Ninth Annual ‘Digital Trends Report’ Reveals Importance of Data-Driven Marketing, Personalisation, AI and Machine Learning
Based on a global survey of nearly 13,000 marketing, advertising, ecommerce, creative and IT professionals, Econsultancy and Adobe’s 2019 Digital Trends report explores the most significant trends and challenges shaping customer experience (CX) this year.
Data is king
Data-driven marketing that focuses on the individual was identified by large organisations surveyed as the single most exciting opportunity in 2019.
In other words, organisations must try to figure out how to better personalise CX using the vast amounts of data they are able to collect. This is often called ‘getting a 360-degree view of the customer’ – gathering up all customer interactions and touch points and then using that to create a meaningful and rounded picture of who a customer is. Only after that can a truly personalised experience be created.
Global CMO of multinational food company General Mills Ivan Pollard says that, after producing high-quality and affordable food, using data to understand the complexities of the customer journey is the company’s second most important priority.
“Data is going to unlock the complexity of any number of customer journeys and we can understand and connect with them at the right time,” he says. “And every one of them will be slightly different.”
While over half of all marketers surveyed said that better use of data for more effective audience segmentation and targeting will be a key activity throughout the year, challenges remain. Just under half of all respondents still cited difficulty in attaining a holistic view of customers across all interactions as the thing most likely to keep them awake at night.
Looking ahead, delivering personalised experiences in real-time was still the most exciting prospect for both smaller and larger orgnaisations in three years’ time. In second place was the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and bots to drive campaigns and experiences, followed by the use of Internet of Things (IoT) such as wearables for audience tracking and data collection.
Privacy concerns abound
As we have discussed before, organisations today need to be aware of the ‘creepy factor’ that goes hand in hand with data collection. The classic and oft-cited case comes from retailer Target, which allegedly created a data-driven “pregnancy prediction model” in order to cash in on the numerous purchases associated with would-be parents. However, it all backfired somewhat when Target faced the ire of a man who was angry because his teenage daughter had received marketing material for maternity products. Target had correctly identified the teen’s pregnancy, unbeknown to her father, and crossed the “creepy line” regarding the knowledge of its customers.
In order to provide a more personalised CX, companies obviously need more personal data, but then questions about where that data is stored and how exactly it is used start to arise. At the same time, new consumer data protection laws such as the EU’s GDPR are raising the bar on regulatory pressure and requirements.
Unsurprising, more than a quarter of marketers surveyed cited difficulties related to the balancing act of personalising while making sure not ot violate consumer privacy as a critical issue they are facing.
Director of Global Digital Strategy at McCormick & Company Jennifer LaFrance says that everyone working in global roles has had to “go through the adventure of adhering to GDPR”.
She says that McCormick & Company has made a lot of investments to ensure that consumers know their data is safe including the establishment of a global privacy council and a pseudo ‘bill of rights’ for consumers.
“We want to convey that consumers can enjoy great benefits from sharing data with us, but it’s our responsibility to make sure there’s value in that exchange,” she says.
Rise of the machines
It seems like everyone is talking about AI these days, including us here at Fifth Quadrant. And with good reason – advances in technology, lower cost barriers to entry and wider variety of applications, have vaulted AI into the forefront of many organisation’s plans when it comes to CX. According to research by Tractica, AI implementations will generate $105.8bn in revenue by 2025, over 12 times the $8.1bn generated last year.
The findings of the Digital Trends Report support the growing interest in AI. Year on year, the number of larger organisations using AI increased by 50% to 36%. In addition, a further 38% said that they plan to invest in AI this year.
So what are they using it for? According to the survey results, with regards to marketing-related activities, the top five uses are; analysis of data, programmatic advertising, on-site personalisation, optimisation and testing, and automated campaigns.
Director of Digital Engagement for Asia and EMEA at Citibank James Keady says that there remains a lot of work to do in getting consumers who have been resistant to digital transformation to change their behaviour.
For example, he says that customers will have to become accustomed to technology such as digitally-enabled conversational banking , a developing technology banking that will improve the way customers interface with banks, delivering more efficient, always on-solutions.
“There is still a lot of dependency between customers and traditional channels such as phone, so we are constantly building learnings around customer interactions to create better experiences when and where customers require as they are increasingly global and mobile,” he says. “There is still a long way to go, however AI and related technology will play a key role in enabling this for our customers in the future.”
Although many companies are already using AI, the report found that there is still a lack of awareness regarding AI’s ability to deliver performance improvements, be it in terms of efficiencies or revenue.
A third of larger organisations perceived no need to implement AI while just over a third admitted to a lack of knowledge as to how they might use it.
Econsultancy and Adobe conclude the report with five recommendations for marketing, advertising, ecommerce, creative and IT professionals’ approach to CX in 2019. They can be summarised as follows:
- Put the customer first: As customer expectations continue to rise, you must use CX and EX and top-down and bottom-up approaches to do this.
- Cherish your data: Recognise that it is a vital asset when properly captured and used.
- Activate your data: Use the necessary technology to connect and manage the data you are accumulating.
- Strive for integration: Avoid siloes as much as possible and combine your tools and platforms or invested in a unified technology setup.
- Educate about AI and ML: These technologies are true gamechangers but remain poorly understood. Those in senior roles must learn more about how AI and ML can impact business performance.