Data-driven world: Digital trends for CMOs to know

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Harjiv Singh, Founder, and CEO, Gutenberg lists successful instances of brands using data, exploring digital trends to learn from.

In 1998, the term ‘Experience Economy’ was coined by Joseph Pine and James H. Gilmore. Over two decades later, the global economy runs on experiences. The world today may be fuelled by data, but emotions still lie at the heart of every experience. For marketers, understanding what appeals to customer emotion is the biggest weapon in their arsenal. Digital trends for CMOs to watch out for are plenty, it requires insight to pick and choose the useful ones.

In 2019, millennials and Gen-Z are believed to constitute over 60% of the world’s 7.7 billion people. These two generations have been shaped by the technological disruptions of the last two decades and are going to drive the economy and define spending over the next 20 years. Technology is, therefore, the biggest tool for brands to tap into human emotion today. In an age when data is more valuable than oil, here are five digital trends that CMOs need to watch out for.

Infusing intelligence

Today, AI is all-pervasive! Marketers can automate processes for greater efficiency, stay a step ahead of the customer with predictive analytics and elevate experiences through intelligent user interfaces. To enhance customer experience, marketers need to clearly define what they want to deliver through AI algorithms. One key application of AI that has become invaluable for CMOs is social listening. By gaining real-time data on market trends and consumer demands, many brands have been able to successfully launch innovative products and marketing campaigns that have attracted customers’ attention.   

Amazon and Netflix are two great examples of companies that have successfully used AI and machine learning to enhance customization. Amazon was one of the first companies to use AI to drive accurate product recommendations. Thirty-five per cent of what customers purchase on Amazon comes from AI-driven recommendations. The figure is thrice as much in the case of Netflix. 

Personalizing digital trends for brands

Personalization is a well-established key to unlock customer engagement. Cognitive tools and analytics provide marketers with an effective means to create highly personalized content. In 2016, Airbnb launched Experiences, a revolutionary move that allowed tourists to engage in handcrafted tours led by expert hosts that offers a unique taste of local cultures. It started with 500 Experiences in 12 destinations. By the end of last year, this had grown to 20,000 Experiences in 1,000 destinations. To sustain the personalized flavour of Experiences, the company has developed an elaborate ML-based ranking system that tailors offerings based on bookings of homes and user clicks. But, Airbnb is an outlier and more brands need to take the first step towards AI-driven personalization. 

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Going mobile 

There are currently more mobile phones than human beings on the planet. Not surprisingly, the average time spent by consumers on their phones has steadily increased over the last few years. In 2016, just over 143 billion apps were downloaded globally. Within two years this had risen to 194 billion. For marketers, the smartphone is a goldmine of opportunity to enhance the customer experience. 

Consider Starbucks. In 2011, with smartphone adoption just beginning to pick up, Starbucks seized the moment and launched its own payment app ahead of several players. Since then, the app has become increasingly personalised. It provides customers with customised food and beverage offers. It helps them identify songs playing in the company’s stores and add them to their Spotify playlists. It even allows them to skip the line and order ahead, thereby altering the dynamic between the store and the customer. Starbucks is an excellent case in point for app-driven customer engagement. 

With increasing smartphone adoption, marketers need to stay on their toes and focus on capitalising on apps to enhance customer experience and engagement.

Exploring voice trends

In 2016, Gartner predicted that 30% of web-browsing done in 2020 would be screenless, following developments in voice-powered technologies. Voice is still in its infancy but has enormous potential to soon become an indispensable marketing tool. Leading businesses have already begun experimenting with voice in phenomenal ways. 

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Two years ago, Dominos launched a voice-based digital assistant for customers to order pizzas. Johnny Walker went a step further and developed an Alexa skill that allowed users to identify their preferred label based on responses to a series of questions. According to research by Zion, the global voice assistant market in 2018 was valued at $0.8 million and is expected to rise to $7.7 billion in the next six years. As voice technology becomes more mainstream, it will be critical for marketers to keep track of its developments and evolve ways to leverage its potential to enhance the customer experience. 

Safeguarding privacy

Given how often stories of data breaches appear on the news, it is only natural to wonder if data privacy even exists anymore. Last year reportedly saw five billion records exposed as a result of data breaches. Such incidences have understandably created apprehensions among customers about surrendering too much data to companies, which lose out trillions due to lack of customer trust. At the same time, they also expect greater personalization, for which companies need more data. Brands, therefore, have the difficult task of balancing customer expectations with responsible data use. 

With businesses increasingly relying on technology to provide the right customer experience, they also need to be transparent about what data they have access to and the value it provides. As technology and debates around evolve over time, marketers will be preoccupied with creating a responsible framework for data use. 

Be it a customer champion, product innovator, or analytics enthusiast, today’s CMO wears several hats. Twenty years ago, the role of technology in a CMO’s responsibilities was minimal. In the data-driven world of 2019, it is indispensable to any marketing officer. A CMO today needs to be keenly intuitive about changing technological trends and how they can be incorporated into a brand’s customer journey. As we approach the third decade of the 21st century, the responsible use of technology and data is poised to occupy the central role in marketing.

This piece is authored by Harjiv Singh, Founder, and CEO, Gutenberg.


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