A Forrester Consulting study commissioned by Adobe in 2018 found that 80 per cent of business decision makers said improving their company’s customer experience was among their top priorities in the year ahead. So was increasing customer loyalty (81 per cent).
In the new age of customer experience, a combination of data and creativity will set leaders apart. Industry experts also pointed to a greater focus in 2019 on personalisation, more immersive mobile experiences, and a companywide approach to strategic accounts.
There will also be a continued emphasis on building the coveted single view of the customer across industries, done in an ethical manner to earn trust from all sides. And in their efforts to serve customers more efficiently, organisations will be laser-focused on building an internal structure that enables them to move at the same pace as their customers.
1. Data-driven creativity will set exceptional customer experiences apart
It’s no secret that data is crucial to getting the customer experience right. A data-driven approach to creativity helps marketers create the right content faster and deliver it to the right customer, on the right channel and at the right time. The most innovative companies are pulling data from across multiple sources to create a unified view of the customer in real time. It’s this mix of creativity and intelligence that is essential.
Forward thinking organisations are already thinking about how to integrate their data with creativity. One way this is being done with great results, is by bringing data and analytics specialists into the creative process early on. This way, they actively participate in the process of creating campaigns and in-store experiences helping the creative team better understand the changing behaviors of consumers both online and off, and to uncover ideas that they otherwise might have missed out.
In fact, McKinsey research found that companies that already integrate data and creativity in their day-to-day practices actually drive two times the growth of companies that have those capabilities but manage them separately.
2. Doubling down on experiential commerce
E-commerce traditionally focuses on offering consumers the lowest prices in an effort to move their inventory quickly. But as the experience economy extends across industries, retail e-commerce has shifted to a different mode of selling.
Experiential commerce is on the rise and requires a shift of mindset across the organisation. It involves shifting strategy to focus on the ongoing relationship with the customer rather than closing a single transaction. Doing this will require creating more engaging content in 2019 with an emphasis on nurturing customers.
Building truly integrated experiences will also play a big part in any successful experiential commerce strategy in 2019. Brands will continue working on removing the friction and pain points across the ever-growing number of customer touch points to create truly seamless experiences that maximise the chances of a transaction.
RBC Capital Markets predicts that Amazon’s Alexa will bring in $10 billion in e-commerce revenue by 2020, highlighting the potential numerical value of voice. It’s no longer a matter of whether voice will be used as a marketing advantage, but when. 2019 is shaping up to be the year it really takes hold, moving from voice search to voice engagement.
Crucially, the move to experiential commerce will take place offline as well. Studies already show that consumers who shop both online and in-store have a 30 per cent higher lifetime value than those who shop using only one channel. And mobile will become an even bigger digital touchpoint for consumers while they shop in brick and mortar stores. Today, nearly 60 per cent of shoppers look up product information and prices while in stores, and that number is going to grow next year. Especially since augmented reality is now available to millions of mobile phone users around the world, we’ll see retailers and brands build more mobile experiences that overlay real-time information onto a shopper’s surroundings in-store.
3. Personalise, personalise, personalise – and do it ethically
We’ve been talking about personalisation for a long time in marketing, but 2019 will be the year such strategies finally start to mature. That’s because more organisations are beginning to connect data and content to deliver one-to-one marketing.
To truly unlock the value of personalisation, companies must first create a unified view of their customers with real-time, actionable data. It is the single most important asset that a modern marketer can have, and it’s at the core of their personalisation efforts. Yet, marketers still struggle to unify disparate data across an organisation.
Nevertheless, the industry has made strides from a technology perspective. Adobe, Microsoft and SAP announced in September last year the Open Data Initiative which combines the power of their technologies to help brands better connect their data across their organisations and build a single view.
Privacy of course, will play a big role in an organisation’s personalisation strategy. New laws such as the GDPR mean marketers must take care to ensure ethical data collection practices and earn customers’ trust. In fact, in 2019, many organisations will have what McKinsey refers to as a “consent management function”. This involves having an ethical view of how the organisation manages customer data, protects the data and establishes governance around its use.
4. Account-based marketing in B2B
Account-based marketing (ABM) is still in its early stages, but there’ll be a much bigger focus on shaping strategy around ABM in 2019. ABM is not just a targeting strategy or set of technological tools. It’s a way of life for organisations that want to win by getting close to the opportunities that will drive business growth. Organisations will have to closely align marketing and sales in order to be successful here, with both teams bringing technology and governance models together around a strategic set of target accounts.
The discipline of defining a core set of target priorities and then building marketing, sales and technology solutions to surround those targets optimises near-term results and shapes the future of the business.
But a company-wide approach to ABM is not possible without a single view of a customer. Measurement – both KPIs and metrics – needs to be re-thought as well with a true account-based approach. Instead, more meaningful measures of success for ABM in 2019 would be sales cycle length, customer retention of exposed accounts and strategic accounts engaged.
5. Experience Business 2.0
Marketers have spent the past few years getting people, process and technology down to a science. After all, ‘Digital transformation is a journey, not a destination.’
But what’s next?
The next iteration of digital transformation will be more focused on customer experience management (CXM). Organisations that want to provide truly transformative customer experiences need customer data that is real-time, intelligent and predictive. In 2019, we’ll see enterprises focused on building a seamless flow of connected customer data to get a true end-to-end, real-time view of their customers to act on immediately.
There will also be a move towards the agile operating model. In fact, a Gartner survey of 803 CMOs found that 89 per cent of chief marketers said their companies already embrace some form of agile. However, just 21 per cent of companies today embrace a fully agile approach to marketing. While many companies have adopted agile into their technology organisation, we’ll start seeing more companies embracing agile in commercial functions like marketing and sales as well.