Three technology trends that will redefine marketing in 2019

Today, consumers and business buyers alike expect convenient, relevant, and responsive engagement across every interaction. In the age of the connected customer, marketers -- with their deep understanding of customer needs and behavior -- are well positioned to take a lead on these broader customer experience initiatives.
Written by Vala Afshar, Contributing Writer

What technology trends will reshape the marketing profession in 2019?

Salesforce's latest State of Marketing report offers answers to this question. Based on a survey of more than 4,100 marketing leaders worldwide, its filled with real world insights for marketing leaders on the strategic priorities, challenges, and opportunities transforming their field.

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Here are four key takeaways from the report, comparing 2018 vs 2017: 

  1. Marketing becomes the cross-functional glue of customer experience: Marketers sharing metrics with sales teams has grown at a rate of 21 percent since 2017
  2. New dynamics up the ante for data unification: The number of data sources used by marketers has grown at a rate of 19 percent since 2017
  3. AI and trust underpin customer experiences: Marketers adoption of AI has grown at a rate of 44 percent since 2017
  4. Marketers adapt to new standards of engagement: The share of dynamically coordinated channels has grown at a rate of 14 percent since 2017

The key driver of these trends is the connected customer. Today, consumers and business buyers alike expect convenient, relevant, and responsive engagement across every interaction. What's more, they judge companies based on their overall experience, not just their interactions with individual departments. In other words, they see one company -- and expect those they buy from to act as one.

With unprecedented choice and access to information, today's customers demand an overall experience that matches their standards for product quality. Eighty percent of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services.

For business units accustomed to owning only one stage of the customer journey, this can be a tricky proposition. Now, departments such as sales, customer service, commerce – and yes, marketing – must consider their impact on the entire customer experience.

Marketers -- with their deep understanding of customer needs and behavior -- are well positioned to take a lead on these broader customer experience initiatives. I've identified three compelling technology trends drawn from the research that can enable marketers to lead their companies to success in 2019.

1. True Cross-Channel Engagement Will Become a Key Differentiator

Marketers now rate the ability to engage customers in cross-channel, real-time conversations as both their top priority and their top challenge.

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Cross-channel marketing isn't a new concept, but it remains elusive. In fact, the report reveals that only 28 percent of marketers are completely satisfied with their ability to engage customers across channels at scale. Now that customers use an average of 10 channels to communicate with companies, the challenge is all the more daunting. Engaging with customers in two-way  conversational manner has become the benchmark. On average, however, only 32 percent of marketers engage dynamically across channels -– meaning their messages evolve from channel to channel based on customer actions. In contrast, 39 percent of marketers duplicate messages across channels, while 29 percent describe their channels as completely siloed with no coordination whatsoever.

Marketing Cross-Channel Coordination

So, while some marketers are meeting customers' elevated expectations for cross-channel engagement, even more are falling short. Enabling technology-driven collaboration between marketing and other business teams so they can deliver on this score will be a key competitive differentiator in 2019.

2. Data Proliferation Will Make Data Unification a Top Priority

Successful campaigns now rely on a rapidly increasing number of data sources -- from email open rates to ad clicks -- to engage the right individual with the right content at the right time. That means marketers' data portfolios are expanding at speed -- a trend that's set to continue. Salesforce's report shows that the median number of data sources is projected to jump from 10 in 2017 to 15 in 2019; a 50 percent increase in just two years.

Medium Number of Data Sources Used by Marketing Organizations

But while marketers have more customer data than ever before, many of them are struggling to make sense of it all. In fact, only 47 percent say they have a completely unified view of customer data.Marketers have typically resorted to deploying a mix of solutions in the quest to unite their customer data, from marketing databases to email service providers. Data management platforms (DMPs) are another such solution that is rapidly gaining traction.

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Although DMP use has historically been dominated by monitoring ad performance and optimizing media campaigns, organizations are evolving their use of the technology. Salesforce's report found that 76 percent of DMP users employ it for managing customer identity, for example. As identity resolution and management become vital for marketers seeking to deliver hyper-personalized content, the use of DMPs is on the rise. Marketers expect their use of DMPs to increase by 64 percent by 2020.

Top 10 DMP Use Cases -- Current vs. Planned

I predict we'll see this trend start to take off in 2019, with more marketers turning to DMPs to provide a unified solution to their customer identity challenges.

3. Personalization Will Evolve Where AI and Trust Intersect

Personalization isn't just 'nice to have' for marketers any more -- it's a top priority. Salesforce's recent State of the Connected Customerstudy found that 76 percent of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations, while 53 percent now expect the offers they receive to always be personalized.

According to the report, high-performing marketers are nearly 10X more likely than under-performers to be completely satisfied with their ability to personalize omni-channel experiences. The benefits of personalization across the customer journey includes: 1. Brand building; 2. Lead generation; 3. Customer acquisition; 4. Up-selling; 5. Customer retention; and 6. Customer advocacy. Marketers using AI are 9 percent more likely than others to claim major improvements from personalization on their overall programs.

To unlock the data needed for personalization at scale, marketers are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence (AI). While 20 percent of marketers claimed to "extensively use" AI in 2017, 29 percent now say their companies have adopted it. Personalizing the overall customer journey is also now the number one AI use case for marketers.

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Marketers are experimenting with AI in an assortment of ways including: real-time next best offers, predictive journeys, improved customer segmentation, automated social and messenger app interactions, personalized channel experiences, dynamic landing pages and websites, offline/online data experience facilitation and programmatic advertising and media buying. 

Marketers face increasing scrutiny from customers and regulators alike and AI capabilities continue to  advance. Although personalization is treasured by customers, transparency into how data is used is a customer expectation. In fact, 78 percent of them are more likely to trust companies with personal information if it's used to fully personalize their experience. 

As with any major technological shift, the rise of AI in marketing also raises questions. The majority of customers (88 percent) are willing to trade relevant personal information for personalized experiences. However, their trust has been shaken by data breaches and opaque policies around how data is treated.

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This is prompting marketers to evaluate how they might be more transparent in their use of technology. More than half (51percent) of marketers say they're more mindful about balancing personalization and privacy than they were two years ago -- although only 30 percent are completely satisfied that they have achieved this balance.

Marketing's Mindset Regarding Privacy vs. Personalization

As AI use cases evolve in 2019, I predict that marketers will need to continue to adapt to customers' dual demands for more personalized, relevant engagement and more transparency and control over how their data is used.

For a closer look at the results of this year's "State of Marketing" research, download the full report

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