The modern marketer is being forced to change the way they work. The effectiveness of traditional tactics has fallen, and customers now demand a personalized experience with brands. In light of consumers becoming more empowered, and brands needing to innovate their customer experience to be more competitive, it’s clear that marketers can ill afford to rely on past approaches.
These factors have made B-to-C marketing more challenging in every industry, especially because consumers are increasingly likely to leave a brand that fails to understand them or meet their expectations. There will be an $800 billion shift in revenue to those that get personalization right, across retail, financial services, and healthcare, according to research by BCG. In an effort to make customer engagement more individualized and free of friction, marketers have been forced to revolutionize the way they market, which includes looking at what technologies they deploy, the tactics they use, and how they ensure that they are able to determine the impact of their efforts.
Marketers must re-evaluate their customer engagement approach in the face of four new pressures on their business. The changes these factors have wrought on the marketplace mean that marketers must adapt to a new environment and move away from traditional tactics to make a larger impact. These changes include:
Customer experience as a competitive differentiator – The majority of brands will be competing on the basis of customer experience by 2020, surpassing product and pricing as the primary differentiators. According to recent research, 91 percent of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that recognize, remember, and provide them with relevant offers and recommendations. This deep understanding of each customer, through data, will be critical for delivering personalized experiences over time.
Consumer privacy concerns – Brands must contend with consumers who are increasingly focused on the security of their personal data, and adapt to new rules such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe. To survive in this new environment, brands must ensure they provide something of value to consumers in exchange for their data. It is only a matter of time before more privacy restrictions arise worldwide; thinking of data collection as a value exchange can help brands weather the storm.
Increasing technology change – There are two kinds of technology change that brands need to be aware of: marketing technology and consumer technology. Marketing technology has gone through a massive transition; in 2011, Scott Brinker of ChiefMartec included about 150 solutions in a landscape of marketing technology solution providers. Brinker’s 2018 martech supergraphic included 6,829 unique solutions offered by 6,242 vendors. This pace of change shows little sign of slowing, which means marketers must maintain a single point of control yet be open to taking advantage of new technology innovations in the coming years.
Consumer technology has gone through similar transformative shifts. A decade ago, consumers mostly interacted with brands via websites and email, with some nuance involved. Today, there are mobile apps, voice search, social networks, display ads, paid search, and many other options. Add to this the growth in connected devices, which Gartner predicts will surge to 20.4 billion units by 2020 from about 6.4 billion in 2016, and it becomes apparent that marketers need to be aware of how consumers are engaging and adapt accordingly.
These four pressures require marketers to shift their thinking and their approach to marketing. Brands who can adapt to the new environment brought on by this evolution will excel while others fall behind. The question is how can marketers adapt to the changing marketplace, while still managing to meet their goals?
To fully adapt to changing customer expectations and a more competitive marketplace, marketers need to take new approaches as well as add a few new technological capabilities. To start with, brands need a deeper understanding of their customers’ behaviors and preferences to make personalized messages relevant and timely. To gain this deeper understanding, brands need to bridge siloed customer data and unify it into a single point of control that can more readily create a unified customer profile.
This single point of control is often a customer data platform (CDP), the best of which can integrate all data – batch and streaming data; structured and unstructured; first-, second-, and third-party; transactional and demographic – into a single customer view that is accessible across the organization. In addition to this single point of data control, brands also need a single point of control over interactions that only a customer engagement hub (CEH) can provide. Customer engagement hubs are designed to use unified customer information to drive next best actions, which are then orchestrated across all enterprise touchpoints for a truly omnichannel customer experience.
Gartner, in a recent report, also noted several trends that are bound to have an impact on the future of marketing. These include customer profile management, a deeper focus on privacy, machine learning and artificial intelligence, enhanced emphasis on personalized customer experiences, and the need to deploy richer analytics to understand the customer journey. Each of these trends requires marketers to rethink their role and how to better deploy technology in transforming how their customer experience is delivered.
One of the core tenets of marketing has always been about knowing the customer better than the competition. As that customer knowledge shifts from broad segments in the past to individual customers today, marketers need effective ways to deal with the granularity of data at that level. Marketers need easier ways to access customer data as they develop marketing programs and customer journeys, and easier ways to use machine learning to achieve a segment-of-one scale. The emphasis on leveraging data and analytics will only increase over time given that applying analytics effectively can allow organizations to free up 15 percent to 30 percent of their total marketing budget. All these new technologies and capabilities are available today to accelerate a brand’s path toward its goals and gaining competitive advantage.
For marketing professionals that want to achieve breakthrough growth and competitive advantage, there are new approaches to embrace, new technologies to reach a segment of one, and new sources of customer friction to address. This shift is already well underway; marketers will do well to remember that, especially given the reality that customers refuse to wait for brands to catch up. Marketers must innovate their customer experience and leverage all the technologies at their disposal to ensure they can meet customer expectations – only then can they be confident of the brand’s continued success.