The following blog was originally published in Information Management.
Over the course of 2017, we’ve seen the marketing industry monitor a number of emerging trends including wearables and facial/voice recognition, and experiment with new tools and techniques such as VR and augmented reality. For example, last October, we saw a campaign from Sovereign, a New Zealand health insurance company, that won an International ECHO Award for integrating a wide range of datasets into a campaign that drove customer signups, lead generation and sales. They integrated new data streams from activity trackers, gym networks and grocery stores to reward customers for healthy behavior. This new data also powered timely, tailored notifications across platforms. Notwithstanding the large undertaking, Sovereign improved health outcomes and increased policy renewals, reversing a negative trend for the company.
In 2018, I expect that these features will evolve in ways that will help marketers better understand businesses, consumers, and competitors. Based on how the industry closed out 2017, here are a few predictions for what we can expect to see in the coming year:
It’s all about relationships based on Truth, Results and Trust – 1:1 Relationships at scale
Data is a horizontal that cuts across all of marketing, yet to date many organizations (some very large organizations) are not yet data-driven. They are realizing that today’s technology and processing power enables organizations to use data-informed techniques to enhance customer experience. They’re realizing that to be competitive they must pivot toward data-driven marketing techniques including data-informed design and storytelling to personalize offers that resonate with individual customers based on their individual needs and interests. Look for deep-pocketed advertisers like P&G to play catchup with a vengeance in the data-driven marketing space.
Data Quality, Brand Safety, Transaction Transparency and Transaction Verification
We all know that massive amounts of data can be overwhelming. And of course, transforming data into actionable insight is the key to maximizing marketing ROI and enhancing the customer experience. Yet there is too much spurious data that is dangerous and costly. While it is a cliché, “garbage in equals garbage out” still rings true. This has been particularly evident in the digital advertising space with bad actors using bots to mimic human behavior.
Additionally, some algorithms have gone awry in the digital ad space causing potential harm to brands by placing ads in undesirable spaces. Client-side marketers cannot tolerate fraud or waste. Consequently, the supply-side has been injured as client-side marketers began reducing their digital ad buys. Look for supply-side solution providers to increase their efforts to attack such problems utilizing tools and techniques like massive processing engines, blockchain technology, better machine learning and collective concentrations of power like trade associations that bring organizations together to collectively identify and address issues that organizations struggle to solve on their own.
Timing and the Propensity to Buy
While algorithms may be able to predict the next site at which a potential customer will land, they haven’t yet fully incorporated the age-old data-driven marketing technique of correctly timing a compelling offer. Look for leading solution providers to utilize more machine learning and AI to better incorporate timing into their ‘propensity to buy’ calculations.
Third-Party Data and the Burgeoning Duopoly
There is a balance of power issue developing in the digital ad space as Google and Facebook continue to dominate market share momentum in the digital ad spend space (presently estimated at a combined 84%!). Look for “rest of the world” market forces to develop innovative solutions to ensure that competition and innovation thrives in this space.
The data and marketing industry thrives on innovation and the technological advancement that allows us to build connections with our customers based on truth, results and trust. Acting responsibly is paramount to building brand loyalty. As more hacks and breaches occur, this large problem will attract entrepreneurs seeking opportunities to solve such problems. While it is very disturbing to see large organization like Equifax fall victim to a data breach, our data and marketing industry is stocked with brilliant minds. Look for highly-encrypted cloud-based security vaults to surface. And I suspect that while many organizations may feel reluctant to house their data in the cloud, look for them to realize that it is far more secure than keeping it “in house.”
Education will Evolve
While a bachelor’s degree is a critical requirement for many marketing jobs, the marketing degree hanging on the wall can’t keep marketers up to speed with the ever-increasing rate of change in our data-driven marketing industry. IoT, big data, attribution woes, integrating online and offline touchpoints, identity across platforms, channels and devices and emerging technology and techniques are all examples of daunting challenges.
In 2018, expect to see a surge in continuous talent development programs, not just from academics, but from practitioners and commercial solution providers that address new challenges every day. Look for powerful video-centric platforms like DMA360, a crowdsourced platform for solution providers to bring their solutions to the market that incorporates social media techniques to curate the content through user upvotes. We all know that knowledge drives the competitive edge!
Tom Benton is CEO of the Data & Marketing Association.