4 Realities Marketers Need to Fully Grasp in Order to Survive

Cloud, mobile, social and AI radically shifting customer journeys

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Driven by consumer demand for better, more personalized experiences with brands, marketing has undergone a sea change in recent years.

Eric StahlSalesforce

Whether opening an email, clicking on an ad, posting to social media or talking to a service rep or sales associate, consumers expect experiences that are curated to them every step of the way. In this new experience economy, they no longer tolerate anything less.

Smart brands like Airbnb, Lyft, Amazon and Netflix have realized that the power has shifted to consumers. They decide when, how, where and in what ways to engage with brands and expect a seamless, consistent and relevant experience across all touch points.

That’s why 86 percent of top marketers say they’re increasingly competing based on customer experience, and 64 percent say they’re more focused on aligning experiences across channels.

For marketers, delivering exceptional experiences depend on knowing everything about their consumers, engaging them across their entire journey and personalizing content with artificial intelligence. All of which depend on the cloud, mobile, social and artificial intelligence.

The power of the cloud

Not long ago, it was costly and complicated for companies to store massive amounts of consumer data and run what today are considered simple software programs. Companies had to invest in numerous servers and configure cumbersome hardware and software manually to store data and uncover its meaning. Data was also highly fragmented and vulnerable to destruction, such as in the case of a natural disaster.

“For marketers, delivering exceptional experiences depend on knowing everything about their consumers, engaging them across their entire journey and personalizing content with artificial intelligence.”

With the advent of cloud-based technologies, companies now have access to infinite computing resources, and no longer have to deal with the complexities of managing infrastructure. Marketers can spin up systems and applications with the flip of a switch and manage consumer data at unprecedented scale. Data and applications are now easily stored in a centralized location that can be accessed from anywhere and at anytime. Cloud-based services also allow marketers to track and understand audiences at a granular level. With the cloud, consumer data can easily and instantaneously be used to power personalized experiences across channels unlike never before.

Mobile is the new norm

Consumers are continuing to shift media usage toward digital channels, particularly mobile. There are now 8 billion mobile devices in the world—more than there are people. The average American now spends five hours a day using mobile devices, and 54 percent of email users access their inboxes on a mobile device. While mobile may seem like old news, usage is climbing and informed marketers are finding new and innovative ways to better engage with consumers on it.

In today’s mobile first world, consumers interact with products and brands at any time, in any place and across numerous channels—from apps to the mobile web to social sites like Facebook and Instagram. This new norm hasn’t escaped the attention of advertisers: In 2016, more than half of the $73 billion spent on online advertising in the U.S. went toward mobile. The proximity and increased engagement of mobile provides companies with unparalleled data about consumers, including physical location, interests and preferences. With the power of this data, marketers can reach consumers with personalized messages and offers in real time. For example, Google has deployed geotargeted ads to drive 5 billion visits to brick-and-mortar stores in the past three years. Mobile is no longer an option for marketers—it’s a requirement.

No escaping social media

Around 2.46 billion people use a social network at least once per month. That makes social media an important medium for product discovery, sales and customer care. It’s no wonder that 77 percent of marketers say their companies use social media marketing to drive business ROI.

At the same time, social media is also a valuable data source for marketers. Social media networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat provide companies with a trove of information about who people are and what they’re interested in so that they can better engage with consumers.

Since the founding of networks like Facebook and Twitter, social media has evolved to become more than a place for people to communicate with friends and family. Today, social media is a significant part of any successful marketing strategy, driving awareness and sales.

The popular headwear brand LIDS recently doubled down on social media by launching a command center called the Press Box. With the Press Box, LIDS sees every piece of content that it promotes and communicates across all social media networks in a single dashboard, which has helped LIDS better understand how it engages with its audience in order to drive improvements, such as personalizing engagement. Since launching Press Box, LIDS has seen its social media efforts pay off—Facebook followers have grown to 800,000 from 495,000 in just six months.

AI made for marketers

In the past, marketers turned to historical consumer information that was often manually gathered to guess what customers wanted or needed. Now, marketers are embracing AI tools, which learn from past consumer behavior to automatically predict outcomes, arming marketers with information on the best next step.

Because AI finds patterns in consumer data, marketers can now automatically forecast the best time, channel and audience for their messages. Machine-learning algorithms efficiently draw insights from massive amounts of consumer data, such as quickly identifying sentiment in a brand’s social media feed or determining the exact sequence of emails and mobile messages, that can drive a consumer’s path to purchase.

With AI, marketing has become more accurate and efficient, enabling companies to get more from their data and personalize their marketing efforts—from email to digital advertising and social media. AI also makes marketing more predictive and dynamic, constantly learning and informing marketers on how best to engage with consumers. That’s why 57 percent of marketers using AI say it’s essential in helping their company create personalized marketing experiences across every consumer touch point. Being able to anticipate consumer needs allows companies to deliver the right information to the right person at the right time and on the right device in ways that were impossible before AI.

We’re living in fascinating times where brands need to engage consumers with personalized, real-time content, across all channels in order to win. In order to do this, companies have to tap into the power of the cloud, mobile, social and AI.

And while the consumer may hold the reins in determining the success of a brand, these tools are empowering brands to deliver on their expectations and more toward a more dynamic—and successful—future.

Eric Stahl (@erictstahl) is svp, product marketing, Salesforce Marketing Cloud.