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Is 2019 going to be the year when robots go rogue, time-travel becomes a reality and advertising exists in neural networks? Probably not, but marketing automation is certainly going to be an unavoidable subject for both B2B and B2C businesses.
Marketing automation can be defined as software that helps you automate certain repetitive tasks that occur frequently in the course of a business, and are otherwise taken care of manually. A simple example here would be recurring transactional communication that is sent out to a user after every purchase. Marketing automation empowers brands to gather and analyse user data, create meaningful user segments and run highly targeted campaigns with communication that is personalized and highly contextual.
Businesses are slowly coming to terms with the fact that consumers are evolving with easy access to online information and burgeoning social network communication. You can no longer expect to buy your way into a consumer』s life with rampant advertising and expect to win a loyal customer.
According to a recent Walker study, customer experience will be the No.1 differentiator, beating price and features as a key differentiator by 2020. Truth be told, it is already happening. A Gartner survey says more than 50 per cent of brands have begun reshaping their strategy by investing heavily in creating the next big customer experience innovation.
With marketing automation solutions, brands can take control of the way users interact with their products and services online. Brands are focusing on creating effective user engagement experiences across multiple channels that are driven by data, and add incremental value to a user』s life.
As far as trends are concerned, one-on-one marketing via personalization is going to be a critical concern for most businesses looking to make a dent in their growth. Marketers have been actively using a basic form of personalization in their messaging, and its effectiveness has been reduced drastically. Users expect brands to serve them information that is relevant to their lives at the moment, which is where marketers will have to use active personalization cues that borrow heavily from the user』s relationship with the brand, their personal attributes, their buying preferences, and social media chatter.
Brands will actively compete for more screen time by enticing users with messaging that is strongly contextual and compels users to take a certain prescribed action. That is what one-on-one marketing is all about, where the user feels a symbiotic relationship with the brand』s messaging.
The chatbot foray
Another massive entry into the world of marketing automation is the now ubiquitous chatbot. The topic of conversational marketing powered by chatbots will be a major growth driver in 2019 and beyond. Growing at a CAGR of around 24 per cent, the global chatbot market will touch US$1.23 billion by 2023, according to Grand View Research.
Chatbots have already started to take over several aspects of the business with their capabilities. They bring a certain amount of versatility and novelty to a business』s consumer-facing end, and this is about to get enhanced with developments in NLP (natural language processing).
Brands are pitching hard for creating conversational experiences powered by intelligent chatbots that mimic human behavior closely. Chatbots have come a long way since their inception, and can now handle functions like customer service interactions, lead prospecting, booking and purchase management, addressing FAQs, etc., with absolute ease. A chatbot is only as good as the data that is being fed into it, and large corporations have begun to take advantage of the data goldmine that they are sitting on to train their bots into highly intelligent programs with high efficiency, tremendous information storage capability and super-fast service times.
Of course, everyone expects high-quality service and the timeliness of response from a brand, but the modern consumer doesn』t stop there. Consumers expect brands to know their likes and preferences closely.
The importance of context
The importance of context in marketing has never been discussed more in industry circles as consumers begin to stray more towards buying experiences rather than products. Successful brands in the consumer business space have been listening actively to social media chatter, gauging pop culture trends and user sentiment to stay on top of every single cultural phenomenon. One poor brand communication can skew the consumer』s brand perception negatively because it comes across as impersonal, insensitive and a sheer waste of time.
The information is tied into the user』s engagement campaigns and cross-referenced with their lifecycle stage, past behavior and personal data to create highly contextual messaging that appeals directly to each individual user at scale. Contextual marketing cuts through the clutter of generic spray-and-pray marketing methods that rarely work. With marketing automation, marketers will be looking to create the most innovative, creative and effective communication that ties in context with data to boost conversions and user engagement.
Household names like Amazon and Starbucks have invested a large number of resources in prediction-based marketing to trigger conversions of their massive user base. Brands will have to take a closer look at what their users are browsing, buying and talking about online to create a data-backed user profile. This is where complex machine learning algorithms will come in to make this data modeling more intelligent and accurate. It will help power user engagement campaigns that will predict the user』s next intended purchase, purchasing frequency, preferred time and date of purchase, the devices used to make a purchase and the preferred mode of payment for starters.
Backed by data, recommendation engines can send out tailored messages to users based on past purchase data which are scarily accurate. Scaling up conversions will involve a certain degree of predictive modeling that can help keep the sales funnel healthy.
In the scheme of grander things in the technology world, voice-based customer engagement will continue to evolve in 2019 as the growth of voice search hints at a fast-changing aspect of user behavior. According to ComScore, almost 50 per cent of all searches made online will be powered by voice by 2020. Marketers around the world are thinking about this statistic as users continue to use voice search on their phones and devices with voice-based assistants.
It will be interesting to see how this evolves in the year and how brands prepare for voice, the next growth frontier that will dominate user engagement for years to come. Brands have undertaken steps to develop apps for Google Home and Amazon Echo devices, and also engage with real-time search queries on mobile devices, especially for local search listings.
The online-offline connect
The convergence of online and offline will continue picking up speed as big-box retailers and large consumer businesses seek to maximize online presence and turn digital traffic into actual footfalls. The key insight is maintaining consistency of the shopping experience for consumers on offline and online channels. According to industry research, retailers who use omnichannel marketing strategies retain 89% more customers.
In the end, it all boils down to the consumer』s perception of the brand based on their experience, and omni-channel marketing seeks to bridge the gaps that exist between the digital and real world. Amazon』s Go, a cashier-less retail format, is a glimpse into the future where the digital and offline retail experience is completely in sync. Users can ask Amazon』s digital assistant Alexa to make a shopping list of 15 mundane grocery items, and you can simply pull up a ready grocery list at the Go retail outlet and start picking up things. There are no check-out lines, no need to pull out a credit card. Every item that you pick up gets automatically charged to your Amazon account.
For true omnichannel marketing to be successful, brands need to connect the user』s data seamlessly with their offline outlets. It allows brands to offer two highly connected touchpoints (real and virtual store-front) that allows for a greater user interaction frequency and possibility. With marketing automation, brands are able to stitch together a user』s offline journey and connect it to their online persona so that the brand experience remains the same, and the user doesn』t feel disconnected.
The consumer』s demand
As technology continues to evolve and its adoption becomes more widespread, businesses are witnessing changing faces of consumer behavior. According to Google』s report data, there are three main things that today』s consumer wants from brands:
- Help me faster
- Know me better
- Wow me everywhere
These marketing automation trends will certainly play key roles in reshaping the state of user engagement for consumer businesses in 2019 and beyond. How prepared are you?