Marketers have always been at the forefront of change. A few months ago, their focus was on trying to innovate and stay ahead in a new decade where every industry, region, and customer experience is being disrupted. Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), along with increased customer expectations, presented both incredible opportunities and hefty challenges.
Today, marketers face even bigger changes stemming from a global pandemic. The COVID-19 crisis is forcing them to rethink everything – in a socially-distanced world.
The sixth edition of the State of Marketing report presents insights from nearly 7,000 marketing leaders across the globe, with 300 from India. Our research highlights the strategic priorities, challenges, and technologies that are transforming the profession. These are especially important to consider as businesses navigate from crisis mode to back-to-work to growth. Here are four takeaways for Indian marketers:
Our research found that the expectations for how marketers interact with customers are continuing to rise. A related study of consumers and business buyers found that 84% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services. This is up from 80% in 2018.
Marketers are taking a real-time approach to customer experience because customers are demanding it. According to our State of the Connected Customer report, 71% of customers have used multiple channels to start and complete a transaction. Customers now expect dynamic interactions – where the content they see on one channel is tailored based on their actions from a previous channel. More than half (66%) of Indian marketers describe their cross-channel content as dynamic.
However, there is still room for improvement. Real-time customer engagement is both a top priority and challenge for Indian marketers. Eighty-six percent of marketers in India say traditional marketing roles limit customer engagement. There is also a disconnect between two divisions that are key to customer engagement success: marketing and IT. Fifty-nine percent of Indian marketers say they are aligned with their IT organisations, yet a separate study of IT leaders ranks insufficient business unit alignment as a top challenge.
Solving these issues was critical even before the pandemic hit. Marketing leaders in India rank real-time engagement as their second biggest priority. Marketing innovators are seeking to engage customers in new ways across digital touchpoints while balancing personalisation with customer comfort levels.
Once a hyped-up buzzword, artificial intelligence is now making a real-world impact. Ninety-five percent of Indian marketers report using AI, with bridging online and offline experiences being a top use case.
With the world in crisis, the use of customer data for empathetic marketing has come to the forefront. It’s essential to have a clear understanding of customer needs as they evolve. AI helps marketers achieve this type of personalisation at scale by distilling insights from data and taking action.
Most Indian marketers are on board with this tactic – 84% of them describe their customer engagement as data-driven. They are turning to a myriad of customer data sources (median number: 20), with the top three being (1) declared interests/preferences, (2) second-party data, and (3, tie) transactional data and known digital identities.
As the amount of available data has grown, so has the number of platforms to manage it. Globally, marketers now use an average of six data management tools, compared with three in 2018.
B2B customers now expect the same type of empathy and engagement as their B2C counterparts. Data and AI are helping B2B marketers accomplish this through account-based marketing (ABM). Marketers use ABM to build multiple, highly-personalised campaigns that connect with the accounts that are most important to them. It also increases the lifetime value of their customer relationships.
Globally, 92% of B2B marketers now have an ABM program. The rise of ABM programs is pretty recent – 64% were started within the past five years. But these programs have grown more sophisticated, as 68% of them use automation.
What’s next for marketers? No one can truly predict what will happen next week, let alone next year. But the good news is that the COVID-19 crisis has forced businesses to figure out how to better connect with customers and deliver what they need, when they need it. It has pushed ahead many of the ideas that we have been talking about for years. Marketers can be at the forefront of this innovation – 87% of Indian marketers say they lead customer experience initiatives across their organisations.
Marketers in India expect the next 10 years to bring even greater impacts from new technologies and societal developments. These include online access to more of the global population, the implementation of 5G networks, and virtual reality becoming mainstream. Sixty-three percent of Indian marketing leaders believe 5G will have a major impact on marketing in the decade ahead. Faster speeds mean other innovation — such as virtual reality — can become a greater part of the customer experience.
As marketers lead through change and figure out how to get businesses back to full speed, a combination of next-gen tech and sound strategy will help push us into growth mode.