Tomorrow’s marketers face a conundrum.
It’s a balanced equation. On one side consumers are becoming savvier. While personal technologies and access to information grow exponentially, customers demand more and more exhilarating and customized customer experiences. On the other side, marketing technologies such as artificial intelligence, programmatic advertising, and data-generated categorization and analysis of prospects make it easier to delegate marketing tasks to specialized algorithms.
The important question is how do marketers reconcile the need to create personalized buyer interactions with the expediency of trusting advanced analytics and CRM systems to map out the most effective strategies for reaching thousands or millions of individual prospects? That is how, in the data- and digital-driven future, can brands and marketing managers maintain and nurture “personal connections with their customers and a nuanced understanding of their needs” in order to make decisions that will satisfy them?
Marketers’ answers will determine which brands thrive and which are resigned to the scrapheap of history. Successful brands and marketers will succeed in using technologies’ inherent strengths to transform the marketer’s role from “decision maker” to “decision manager.” The future of digital transformation will extend automation, data analysis, and the customization of marketing messaging, media, and format from the theoretical to the practical.
Ultra-Customized User Experiences
As technology evolves, marketers are challenged to adapt to fragmented channels, advanced techniques, and ever more filters through which to view customers. All these eventualities, fed by the internet of things, self-driving cars, and other opportunities to capture user preferences, behaviors, and purchase triggers, will present marketers ever more data to work with. Ultra-connected customers allow us to know where they are and what they are doing at virtually every moment they are receptive to marketing messages. For us to engage them, we must ensure our intrusion will be welcomed by making it relevant to the instant, the environment, and the expectation shaped by the specific waypoint that individual user has reached along the customer journey.
The need for mass personalization and the practical impossibility of achieving it through human interaction means that winning marketing campaigns of the future will have to use this comprehensive data in more innovative ways. Traditional and offline marketing – sales associates, direct mail, and ads in popular magazines – may still have their place in marketing’s future. But personalizing the user experience in the future will require sellers to detect pain points, anticipate needs, and have in place products, services, and solutions to alleviate them. This is only possible when marketers’ integrated strategy includes automated email responses, content that is optimized for not only search engines but also voice commands, and an account-based approach only big data can make possible.
The Rise of Martech and Programmatic Buys
In the future, marketing leaders will be held more accountable not only for traditional performance indicators but also for the overall performance of the products they promote. As a result, they will play increasingly greater roles in product development. This blurring of functional lines will bring marketing in closer alignment with sales and production. Marketing tasks slide to earlier positions in the process, as salability, functionality, and differentiation must be addressed concurrently with marketing channels, messaging, and engagement timing. Achieving the level of marketing alignment and modeling required to resonate with our most promising prospects and most valuable customers necessitates a more robust martech stack. This stack includes all the technologies and vendors a marketer employs to help him or her guide people from innocent bystander to loyal customer and brand evangelist.
As campaign models migrate toward greater emphasis on user experience and social appeal, the use of big programmatic purchase decisions, and other informatics-based evaluation is the only way we can make confident decisions. Programmatic buying, especially, enables the split-second, granular analysis that is impossible for humans to undertake. Real-time bidding between click and page display gives customers individualized page displays while providing feedback other automated marketing programs can use to further mesh channels and synergize campaigns.
Scale Via Artificial Intelligence
Marketing has become highly nuanced, demanding a broader array of talents and skills than a small team can deliver. Artificial intelligence can bridge the gaps in expertise and breadth. As more social platforms emerge and more everyday products become connected, we will have more data to work with. Data hygiene will become a top priority. Ensuring enterprise data used in sales, forecasting, scheduling, and supply chain management as well as marketing, will be imperative in ensuring promotional budgets are as lean as possible while scaling customized user experiences for all potential customers.
Specifically, AI can inform media purchases by calculating individual conversion likelihood vis-à-vis specific messages, media, and platforms. The beauty is that AI constantly refines its decisions based on actual results. It identifies lookalike and proxy audiences to quickly expand the target market, and can run infinite regressions to determine which factors or combinations of factors yield the best ROI. Imagine trying to duplicate those results using reams of sales reps’ Excel spreadsheets!
Perhaps AI’s greatest strength lies in keeping brands’ best customers engaged with original content and special offers that resonate and manifest in bigger invoices. Retailers will find their most lucrative targets among their previous customers. They present a target-rich environment that should be mined regularly via email. Future emails – powered by AI – will be unique for every recipient, highlighting products in which they have shown interest, or that complement previous purchases.
There is no doubt the future of marketing belongs to technology, but we must remember that all those machines, numbers, and algorithms are there to predict what people will do in regards to purchasing and engaging with products. To become truly future-ready, marketers must adapt and expand their skills to maximize technology’s potential. Because the skills future marketers will require are vast and varied, teams that bring together people whose knowledge and insights inspire and feed off each other will be the most successful. This necessity goes beyond bringing together data analysts and creative types. Teams will require both quants and poets, but brands will thrive only when these diverse skill sets can create processes to make the most of customer data available from the growing and increasingly specialized sources of data that measure mood, intent, and a host of advanced characteristics that dwarf demographic information.