Today’s competitive landscape requires businesses to focus more on their customers and less on their products — the customer is king, as we have heard many times before. The customer journey sits at the very heart of this approach and is dictated by the number of different channels being used across the digital marketing environment.
Shaped by data and supporting technology, the customer journey is crucial for engagement, conversion and retention among customers. But this data is often fragmented or misaligned through technology, which is something that many organisations still consider to be a major challenge.
However, there is one word that can help companies to get their customer-centric marketing approach right: personalisation. With consumers demanding a marketing experience tailored to their personal interests, businesses must continue working to ensure this approach is aligned across all channels. For instance, the globally-renowned car manufacturer Mazda recently implemented sophisticated marketing technology that allows it to connect all customer touchpoints, regardless of channel, to orchestrate customer journeys that could be as simple or complex as required, but always highly relevant for each individual that interacts with your brand.
We’ve identified three topical areas that apply across verticals where marketing can look to add value to their efforts in the New Year and beyond:
The rise of AI
The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) — and machine learning in particular — has infiltrated every area of marketing. But if the technology’s potential is to be realised, marketers need to develop customised and industry-specific algorithms that help to deliver the next level of personalisation. The Dutch airline KLM, for example, is a forerunner in AI technology, using a variety of solutions to smarten their real-time personalization and enhance their customer experience.
On the whole, AI can help brands to recognise and learn from patterns, understand behaviours, and apply lessons learnt to processes and outputs. For marketing, this means personalisation at scale which delivers a far more data-driven approach to each and every customer, by definition increasing customer centricity. An additional benefit is that orchestration becomes more effective in terms of relevance, timing, and channel.
The future is visual
Visual communications will be key throughout 2018. Of course, we are used to digital marketing implementing visual components within text messages, digital advertising, apps, social media and more, and much of this is personalised and/or targeted. But we will see video become key to marketing tactics across all channels — not just standard email and social media channels, but also standalone video platforms like YouTube.
In fact, this is already a reality. We are seeing banks making the most of platforms like this to show their account holders personalised videos based not only on their demographic, but also their existing product portfolio, their anticipated next steps and, as a result, their life ambitions. One consumer might be looking to buy a new home, for example, while another might be looking to get a good deal on their car insurance.
We may also see augmented reality (AR) make its mark in 2018, which has never quite reached the level of adoption many expected. While its potential is clear — consider the Halifax Homefinder app that enables users to access data on houses for sale as they walk past them — more brands need to seize the opportunity and provide consumers with a new channel to boost engagement and contribute to the improvement of the overall customer experience.
However, the use of AR must make sense in the customer journey, based on intent data, behaviour and other channel insights, and not merely adopted for the sake of it. It needs to fit into your marketing strategy and not be used in isolation, and the use of data will be critical here in ensuring you’re delivering what customers want.
The impact of IoT
We might all be aware of the Internet of Things (IoT), but as more IoT-enabled devices are added to networks we will see more businesses in 2018 making the most of the additional data that is generated. This data is valuable for marketers: it can be fed into their AI platforms to improve algorithms and more accurately understand customer behaviour. IoT adoption is ramping up, and so marketers must ensure they have the technology at their disposal to fully take advantage of this.
It all boils down to intelligent orchestration
Let’s be clear: the customer experience will always remain the highest priority, particularly in such a competitive marketplace with many touchpoints to consider. Businesses must therefore consider how they use personalisation and technological innovation (such as AI) — or, better yet, a mixture of both — to increase engagement. But ultimately, their focus should be unifying the data available to them in a way that allows for intelligent orchestration and sustainable relationships with their customers.