Marketing in 2017: what’s in store?
Brexit, Trump’s election, the death of David Bowie – 2016 was certainly a year nobody could have predicted.
The same could be said for the world of marketing. With many organisations discovering new ways of marketing their brands motivated by changing consumer habits, such as Facebook Live and a rise in influencer marketing, it was a year of change for the industry and for the world.
As we look ahead to 2017, we expect many of last year’s innovations to really come to the fore. Here is what we think the big talking points will be.
The rise of real-time video
Social media users are beginning to demand more in-the-moment content, giving them a vicarious view into a world they’d previously been unable to access.
As a result, new platforms such as Facebook Live and Instagram Stories are quickly becoming some of the most popular ways for people to discover and share content. With latest figures showing 1.79 billion monthly active users, these social media platforms provide a great opportunity for brands to get themselves seen.
In 2017, we’ll see more brands using these platforms to tell stories and engage with customers, and businesses must adopt video as the new normal in customer service or risk getting left behind.
Mobile still rules
No matter where they are or what they’re doing, consumers are interacting with brands on mobile, tablets, TV screens, desktops – you name it, they’re on it, and brands need to be visible.
In the US, at least, it has been predicted that 72% of all digital ad spend will be on mobile in 2017, reaching an unprecedented $65.87 billion by 2019. And if you factor this on a global scale, especially with growing internet accessibility on mobile, we are going to continue seeing soaring budgets in mobile ad spend.
Artificial intelligence gets smart
Chatbots – the applications powered by artificial intelligence that are designed to simulate a conversation with another human – are the next phase in the migration from a desktop-dominant world to a mobile one.
While they are no new phenomenon, customer service began to transform online through the proliferation of chatbots in 2016, with organisations using the technology to generate two-way, personalised interactions with customers. Facebook, for example, went from having zero bots in February to 18,000 by July, according to research firm Forrester.
At first, conversations with these robots may be inferior to service from a human, but as machine learning develops it will become harder and harder to tell the difference.
While chatbots provide great potential for organisations to streamline and better communicate with customers, brands will have to decide how best to keep up and stay true to themselves as they do. Getting the tone and content of this conversational commerce right will mean that marketers need to understand the personality of their brands inside out.
Embracing virtual reality
Despite its initial usage in the gaming industry, brands have become wise to the opportunities that virtual reality presents when it comes to promoting their products and services.
There have been some great success stories in the world of marketing in recent times, with big brands using virtual reality to create an immersive experience for both consumer and B2B audiences. At bigdog, for example, we worked with Mazda to create a virtual showroom using the Oculus Rift headset, to give customers the chance to experience driving a car like never before, resulting in sales before the car had even launched.
However, as usage increases, costs will come down and as a result 2017 will see smaller businesses taking advantage of the technology to create effective marketing campaigns and brand recognition.
2017 will see personalisation move from a buzzword to a fundamental part of the marketers’ toolkit, across web, social, email and every other channel in the customer experience.
In a digital age, customers are walking data generators, creating quintillions of bytes of information about their daily habits, needs, and experiences. At the mercy of customer experience, marketers are tasked with the daunting prospect of being able to understand this data to provide a personalised experience, based, at the very least, on a level with a consumer’s last-best interaction.
Consumers are smart and they expect their world to be personalised, yet almost every marketer's website is generic and one-size-fits-all. In 2017, brands will seek out the tools to build truly personal custom experiences.
2017 is set to be the year of native advertising as focus shifts to a mobile-first perspective, seeing brands creating content that consumers want to see and which adds to, rather than takes away from, their experience. However, the industry needs to ensure that the core benefit of a native ad – being unobtrusive – is not lost.
In business, and particularly in the world of marketing, agility is the key to momentum. Providing business owners and marketers are willing and able to adapt to the ever changing needs of their customers, they can look forward to a successful and prosperous 2017.
Re-defining the economics of CX in the new customer journey
There’s no shortage of customer service channels for the enterprise to select from today. Regardless of the many new metrics that have emerged – such as customer success, or empathy – cost reduction is still a primary driver in selection criteria.
There are many articles dedicated to how companies can turn customer service and customer experience (CX) from a cost to a revenue centre. The problem is, if you stop there and don’t look beyond cost reduction, you’re limiting the scope for CX to become an even bigger economic contributor in the enterprise.
There is every opportunity for customer service and CX to significantly influence the front end of business, particularly amongst direct-to-consumer subscription-based products and services, such as popular streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, as well as sports subscription services like DAZN.
In these products and services and others, there are new customer journeys that may drive business growth and revenue. They start earlier and may last a lifetime, so getting things right at the start of the journey is key so that customers have the best experience from day one.
Not only will this help in making customers less likely to reach out for issues-based support further down the line, but these customers will be much less likely to churn, and much more likely to take up new services as they are offered throughout the lifetime journey.
