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Marketing in a time of great change

By Ajit Sivadasan, VP & GM, Lenovo

Ajit Sivadasan, VP & GM, Lenovo

We are arguably in an era of marketing that is at a historical high in terms of uncertainty, change, and excitement created by advances in technology and an evolving demographic. Customer expectations have increased exponentially thanks to the constantly evolving and disruptive innovation landscape. This undoubtedly creates both challenges and opportunities for many brands. So, what are the big challenges and opportunities for brands when it comes to disruptive marketing and how must one handle these changes?

The first and most important trend that has impacted marketing profoundly is the ability for brands to measure things in a much more granular manner, in near real time. The vast digital footprint of customer interactions is making it possible for all kinds of sophisticated data driven marketing and measurement. As more customers have become internet enabled and spend more time online, brands and marketing agencies have become savvy in understanding how they navigate the online space and how to target them with products and services that maybe appropriate for them, contextually and otherwise. Second, social media trends continue to show that ‘reach’ effectiveness as a metric continues to trend up—meaning, the ability for brands to reach a significant part of the population in the least amount of time at the most efficient cost metric. This is an increasingly important trend for brands and marketers. Third, mobile, as a customer interaction and consumption touch point is increasingly driving a behavioral shift at a generational level that is/will profoundly change how customers are making decisions. A brand’s ability to understand this clearly from a marketing standpoint is crucial for managing costs in their marketing efforts as well as for consideration of their overall sales and marketing effectiveness. And finally, a number of emerging technologies threaten to disrupt the status quo of marketing further, in a mostly positive manner, in the long run. Artificial intelligence based solutions, smart devices, AR/VR concepts, deep and machine learning capabilities are all no longer buzz words. These are being actively used by social media networks, digital marketing agencies, and brands to further optimize marketing, customer experience and sales efforts.

"AI based recommendation engines that constantly improve experiences will help drive better customer recommendations driving up relevance to new highs"

Given these trends, what are the opportunities and threats for brands? The ability to measure things, especially, using data that is collected and shared has become a major point of contention at a governmental level, prompting greater scrutiny and controls. While customer privacy is of paramount importance and it makes sense to ensure we live in world that protects individual’s rights, it should not lessen our ability to help consumers get better results. Brands and others will need to redefine new rules that will get back to the core principle of providing customers more personalized and timely recommendations on products and services. Increasingly brands that invest in advanced data management solutions will separate themselves from their peers from an effectiveness and differentiation standpoint. The biggest challenge for everyone on data will actually be around talent scarcity, with costs going up for such skills everywhere. Social media companies will continue to vertically integrate capabilities that will position them as marketing and sales entities simultaneously. We already see trends around this accelerating that will present its own set of challenges and opportunities. The big opportunity will be for brands to focus much more on the lower funnel with social media companies, or vice versa and driving a newly revamped social commerce strategy, several have started pursuing this aggressively already. With much more focus on social media companies to justify their valuations and stricter regulations on data handling, they will attempt to drive better ROI to brands that are looking for better close rates. Mobile marketing today is where search marketing was 20 years ago, everyone knows it is important, but no one can really establish proper ROI, so there is great reluctance for managers to shift marketing dollars. This is a big mistake and brands will need to quickly figure out better attribution and understand customer experience more holistically. What people are missing is the actual picture of what is happening, which is, the inability to be in the initial consideration set because of the lack of proper mobile presence and marketing. The question everyone should be asking is “how many customers are starting their initial research on their phones and how will that change with the next generation?” if you are not part of that initial consideration, you may not be in consideration at all. Mobile experiences are evolving fast, but it is also deeply challenging to provide a clear and compelling experience with various competing priorities brands have between brand messages, service capabilities, and sales solutions. Regardless, brands have to solve this or face the real possibility of a reduced opportunity funnel for the future. Last but not the least, new emerging technologies are a great opportunity for many reasons—as an example, the improved user experience in marketing efforts leveraging the best in AR/VR to help customers better visualize possibilities or using smart displays in retail for customers to access more information than what meets the eye at first glance and convincing consumers about value propositions better. AI based recommendation engines that constantly improve experiences will help drive better customer recommendations driving up relevance to new highs. Matching AI based data to physical products will help drive a new era in user behavior based design that will undoubtedly help drive up product effectiveness and adoption. Monetizing these effectively and using such touch points as marketing opportunities will separate winners from losers.

The new Marketing we are experiencing is going to get kicked into hyper drive, one that will be even more fast paced, which is extremely data driven, optimized constantly and deeply influencing customer choices. Speed to market and speed to value will become differentiators and marketing will have the ability to impact bottom lines even more than it has in the past.

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