The role of marketing is changing. Driven by greater competition, the demand for higher-quality experiences and a need to differentiate, marketers, retailers and brands must now look for new and exciting ways to stand out among the crowd. At the heart of this change is new technology that provides prospects and customers with genuinely memorable experiences, driving greater satisfaction levels.
Faced with this torrent of new technology, however, many marketers are failing to distinguish the tools that genuinely improve customers’ experiences.
Based on current research, here are four top marketing-technology trends that genuinely drive better customer experiences.
1. AR, VR and chatbots will find their place: Throughout 2018, reports on the anticipated adoption of new technologies such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and chatbots has been widespread. In 2019, we expect this phase to come to an end as new technologies with strategic value are set apart from marketing gimmicks.
AR and VR will work together to enrich the online shopping experience. In the case of AR, for example, by allowing consumers to “see” an item of furniture in their home before they commit to purchase or, with VR, creating an immersive experience such as enabling consumers to walk through a new kitchen or tour a holiday resort.
Chatbots will also find their place in the marketing mix. Their adoption will become strategic in improving experiences, as they serve to provide an easy way for brands to collect preferences and personalise interactions with consumers.
2. Post-GDPR personalisation: Since GDPR came into effect across Europe, many marketers have been sceptical as to the future of highly targeted, data-driven personalisation. In the face of these changes, however, more and more consumers are making it clear they value customised content. Our research in 2018 showed that online shoppers are happy to trade some degree of personal data for improved experiences—if that data is treated with respect to the value exchange between brand and consumer is unambiguous.
In 2019, we should expect to see a resurgence in personalised marketing, as marketers and brands grow increasingly accustomed to operating within the new rules that put customers in charge of what data they are willing to share, and which experiences they would like it to fuel.
3. Marketing will reign supreme: The age-old argument about what marketing should and shouldn’t own is ending – and it seems like marketing will soon own just about everything. According to research from Episerver, over half of marketers (55 percent) now own the customer experience – while the remaining 45 percent plan to take control of it over the next few years.
Furthermore, 80 percent of marketers also believe they’ll control the company website within two years. While this represents a significant land-grab for marketers, it’s important they don’t fall into the trap of working in silos and ignoring the other experts throughout their organisations. This will be a key challenge in 2019.
4. Mobile will (finally) get strategic: No marketer would deny the impact that mobile browsing has had on the way consumers purchase and interact with brands. The number of marketers now taking a mobile-first or omnichannel approach is almost ubiquitous, yet the strategies behind these decisions are still unclear.
For many marketers, having a mobile presence is still just something that ‘needs to happen’; it’s an expectation for marketers rather than a strategic decision. While it’s true that all brands should be offering mobile-friendly content (half of consumers browse for purchases on their smartphone every week), it’s important that they also have a clear strategy in place for exactly how (and why) that content is being developed and used. This will be the next stage of mobile marketing in 2019, not just having a mobile presence, but understanding exactly how that presence should influence content, messaging and a business’ bottom line.
Retailers, for example, will want to use smartphones’ native capabilities to make the shopping experience – and checkout – more intuitive. Online, retailers are experimenting with the ability for consumers to scan their credit cards for payment versus entering in each digit and using a person’s geolocation to autofill address information. Offline, merchants have replaced kiosks with mobile functionality to look up the price of an item and are likely considering ‘just walk out’ technology to allow the person’s app to serve as a checkout system.
Faced with technological change and ever evolving customer demands, the marketing community is constantly in a state of flux. Now, as GDPR becomes routine and the AI revolution becomes a reality, the pace of this change is set to increase yet again. In the face of all this change, it’s all too easy for marketers to jump on the bandwagon and adopt the latest technology simply because they can or they think they should.
This approach simply isn’t strategic enough. Instead of starting with the technology, marketers must start by analysing the desires and objectives of their prospects and customers. The technology is an enabler—a means to an end; it’s the customer’s experiences that will drive truly effective marketing in the years to come.