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  • July 15, 2019
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

The Top Marketing Trends: Data Dominates Marketing Innovations

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Marketing in 2019 is all about data. And it’s less about the size of the data and more about its usability and usefulness.

Whether it’s the huge information storehouses where companies keep detailed information about every customer who has ever made a purchase from them or the scientific analysis of ad spending relative to new customer engagement, data will be the center of almost every new marketing innovation for years to come, experts agree. Look for technology advancements to focus on how data of all types is collected, analyzed, shared, used, and secured.

“Marketing is much more scientific and analytics-driven today,” observes Jim Dickie, cofounder of CSO Insights and a research fellow at Sales Mastery.

As proof of this, one need only look at Google’s purchase of Looker for $2.6 billion and Salesforce.com’s acquisition of Tableau Software for $15.7 billion. These acquisitions, which took place in early June, better position Google and Salesforce to compete in data analysis and visualization for marketing and sales applications.

A key element in this new data-consumed landscape has been the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which took effect in May 2018. Since then, marketers all over the world have needed to obtain explicit consent from European consumers prior to collecting, sharing, and using their data.

In advance of the GDPR, a whole class of software solutions emerged to help companies ensure that their marketing strategies were in compliance with the legislation, addressing not only the consent mandate but also respecting consumer preferences for how, when, and on which channels they want to be contacted and the types of marketing offers they want to receive.

Solutions for acquiring and maintaining consumer consent, data security, data breach notification, data governance, and database activity logging had been available for years but were rarely discussed prior to the GDPR. These capabilities are now baked into almost all of the major marketing platforms, with dozens of niche players offering point solutions as well.

An unexpected development stemming from the GDPR—and the possibility of other jurisdictions enacting similar legislation—has been the shift from outsourced agencies to in-house departments for many marketing activities. This trend is only expected to accelerate as companies desire greater ownership and control of their data. Additionally, bringing some marketing operations in-house can lead to significant cost savings and quicker turnaround times.

GDPR has had another effect on marketers: In the past, companies went for quantity over quality, gathering and storing as much third-party data about consumers as they could get, even if they weren’t planning on using it. Today, companies are shying away from third-party data and instead focusing on the first-party data that consumers voluntarily give about themselves.

And when it comes to data, they are also finding that smaller is better. Fifty-two percent of companies agree that small data is better than Big Data at helping them understand the why behind customers’ actions, according to a study by Forrester Research.

And because there are so many strings attached to the data they receive, companies are looking to get as much mileage as they can out of every bit of data they have. Artificial intelligence (AI) has dominated the marketing technology landscape as a result.

Denis Pombriant, managing principal of Beagle Research Group, says AI and machine learning “are well on their way to being subsumed into the CRM suite.”

For Ray Wang, principal analyst, founder, and chairman of Constellation Research, the future of marketing will be in mass personalization at scale, data-driven digital networks, blockchain marketing, and smart services, all of which will be guided by AI.

Sheryl Kingstone, research vice president at 451 Research, also sees great potential for AI in marketing. In fact, she calls AI for contextual matching “the secret sauce” for turning information into action.

But AI’s use in marketing goes far beyond that. Within the past two years, most marketing systems vendors have made significant investments in AI. Among other things, AI will help marketers with personalization, media spend optimization, campaign planning, dynamic content creation, audience segmentation, and audience targeting.

These last two are probably the areas where AI has seen the most attention. For marketers to reach consumers with the level of personalization that they expect today, their segmentation efforts need to be as granular as possible, and AI makes this possible.

Drawing on the data that companies have about their customers, AI can be trained to identify important variables, common traits, and other similarities to come up with specific buying personas and then match customers with those personas.

Only within the past few months have companies started experimenting with dynamic segmentation, an application of AI that also factors in customer behaviors that change over time, assuming that some consumers might take on different personas for different reasons.

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