Predictions, by nature, are fickle. You’re expected to be right and if you’re wrong, people will never let you forget it. Fortunately, making predictions in the customer experience space is a bit easier because there is less variance involved. Reading the tea leaves based on our work with some of the world’s leading and most innovative marketers, brands will increasingly strive to create more and better personalized experiences. The wave of hyper-personalization is still cresting, and predicting its breadth and depth is more a matter of degree than a binary choice.
- The demand for customer data platforms (CDPs) will grow: Enterprise CDP buyers will have a better understanding of which capabilities are required to drive superior value for their specific use cases, and they will have a clearer picture for how those capabilities align with best-of-breed marketing technology Misunderstandings around what a CDP is will dissolve as organizations turn customer data into actionable insights and business results. The heightened pace of innovation in the creation of personalized customer experiences will be the main driver in the market. Because of the many ways to interact and connect with customers, enterprises will feel the pressure to access and make sense of customer data and use it to improve interactions in real time.
- More brands will realize that eliminating marketing silos is imperative: Most marketers know that marketing silos prevent organizations from providing a customer experience that matches the increasing expectation for relevant and timely content and offers. With the ability to deliver experiences in the right context and cadence of consumers now a competitive differentiator, marketers are quickly realizing that marketing clouds and a collection of SaaS applications are poor stand-ins for a single system of record. In 2019, we see brands recognizing that they need not only a single point of control over customer data, but also an open garden approach that embraces new technology and touchpoints to effectively deliver advanced and differentiated experiences.
- Brands will need to deliver deeper personalization to meet consumer expectations: When it comes to the optimal customer experience, consumers and brands are in a cat-and-mouse game. As brands begin to match consumer expectations, consumers shift into another gear. Customer expectations will shift from basic expectations to more advanced expectations for the brand to recognize consumer lifestyle, major events, and changing patterns.
The value exchange will also evolve; before consumers trust a brand with their personal data, they will expect value from deeper personalization in return. To meet this capability requires predicting behaviors and intent, which requires advanced analytics solutions. Since delivering hyper-personalized experiences leads to trust and loyalty, we expect this will be an investment brands will eagerly make. 83 percent of consumers are willing to share their data to enable a personalized experience, according to one study. Which leads to our prediction that machine learning will reach a point of practical acceptance, driven in large part by the tangible results marketing organizations are achieving today with innovative tools to close the customer experience gap.
- Hyper-personalization will be driven by real-time engagements: as real-time, multi-stage customer journeys become more important, there is an increased need to eliminate marketing silos and meet the expectation for deeper personalization. In the context of a personal customer experience, this means being able to recognize a customer at the point of interaction, understand context as it’s happening, and deliver on a personalized, next-best action within minutes or seconds. Real-time engagement will become an absolute necessity to close the gap between the consumer expectation and experience because hyper-personal engagements across all touchpoints at the speed of the customer are impossible without it. Since 42 percent of companies say that the biggest gap between their CX strategy and execution is a lack of systems that leverage real-time data to deliver relevant, contextual experiences.
- Exaggerated reports of the ‘death of the in-store experience’ will continue: As surprising as it may be to the 45 percent of Americans who view the smartphone as an essential shopping tool, the in-store shopping experience is gaining steam as a key part of an end-to-end omnichannel experience. In-store of course still dominates the retail sector, with roughly more than 90 percent of all retail sales still taking place in stores. Despite e-commerce’s steady gain, retail outlets are pushing back against the Amazon model by leveraging the tried-and-true brick-and-mortar footprint as an indispensable component of the customer journey. This includes the “buy online, pick-up in-store” model that melds separate touchpoints into a unified experience as well as clienteling applications and the smart dressing room.
Similarly, we anticipate that while mobile will continue to grow as a vitally important engagement platform, it is not a substitute for other channels. Consumers view it as an essential tool for research and exploration, but data privacy is one issue preventing its widespread adoption as a preferred transactional portal. In fact, just 17 percent of US consumers in one recent study say they’ve used a smartphone or tablet to pay for a product – including through PayPal and Venmo – in the last six months.
- Approaches to privacy and compliance will be more proactive: The responsible and transparent handling of data will be a core competency for brands and marketers in 2019 with GDPR, the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, and major security breaches such as the recent Marriott Starwood Hotels reservations breach not that long ago in 2018. A laser focus on protecting consumer privacy will be an opportunity for brands to proactively enhance the value exchange between the brand and consumer. Since many consumers are willing to share their data to enable a personalized experience, we predict that organizations that can demonstrate they’re trusted stewards of that data will benefit from that exchange.
As the world of customer engagement and marketing technology unfolds in 2019, it will reveal marketing organizations strategizing how to effectively deliver a single customer view, real-time personalization, and a seamless omnichannel experience. These are the primary considerations for perfecting a next-generation customer experience as we approach the end of the second decade of the 21st century.
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