The continued rise of innovative and immersive technologies has fundamentally shifted and shaped how consumers engage with brands. This has thrown customer expectations into a constant state of change — and many marketers are finding it hard to keep up.
The most successful marketers understand that winning the love and loyalty of customers comes down to winning on customer experience.
In our most recent State of the Connected Customer report, we found that 80% of customers feel that a brand’s experience — across the entire customer journey — is just as important as the products or services they offer. Unfortunately, less than half of marketers surveyed believe they provide an experience that fully aligns to these expectations.
Knowing this, how can brands today keep up in the face of constantly rising customer expectations and thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution? Let’s take a look at the Fifth Edition State of Marketing Report to learn more about the four key marketing trends that will help you own your customer experience in the year ahead.
Trend #1: Marketing is becoming the cross-functional coordinator
Getting the right message, on the right channel, and at the right time is still just as important as ever. However, the savviest marketers know that only meeting this goal no longer cuts it, and that great marketing is only one component of the entire customer journey. The reason for this is simple: customers only see one brand and one company – not disparate departments. Who better to curate this experience than marketers who have traditionally been on the front lines when it comes to understanding customer needs and behavior?
Forty-five percent of marketing leaders say their organizations lead customer experience initiatives across their companies – up from 24% who strongly agreed with this sentiment in 2017. Unless all teams are aligned on goals, however, such efforts aren’t likely to bear fruit. That's why individuals and teams within the marketing department – like brand marketers, product marketers, and advertising teams – need to be more aligned than ever before. This cross-functional alignment extends outside of marketing, too: 52% of marketers share common goals and metrics with sales colleagues, while 53% do the same with customer service colleagues.
Marketers already know the importance of data for understanding and catering to individual customers and prospects. In fact, they now rely on 50% more data sources than they did two years ago (an average of 15 sources today vs. 10 sources in 2017). While access to more data is ultimately a good thing, it also introduces new challenges. Piecing together a seamless and unified view of the customer from a “firehose” of sources has become the latest challenge — not to mention the fact that there’s still no default solution for organizing and extracting value.
The typical marketing team, for example, still uses an average of three different tech solutions to reconcile different IDs, like browser cookies, device IDs, and app IDs, back to the same user — with many teams relying on five or more. As a result, fewer than half (47%) of marketing leaders say their teams have a completely unified view of customer data. This is critical for creating more relevant experiences for customers who criss-cross multiple touchpoints along their journeys with a brand.
Trend #3: AI and trust are the foundations of customer experience
Today’s customers love and demand personalization — personalized experiences, personalized offers, personalized everything — with 62% of them now expecting brands to anticipate their needs. Delivering these tailor-made customer experiences, however, requires a little give and take: customers must provide personal information to receive the personalized experiences they expect from brands. In fact, those that do this — and do this well — tend to see greater returns on their lead gen, customer acquisition, and customer advocacy efforts.
Our research found that 79% of customers are willing to share relevant personal information in exchange for more engaging and personal brand experiences in return. This is a major win for brands. Without access to this wealth of customer data, brands wouldn’t be as successful in providing highly personalized experiences.
This expectation for personalized experiences, however, comes at the perceived cost of privacy. Opaque data privacy policies and a slew of data-related scandals have shaken customer confidence, sparking a number of privacy concerns that have made consumers increasingly reticent to share personal information.
This has forced marketers to tackle a new obstacle of fostering trust around the “data-value exchange.” This may explain why 51% of marketing leaders surveyed say they’re more mindful about balancing personalization and privacy today than they were two years ago. The good news: this balancing act around privacy seems to be paying off for brands — 78% of customers say they’re more likely to trust companies with their information when it’s used to personalize their experience while another 91% say the same for companies that are transparent about how that data is used in the first place. In other words, the more value brands can deliver in exchange for relevant customer data — and the less hazy their privacy policies are — the more trust they’ll likely build with their customers over time.
Trend #4: Real-time engagement is the gold standard
Today, brands have no choice but to meet and exceed elevated customer expectations at all times. For this reason, delivering real-time engagement across channels has become both the top priority and number one challenge for many marketing teams today. And in spite of access to new technologies and lots of data — both of which aim to make this easier than ever to achieve — a mere 28% of marketing leaders surveyed are currently satisfied with the evolution of their cross-channel engagement efforts at scale.
According to the report, 52% of marketers both engage with consumers in real-time across one or more channels and adapt marketing strategies and tactics based on those interactions. To succeed, marketers must continue to think more holistically about how their messages can translate across channels — website, social, email, advertising, and more — in a truly conversational manner. Getting this right has been proven to boost engagement, drive loyalty, and surprise-and-delight a customer base with higher expectations than ever before.
If you’ve read through this list of marketing trends and found yourself grappling with the same issues to overcome, know that you’re in good company. To learn more about the top marketing trends of 2019 and how you can improve your customer experience this year, download a free copy of our Fifth Edition State of Marketing Report.
*All stats cited in this article are sourced from Salesforce’s Fifth Edition State of Marketing report, based on a survey conducted in August and September 2018 of over 4,100 marketing leaders worldwide.
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