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With Customers Firmly Behind the Wheel, How Can Marketers Succeed in 2018?

Where is marketing heading in 2018? In this piece for ExchangeWire, Jamie Anderson (pictured below), EMEA President, Marketo, looks at the growing influence of customers on the brand-user relationship, of marketing executives in the boardroom, and of AI in the ad tech industry.

It is fair to evaluate 2017 as a series of highs and lows for the marketing industry. Above all, we have learned that customers are firmly in the driver’s seat; and moving into 2018 marketers need to respond to their demands for better personalisation and a higher quality of engagement.

Jamie Anderson, EMEA President, Marketo

It’s clear that brands adopting a blanket marketing approach, also known as ‘spray and pray’, will be ineffective when trying to make meaningful and engaging connections with their current, and prospect, customers. Earlier this year, our research highlighted that 67% of all consumers believe engagements with brands and businesses remain transactional – the primary reason for a lack of engagement simply being down to irrelevant content.

Based on the above, here are my top three marketing predictions for 2018, including what innovative marketers need to focus on to create a personalised experience for customers in the ‘engagement economy’:

1. The disruption of customer relationship management

We’ve known for some time that companies no longer manage the customer relationship, as today the customer is firmly in the driver’s seat. In 2018, with regulation changes like GDPR and e-Privacy, we will experience another step in the direction of customer control. The new regulations will disrupt customer relationship management massively and will put the onus on marketers to think more holistically about the customer.

GDPR validates the value of managing and respecting customer data, the same way a business should value, and has a duty of care for, the customer themselves. In this landscape, what companies can control is the quality of the experience they offer a customer at the different touchpoints encountered on the path to purchase and beyond. The customer will determine when and how brands communicate with them and it is the marketer’s job is to be consistent and deliver value at every interaction. The marketers who do this well will have more permission to engage.

2. Marketers’ influence at the top increases

2018 will see marketing’s role in the boardroom continue to strengthen, as it continues to hold the key to understanding customer behaviour. As a result, I believe the next wave of CEOs will be from marketing. Some of the UK’s largest businesses are run by CEOs with marketing experience; and this number will only multiply as companies look to truly understand what motivates customers.

As part of this evolution, the influence the CMO has on overall business strategy, not just marketing, will increase. Today, thanks to the plethora of touchpoints in customer communications, the CMO is sitting on valuable data that can power strategic business decisions. The CMOs who recognise the valuable position they are in, to not only influence marketing decisions but also overall business strategy, will be those who quickly rise to CEO.

3. Stop sweating – AI is a marketer’s friend, not foe

Not a month has passed this year when we haven’t read a scaremongering headline about how robots, in particular AI, will steal our jobs. The marketing industry needs to take a step back and understand that AI is an augmentation of our capabilities, not a replacement. It enhances the way in which marketers understand, listen to, and engage with customers, and has the ability to process billions of interactions per second.

Customers are continuously creating more data about themselves. With companies under increasing pressure, both in terms of time and creativity, it will be those that adopt AI that come out on top. It allows marketers to draw correlations from a number of different touchpoints and act on them quicker than ever, to deliver personalised experience at scale.