The future of marketing is always-on
Marketing and customer engagement practitioners have been on a collision course with consumer expectations, legislators, and marketplace conditions for years. Innovations in marketing and advertising technology (MADTech) promised more data-driven, relevant customer interactions but haven’t delivered.
But all this choice hasn’t helped marketers level up their game. In fact, they struggle to use the tools at all. In a 2020 survey, Gartner found marketing leaders use only 58% of their marketing stack, wasting almost half of their technology investments.
These complex tools haven’t helped us master the basics of data-driven marketing. We still struggle to deliver personalization without overstepping. We don’t fully understand a consumer’s context as they move through the web – let alone across different digital and offline channels. Many haven’t even mastered message frequency and still irritate customers with too many communications.
Consumers aren't happy
These failures have left consumers less engaged than ever before. Marketing software company Merkle surveyed over a thousand consumers who purchased something online in the prior year for its Consumer Sentiment Report. Two-thirds complained that current marketing and advertising did not meet their needs. Half felt that brands were invasive and knew too much about them. Worse, 30% of respondents had received a brand communication that they found tone deaf or offensive.
Brands struggling with these marketing basics face other pressures from evolving regulations and technology changes.
On the regulatory side, the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) is set to regulate the digital platforms that connect brands and consumers. It will likely require platforms to get permission from individuals to combine information collected across multiple properties owned by the same company, such as Facebook and Instagram for example. That alone will create new challenges for marketers.
The DMA will likely come into force next year. The following year in 2024, Google plans to deprecate third-party cookies in its Chrome browser. These, along with device IDs, are primary tools for advertisers and marketers to connect consumer touchpoints, enabling unified, consistent messaging and customer experiences.
The industry is developing solutions to overcome those obstacles, but the DMA will render some of them ineffective – particularly those that rely on opaque data sharing. Some advertisers saw this coming and have diversified their efforts by investing in artificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies. These will enable them to marry their own information with data collected voluntarily from consumers. However, many won’t opt in.
None of this spells doom for marketers, but it does highlight the need to adapt. They must upgrade their MADTech tools, transform their engagement strategies, and rely on data and technologies that build stronger relationships. Yesterday’s solutions have only pushed customers further away.
Move away from campaigns and toward always-on marketing
Today’s customers judge brands by the overall experience they deliver. As they move to digital-first environments, they demand consistent, contextual, and personalized experiences. They want brands to treat them as unique individuals. That’s a challenge, especially when customers receive hundreds of messages a day.
This challenge calls for some uncomfortable changes. Brands must transition from campaign-based marketing to always-on marketing in the quest for long-term brand loyalty.
Traditional marketing technologies rely on a campaign management framework. They focus on selling products and services to groups of customers with shared attributes. They use disconnected channels and point solutions. Their predetermined messages can’t adapt to changing customer direction.
Selling is just one conversation that a brand can have with customers. Others include retention, service, nurturing, and resilience. Expanding into other conversations means going beyond traditional creative strategies. Brands must build conversation libraries with messages that engage clients and prospects based on their needs in any moment.
Technologies that use segments, batches, and campaigns can’t handle these more nuanced conversations. Neither can they scale to millions of customers with huge product sets across multiple channels and touchpoints. They fall short in three areas:
Campaign-focused stacks are rooted in what we want to sell rather than what customers need in the moment. This prevents them from adapting to changing customer context and silences campaigns when they have nothing relevant to say. This leads to low response rates in digital engagements.
Campaign management stacks prevent unified approaches to marketing. Their disjointed tangle of point solutions prevents data sharing and scaling. This leaves teams operating independently, focused on their own business lines, their own products, and their own KPIs. They also use their own data sets. All of it fragments the customer experience.
How can you know if your marketing is working when you can’t connect your activity to results? Complex MADTech stacks force an organization to gather and analyze opaque data, tying it back to results retroactively. It’s a manual, time-consuming process leading to stale data. Obtaining results after a campaign has ended prevents a brand from optimizing its approach in-flight.
Consolidate data sources and activate messaging across all channels
As the end looms for third-party cookies, brands must use as much first-party data as possible. This isn’t as scarce as it might seem. Many of them are sitting on a mountain of it. The problem is that it’s sitting outside of the marketing department and there hasn’t been a solution to stitch it together.
We need a unified environment to fix this problem. An environment that needs the right combination of data and technology. Businesses will benefit most from solutions with AI at their core. This will empower them to aggregate and centralize disparate data for their marketing and customer engagement programs.
This centralized data flow will eliminate the need for per-channel budgeting and planning. And data signals should tell you where and when to speak to consumers. AI can take the guesswork out of interactions and assist frontline employees, such as call center workers or salespeople, during customer conversations across all channels.
Shift the measurement mindset
Marketers must prove that their programs are working by measuring what matters. KPIs like click-through rates and page views are no longer enough. A click doesn’t register satisfaction or a sale.
Instead, we need metrics that help us understand the health of our marketing programs and customer relationships and the longevity of our strategies. These are KPIs like customer lifetime value, return on advertising spend, customer retention, and net promoter scores. They tell us more about our customer relationships and help us understand how and when to change our approach. They measure long-term revenue potential and help us budget effectively. They tell us whether our customer engagement strategies are working.
Driving short-term sales is important, but it shouldn’t be the core focus of your business in 2022. Proof points from Pega’s "The future of marketing" report confirm this.
"The future of marketing" report gauges what marketers predict will happen in the next five years, but the future of marketing is already here. Customers, prospects, analysts, and regulators have already told us what it looks like. Switch your marketing programs to always-on mode or get left in the past.