Looking back over the past decade, it’s fair to say that Jan. 9, 2007, marked the dawn of a new marketing era. It was on that day that a very proud Steve Jobs introduced his paradigm-shifting brainchild, the iPhone, to a world that couldn’t possibly have imagined how drastically this handheld computer would alter communication.
Today, statistics show that 25 percent of smartphone owners ages 18–44 “can’t remember not having their phone with them.” These devices are, after all, a primary source of information, providing real-time content that drives decision making. Brands now think in “mobile-first” terms when building websites and related apps. And social media is eclipsing traditional news outlets in the dissemination of current affairs. The latest Pew Research study found that at least two-thirds of Americans get their news from social media platforms.
Consequently, marketing has become a race between two types of runners — those who smoke the competition in raising the bar to change with the times, and those who trail behind, always in pursuit. For the latter group, things are about to get a whole lot harder, as the pace of change is accelerating.
In a recent webinar, Gerry Murray, director of marketing and sales technology research for the International Data Corporation (IDC), said, “Companies that make investments in organizational change, new philosophies and practices, as well as technology enablement are going to accelerate away from those who don’t.” Here are three marketing trends he says are in the forecast for 2018 — and the sooner you start planning for these, the better your chances are in breaking away from the pack.
1. Consumer-controlled privacy.
B2B or B2C? That is the only question at play here, especially in light of the Equifax data breaches that left millions of people scrambling to lock down their information. The truth of the matter is that most consumers’ information is out there, and at the end of the day, what really matters is whether brands are using that information to better consumers’ lives well before a prospect even becomes a customer, or if they’re simply using that data as the next oil reserve for drilling cash.
“Make sure you understand the trends and changes in consumer behavior in your industry — where, when and how to communicate with them,” said Carlos Montejo, director of advisory services at Simplus.
When McAfee, one of the world’s leading cybersecurity companies, approached our company, Simplus, to help resolve customer-engagement and sales issues, Montejo led the charge. “We helped McAfee analyze its business processes before introducing CPQ technology to ensure that business processes drive the CPQ platform decisions, rather than technology driving business practices.” McAfee’s improved B2B relations under Montejo’s advisement helps to position the firm for better B2C deliverables. Its shift toward B2C thinking has become apparent in alliances it has formed with other security firms to seamlessly safeguard the world from cybercrimes. Along those lines, IDC forecasts that consumers will ultimately be able to tell which brands are marketing from a B2C approach as opposed to those that are targeting B2B opportunities; it’s wise to be thinking in terms of value-add to consumers prior to their engagement.
2. Algorithm-based customer experiences.
In addition to segmentation, personalization and content recommendations on the backend, artificial intelligence (AI) is going to become more of a front-end facet, determining and mapping customer journeys in such a way that prevents customers from having to re-explain their context every time they move into a new channel or contact within the organization. “If you haven’t gotten started with ‘AI’ in marketing, you’re already behind the curve,” Murray says.
In that vein, one of the most impactful projected changes is the ability for consumers to direct their ad experience; to declare themselves in or out of a market. “I recently leased a car. I’m going to be out of the car market for the next three years,” Murray says. “But over the next years, I’m sure I’ll see thousands of car ads. It’s a waste of advertisers’ resources.”
To sharpen their edge, brands must leverage their positions as the center of clients’ universes. Everything that is sent out, from white papers to blog posts, needs to come back with information that delivers valuable intelligence on the needs of existing and prospective customers.
3. Unification between marketing and customer-facing roles.
With consistency and streamlined datasets, brands can and must unify customer-facing functions with all touch points leading up to client engagement. Marketing is often the first and most potent of those entry points, compelling prospects toward a sale. “Employees and customers alike expect and demand more than ever,” Montejo says. “Their expectations can and will impact your bottom line, and those expectations include collaboration, communication, and idea-sharing much like with social media interactions.”
Technology has come a long way since Jobs took that San Francisco stage almost 11 years ago. It’s surging forward at an exponential rate, and all industries are affected. To remain in the game, a company must adapt to changing market dynamics. Consumer privacy, AI, and optimized customer experiences are just the beginning of the next era of marketing. Brands that prepare for this new frontier are in the best position to lead in the race for customer engagement. Those that take the worn path will find themselves worn out, facing the possibility of collapse.