Striking the Balance Between Human & Machine in Marketing

Today’s marketing leaders face huge challenges. Overwhelmed by data, marketers need to move faster than ever to keep up with the pace of change; and they need to show results that have real business impact, writes Guillaume Roques, EMEA CMO, Salesforce, exclusively for ExchangeWire. 

The good news is that every aspect of this increasingly complex role will be extensively discussed at dmexco this year – it’s a great way for the digital marketing industry to collectively learn from each other and become better marketers.

This year’s main theme for dmexco is digital transformation – something that we’ve been discussing for a few years now. In my role as CMO for Europe at Salesforce, I’ve started to refer to digital transformation as 'business transformation', because digital transformation is not just a pivot in one department – it’s an organisational transformation that takes time and heavy lifting, particularly in large enterprises. Technology has visibly empowered a new digital relationship for brand and consumer – one that has the potential to be more connected, mutually beneficial, and enjoyable.

However, companies need to avoid overly robotic, automated communications that can make a brand feel impersonal. It’s all about striking the right balance and using technology in a way that can enable an authentic and personalised experience.

Understand the symbiotic rise of technology & customer expectation

New technologies have put customers in the driver’s seat of the marketplace, giving them power over which brands sink or swim in the digital age. As disruptive companies leverage breakthroughs in cloud, mobile, social, and artificial intelligence technology to deliver personalised, valuable, and immediate experiences, customers have more choices than ever. And their expectations have grown as their choices have grown.

In our State of the Connected Customer report, 70% of consumers surveyed said that technology has made it easier than ever to take their business elsewhere. Put simply, they will switch from brand to brand to find an experience that matches their expectations – and don’t forget, switching is easier than ever before.

What’s more, 72% of consumers and 89% of business buyers say they expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations; while 66% of consumers say they’re likely to switch brands if they feel treated like a number, not an individual.

Taking all of this into consideration, if a company is able to deliver a human touch, the rewards are considerable. In fact, delivering personalised experiences drives customer loyalty, with 70% of consumers saying a company’s understanding of their individual needs influences their loyalty.

Use data to build a personalised experience & anticipate needs

We no longer live in a world where marketing teams segment their customers using age or location. In today’s world, that’s no longer enough to capture a customer’s loyalty. Today, we live in a one-to-one world where we have to communicate in a highly personalised way to everyone. For a company to effectively predict and prescribe actions for their customers, the ability to both manage existing customer data effectively and deploy new machine-learning algorithms to make predictions is increasingly important.

As customers look to the future, they increasingly expect companies to leverage their data to provide anticipatory services. By 2020, 75% of business buyers expect companies to anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions before they initiate contact. In addition, as millennials come to dominate the market, it’s important to note that 61% are happy to share personal data, if it leads to a more personalised in-store or online shopping experience.

Leverage AI to help shape your role as a marketer

The combined advancements in cloud computing and big data is the foundation for AI’s rapid development and burgeoning applications today. It has become the major talking point within the marketing industry and its application is reshaping how we engage with customers and how customers engage with brands. To me, it’s an example of how business transformation isn’t a one-off project, but must be treated as an ongoing journey. As more use cases for AI become more accessible to businesses, marketers can use these tools to find more ways to understand their customer and build emotional connections that will, in turn, drive loyalty. As the technology develops, so will the opportunities for customer-centric marketing.

AI is also shaping our role as marketers, helping us to become more productive and efficient. Specifically, chatbots and virtual assistants can do the repetitive tasks (such as analyse data), while marketers focus their time and energy on other relevant duties that involve creativity and judgment. As actionable insights are easily generated, marketers can focus on understanding customers even more, and create more powerful engagements based on what customers prefer.

Overall, I believe that the marketing leaders and winners of the future will be those who embrace, connect, personalise, and use technology effectively to deliver the human touch in all customer communications. The CMO is essential in the business transformation for every company; and by creating personalised journeys for every customer, they can create that brand loyalty and 'stickiness' that every company craves. It’s time for the CMO to take the lead – and deliver big.