The future trends hidden in the ‘State of Marketing’ report

Mark Cameron analyses Salesforce’s ‘State of Marketing’ report, outlining trends in disruption, AI, belief alignment and customer-centricity. 

How are brands going to develop a competitive advantage in a hyperconnected world where two or three technology ecosystems have most of the attention? I have been thinking about this question a lot recently – because that’s part of my job.

Over the last couple of months, I have been observing some macro-trends that have prompted me to think again about what the future might look like. And that led me to clues which shine a faint light on what that future holds for brand/customer interaction.

These thoughts were running through my head when I began reading the recent fourth annual ‘State of Marketing’ report published by Salesforce. If I hadn’t been thinking about some of the issues brands will be facing in the future, and what they could do to address them now, I may have simply taken the report at face value. There was a lot of very useful, but not altogether surprising, information about the adoption rate and focus on technologies like AI, how marketing and sales teams are starting to work more closely together, and how important connecting the customer journey is for marketers to become high performers.

But the report revealed something else – a shift in business thinking that is going to speed up the pace of change dramatically.

In this article, I will draw out the key themes that I have been observing, the impact they are going have on business, and what needs to be done to make the most of them. The Salesforce report has provided a critical input to my analysis.

 

Disruption is the new normal

In 1965, a relatively unknown semiconductor researcher, by the name of Gordon Moore, published a brief article in Electronics magazine called ‘Cramming more components onto integrated circuits’. In that article, he predicted that the amount of processing power that could be bought for $1000 would double every 18 months. That prediction has held true to this day and has come to be known as Moore’s Law.

The thing about numbers that double at regular intervals is that they create exponential growth curves. The exponential rate of growth of processing power has created the world that we live in now. What has been labelled ‘digital disruption’ is in fact the world taking advantage of an increasing amount of computer processing power and connectivity. This ‘disruption’ is not going to stop. It will continue to increase at an exponential rate.

This changes the way businesses operate. In a stable environment business focuses on extracting value through applying disciplined internal processes and reporting silos. In a dynamic environment, such as the one we are in now, collaboration is critical for success.

This year’s ‘State of Marketing’ report reveals a marked difference between the businesses that are embracing this collaborative approach and those that have yet to get there. 91% of high performing marketers (comprising 12% of the 3500 respondents) reported that they were empowered to collaborate closely with sales teams. In contrast, only 45% of the bottom 12% of respondents (the under-performers) reported the same freedoms.

This signals that businesses must plan to continually invest in technology and resources that allow divisions, units and partners to see the same information, tools that enable cooperation and in people who have a highly collaborative approach to problem solving. This is not a once off ‘transformation’ investment. It is a process that needs to be embedded within a company as ‘the way we work around here’.

 

AI reliance is approaching… quickly

A recent Wall Street Journal article called ‘The End of Typing: The Next Billion Mobile Users Will Rely on Video and Voice’ analysed why millions of people in developing economies, such as India, are using cheap smart phones and internet connections at a dramatically increasing rate. Low literacy drives this new set of users to skip typing altogether and jump straight to voice activation. They are searching the internet by speaking and using intuitive experiences to navigate, communicate and purchase.

If a business wants to think and scale globally, this is a behaviour they need to be right across. And this is not just happening in emerging economies. It’s happening in our own back yard. There is a new generation of western consumers – teenagers right now – who are heavy users of voice activated assistants. They trust the information that is served up to them, often more than advice they receive from a human.

All of this is possible because of advances in AI and Machine Learning. The technology is speeding up rapidly. Consumers want to dispense with anything that wastes their time. Marketers and the caretakers of brands can take advantage of this by adopting AI technology to focus on delivering the best communication, in a personalised way, for each and every customer.

 ‘State of Marketing’ showed that 59% of marketers in the ANZ region had begun adopting AI technologies, roughly the same as the rest of the world. But some companies are going ‘all in’. In July this year Red Balloon announced they were restructuring and stated they were creating an AI-powered digital marketing division. This is likely to be the first of many such announcements.

Marketers need to start working out how they can use AI technologies to provide a more connected and better overall experience to meet evolving customer expectations and remain competitive.

 

Belief alignment is going to create huge waves

Call them what you will, Millennials, GenZ or whatever other label is currently on trend, but these younger consumers share a common characteristic – they think a lot about their values and beliefs. And they want the brands they interact with to do the same.

An interesting side note in the ‘State of Marketing’ report states that “Customers increasingly have options about what a company stands for and how it behaves as a corporate citizen. Recent research has shown that 60% of consumers are likely to switch brand if a company isn’t socially responsible.”

This is a signal of a huge shift taking place where consumers hold brands to account and vote with their wallet.

A recent app called Nudge for Change adds fuel to this fire. Once downloaded the user of Nudge for Change is prompted to explain what issues are important to her. A host of issues are covered including woman’s rights, marriage equality and race. Once set up the app sends the user a message when they come in contact with a business that has been reported for violating one of those beliefs.

Marketers today need to develop deep insights into what is really important to their most valuable customers and use technology to deliver messages that connect with those customers’ values and beliefs.

 

Proliferation of customer-centric systems

Marketers are no longer simply responsible for brand awareness and sales acquisitions. Increasingly businesses are turning to marketing teams to design and deliver connected end-to-end customer experiences. This will become increasingly important as autonomous systems, that the major technology companies are developing, evolve.

 Apple, Google and Amazon are now starting to show us that beyond the time we spend in front of a screen, our homes, workplaces, cars and even our bodies are about to become highly connected systems. All of these technology companies have made moves into the home, and will increasingly do so in the next couple of years.

We are heading into a world where autonomous systems, like driverless vehicles, will start to know us better than we know ourselves. Constant monitoring of health and behavioural data will create even more highly detailed profiles of who we are, what we like and where we go. Businesses need to start focusing on how they remain relevant within these ecosystems.

 What we already know is that interrupting the flow of these experiences is likely to be met with consumer distrust – particularly among the younger demographic who are more aware of technology and have a strong aversion to being a target for marketing. Now more than ever brands need to think about how they create connected experiences that remove friction for the consumer and provide value at every opportunity.

 

How do we grab this opportunity?

Developing capabilities now, both human and technological, that create focus and velocity among the resources and processes within your organisation has to be a priority. Analytics, collaboration, creativity, design and technical depth will separate the leaders from the failures.

The world is changing quickly. And most of your customers want it to. The question for you is, are you acting now to make the most of tomorrow?

 

Image credit Maksym Chornii /123RF

 

Mark Cameron
BY Mark Cameron ON 11 September 2017
Mark Cameron is CEO of customer experience innovation agency Working Three and a world renowned digital strategy commentator with well over 400 published articles.

Specialties: Digital innovation, Digital customer experience strategy, Social media strategy, Digital strategy, Online Marketing strategy.
He blogs at markrcameron.com and tweets from @MarkRCameron.
  • Technology is rapidly evolving, and artificial intelligence is one
    particular sector that has seen a lot of attention and development
    lately. Businesses have also noticed that artificial intelligence can
    help them increase their reach and revenue, by employing this technology
    in different sectors of the company.