Note: This article previously appeared on MarTech Advisor in January 2020.
With every passing year, customer expectations continue to rise as does the pressure on CMOs and marketing leadership to deliver more memorable customer experiences across every touchpoint. Whether your New Year’s resolution is to master omnichannel or get a handle on big data, 2020 planning is in full swing. Here are a few top priorities for CMOs looking to build a better marketing strategy in 2020.
Priority 1: Voice and Chat Tech Goes From Creepy to Critical
A few years ago, personal voice assistants and AI-powered chat services seemed like something out of an episode of Black Mirror. People used to be hesitant to use these devices because they were “creepy,” but now they’re just a part of everyday life. As we head into 2020, voice technologies like Siri and Alexa are key players in digital experience. People are turning to voice technology because they want interactions with brands to feel like talking to a real person. When done right, voice services are fast, convenient and more personally engaging than a screen. As AI-powered voice technology continues to expand its reach, customers will expect in-depth, unique conversations from these devices. If marketing teams want to remain competitive and offer audiences truly valuable, personalized voice experiences, they need to stop treating voice as just another search engine.
Marketers should be more focused than ever on both listening to their audiences and engaging them in regular, ongoing dialogues. The way we structure conversational content should feel unrehearsed and natural. The appeal of a voice assistant is that it removes all the barriers between requests and responses, giving people the best result in an instant rather than going through the steps of scrolling through a page of search engine results or sending off an email to support. Similarly, CMOs need to view chatbots as much more than robotic help desks. By diving deeper into their customer data, companies are better able to understand individual user intent and offer more sophisticated, personalized responses that increase engagement. It’s about implementing technology with a human touch.
Priority 2: Data Needs to Be Centralized and Connected
In the past few years, marketers finally realized the importance of regularly talking to their customers to understand what they want. Now, the problem is how to make our systems talk to each other so that this data actually makes sense. Through analytics tools and CRMs and a million other martech tools, we now have an enormous amount of customer data in our systems. CMOs are tired of the tools that don’t live up to their promise of delivering an actual 360-degree view of the customer. According to Acquia’s recent Customer Experience Trends Report, “83% of marketers say that customer data lives in silos.” The sales team might have a completely different dashboard than the marketing and customer success teams, meaning you can’t get an actual sense of what’s going on with your customer. Marketers, in particular, have been moving more in the direction of data scientists, and they don’t want to rely on the entire development team to dig up critical information; they want a direct line of access to the data they need in real time.
In 2020, this frustration with siloed data is likely going to come to a boiling point and we’ll see many organizations implementing centralized data solutions like customer data platforms (CDPs) to unify their entire database. A CDP will help businesses integrate their disparate tech stacks, eliminate the confusion that comes from trying to analyze unstructured or incomplete data and most importantly, give the entire organization a better understanding of the customer so they can execute stronger personalization more quickly.
Priority 3: Marketers Should Act Like Storytellers Not Salespeople
Even with all this focus on machine learning and big data, marketers can’t forget that they’re talking to humans. We want to captivate, excite and surprise our audiences and form lasting connections that make them remember the experience they had with our brand. In 2020, marketers are learning to act as storytellers. Many brands are taking tips from traditional publishers and media platforms when creating their own content strategies. From editorial email newsletters to branded podcasts to social posts, marketers are focusing more on telling a captivating story that entertains and educates consumers rather than just encouraging a purchase. Returning to my first point, if chatbots should talk more like people, it’s also time for marketers to talk less like chatbots.
Good storytelling (and good marketing) is all about the concept of “show don’t tell.” We’re no longer aggressively pitching our products and trying to convince people to buy them. Instead, we’re creating content that builds trust and establishes a sense of understanding about who those customers are first, so we can deliver what will be most valuable to them. All of the pressure to offer the right messages at the right time across multiple channels is a part of connecting each moment in the customer journey to something memorable and significant. With more brands competing to earn consumer attention than ever before, mastering the entire customer experience is critical. By learning how to transform marketing jargon into purposeful storytelling, CMOs will be able to offer real value and build long-term relationships with the audiences they want to reach.
Each new year brings new opportunities to connect with customers and use technology in more innovative, impactful ways. Marketers’ jobs are much more challenging now because people have expectations around what brands should be doing. Every year we need to work harder because you get fewer chances to get it right, and if you don’t get it right, people are going to walk away and leave your brand behind.