Last month, Adagio’s CEO Lucas Decuypere cruised around the States to become immersed in the latest and innovative trends in marketing and customer experience management.
After the massively attended South by SouthWest 2019 (also known as SXSW), he flew on to Las Vegas to join the Oracle Modern Customer Experience 2019 (19-21 March 2019) event. He finished up with another largely attended international marketing event, the Adobe Summit (26-28 March 2019).
Here are the biggest trends and key takeaways he is most excited about from the three events combined.
1. AI/IoT and the question of ethics
As was expected AI and IoT were large themes at all three of the conferences. In contrast to previous years, the question of ethics and these new technologies crept higher on the agenda.
As IoT and AI-based applications are entering our lives, they provide new opportunities for privacy violations and surveillance for cybercriminals, and governments.
The appeal was literally made for regulators and industry leaders to pick up their responsibilities when it comes to protecting people’s privacy and upholding ethical standards. For sure, this debate has only just started.
2. AI and the role of the designer
Interesting for marketeers, specifically, is the case being made for AI in design in general. AI has been around for a while now but has just recently entered at the stage that it has become good enough for real world applications.
Today, that opens up a lot of design questions, or challenges, or opportunities if you like. Think about how it will change interface design with searches, filters, queries (complex queries possible), sketch to code just to name a few options.
It is apparent that the designer will become an orchestrator of data, whereby AI will soon help design: AI will read and conduct the research that the human designer is, maybe, too time-constrained to do personally.
AI will spot the trends which human designers might not know. I am curious to see how this will be evolving.
3. AI/VR/AR/IoT get more human
This year I noticed a move in the discussions around AI and IoT: whereas in the past most presentations or conversations were in “what-if” mode, this year, quite a few real-world use cases were shown.
That demonstrates that AI and IoT are no longer to be ignored and are here today. Examples ranged from agriculture, healthcare, insurance and employee productivity, to personal finance on how A.I. is being inserted everywhere, offering real value and solutions.
Despite it sounding quite logical, the main message from the use cases is to put the customer first, and not the technology: if you’re telling AI stories, focus on practicalities — not what the technology could do one day, but how it can make consumers’ lives better right now.
Another highlight in this trend is the higher focus on the human element. The surrounding message is that machines can out-think us, but not physically out-move us yet.
With that is meant that, even though machines have very specialized knowledge, they miss the human creativity. The latter is still needed, for instance, when responding to social media questions.
Or, another comparison: machines are good at data analysis, while humans have emotions. The thought is that machines are not smart, they just make fewer mistakes as they don’t get tired, nor do they have emotions that can interfere in their judgement.
The human factor, though, will always be required, with the combination remaining the strongest.
4. Personalisation is a must
All three conferences opened up ideas about UX and user-centric design, touching many fields and surprising me with different visions for the future. A recurring point was that personalization is key in driving positive customer experiences.
A discussed study at the Oracle conference showed that 71% of consumers express some level of frustration when their shopping is impersonal, whereas 44% say that they are likely to be repeat buyers after a personalized shopping experience.
The main question there is: “how do you leverage your existing tools and put personalization at the forefront of your marketing?”
Adobe highlighted this as well and labelled it as the 2nd most important trend for marketing in 2019. They connected personalization deeply with data and… ethics.
Only one third of the companies have a common repository of all data. That results in poor CX for customers, as you don’t have the complete view of the customer.
As data is spread out and more difficult to manage, those companies are also more prone to conflict with privacy rules (such as GDPR in Europe, or CCPA in California).
They don’t only run into legal issues, but they falter in personalization, leading to unwanted consequences: data breaches that will decrease consumer trust.
5. Data-driven creativity
Another topic that was abundantly discussed at all three conferences is, of course, data. It is specifically highlighted as one of the key marketing trends for 2019 at the Adobe event: Data-driven creativity.
The idea is that bringing creativity and data together will become a strategic differentiator in customer experience. Customers are more likely to re-purchase if the experience is personalized and more relevant.
Data-driven creativity is all about showing the right products that consumers really need.
