The new year is upon us and with it comes a new set of predictions. 2016 has already been pinned as the year of virtual reality. With a new wave of predictions comes increasingly lofty expectations on marketers to leverage new technologies and deliver flawless customer experiences.
In this post, I will look at some of the customer experience trends that I think will change the face of marketing this year, and where marketers should look to invest their marketing dollars in 2016.
1. Personalization will get personal
Marketers have seen the writing on the wall regarding personalization for a while. Research performed by Monetate found that 94 percent of marketers agree that ‘personalization of the digital experience is critical to current and future success’.
In 2016, personalization will get increasingly personal. Personalization is set to move beyond basic recommendation engines to creating individually tailored experiences. Marketers will increasingly tap into streams of first party data, from CRM data to Voice of the Customer (VoC) data, and leverage predictive modelling to create contextualized experiences. This echoes what Bruce Temkin recently wrote in his article on the 11 trends for 2016,
“As companies connect rich customer feedback with reams of CRM and operational data, the value of predictive modeling will rise exponentially. In 2016, we expect to see firms that have built data hubs over the last few years investing in predictive modeling and using the insights to develop a more personalized treatment of customers.”
With the rise in importance of personalizing the customer experience, the differentiator will be how effective companies are at leveraging different data streams like VoC data to recognize and respond to the needs of visitors. Victor Milligan, CMO at Forrester Research recently said that, “[Consumers] expect firms to contextually understand who they are, to respond to their needs and in many cases to anticipate them.”
Therefore, with an increasingly demanding consumer who is more connected and informed than ever before, hyper-contextualized personalization focusing on the needs and wants of the individual will be a game changer in 2016.
2. We will enter a mobile-mature world
After what seemed like endless predictions of this year being the 'year of the mobile', 2015 was in fact just that! Case in point, mobile searches surpass desktop searches for the first time. Also in anticipation of this shift, Google announced in April 2015 that websites that are not ‘mobile friendly’ will be penalized in mobile search rankings. This meant that everyone had to go mobile and start providing what customers want - relevant, high quality website experiences across devices.
This year, mobile will grow up. With eMarketer predicting that over two billion people worldwide will have a smart phone in 2016, brands will have to move beyond basic mobile-friendly websites to creating mobile experiences.
This will also include the app experience with KissMetrics predicting that, "2016 will be the year of even greater innovation from apps we already know and recognize. More seamless integration between those apps and their corresponding e-commerce and social outlets will become commonplace."
In a white paper by the Altimeter Group, they called on companies to go beyond just adding a mobile website to creating mobile-only experiences. One of the main reasons outlined in the white paper is that to increase conversions, companies must design mobile-first and mobile-only experiences to prevent channel-hopping (switching between channels as preferred channel doesn’t meet their needs) and multi-screening (switching between devices and screens to complete a task). In addition, companies need to realize that mobile is capable of hosting a complete end-to-end journey.
Mobile is well and truly here to stay, and in 2016, it will be the companies that provide the mobile experiences that users demand and expect that will stand out from the crowd.
3. Year of the screens
Mobile might be growing up, but today’s consumers interact with brands through a lot more than just smartphones. According to Vice President and Gartner Fellow David Cearley, "In the post-mobile world the focus shifts to the mobile user who is surrounded by a mesh of devices extending well beyond traditional mobile devices."
This is evident, with the Internet of Things starting to heat up and the emergence of wearable devices, the number of screens is skyrocketing. According to Accenture, by 2016 wearable technology is expected to reach a total of 28 percent adoption rate.
This means that marketers will face the hard task of creating and delivering consistent and continuous experiences across the customer lifecycle. In an article penned for Entrepreneur, Jim Joseph, the CMO for Cohn & Wolfe said that, “If the experience isn’t complete and consistent, the totality won’t be effective in creating customer loyalty.” In order to provide consistent and continuous experiences that drive loyalty, brands will need to understand their customers’ needs, wants and desires before they can deliver. Brands that understand customer expectations and how they are interacting with different digital touch points will be the winners in 2016.
4. Intent data will drive intelligent retargeting
Today, retargeting is a marketing staple, playing a vital role in converting visitors into customers. But in recent times, the impact of retargeting on the customer experience has seen a significant backlash. The internet was littered with articles in 2015 about getting retargeting wrong. According to Liraz Margalit, “The reason is simple: Today’s targeted advertising and website personalization technology tracks and responds to your past actions.”
In order to successfully retarget consumers and provide a good experience, companies need to get smart with audience retargeting. In 2016, companies will start recognizing and aligning campaigns to visitor intent to increase engagement with relevant messages and calls to action.
If you know why visitors come to your website (i.e. to browse, research or buy), you can guide them towards a purchase by offering them a relevant incentive, showing them audience-appropriate content or advertising to them with the right frequency. For example, a new visitor that seems apprehensive to buy, because they have done a lot of research but never made a purchase, may need retargeting that offers a discount such as free shipping. A returning buyer that makes multiple purchases a month, on the other hand, may respond well to more aggressive retargeting.
The importance of intent is reiterated by AdRoll president and CMO Adam Berke, who said that, “When you combine this hyper-valuable data set [user intent] with advanced media buying technology, algorithmic bidding, dynamic creative, and reach across publishers and channels, you end up with an extremely important marketing channel that is now viewed to be as crucial as search engine marketing.”
5. Customer Experience Analytics will be king
Analytics is becoming the fuel that powers the next generation of customer experiences. Brands that successfully leverage their analytics in 2016 will obtain a competitive advantage that separates the leaders from the laggards.
Victor Milligan, CMO at Forrester Research speaking about his predictions for 2016 said that, “Analytics is becoming a key competitive weapon. It’s not about making big data bigger but making it more useful and able to anticipate and deliver superior experiences to customers.”
As the marketing technology landscape experiences exponential growth, digital marketers will continue to find themselves overwhelmed by the options and data available to them.
What will be critical this year will be using the right type of analytics streams in the right way. For example, using customer experience analytics to recognize and personalize the visitor experience in-real time.
The potential is huge, with research from McKinsey reporting that companies making extensive use of customer analytics show a 126 percent profit improvement over their competitors that don’t. As companies become more data-driven, using customer experience analytics will be key to extending the ROI of other marketing efforts and providing a seamless customer experience.
Overall, this will be the year where marketers:
- Create one-to-one experiences for customers
- Become more mobile-mature
- Deliver consistent and continuous experiences across the customer lifecycle
- Get retargeting right
- Become completely customer-centric using customer experience analytics
2016 is going to be an exciting year, as this will be the year when marketers put all the pieces together.