Growth strategies for brands in 2020, like every year, will be defined in part by key trends, like the growth in channels by which marketers can reach their audiences. That’s why identifying the trends with some clarity is important. Data-driven marketing services provider Infogroup convened a panel with expertise spanning marketing, data, product, art, and agency and client development, and they came up with five areas of innovation, change, and challenge.
Here’s my take on the lessons to be learned from the report, and I also asked Infogroup’s SVP of marketing Ivy Shtereva to comment on some of the main themes.
1. The number of marketing channels continues to grow
There seems to be no reason to assume the proliferation of marketing channels will cease any time soon. There are more than 50 distinct ways to connect with consumers on and offline. That creates obvious challenges, but opportunities too for brands which can go at least some way towards meeting them. Here are some tips, the first of which is surely becoming table stakes:
- Prioritize the user experience. Consumers expect a seamless experience across all channels. That can only happen with technology solutions which can “talk to each other,” and if online and offline data are connected.
- Consider shoppable social posts, like the Instagram in-app purchasing feature. But keep it simple, and don’t push potential buyers off platform. Auto-fill payment options mean quicker checkouts.
- Voice is going to be big in 2020. No surprise there. But take a look at multi-channel programs like Domino Pizza’s Anyware, which gives customers 11 different ways to order pizza, including voice-activated orders through Alexa and Google Home.
- Start a conversation. The widespread use of chatbots, optimization of search for question-based queries, as well as voice-activated devices, mean that consumers will increasingly be talking to brands rather than just typing at them.
I asked Ivy Shtereva to assess the importance of voice. She told me: “In terms of the shift from text-based to voice-based search and commerce, we’re likely nearing a tipping point. In fact, Comscore predicted that 50 percent of all searches will be made using voice by 2020. Adoption rates vary depending by survey, but what we know is that voice has quickly gone mainstream.”
Although it’s mainstream, it hasn’t yet reached full potential. “While voice is no longer a niche channel, its use can still be considered niche as it has not yet expanded beyond quick and easy interactions in informal settings, such as delivering order reminders, specific product searches or reorders and providing store information.
2. Audiences are increasingly vocal with their values and preferences
There’s sensitivity surrounding user data, of course, but the right approach means delivering successfully against audience values and preferences. The key to success here is thinking beyond traditional data collection strategies. In an environments where consumers hardly hesitate to express themselves about brands, products, and services — and can share their opinions online with ease — brands can take benefit from that input. All the world is now a focus group.
Beyond traditional data-points like web activity and purchase history, consider investing in social listening to track brand mentions, and conversations about both your own brand and your competitors. And just because marketing is your main focus, don’t overlook what customers are telling service or support.
Of course, the next step is to execute on the data, whether that means launching targeted campaigns, pushing offers or discounts, or responding to concerns. There are many ways to meet that challenge, from incorporating a CDP into the marketing stack, to relying on a full service agency. Marketing priorities will help determine the best route.
“Being able to trace your customer’s behavior throughout their journey is fundamental, and in 2020, it’s table stakes,” said Shtereva. “Discerning and predicting intent — and matching your messaging accordingly — is a game-changer.” Customers are more likely to engage when brands reach out at just the right time, she explained. “But seamless interactions like these draw on hundreds of data points, making it a daunting task for many marketers. The fact is that the more seamless an interaction looks to the customer on the front-end, the more complex it is to develop. Such interactions require considerable planning, investment and the right mix of technology, data and human insight.”
3. More relevant data = more fuel to acquire new customers
The global big data market is still growing, and is set to double by 2027. At the same time, consumers only have finite attention — and patience — for marketing messages. That means using data effectively, to be personal and relevant. Here are some tips:
- Work with what you have. Don’t be overwhelmed by seemingly infinite quantities of data: rather, choose the data-points which will support your marketing goals, whether they be customer acquisition, retention, or increasing CLV.
- In addition to being clear about a campaign’s objective, make sure you’ve chosen the right audience for it.
- Don’t overlook attribution. If you can’t be sure which touchpoints are making an impact, you might as well go back to blasting messages to a mass audience (and no, nobody is recommending that).
One thing technology can do, Shtereva told me, is help out with data and personalization. “Fortunately, we have machine learning and AI algorithms that can do a lot of the heavy lifting as long as they’re supported by a great data science team that understands the goals from each interaction. With these advancements in data science, customer journey orchestration, predictive modeling, multi-channel personalization, and real-time interactions become possible — and it’s through these functions that marketers can truly glean insights into customer intent and put these insights into action.”
4. Consumers continue to have high expectations
Once upon a time, consumers demanded good products and services at a reasonable price. Now? They want brands to recognize them, to respond quickly to their needs, provide that seamless cross-channel experience, and, increasingly, to share their values. How does a brand keep up?
- Maintain a strong and consistent brand presence. Both vision and tone of voice should align with the expectations of your target audience. Trying to appeal to everyone risks diluting brand identity and alienating core customers.
- That doesn’t mean be intrusive. Consider pleasing your more sensitive customers with clearly indicated and easy to use opt-out or preference centers.
- CX must be top priority. Invest in tracking your audience’s preferences and behavior, and remember that post-sale service can be an enormously important touchpoint.
Shtereva told me: “Preference centers and loyalty programs, if your brand has them, are a great way to collect quality consumer data in a permissioned environment that puts the control in the customer’s hand. You can then use reputable sources to enhance this first party data and deepen the insights you are able to derive from it. These structured marketing strategies help customers shape their own experience with your brand — while also allowing you to build a stronger customer (and prospective customer!) profile.”
5. Higher demand for consumer privacy (and more regulations)
A recent Infogroup survey found that 88 percent of consumers were concerned about the security of their online data. Security, privacy, and transparency are increasingly front-of-mind, which means brands need to build trust if the flow of data is to continue. Here are some ways:
- Be compliant. The first step, of course, is knowing what that means, especially in the light of CCPA and GDPR. Expect to see brands voluntarily giving consumers more choice through opt-in or opt-out choices.
- Be proactive. CCPA isn’t the last regulation, and whatever is coming down the road is likely to be only more robust. Have data auditing procedures. Track regulatory developments. Take advantage of forums and alliances which discuss these issues. There’s lots of learning out there.
- Make it a priority to have a clear, explicit, and transparent system of data governance. Don’t just collect it, store it, and hope for the best.
“There are plenty of opportunities for marketers to collect data but also plenty of challenges,” said Shtereva. “The growing emphasis on the importance of data privacy, along with a growing patchwork of consumer data privacy regulations, can complicate data collection for marketers in 2020.
That said, data collection can be entirely above board and provide value for both marketers and customers. And the more control you give your customers over how you collect their data, the higher quality that data will be.”
These five major trends seem to be closely interrelated. Expectations must be met through the provision of timely, relevant experiences; and that’s only possible when based on data, appropriately collected. Shtereva agreed: “More marketing channels makes having relevant data more valuable. In turn, experiences informed by data drive up overall consumer expectations. A smart marketing strategy in 2020 must take account of all of these considerations, not just one or two.
What these trends all point to is the need for marketers to elevate the customer above all else and treat the customer experience as a top priority.”