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How will marketing evolve over the next 12 months?

5th Jan 2015
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As another year clicks into gear and the hangovers from last year abate, it’s hard not to look ahead without the quote “nothing changes, everything changes” front of mind.

For marketers, this is perhaps most poignant. In 2014, the speed at which technology, strategy, hierarchy and job function changed was such that some could be excused for deciding to change nothing rather than trying to keep pace.

For most this was never going to be feasible, however. Armed with increasing datasets, new measurement methods, inbound responsibilities and more pressure to extract revenue from social media and mobile, the role of most marketers officially became a scientific one last year.

So, with customer experience now on every marketers’ lips and so many new and innovative technologies on the cusp of becoming mainstream, what should marketing professionals expect to change over the course of 2015? Will the rate of change continue at such a frantic pace or should we expect a period of consolidation, or a return to traditional marketing methods? Or have data expectations simply changed the game forever? spoke to a number of experts, to get their views and predictions for the 12 months ahead.

Striving for customer-centricity  

There’s no doubt – customers are becoming more demanding and most marketplaces are becoming increasingly overcrowded.

Simon Robinson, senior director marketing & alliances EMEA, Oracle Marketing Cloud believes that, as a result, 2015 will see marketers continuing to shift their focus from outbound to inbound marketing, as they did last year, in order to better serve the customers they hope to retain and attract:  

“For most marketers, achieving true customer-centricity will be the top priority this year,” he says.

“Rapid progress has been made this year in acquiring and analysing information about customer and consumer wants, needs, context, behaviour and motivations. In 2015, this information will be gathered primarily in the pursuit of a cohesive customer experience; however, it will also importantly be used to gather insights that drive personalised interactions. While customer acquisition is important, in 2015 brands will focus more on loyalty than ever before to build lasting relationships with the customer.

“Businesses are in a really strong position as they have a centralised view of their customers and data across all marketing programmes and channels. This means that they can see where a cohesive customer experience is working and where it needs improvement. As device and lifestyle habits change, there is constant need to test and reassess to deliver ever more personalised interactions with consumers.”

CRM still vital

Peter Connell, managing director of CallPro, agrees with Robinson about the need for marketers to continue shifting to a more customer-centric philosophy, but prophesises that, despite some scepticism about CRM’s true meaning, marketers will continue to lean further on CRM systems for support:        

“Marketing methods will be dictated by consumer behaviour rather than the other way round. Successful marketing will be about understanding this and reaching your audience on the right platform, with the right content, at the right time.   

“We'll see the increasing influence of social media in building leads and traditional methods such as telesales to generate immediate sales, on the wane.  Organisations are recognising the need to engage with customers through a range of different online platforms, aiming to attract customers  and convert them with more personalised content. To be able to do this, CRM will only become increasingly important for inbound marketing.”

Increased transparency

As customers have become savvier in terms of the way they interpret marketing messages, so it has become easier for them to differentiate an authentic marketing statement from one that lacks credibility. Matt Preschern, chief marketing officer at HCL Technologies suggests that this increased level of customer ‘cynicism’ means that in 2015, brands will have to work harder than ever, in order to align their marketing messages with the culture of their brand.

“The days of communicating a message that does not directly, and authentically, relate to your own brand values and culture are long gone,” he says. “Marketers will need to develop an intimate knowledge of technologies such as real-time analytics, social media and other digital tools and learn to use them in a way that emotionally, and transparently, connects their brand to customers and differentiates it in a ’sea of sameness'.

“The rise of marketing-as-a-service – The operational backbone of effective marketing in 2015 and beyond will be a process that is technology-enabled, and interactive. As a result, we’ll see an evolution of marketing as we understand it today, and will see it expand beyond traditional realms into a new, digital environment. What this means is that we’ll see new cloud-based marketing tools such as content-as-a-service, analytics-as-a-service, and even community-as-a-service becoming an important part of a marketer’s arsenal.”

More science for the CMO

While the explosion of as-a-service data analytics tools for marketers may show no sign of letting up in 2015, Scott Brinker, a leading commentator on marketing technology suggests CMOs may need to take even more of a lead role in procuring technology and that this could lead to marketing and IT leaders further combining their skillsets over the coming 12 months:  

“The number of digital marketing tools will grow in 2015 with new startups and large, established tech companies confusing CMOs even more with their numerous offerings. To help manage this embarrassment of riches and move their companies further on their digital marketing journey, CMOs will be poaching IT staff looking for new challenges and better salaries.

“In terms of the technology itself, content marketing and predictive analytics will continue to be hot areas of interest and investment for CMOs, but they will be joined in 2015 by sales enablement, post-sale customer marketing, marketing finance, marketing talent management, and new tools based on the Internet of Things, allowing for the integration of offline and online experiences.”

Social media for customer service

The insurance and financial services sector is one that has arguably experienced its fair share of upheaval in 2014, and much of this was in part due to the customer voice finally gaining a platform for more effectively sharing grievances with brands.

That platform came in the form of social media, and as Ian Simons, marketing director – capabilities for RSA Insurance states, has led many businesses to assess how they plan to use social media as a form of engagement channel through the coming 12 months:

“Social media channels are maturing from primarily a marketing tool aimed at raising brand awareness to one that is becoming embedded throughout the organisation, into an important customer service, engagement and business development channel. As businesses get better at understanding the features, benefits and risks associated with new channels, they are opening them up to wider communities and directing them at more strategic goals.

“We have to get the balance right between a control approach to avoiding risk in social media to one where we empower our people to engage in human to human interaction with customers and partners, to maximise the potential of new and developed social media channels to our customers.”

Employee engagement

With many aspects of this form of marketing likely to have a customer service edge in the coming 12 months, how marketers are able to involve fellow employees in the engagement process will become increasingly important through 2015, according to Bill Sullivan, european marketing lead, IBM Interactive Experience:

"I think our customers will care less and less about organisational boundaries this year. Customer experience goes beyond marketing to managing dialogue with each customer at every touchpoint, and this requires employees’ engagement.

"It means that increasingly, to drive competitive advantage, organisations will need to find a way to engage employees into the customer experience, to unlock the capability to drive and deliver innovation. They will need to create a modern process to select and prototype the right ideas, and prove them, rapidly in a real customer environment. We are already working with a host of clients looking for ways to identify the right ideas and take those forward. I think we will all hear a lot more in 2015 around “design thinking” and agility."  

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