That requires technology at the basis. 51% of enterprise marketing organizations use more than 20 tools. Their data is spread everywhere and lives in silos.
The problem with data is the more you have, the more difficult it is to make sense of it. And that’s where AI comes in, making analyses for the marketer based upon the enormous amounts of data.
And hence we move to the next trend: the rise of ‘Customer Intelligence Platforms’.
6. Customer Intelligence Platforms to enable B2Me marketing
The opening keynote at the Oracle CX event was about … customer experience. Rob Tarkoff, General Manager CX Cloud at Oracle, explained that we’ve just entered a new moment in the evolution: the moment in which a customer’s experience with your brand is just as important, if not more so, than the good or service you provide.
He referred to this as the “Experience Economy”. That concept was already introduced back in 1998 by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore. The last few years, it has been popping up more and more in the world of marketing, and I believe it will grow in importance.
In the Experience Economy, customers expect interaction to be perfectly timed and personalized specifically to them. They are immune to sales pitches, will shop and transact anywhere at any time, and expect problems to fix themselves. They have limited attention spans and are very protective of their time.
Just think of that one second extra that your site takes to load on mobile, which reduces visitors by 20%.
If we share our customers’ value of time, then our only goal should be to design experiences that consume less of it, and, simultaneously, offer moments that are rich and satisfying to the customer.
We have evolved to what’s been called “micro-moments” in which brands meet consumers. These are highly personalized, with segments of one. In retail it’s like having a personal shopper at your side, when done right.
To fully realise that, you need data, data and data, so you know each single contact’s preferences and desires. That is where – again – AI comes in, and where VR will rise; for example, the company Fanatics automatically changes shirts if your favourite player changes teams.
Customer Intelligence Platforms
That explains the rise of the so-called “customer intelligence platform”. It is a next phase in the evolution from CRM, marketing platform systems, and data and BI tools, to one single system that pulls in all client data in real-time. That “real-time” functionality is extremely important to build effective customer experiences for segments of one.
Such customer intelligence platforms help companies reach the new goal of customer experience: our aim is not just to meet the needs of your customers, but rather to anticipate and exceed them. We need to innovate beyond what your customers are expecting. For marketers, it will become mandatory to deliver a customer experience that is compelling.
Enter B2Me marketing: highly personalized experiences which requires interconnected systems, data and content fully tailored to the specific needs and preferences of each single individual customers.
The retail industry is the industry where this is taking off rapidly. Retailers will need to invest in showing consumers what it will be like to live with their products, rather than just selling at them. The possibilities are wide: just think about virtual clothes, makeup, interior design.
Fashion brand Tommy Hilfiger already stepped into this: you take a picture of a certain look you like, and technology discovers for you which items they are. This has resulted in 60% more sales for the company and 900% new traffic (unique new users) to their website.
7. Account Based Marketing: undervalued but highly effective
At the Adobe conference, account-based marketing (ABM) was another major theme. With ABM, we refer to the ability to manage the complexity of different personas, influencers, geographies, of an account of yours that you want to convert. Typically, this involves both technology and change management.
Only a limited number of companies hav e adopted ABM so far. It is much more complex in B2B than in B2C – not just because of the multiple people involved in B2B purchases, but also because it is about how to connect your own organization to it. That requires, again, technology and data.
There are already 75% of midsize organizations planning to do ABM. It is used to augment the traditional lead nurturing process, not to replace it.
And, it is quite effective: it increases deal closing rate by 10% to 20%, with companies that do try it out noticing that the deal sizes also go up.
Three very interesting, well-attended conferences which all confirm the same trends.
“New” technologies such as AI, IoT, AR and VR should not be considered “new” any longer, as more companies and applications are popping up.
That increase has, however, shined the light on the question of ethics, which I am curious to see expand in future years.
The abundance of data now makes it possible for marketers to move towards B2Me marketing, with customer intelligence platforms demanding a central spot in the entire martech stack.
Feel free to contact me if you want to discuss any of the trends that I have just mentioned here. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.