Three predictions for marketing and customer experience in 2020

Dry January already a distant memory?

It’s a new year and a new decade, so perhaps you feel like a new you. But while 2020 may be box-fresh, many of the challenges facing marketing and customer experience (CX) professionals may seem strangely familiar.

In recent years, we’ve been on a rapid journey away from the pre-digital world. The pace is accelerating, and in case you haven’t noticed, your customers are deciding the direction.

So, what does the new year hold in store for us? And more importantly, what are the challenges that marketers and CX professionals can’t afford to ignore? 

Here are three predictions for 2020:

1) The customer journey arrives

You’ll forgive us if we’ve been championing the customer journey for some time, but some ideas are so compelling that their success is inevitable. So, it is with the customer journey, which has moved from something we used to have to explain, to a marketing mot du jour on which everyone’s apparently an expert.

Last year was something of a tipping point, with the customer journey receiving increasingly widespread media coverage. Analysts rushed to examine both customer journey analysis and orchestration with greater seriousness and depth than ever before.

You’ll have noticed, too, that vendors across the spectrum have been lining up to adopt the customer journey and claim it as a fundamental part of their own approach. 

Yet while everyone’s talking about the journey, it’s a bolt-on to many platforms and services: not the framework on which those services have been built. Trust us, there’s a big difference.

In fact, while the customer journey has arrived, only the front couple of carriages are alongside the platform. Among newer adopters – both vendors and customers – there’s a surprising lack of understanding about the nature of the journey. A critical, and often overlooked detail, is the importance to engagement of adaptive, truly customer-led journeys, rather than scripted, ‘inside-out’ pathways provided by the brand.

So, 2020 is the year of the customer journey, but it’s a year in which we’ll see a deepening understanding both of what the journey really is, and how it’s fundamental to brands undergoing digital transformation. Insights from the customer journey will be increasingly sought after as brands continue their reinvention of their organizational flows and processes.

Customer-led journeys change the approach at a fundamental level, reimagining the role of communications from being brand driven (and planned by channel) to customer led (activated across channels).

For marketing and CX professionals, the challenge is to truly grasp that the customer journey is the key process generating the insight organizations need to navigate digital transformation. Understand this, deploy true omnichannel customer journey orchestration, and 2020 will be yours.

2) Trust becomes the number one priority

Trust has long been an issue for brands, and 2020 is likely to see it become the number one priority. So we must identity the mechanism to deliver it. Today, brands are – rightly – challenged across a broad range of issues such as sustainability, diversity or worker rights, but for digital, customer-led organizations, the security of customer data should be a clear focus.

Why? Thanks to martech, brands operating at scale know more about their customers than ever before. Where consent is properly sought and obtained, that’s a great thing, helping power the exchange of value that drives meaningful engagement

But behind the scenes, martech is often reliant on multiple data stores, spread across ecosystems and vendors. And where systems don’t cross-match and identify individuals globally, brands have no single mechanism to manage consent.

Once the Holy Grail for adtech, identity has become the basis for consent management and enabling customer data choices. The tightening regulatory environment – through acts like GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) – should help focus all our minds on the importance of consent and security.

But should it take the threat of legislation for brands to start valuing trust? We don’t think so. Brands seeking mutually valuable relationships with their customers need to earn the trust on which relationships are built. And for many of us that means a change in MO.

In 2020, the challenge for forward-thinking brands is to embrace customer consent as a proactive investment in building relationships. We all need to stop regarding data security as just a compliance issue, but as a valuable opportunity for earning and sustaining the trust of our customers.

3) Individualisation will be in focus

All of which brings us to our third prediction for the year: that brands will need to move beyond personalization to individualization. And if that sounds like we’re just trying to be clever, think again.

With a personalization mindset, brands see customers as targets to be identified and aimed at with the best precision available. It’s effective when done well, often improving the customer experience, but the brand is still talking to customers in groups and offering what it thinks they might want.

In the age of engagement, brands need to interact with their customers as individuals, in conversations that are personal, contextually relevant, and which build value and trust. 

With individualization, the goal is not to ‘hit and hope’ at ever-smaller groups, but engage with each customer as an individual, conducting truly individual conversations. It’s a fundamental shift in thinking that sees each customer as an equal partner to the brand in a trusted value-creation process. And more pertinently, it’s represents a new level in the brand/customer relationship that can only be built on trust, informed by insights and actions derived from a true understanding of the customer journey.

The new year’s new goals are clear, then. 

  1. Marketing and CX must be at the forefront of earning trust in the brand, through the customer journey
  2. Safe data stewardship and a respect for customer choices must be seen as investments. 
  3. Relationships need to be based on the customer journey of individuals

When other new year’s resolutions are a distant memory, successfully rising to these challenges will help brands meet the demands of 2020 and excel in the decade to come.

Are personalization and identity failures undermining your customers’ trust? Discover how Thunderhead ONE lets the biggest brands understand and orchestrate every customer journey, directly connecting them with every individual.