The word “experience” is often used in business, and for good reason. According to a Forrester Consulting study commissioned by Adobe, 80 percent of business decision makers said improving their organizations’ customer experience was one of their top priorities in the coming year. Customer experience is a business imperative because it increases loyalty, which 81 percent of study participants also listed as a priority.
Fusing data and creativity will help brands differentiate their customer experiences from the competition, as will a focus on personalization fueled by a single view of the customer. This must be done in an authentic manner in order to earn customer trust.
The trends below will enable organizations to quickly deliver the experiences their customers desire and gain loyalty. Let’s take a deeper dive.
A data-driven approach to creativity can help marketers boost productivity, create the right content faster, and deliver that content to the right customers, across the right channels, and at the right time. In a survey of creatives, more than half reported at least 75 percent of their creative production was influenced by data, a trend that’s quickly gaining momentum.
The best way to achieve a fine-tuned mix of art and science is for creative teams to bring their data and analytics colleagues into the process early on. It’s essential that both teams work together to better understand the changing behaviors of customers.
2019 will see more companies offering data and analytics training more broadly across the organization and especially for their creative teams.
E-commerce has long been focused on selling inventory quickly by offering customers the lowest prices. For just as long, marketing initiatives have supported such an aim. But as the customer experience economy began extending into e-commerce, a different way of selling has emerged. Online shopping has evolved beyond transactions to an expectation from customers that brands surprise and delight them throughout the commerce journey. This requires a change in brands’ mindsets. Organizations must refocus their strategies around experiences and ongoing relationships with customers instead of focusing on the single transaction. We refer to this as experiential commerce.
This shift to experiential commerce has largely been driven by millennials and their increasing influence and purchasing power. An Eventbrite study found that 78 percent of millennials would rather spend money on a desirable experience or event than a desirable object.
Key to experiential commerce is engaging content, which nurtures customers so that when it is time to buy, the brand creating the content is top of mind. Creating physical experiences, such as pop-up shops or mini-museums, also can move the needle. Take Etsy’s holiday pop-up shops, for example. The online retailer hosted pop-up markets featuring one-of-a-kind items in four cities across the U.S. on Small Business Saturday, bringing out many consumers who sought not only to purchase, but also to interact with the sellers of these locally crafted goods.
Though it is more work, nurturing true fans who will be long-term shoppers will prove much more valuable than vying for a one-time transaction that brings in short-term results.
While we are only just beginning to see what is truly possible with personalization in marketing, the industry is making great strides from a technology standpoint. For instance, in September, Adobe, SAP, and Microsoft announced the Open Data Initiative, which combines the power of their technologies to help brands better link data across their organizations and build a single view of the customer.
Of note, marketers must remember that as personalization becomes more advanced, privacy will play an equally important role in customer experience. Due to regulations including GDPR and California’s upcoming privacy law, companies must adhere to ethical data practices. Legislation aside, doing this is also crucial for customer trust and brand reputation. In the end, a commitment to privacy shows respect for customers and helps them understand an organization’s value proposition.
The importance of privacy also extends outside of an organization. Companies must choose partners that are committed to protecting the data that is entrusted to them and are designing products with privacy in mind.
Account-based marketing (ABM) is still in its early days, but it will be the subject of much more focus and strategy in 2019. In fact, an eMarketer study found that more than 70 percent of B2B companies have adopted or are planning to adopt ABM practices. ABM has many benefits, including making companies more customer-centric and less sales-driven, which increases revenue.
Marketers need to remember that ABM isn’t just a marketing campaign targeting a strategic accounts list. It is a shift in mindset and requires coordinating an ecosystem of teams to deliver cohesive experiences to top customers. And orchestrating personalization at scale through ABM efforts requires engaging content that is tailored by industry, business need, and persona.
That means companies adopting ABM cannot be successful unless they are committed to developing a single view of the customer. Research shows that 96 percent of B2B survey respondents said improving data analysis capabilities was the most important factor in delivering a great customer experience. It makes sense: In order to deliver personalized content to top accounts, companies must first understand their top accounts.
In addition, a true ABM approach will require companies to rethink measurement and develop new KPIs and metrics to track. Sales cycle length, customer retention of exposed accounts, and strategic accounts engaged are some examples of how ABM success may be measured in 2019.
For many companies, the first phase of digital transformation has been about getting the right people, processes, and technology in place in order to better serve customers at every stage of the buying journey.
Phase two will see companies slimming down their martech stacks so that their systems and technologies work better with one another. Technology and platform inter-operability enables a seamless flow of connected customer data—behavioral, transactional, financial, operational, and more—to get a truly end-to-end view of customers.
The outcome? Customer data that is real-time, intelligent, predictive, and, most importantly, actionable.
Indeed, that single view of the customer is going to be the key to success in many respects in 2019—and beyond. It gives an organization and its various teams the ability to instantly access and understand data, which translates into faster decision-making and more successful and agile teams.
Stacy Martinet is VP of Marketing Strategy at Adobe.
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