April 21, 2016 | Written by: Stephanie Watkins
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We all made resolutions going into 2016 – create better content, connect with customers more, so on and so forth. We also had ideas of what direction the marketing and ecommerce industries were headed. Starting the second quarter of the year, how are we coming along? As a curious millennial, I set out to find just that.
On my radar to find these answers were two folks who are always looking forward and spotting trends. Hugh Kohl, a Senior Analyst in the Market Research division of IBM Commerce, spends his days researching what’s happening now and where he believes the future of commerce is headed. This guy knows data! With a posh British accent, how can you not be intrigued by what he has to say?
Additionally, I spoke with Kristi Anderson, a Portfolio Marketing Manager at IBM, who bridges the gap between marketing, sales and customers. She has her finger on the pulse of what the market is talking about and how to connect best with the commerce audience. Calm, cool and collected, Kristi never waivers when you ask her complex questions.
Chatting with these two gave me great perspective on what they saw happening in marketing and ecommerce from their respective points of view. Here are the four main insights I took away from my conversation with them:
- A more tailored customer experience is no longer optional, but expected. The bottom line is, if you’re not delivering a personalized, intuitive experience for your customers, someone out there will. Take Kristi, a vocal Nordstrom fanatic. She stresses, “I appreciate that Nordstrom gives me options and takes the time to know me as a customer.” When faced with choosing between Nordstrom and another retailer, she’s always going to go with the brand that makes her customer experience personalized and seamless. Now that customers are used to this kind of personalization from brands, they aren’t going to go back. Millennials in particular can hardly remember a time when brands didn’t “understand” them. Commerce professionals have to meet these expectations by garnering data across channels to make a truly integrated and personalized customer experience if they want to stay in the game in 2016.
- C-Suites are embracing the rise of social. IBM recently surveyed over 700 CMOs and found that 53% of CMOs surveyed feel more prepared for the rise of social media than they did two years prior [source]. Feeling more prepared for social in their business is translating to more activity on their personal social media accounts. Their favorite platform? Despite the 140 characters, C-suites are using Twitter as their social platform of choice. Hugh says plainly, “If you want to be part of the conversation, you need to be on Twitter.” With social media projected to account for 22.4% of marketing budgets in 5 years, it’s no wonder we see C-suites taking advantage of platforms like Twitter on a personal level to engage with thought leaders and stay atop of industry trends [source]. Primary topics C-suites are talking about include digital marketing, data-driven decisions and social media as a discipline. Brands should take advantage of Twitter’s real-time feel, innovative tools like Twitter polls and Periscope, and the ability to participate in larger conversations as well as one-on-one chats. So get out there, find that perfect hashtag and #StartTweeting in #2016.
- The controversy over customer data will come to a head. Looking into my crystal ball, I see an ethics debate of sorts in commerce surrounding customer data. Ultimately, it comes down to who owns the data and the people behind said data. While Kristi and Hugh both agree that data has the potential to make a more personalized customer experience, some people are not as comfortable sharing their information with companies. Where is the line between respecting privacy and creating the best customer experience? Take Facebook logins, for example. Hugh and I are on the same page- we love them! How easy is it for us to simply log in to a site just using your Facebook credentials, instead of making a brand new account? Millennials are generally more willing to give that information up in exchange for ease of use and personalization. Kristi on the other hand? Not quite sold. She says, “With things like Facebook logins, I just don’t like a brand or a company having all of that information on me out there.” So how do marketers and brands deal with this dichotomy? It’s delicate and complicated, but if brands can balance their desire for data with how much a customer wants to share (and respect that), they’ll be in good shape. This concept is one I’m most excited to see develop this year and one I’ll definitely report back on later.
- Cognitive Commerce is just getting started. Machines will learn more, while artificial intelligence (AI) will play a bigger and bigger role in pulling market trends. We’ve just begun to dip our toes into the potential of Cognitive Commerce. At the end of 2015, we saw holiday shoppers taking a more strategic approach thanks to IBM Watson Trend. Brands are able to sift through the massive amounts of data to capture real-time marketing opportunities with IBM Commerce Insights. Kristi and Hugh are confident that cognitive will revolutionize the way we buy, interact with brands and market to consumers – I can’t help but side with them on this one.
So, what do you think, did these guys nail the key points? Think you have an idea of something big on the horizon that they didn’t touch on? Reach out and let’s chat! Send me your thoughts on Twitter @stephaniewatki5.