Change is the only constant. This time-honoured maxim perfectly applies to the digital marketing landscape. From May 2018’s enactment of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to the mainstreaming of artificial intelligence and blockchain technology, all the way to Amazon’s rise as a major advertising platform – this year left digital marketing professionals reeling.
In order to thrive in 2019, marketers need to concentrate their efforts on consumers’ needs, in real time, wherever they are in the customer journey. To help you stay on top of this ever-evolving journey, we have defined our five key trends to follow, ensuring you remain relevant in the New Year.
1. Megatrend: The Price Of Personal Data
The year 2018 taught consumers about the value of personal data and in 2019, they’re coming to cash in their checks. ‘Data-value exchange’ is the buzz phrase, and it will loom large over customer relationships in the future.
Whether it’s demanding instant coupons or discounts for sharing personal data such as name, email address, and gender, or giving marketing opt-ins in exchange for exclusive perks – consumers are beginning to drive a tough bargain in this era of increased data protection legislation, following the introduction of GDPR.
Will this new legislation mark the beginning of business models where consumers are rewarded for sharing personal data in cold, hard cash?
We will have to wait and see. But overall, consumers increasingly expect free handouts: In a global survey conducted by Selligent Marketing Cloud among 7000 consumers worldwide, 79 per cent of respondents expect companies to give them a discount if they fail to meet their promises. And they already expect discounts in return for personal information, so asking for a cheaper mobile bill or internet plan is only a natural evolution in the data-value exchange.
Regardless, marketers need to proceed with caution: Now that data is currency, breaches that expose customer data are definite deal breakers.
2. Brands Delivering Personalisation As Trusted Partners
When it comes to their relationships with brands, consumers now want to have their cake and eat it, too. According to our survey, 75 per cent of consumers are ‘concerned’ with a brand’s ability to track their behaviour – even while on their website and in their apps. But in the same survey, 46 per cent of consumers also said: Companies should use my personal data to provide me better service.
This is the cultural environment marketers need to navigate in 2019. Apprehension about data collection, on the one hand, and unprecedented demands for hyper-personalised marketing on the other. The best recipe for moving ahead: be transparent to consumers about why and how you use their data – then actually use that data to give them what they want.
What consumers want in 2019 is that companies understand their situation instead of just looking to score a sale, say 70 per cent consumers worldwide. Second, 74 per cent want to be treated as individuals, not just a segment such as ‘millennials’. And third, consumers want brands to try harder, as 26 per cent find that companies are shockingly bad at knowing who they are or understanding their needs.
Following these demands while using each interaction to learn more about your customers creates a virtuous cycle to deliver personalisation as a trusted partner.
3. Zooming In On Location
In 2018, ‘customer experience’ became synonymous with ‘mobile experience’ as consumers handled their brand interactions and product discoveries on-the-go. Next year, the proliferation of beacons and wide availability of location data will create the perfect storm for marketers to zoom in on location to deliver marketing from moment to moment.
Location-based mobile ads will generate $22.1 billion in 2018, with $38.7 billion projected for 2022 (BIA). Marketing platforms such as Selligent Marketing Cloud blend consumers’ live location and historical data to send personalised location-triggered messages. But use location data wisely. While 42 per cent of U.S. smartphone users would frequent an app more if it drew on location data for in-app personification, about 24.9 per cent would use an app less for that very reason (Localytics).
And remember: customers today are looking for value for their data, so leveraging consumer location is most effective when combined with consumer perks. In our survey, 48 per cent of Millennials welcomed geo-targeted ads while out shopping to receive alerts for a sale at a store they are passing. Around 48 per cent of global respondents said they would be happy if cinema sent information about the screen location and a refreshments coupon when they were going to the movies.
In 2019, marketers will also send relevant messages based on location-specific weather triggers (“Need a cool drink?”) and daily movement routines (“Headed to the coffee shop again?””). Some may even use AI to predict where a consumer is going next. Brilliant or creepy?
4. Predicting Customers’ Next Moves
The key to longevity in any industry is remaining one step ahead. Today’s marketers must aim where the consumer is going in order to meet them with their preferred services. Powered by artificial intelligence (AI), in 2019 predictive analytics will help brands to keep track of customers in every stage of the customer journey. In fact, brands that utilise predictive analytics in their marketing strategy are twice as likely to identify high-value customers and serve specialised marketing.
According to our survey, 33 per cent of respondents expect brands to anticipate needs before they arise. Food delivery platforms are already nudging users around their individual dinner times to order out, while automotive companies can predict when consumers are most likely to shop for a new ride. Behind the scenes of these predictions and following communication are marketing platforms such as Selligent Marketing Cloud. We combine AI with rich consumer profiles and behavioural data to predict customers’ next moves.
But some homework may be in order before marketers can tap into the full potential of predictive AI: primarily cleaning up their data sets. According to current Databricks research, 54 per cent of marketers still struggle with preparing and aggregating their data sets for large-scale AI initiatives. Perhaps add ‘invest in adding Customer Data Platform (CDP) capabilities’ to next year’s goals?
5. Voice-controlled Everything
The simmering trend for voice assistants came to a rolling boil in September 2018. Amazon introduced 15 new products featuring the company’s Alexa voice assistant, including several smart home appliances such as a microwave and clock, as well as a new breed of car gadgets. This move takes voice control beyond the market for smart homes, poised to reach $53 billion by 2022, into practically all aspects of daily life from driving to shopping.
According to eMarketer, 91 million Americans (27.6 per cent of the population) already use voice assistants. This number is poised to reach 105.8 million by 2020, as assistants find their way into TVs, smartwatches, and even electrical outlets (Amazon Smart Plugs).
Marketers need to respond to this trend in two ways: First, by doubling down on investments in voice search and product placement on voice-controlled ecosystems. And second, by reallocating resources from other channels. Why? Because as voice gets louder, other media get tuned out – 39 per cent of U.S. smart speaker owners reduced their use of radio, 34 per cent their smartphone, and 30 per cent their TV.
However, not everyone is ready to open their doors to connected devices. In Germany, over 35 per cent of consumers still worry about the security of their personal data while using voice assistants. But if Amazon and competitors such as Apple and Google build enough trust, 2019 will mark the start of voice-controlled everything.
The year 2019 will undoubtedly bring its fair share of changes and challenges. However, it’s important to note that building long-term relationships with the trends and technologies we have outlined in this article is not a sprint, but a marathon. While trends come and go, being honest and empathetic with your customers will never go out of style.