As 2019 drew to a close, who would have predicted the pace of change and disruption that we’ve seen since?
But, if you feel as though marketing has evolved at breakneck speed over the last 10 years, buckle up your seat belt for the 20’s because it’s all about to get a little bit supersonic. The pace of technological change always feels to be speeding up. That’s because it is. Put simply, we continually have better tools to expediate processes and build more sophisticated tools. It’s hard to pinpoint the tools and trends that are going to shape a decade but I’m prepared to put my money down on the fact that we’ll all be talking about these 5 for a while.
1. AI as a mainstream decision making tool: We are seeing more and more marketers using AI to empower their decision-making by processing huge amounts of data and replacing fallible human subjectivity with machine learning. The use of AI in interpreting data from social media is a particularly exciting development as it is able to combine multiple sources, verbal and visual cues and bubbling conversations to define emerging trends as well as analyse current activity and sentiment. Therefore, brands can use AI to serve customer needs now but also start to predict a customer’s future needs and anticipate them.
In 2020, we will see this become deeper and richer as machines continue to apply layers of learning and enable marketers to turn around personalised content in real time. Gartner predicts that by 2022, AI will free up over a third of data analysts in marketing organizations. This will allow them to focus more on business priorities and innovation, while the machines take care of tasks such as personalization, lead scoring, anomaly detection, marketing performance management, and reporting.
2. The unstoppable rise of the experience economy: Despite the popularity of Bake Offs, Sewing Bees, and Repair Shops, the truth is most consumers aren’t making things from scratch but opting to outsource entire experiences for convenience. It’s no longer just a question of contracting out the birthday cake making but the entire party. They expect the sort of frictionless customer experience from the likes of Netflix and Amazon to be the norm for any brand they interact with. This means that brands are having to work harder to join the dots in the customer journey. It’s no longer acceptable to be emailed about a product you just bought or to be targeted on social media for the wrong reasons. Marketers need to ensure that their technology stack is integrated and supported by a data platform that can do some of the heavy lifting for them to avoid these scenarios.
In 2020, the seamless CX will also need to come with authenticity and purpose in order to cut through the competitive noise. Issues such as climate change, sustainability and purpose will play a huge part in the consideration process for customers. Customers want their experience to feel good, look good, and be good.
3. The convergence of content and commerce via a headless approach: Many retailers are finding that sales through Amazon are rivalling or even outstripping revenues from their owned sites. However, compared to owned sites it performs very badly in terms of generating brand equity. This seems to be driving what some people are calling the convergence of commerce and content. Owned sites aren’t just about providing the opportunity to purchase, they are places where you can tell stories.
At the same time, customer expectations are growing. They’re interacting with brands through multiple touchpoints on multiple devices and they expect their journey to be seamless. And when they decide to buy, they expect to do that whenever and wherever makes sense to them. Once upon a time, it was enough to build a site that offered a product catalogue and a shopping basket. along with a few pages of static inspirational content. Now, you need to manage content consistently across all touchpoints and to be ready to offer transactional capabilities at whatever moment makes sense to your customers.
So instead of trying to glue together two monolithic applications, one delivering a shopfront and the other serving up content, brands are moving to a headless commerce approach that makes it easier to make every moment shoppable.
4. Giving brands a voice: 2019 has seen “Alexa” really enter the popular lexicon, as the concept of talking to a box in your home and having it respond intelligently has become normalised. This has led to the start of a shift in consumer behaviour which reduces the friction of interactions with machines. Despite the huge amounts of personal data required to power this interaction with machines, the tradeoff between privacy and utility seems to be one that consumers are willing to make.
At present, voice isn’t best suited to transactions, rather more the search and discovery stage. But the future could see pre-emptive understanding and suggestions from voice rather than the “obey me” mechanism of recommendations today, making your voice interaction a core part of your customer experience. Later still, as the available pool of data increases, your voice assistant could predict when you are likely to run out of grocery items and prompt you to reorder, or recognise from a change in tone that you might have a cold and suggest medicines to buy.
One thing is for sure, brands should be looking at developing a sonic identity as part of their 2020 marketing strategy. This would mirror the more traditional brand identities that have guided how brands look and feel in the past but cover everything from what the brand sounds like to how and where it interacts via voice with consumers.
5. Stitching data together and acting on it: This is the holy grail of the modern marketer. To track a customer across the entire journey and beyond purchase, and to be able to act according to that incoming data, is where we all want to get to. This is where customer data platforms come in.
They provide a solution to the ongoing challenges of building a true single customer view by identifying and profiling customers across channels and then providing a means to act across the marketing ecosystem. Using a single centralised platform allows for consistency throughout the organisation, better data governance, and most importantly, an improved customer experience.
From the data angle, instead of siloed teams focusing on solution-specific data, a CDP encourages the organisation to prioritise a much broader customer profile across teams, one that recognises that customers don’t interact with your brand in just one channel or on one device.
While CDPs work hard for marketers in consolidating and analyzing data, the newer kids on the block, Data Experience Platforms or DXPs are now using that single customer view to enhance the experience. They help make that data actionable and operational. Put together these two tools will be an essential part of the marketing mix as we move into the next decade.
So there you go! A brief snapshot of where we are in the world of martech as we enter a new decade. Let's meet for a beer in December 2029 and see if I was right.
31 August 2020James Scott-Flanagan
01 July 2020Shaiyan Shaikh
28 April 2020George Lamptey
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