The way we operate in business is changing rapidly. How do we seize this opportunity to succeed?

How are brands going to develop a competitive advantage in a hyperconnected world with increasingly shifting customer expectations? I have been thinking about this question a lot recently – as I, like many other marketers, navigate a landscape that is constantly evolving.

I have observed some macro-trends that provide insights into what the future of marketing might look like. These questions and trends were at the forefront of my mind when I read the recently published State of Marketing Report.

Taking the report at face value, a lot of the findings reveal insights about the adoption rate and focus on technologies such as AI, how marketing and sales teams are starting to work more closely together, and how high performing marketers are focusing on connecting the work they do directly to the customer journey. However, the report revealed something else that marketers need to take note of - a monumental shift in business thinking that is going to dramatically speed up the pace of change.

In this article, I will draw out the key themes that I have been observing, the impact they are going have on business, and what needs to be done to make the most of them.

AI reliance is approaching… quickly


A recent Wall Street Journal article explored how millions of mobile users with low literacy rates in developing economies such as India are using cheap smart phones and internet connections at a dramatically increasing rate. Low literacy rates drives this new set of users to skip typing altogether and jump straight to voice activation. They are searching the internet by speaking and using intuitive experiences to navigate, communicate and purchase.

If a business wants to think and scale globally, this is a behavior they need to be right across. And this is not just happening in emerging economies. It’s happening in our own backyard. There is a new generation of consumers - currently in their teens - who are heavy users of voice activated assistants, enabled by the rapid advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning. They trust the information that is served up to them, often more than advice they receive from a human.

Consumers want to dispense with anything that wastes their time. Marketers can take advantage of this by adopting AI technology to provide a more connected and personalised customer experience.  

The State of Marketing report revealed that 59% of marketers in the ANZ region have begun adopting artificial intelligence technologies, roughly the same statistic as the rest of the world. But some companies are going ‘all in’. For instance, New Zealand company Soul Machines is using AI technology to create ‘Digital Humans’ and is working with the National Disability Insurance Agency in Australia to address the challenges faced by people with disabilities in communicating and engaging with the agency.

Belief alignment is going to create huge waves


Call them what you will, Millennials, GenZ or whatever label is trending, but these younger consumers share a common characteristic - they think a lot about their values and beliefs. And they want the brands they interact with to do the same. For example, 60% of consumers are likely to switch brand if a company isn’t socially responsible. This signals a huge shift taking place where consumers hold brands accountable for their social and moral values, and will vote with their wallet.

A recent app called Nudge for Change illustrates this trend; users are surveyed on what issues are important to them, including women's rights, marriage equality and race. Once this is active, users are sent notifications when they come in contact with a business that has been reported for violating one of those issues.

Marketers today need to develop deep insights into what is really important to their customers and use technology to connect and align their corporate social responsibility policy with those customers’ personal values and beliefs.

Proliferation of digital ecosystems


Marketers are no longer only responsible for brand awareness and sales acquisitions. Increasingly businesses are turning to marketing teams to design and deliver connected end-to-end customer experiences powered by digital ecosystems.

Apple, Google and Amazon are now starting to show us that our homes, workplaces, cars and even our bodies are about to become highly connected systems. All of these technology companies have made moves into the home, and will increasingly do so in the next couple of years.

We are heading into a world where technology, like driverless vehicles, will start to know us better than we know ourselves. Constant monitoring of health and behavioural data will create even more highly detailed profiles of who we are, what we like and where we go. Businesses need to start focusing on how they remain relevant within these ecosystems.

Interrupting the flow of the customer experience or journey is likely to be met with distrust. Now more than ever brands need to think about how they create connected experiences that remove friction for the consumer and provide value at every opportunity.

Disruption is the new normal


In 1965, semiconductor researcher Gordon Moore predicted that the amount of processing power that could be bought for $1000 would double every 18 months. That prediction has held true to this day and has become to be known as Moore’s Law.

The exponential rate of growth of processing power has created the world that we live in now. What has been labelled “digital disruption” is in fact the world taking advantage of an increasing amount of computer processing power and connectivity. This “disruption” is not going to stop, and will create a much more dynamic business environment where collaboration inside and outside the business is critical for success.

This year’s State of Marketing Report reveals a marked difference between the businesses that are embracing this collaborative approach and those that have yet to get there. 91% of high performing marketers (comprising 12% of the 3500 respondents) reported that they were empowered to collaborate closely with sales teams. In contrast, only 45% of the bottom 12% of respondents (the under-performers) reported the same freedoms.

Businesses need to invest in technology and resources that enable collaboration and information sharing between divisions, units and partners. This is not a one off investment. It is a process that needs to be embedded within a company.

How do we grab this opportunity?


Developing capabilities like analytics, collaboration, creativity, design and technical depth will separate the leaders from the failures in the future of marketing.

The world is changing quickly. And most of your customers are embracing the changes. The question for you is, are you acting now to make the most of tomorrow?

For more insight into how customer experience is reshaping marketers' mindset check out the State of Marketing Report today.

You can also join me in attending Salesforce Basecamp in Melbourne on Wednesday 27 September where the expo session "Top trends, challenges and priorities impacting today's marketers" will delve further into the report and other key trends.