The debate of “art vs. science” in marketing is nothing new. However, as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and big data technologies rapidly improve, “science” is taking on new meaning and importance to chief marketing officers. Three out of four (73 percent) marketing executives see AI as critical to the future of the industry, according to a recent survey. In the coming year, specific machine learning and automation capabilities will impact marketing roles, organizational structures and business priorities.
Advanced technologies and rising customer expectations are changing the skills, capabilities and strategies that define successful marketing. I expect many of these changes will play out in the coming year as marketing teams make sense of the hype around AI.
Here are three ways technology is likely to impact marketing professionals in 2018.
Hiring Data-Savvy Talent Becomes a Top Priority … and a Bigger Challenge
In 2018, marketing leaders will need to build teams that can manage greater technical complexity and harness new AI capabilities. Rather than hiring for channel expertise, such as email or search, they'll look to hire data-savvy, statistically minded marketers who have experience operating sophisticated marketing automation. These “marketicians” will need to create, manage and execute emotionally intelligent campaigns while using data to make smarter decisions.
As a result of this shift toward data-driven teams, recruiting and training marketers will be a significant challenge for organizations in the coming year. Marketing leaders will need to put more resources toward sourcing qualified candidates, developing existing employees and retaining top talent.
Personalized Experiences Will Win the Battle for Customer Loyalty
Customer loyalty isn’t dead, but it's more fickle than ever. Meanwhile, consumer expectations for personalized experiences continue to rise. Marketers’ top priority must be finding more relevant, individualized and contextual ways to communicate with their customers. This means creating more precise campaigns targeted to smaller groups, accounting for multiple attributes rather than one-size-fits-all customer journeys.
To master personalization, marketers will need to adopt new technologies as well as new ways of working. They will leverage advanced tools including omnichannel analytics and continuous optimization platforms and product recommendation engines powered by machine learning. Furthermore, I expect successful marketing organizations will move away from a persona-based approach — i.e., selecting from a limited number of pre-determined customer journeys — developing adaptive campaigns with more granular customer attributes, offers and recommendations.
Digital-First Retailers Will Have an Advantage Over Conventional Brands
It looks like 2018 will be the year when online businesses, both e-commerce giants and small upstarts, give conventional brands a run for their money by leveraging AI and automation.
“Digitally native” habits are no longer a niche. Younger generations’ share of the market is quickly growing, and marketers will need to keep up with their changing expectations and preferences. While brand still matters, personalization and communication are becoming more important. Digital-first companies that adopted personalization technologies early on are in a position to truly challenge more traditional retailers by responding quickly to customer needs, connecting online and offline experiences, and reaching targeted audiences with highly personalized messages.
2018 promises to be a year of rapid change, largely driven by technological advancement. The marketing organizations that are able to move quickly — investing time and resources toward hiring data-savvy talent, leveraging sophisticated technology to personalize their customer experiences, and thinking digital-first — will come out ahead.
Tal Kedar is the chief technology officer of Optimove, a relationship marketing hub that orchestrates hypertargeted customer communications at scale, empowering brands to drive growth through CRM automation.