So, what does the new customer journey look like for these services?
Opportunity waiting for the likes of Netflix & Disney
While consumers may have previously regarded customer service as a way to mitigate the inconveniences in their lives, the customer journey is expanding in scope every day. Today there are many more touchpoints available that put CX in a position to drive revenue.
For one-off purchases, traditional CX deployments have not changed significantly in the past few years. However, if you look at the change in the CX relationships we’re seeing with subscription-based products and services, particularly media-based streaming services, it’s clear that these companies lead what quickly become very multifaceted relationships with their customers. These have serious potential to evolve over time for increased economic benefit.
For any sort of subscription-based business, customer lifetime value is paramount, and the requirement to actively manage a continued positive customer experience is critical.
Every interaction is an opportunity, and every data point is a chance to offer more value. Introductory offers can convert to longtime customers. Longtime customers may take up opportunities to upgrade to more premium products or services. They may also appreciate incentives to invite family and friends to become customers. Consumers who like a particular service, for example, may appreciate a recommendation for another similar or complimentary service.
It all starts with customer interaction, and the customer experience journey becomes an opportunity to strategically affect the user base and resulting revenue - which is a far cry from the limitations of call center cost reduction or churn metrics.
How do companies support the new customer journey?
More and more, customers look at the new customer journey as engaging with brands as part of their lifestyles. Many companies are making brand ambassadors available before the traditional customer journey even starts, which is a marked change from a purely transactional relationship associated with a one-off purchase.
These ambassadors, who are often independent users of products or services, are providing trusted pre-sales advice, and that same trusted advice can also function to nurture the customer journey in a subscription-based relationship. Call it ‘GigCX’ or ‘crowdsourced customer service’ or even ‘peer-to-peer customer service’ - it doesn’t matter.
The key is in providing impartial, trusted advice from real users. Think about it: who would you rather get advice from? Someone who has used a product or service extensively, or someone who has been trained to provide customer service surrounding that product or service?
For services such as streaming media, advice from trusted experts with real product know-how could be invaluable. This may not be limited to technical issues, such as what to do when you can’t access your favourite show, or how to access services across various devices. It could be parents helping other parents who are concerned about how to restrict adult content from child viewers, or simply customers who have similar taste in programming who can comment on the benefits of upgraded or premium products. The point is, these experts are easily available at any touchpoint in the customer lifetime journey, creating more chances to add value.
It’s also about tipping customers from ‘passive’ to ‘promoter’ in the NPS scale. It’s an opportunity to turn neutral customers who may be vulnerable to competitive offerings into loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and referring others, fuelling growth. It may ultimately help drive even further revenue by creating customers that are helping to sell the brand itself.
And, while chatbots and automation may play a key role, they are often not able to handle the more complex support needed in the new customer journey. Conversational AI is rarely as conversational as it claims to be, and in the new customer journey, most companies are finding that a mix of automation and people-centric service is an ideal way to nurture the many new touchpoints created.
It’s no longer about trying to replace human capital with automation: it’s about orchestrating a uniquely personalised CX, and proactively engaging during the customer lifecycle to enhance the experience, and to create more long-term value.
At the moment, we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of the power to affect the economics introduced by the new customer journey. We’ll no doubt see this evolve rapidly particularly amongst streaming companies as they use human-centric connections in CX to support the full potential of customer lifetime value.
About Roger Beadle
Roger Beadle is an entrepreneur and business leader who is reinventing how customer service is delivered via the gig economy. After establishing several businesses in the contact centre industry, Roger co-founded Limitless with Megan Neale in 2016. Limitless is a gig-economy platform that addresses some of the biggest challenges faced by the contact center industry: low pay, high attrition and access to new talent. Previously, Roger and Megan helped to build one of the largest privately-owned outsourced contact center business in Europe, before selling the business to the global conglomerate Hinduja Group. Roger is an outspoken proponent of digital ethics, worker’s rights and the ‘good-gig:’ which encapsulates gig work for incremental pay versus full time work, skilled gig work, no unpaid time/downtime and zero expenses.
Named a Rising Star at Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50 program, Limitless is a gig customer service platform, combining crowdsourcing and AI to help global businesses address their biggest customer service challenges – rising costs, increasing attrition, variability in demand and the need for diversity. Brands like Microsoft, Unilever, Daily Mail Group and Postmates are using Limitless’ SmartCrowdTM technology to connect with their most engaged customers, and reward them for providing on-demand customer service that can flex in line with demand. Limitless is one of the world’s first global tech platforms to introduce localised platform terms to protect the rights of its gigging workers. Backed by AlbionVC, Downing Ventures and Unilever Ventures, Limitless is empowering people worldwide to earn money for providing brilliant customer service for the brands they love.