation. AI is not new but the most significant development here is that artificial intelligence can now learn. This was demonstrated this year by Google DeepMind when they succeeded in creating AlphaGo that, for the first time ever, beat a human at the complex game of Go. This has huge implications for the way in which man will interact with machine in future. AI techniques will be dominant within the next two decades - we’re already using it extensively in software testing and there’s no doubt that we’ll see the penetration of IoT devices multiply significantly in 2017.
6. New skills
We can’t talk of restructure without thinking of skills. Analytical thinkers have only just started making their way into marketing teams through the data door. What we’re seeing is a trend towards Data Scientists managing the technology aspects of consumer insight and measurement. Marketing measurement is undergoing a radical evolution as expectations shift towards benchmarks against profit, revenue and other bottom line drivers.
Experience or Journey Managers are also beginning to appear within organisations, bringing a new horizontality and customer-centric focus to siloed, departmental structures. And as UX takes center stage, having all the requisite skills in one dynamic team, with agile processes and practices to support delivery, will be a big asset and something to seriously consider in 2017.
Where should organisations focus?
At the end of the day, it’s impossible to predict who will be the winners and losers of 2017. With all that’s going on, where should the C-suite focus? Without doubt on internal reengineering. Companies that focus and execute with precision on establishing a strong collaborative foundation with high levels of trust, transparency and culture are the ones that will adapt, scale and innovate as fast as your future depends on it.