The future of marketing: Why data will meet its destiny in 2016

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The Festival of Marketing is right around the corner where, for two days, marketing and data will collide as brands, agencies and individuals come together to shape the future of the industry. It’s an event that always provides an outline of the trends that will shape the next 12 months.

The marketing industry of November 2015 is significantly different to how it was a year ago. The rapid rise of ad tech has seen marketing become more automated, demand for tech-savvy individuals with knowledge and experience in IT increase, and the evolution from big data to social data.

Here are five interlinking themes that I think will be prevalent during the Festival and 2016.

1. Customer experience – in many ways this feels like the most overused term in marketing. It’s a well-trodden road and yet few brands can claim that they’ve been able to truly place the customer at the heart of their strategy. There was a time when brands could influence and almost dictate how consumers thought and acted. But this is no longer the case. A customer can enter a store, and within seconds compare prices on their smart phone. If they know they can purchase their desired product cheaper at an alternative retailer, or online, they will not hesitate to do so. Technology has empowered the consumer and also created new channels for engagement. The issue is that brands still don’t understand their customers’ complete journey and the touch points and interactions that make up that journey. The advent of mobile has only further fragmented the relationship between brand and consumer by creating micro-moments. These moments might be fleeting, but combined they form an impression that will inform the ultimate decision. If brands cannot understand the factors behind these micro-moments, how can they anticipate and respond to customer needs?

2. The multichannel, cross-device puzzle - the picture of the consumer and their purchase journey is becoming ever more fragmented. Just when you think you’ve got it nailed, along comes ‘the next big thing.’ From the Internet of Things to wearable technology: this year it’s the iWatch, but what will 2016 bring? Brands need to be able to see the totality of their data to be able to campaign seamlessly across every customer touchpoint. This means connecting the dots in how they utilise data from different platforms. However, often a marketer’s view is restricted because cross-device data does not sit in a central repository. Instead, it resides in multiple data stacks that don’t integrate. When segregated in this way, rather than enabling the seamless customer experience marketers seek, data actively prohibits it.

3. Using data insights — simply possessing data is not enough; marketers need to know how to use it to gain a 360 degree view of their customers in order to target consumers with more precision and develop more relevancy. With data sitting in silos, it becomes hard to understand what channels are performing well for your brand and delivering real value. It could be that website banners have the best clickthrough and conversion rate, but on what sites? On which device? At what time? Served via which ad server? These are all crucial questions and they all need to be answered in order to develop campaigns that reach the right customers, in the right places, with context and relevancy. We’ve undertaken some initial research ahead of the Festival of Marketing and it’s increasingly clear that where advertisers spend their budgets, and where their audiences actually spend time, differ. This mismatch threatens to create a chasm between brands and consumers that can’t be breached.

4. Prioritising brand vision over technology — marketers often jump ahead of themselves and look for technology that doesn’t prioritise design over functionality, rather than considering which technology will best support them to implement an exceptional customer experience. For too long, technology with self-imposed walls has been the centre of the conversation and without realising it, brands find themselves curtailing their ambitions. But enough! The tech should be flexible and adaptable enough to support the business and its vision and must exist to break down data silos. Brands should not let tech dictate the vision, but rather the other way around.  

5. Valuing data visibility — in an ongoing period of financial constraint, companies will continue to want granular analysis of customer service and creative campaigns, and marketers will increasingly seek evidence that their actions are yielding the right results. Too often brands pay for ads, yet are unable to track their impact. This is the reason why viewability and ad-blocking become such intense topics - marketers can start to feel like there is little transparency in the reporting. This is especially tough when data sits in different silos. Marketers are under growing pressure to understand whether the data they are buying is translating into effective marketing or if it is being wasted on unseen content. Reducing budget wastage will raise the value of ad tech across the whole business. The issue of view-ability will only grow in significance as companies continue to centre customer experience.   

Brands often throw around the phrase ‘customer experience’ and pretend to focus on it whilst simultaneously ignoring its importance. But as marketing evolves, companies will have to place the consumer at the heart of brand strategy, or else feel the wrath of a cross-device and highly informed population. The world as we used to know it has already changed and it keeps evolving at an extraordinarily fast pace.

A seamless experience, with customer experience as a priority, is no longer a selling point but an expectation. The Festival of Marketing is the perfect place for brands to discuss how they will challenge the status quo and revolt against proprietary technology that doesn’t give them what they need if they wish to survive this marketing revolution. 

Barbara Marino is commercial director, EMEA, at Datalicious.

About Barbara Marino

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