“If you’re really in the business of delighting and exciting your customers, the opportunities have never been richer,” said John Copeland, VP of marketing and customer insights at Adobe. “Using data to understand what customers are doing, or what they’re trying to do, and meeting those needs has never been more prevalent. Tech infrastructures now allow companies to consolidate their data into a single view of customers and act on it very quickly–in an agile manner.”
So what will the marketing and customer experience landscape look like in 2020? CMO by Adobe sat down with Copeland and Jason Heller, partner and global lead of digital marketing operations and technology at McKinsey, to discuss marketing trends that will impact businesses most. (The two will continue the conversation during a presentation at Adobe Summit 2020 in March. Learn more.)
Trend 1: A New Era For Integrated Data
In 2020, organizations will be increasingly focused on integrating their data so as to better stitch together the customer journey. The reason is simple, according to Copeland: Having their data together in one place allows companies to have a “longitudinal view” of the customer journey.
“I think companies are finding there’s a lot of value in breaking down the walls and data silos,” Copeland said. “It’s better for the customer experience overall if companies have an integrated view of the experience that individual customers are having. This single view lets companies optimize for the benefit of the customer, which ultimately yields benefits for the business.”
As a result, leveraging customer data platforms (CDPs) and journey orchestration will be top priorities for companies in 2020, according to McKinsey’s Heller.
“CDPs and data have been hot topics for the last few years, but executives are now prioritizing unlocking value from unified data and therefore these initiatives are starting to get the mandates, funding, and resources to become an operational reality. Companies want to become more customer-centric and data-driven, as they are increasingly understanding how to unlock more value from data activation,” he said. “And it’s never been easier, more cost-effective, or more manageable to do this.”
Expect to see IT, marketing, customer service, product design/marketing, and other departments collaborating to enable the unification of these disparate sets of data to form complete, real-time, living and breathing customer profiles in 2020, Copeland said. In addition, the unification of marketing and sales data, specifically, will give rise to a more closely aligned operating model, ensuring strategic plans and customer engagement are in sync, Heller and Copeland both agreed.
“I call this the magic combination of sales and marketing touches, which give you an optimal understanding of the different types of customers you have and how they engage in different channels and with different experiences—both online and off,” Copeland said.
Trend 2: AI-Augmented Content
According to Heller, in 2020 marketers and CX professionals will create content in tandem with artificial intelligence platforms, driven in part by natural language generation, which will augment the quality of content and predict how effective the content will be for specific customer segments. This is a great example of practical applications of AI that marketers can use today. The technology has matured to the point where AI platforms can understand the emotions that specific words and phrases can evoke, and even extract metadata about an image or a video without that metadata actually existing, Heller said.
Persado, Heller says, is a company whose platform applies mathematical certainty to words, and is one example of the ways in which AI is going to help CX professionals improve the effectiveness of their content. In addition to generating suggested copy, Persado also uses AI to develop the experimental design that allows for versioning and testing. Experimental design is a research, testing, and optimization approach used to organize data and run statistical tests on it, to identify cause-and-effect relationships between inputs and outcomes. It enables predictability of performance of content and copy. AI-augmented content is the future of customer experience, Heller believes.
“The technology [Persado] even takes your brand voice and brand narrative into account and over time gets better and better at ensuring–and this is the irony of it–that the AI-augmented copy creates a more human connection than that of a human copywriter alone,” Heller said.
According to Copeland, AI is imperative for B2C and B2B organizations alike that are trying to personalize experiences at the individual level at scale. And it is key to microsegmentation.
“As we get more information about customers and begin to microsegment to get more and more relevant and personalized, content velocity and content proliferation become even more important,” Copeland explained. “Having AI there to help us figure out how to assemble the pieces dynamically really helps marketers focus on what content is working, what content to build more of, and what experiences to deliver. Again, this isn’t a discussion on man vs. machine. We lean on the machine to help us be more efficient at assembly.”
Trend 3: Companies Begin To Climb The Digital Maturity Curve
In 2020 we will see companies that got an early start in digital transformation moving to the next phase of digital maturity: customer experience management, or as Adobe’s Copeland put it, “the continuity of the customer experience.”
These early movers spent a good part of the past five years or so reorienting their people, processes, and technologies in service of the customer—which, Copeland added, is “the backbone of an effective CX foundation.” Companies leading in CX have real-time, intelligent, and predictive customer data that is core to all of the experiences they create along the journey in marketing, sales, customer service—you name it.
Companies that do this really well have built CX teams that involve all of the different stakeholders across an organization and manage the customer experience in a cross-disciplinary way. This idea of the “CX Task Force” will become a bigger trend in 2020, Copeland predicted.
What’s going to further propel these digitally mature organizations in 2020 is their understanding and ability to prioritize investments in 2020, according to McKinsey’s Heller.
“Moving up the maturity curve means a commitment to customer-centricity, the right extensible data and technology infrastructure, the right operating model, partners, and more,” Heller said. “But it is also the commitment to having the right business case that leads to the the most effective prioritization of investments.”
Companies that are further along the journey will be far better at prioritizing than those that are still figuring out the earlier part of their journey, “where they’re still a little bit risk-averse, and they still every so often get caught up in the shiny objects,” Heller added. “They don’t have as well-oiled a machine up and down the organization to properly focus on the short- and mid-term investments that are really driving real value for the company.”
Trend 4: Continued Adoption Of Agile Marketing
Also key to standing out in 2020 will be the ability to solve customer problems in real time, deploy tests quickly, evaluate the results, and rapidly readjust—in other words, agile marketing, Copeland said.
According to Heller, agile marketing isn’t a new idea, per se. Some of the more forward-facing, mature companies have been experimenting with agile marketing in pockets of their organizations. However, those companies are now starting to scale agile marketing across the entire marketing organization as well as larger areas of the company.
“The companies that have shifted to an agile marketing operating model to deliver value to the organization have significantly higher throughput of experimentation,” Heller said. “They’re using more data and analytics to inform decisions. They also have the marketing technology in place to deliver CX, and they’re innovating more and taking more risks because they understand how to execute tests and experiments in a way that limits downside risk and drive performance.”
Heller reminded us that technology, product, and digital organizations have largely moved to agile already, and the marketing shift on average is lagging behind. He has seen a significant increase in companies piloting and scaling agile marketing over the last year and sees agile as the eventual new normal.
Trend 5: Marketing Becomes A Catalyst For Companywide Digital Transformation
Marketers were the first to embrace digital and customer-centric transformation, as well as understand performance through the lens of the customer, Copeland and Heller agreed.
“Marketing is becoming the tip of the spear for companies in terms of digital intelligence and transformation,” Adobe’s Copeland said. “And it’s sort of pulling the rest of the company along.”
According to Forrester, today only 16% of CMOs are responsible for leading the execution of their firm’s digital transformation. However, “as businesses embark on this new customer-centric business transformation, there are more CMOs that are being assigned to lead the transformation, particularly for commercial transformations that span across all the functions that touch the customer,” Heller said.
That’s because marketing transformation has near-term impact on the business—on P&L and tangible capabilities—earning it credibility, he explained. That, in turn, creates the “catalytic energy” for further transformation within the organization and even potentially to fund some of the transformation within the organization.
“A lot of the transformation that’s been happening is increasingly in the form of enterprise ‘agile’ transformation initiatives,” Heller said. “This means that entire parts of the organization are actually shifting to more agile ways of working because digital and marketing organizations are showing effectiveness—and what that means in terms of performance, efficiency, productivity of employees, and overall speed of innovation.”