The coming year is set to be an extension of a digital evolution that's been going on for 2-3 years, with the key focus being marketers trying to develop customer experience strategies, according to Clint Poole, VP of Marketing for Lionbridge.
Don't wait for any major new developments or disruptions, but rather a continued focus on trying to nail the correct customer experience journey, whilst building and maintaining brand loyalty.
"What marketers want and need to do in 2016, is to get the customer experience journey from a theoretical place to a practical place. How successful that will be, will depend on each brands commitment to the cause," said Poole.
So what channel should marketers focus on in 2016? The channels that already exist are still as relevant as ever - digital, mobile and social. It's interesting that we continue to carve out mobile as a separate entity, because there is an argument made that the behaviours of buyers on mobile are different to those on websites. As time moves on, all of these channels and the way marketers use them will continue to become more integrated.
Customers have made it clear that they want to interact with brands online up until they're at the purchase point. Other than in a few select instances, consumers only interact with a brand in a bricks and mortar setting when they actually go to buy something - everything else is online. All of the consumer's research is done online, in terms of reading reviews and looking for references. Consumers no longer show up in the store blind; they show up when they're ready to buy.
This begs the question, how do you align the buyers and customer journeys? And at what moment does this happen? In reality, you cannot manage the entire customer journey - defining the moments that matter to buyers can be a very complex process. However, as a marketer, you must try to have your brand present at the key moments, and this will become more apparent the more that marketers develop the customers experience journey and personalisation as a whole.
There is an ongoing process of finding the perfect moment - unique to every brand. The way that consumers interact with their favourite brands is different to the next human. Marketers need to spend more time trying to get to know their buyer - we're returning our focus to focusing on customer intimacy and truly understanding how, why and when consumers interact with brands.
The consumer now plays a bigger part in marketing than ever before - it's a challenge but they're driving the brand experience. The marketer has to move away from the thought that you're going to hugely influence, you are more trying to align with their purchase intent and encourage them to engage with the brand. Consumers are too smart to be persuaded these days, and that's not a bad thing!
What technologies will be used in the marketing campaigns of 2016? Personal relationship technologies are going to play a big part in marketing campaigns of 2016, especially when thinking about the bigger picture. But brands need to ensure this is relevant to customers and is executed at the key moments.
Generic channels like web or social exist and are still hugely popular. When you create your own content and content distributed on a social or web channel owned by someone else like Twitter, if you drive them back to your own website from that social or web channel, that's when the personalisation technologies come in to play and you can tailor your offering for the buyer.
Marketers are still struggling with personalisation as a whole, and this becomes even harder when trying to replicate this across regions. Marketers and brands can use the same personalisation technologies but it has to be done on a local basis - the decisions still lie with the local marketing teams.
Marketing budgets are likely to increase in 2016 as the majority of economies are strong. According to a recent Gartner CMO survey, B2B organisations are even cutting sales budgets to fund increases in the marketing budget. Certain European markets that struggled last year have stabilised. The Chinese market has stabilised. Major revenue sectors are strong and people are spending! Brands are therefore taking advantage and are investing more money in marketing campaigns to try and encourage brand loyalty.
There will also be an increase as most growth centres and revenue centres which are key to global brands, are spending money. New customers in non-native markets (India) will see more global marketing, with the focus in these markets, being digital and mobile to reflect how customers are accessing content.
The same challenges facing marketers now have been around for a while, such as how well can you know your customer, and how accurate can you bring your customer journey to the forefront so that you can execute against the moments that matter. As more and more technologies are being introduced, this is becoming something that marketers are trying to tackle, but there is still a lot of content and a lot of channels to cut through.
So what's the future for marketers beyond 2016? "Well, it's not that far away from digital platforms converging once again, social will become embedded in other digital platforms. Brands could start to embed their Twitter feed in to their own website," said Poole. "Emerging technologies around AI intelligence, voice recognition are becoming more mainstream knowledge now, but customers want these technologies to be integrated both offline and online."
The idea of a store sending you an offer as you're walking nearby / driving nearby that's relevant to you - that's the next level for customers. Ultimate personalisation -and something that shouldn't be too far off in the future. As soon as brands can effectively deliver this high level of personalisation technology, customer loyalty will thrive.
And how can marketing departments show their worth in 2016? There's huge pressure on marketers to show their worth. Like all areas of a business, tying activities specifically to revenue generations is important.
"Measurement exists to show that you can generate revenue through customer engagement and brand loyalty," concluded Poole. "If marketers can link campaigns or actions back to ROI, then that shows their worth and then some."