As we look into the future, it’s important to remember that real widespread change happens slowly for such a large industry. People have been talking about assembling customer 360-degree views and utilizing “big data” for closing in on 20 years, and articles detailing how effective and popular AI will be in marketing go back close a decade.
This is not to say change isn’t happening, but that it comes gradually, in fits and starts as industry innovators latch onto a popular idea or technology and the rest of the market tries to understand what the change means for them before they decide to take the plunge and invest in the new advance.
Viewing it through that lens, the future of data-led marketing is more of a spectrum from innovators to mainstream adopters — companies more prepared to make technological and strategic changes vs. organizations that like to wait a bit to see how new tech may apply to them. There are always going to be organizations — often either startups that can move quickly or large organizations with significant resources — whose ethos drives them to be more willing to take that early leap, while others stay the course longer.
There are three key areas where you can expect the innovators of the marketing space to really push forward in the coming years, while the more mainstream adopters trail a bit behind.
#1: From a warehouse-first marketing approach to streaming
While mainstream adopters just begin to turn the corner, adapting and believing in the warehouse-first approach to data and marketing, expect innovators to start utilizing more streaming and one-to-one, data-driven methods of communicating with their customers.
Although the idea of the warehouse-first approach may seem like the newest craze, many leading organizations have been adopting these sorts of marketing efforts over the last five years. Snowflake’s record-breaking IPO doesn’t happen in a world where a warehouse-first approach is some overnight sensation or passing fad. Snowflake’s massive opening is indicative not only of the current popularity but of the progress brands have been making in consolidating data for some time now.
As larger institutions in banking, finance, and healthcare begin to adopt many of these ideas and centralize to a performant data warehouse, industry innovators are beginning to see the friction in applying that approach to all their workflows and are seeking to become more stream-first than warehouse-first.
The rise of Databricks is a good indication — built on top of the Apache Spark streaming platform, the product can be seen almost as a transition, incorporating warehouse-first principles with the ability to stream. Innovators will begin to drive more and more of their marketing programs from the dedicated stream- and event-based services and will look for marketing vendors to take advantage of these new data sources for better messaging.
#2: From cross-channel messaging workflows to AMP and RCS
Innovators will begin to utilize new interactive channels like AMP for Email and RCS messaging, while mainstream adopters will truly adopt cross-channel messaging workflows.
AMP for Email “allows senders to include AMP components inside rich engaging emails, making modern app functionality available within the email.” Like many innovations, AMP for Email made a splash a few years ago, but adoption has been slow because the practical application of its offering needed to be developed. More email providers now offer AMP functionality, and innovative marketers will start utilizing it to deliver rich experiences.
Similarly, Rich Communication Services (RCS) protocol is Google’s take on mobile messaging that offers up popular features from other messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, iMessage, and WhatsApp into one platform. For both AMP and RCS early adopters, now is the right time to lead and deliver interesting new avenues to stand out to customers, as both of these channels are early enough where there’s an opportunity to make an impact. But the ability to capitalize on them is easier than it was when they were first introduced.
Mainstream adopters are finally at the point where they’re essentially forced to get cross-channel messaging right. The “omnichannel” concept is no longer theoretical — consumers now simply expect a seamless experience regardless of where the interaction takes place — so brands, particularly in the retail, hospitality, and financial sectors, will work to get it right.
#3: From dabbling in AI to making AI a core part of your brand
Innovators will make Artificial Intelligence a core part of their brand, while mainstream adopters begin to experiment with AI and adopt conversational messaging. AI has been around forever and is talked about every year, but is just now to the point of being approachable for the average marketing department. Tools are available that make it easy to leverage AI, and consumers enjoy experiences where earlier adopters have utilized it well.
So what does it mean to make AI a core part of a brand? For many, it is subtle usage in website or headline copy, recommendations, or other situations where the functionality makes the customer experience better. Retailers will use it to help customers make important buying decisions, travel brands will use it to help customers plan the perfect vacation, and financial brands will help customers make sound decisions with their money. AI will help marketers connect consumers with the brand in new and meaningful ways.