By Jessica Houston, School of Marketing Ambassador
At the start of a new year, many companies publish their predictions of what will be the marketing trends to follow. Of course, it is always interesting to reflect on how the industry is evolving and, in turn, how we as marketers need to respond and adapt to these changes. But, of course, everyone knows how quickly this industry moves, so we thought we would round up our favourite trends and give you our take on how it’s going.
Deloitte released their annual Global Marketing Trends report  earlier this year and identified seven key trends that marketers should focus on. These trends range from strategic business priorities to how the customer interacts with the brand, backed up by substantial data points. They all have a drive towards enhancing customer experience as the digital world evolves, in turn impacting business growth. We share our views on what we see in the market; now, we’re halfway through the year.
1. Purpose - a beacon for growth by cutting through the noise and resonating with customers by committing to purpose.
Purpose has been a topic of debate in the marketing industry for many years, with some brands getting it right, but many miss the mark and a lot of scepticism unsure whether purpose drives business growth and revenue at all. In Deloitte's research, when uncovering why people shop, price and quality were identified as the top attributes; however, they found more relevant links to purpose when digging deeper into the data. For example, a third of consumers aged 25 and younger see sustainability as a critical factor when purchasing beauty and personal care products, and globally 57% indicated that they were more loyal to brands that commit to addressing social inequalities. So while purpose may not be the main driving factor to purchase, it still plays a role, and businesses need to consider how they can live up to their purpose in everything they do. Our purpose is what drives us forward every day, and we are seeing a trend toward this type of messaging being prioritised in communications.
2. Authentically inclusive marketing - is about brands that commit to addressing social inequalities.
Diversity and inclusion in marketing have long been a driver of conversation and decision making. However, there is still a long way to go, and consumers are questioning whether brands support diversity and inclusion publicly and behind the scenes - which is very important! Brands need to be seen walking the walk rather than talking the talk, and those who aren’t are at risk of being called out. Deloitte found that 57% of consumers are more loyal to brands that commit to addressing social inequalities in their actions. In addition, high-growth brands are more frequently establishing KPIs (key performance indicators) for the business's diversity, equity, and inclusion objectives. Consumers are looking for brands representing them and their values, so how can marketers do this? The first thing is ensuring that teams and suppliers reflect the market, bring diverse voices back into the organisation, and make your commitments measurable, putting the onus on you.
3. Building the intelligent, creative engine - as many educated workforces shifted to remote working during the pandemic, marketers can integrate this new talent pool to fill skill gaps, bring in a diversity of thought, and get closer to their business partners.
Marketing used to be about the creatives, and without them, we would have no marketing. But, there is now a shift towards more data-driven skill sets within the marketing world as teams need to get under the bonnet of customer insights to connect brand messages with moments that matter to the customer. 556 Global CMOs were asked to identify the top skills of their highest performers, and analytical expertise edged out creative skills in almost every industry except consumer - which would have been unheard of 10 years ago. Now, it’s about bringing these skill sets together so that marketing teams can thrive in all areas and working out how to do this remotely or via hybrid working.
4. Meeting customers in a cookieless world - growth leaders are rethinking customer marketing and data strategy that will increasingly shift to first-party data strategies.
Over time, advances in technology, big data, and AI have allowed marketers to target better and message customers and measure the impact of their advertising. The fundamental to this is the use of third-party cookies. Fast-forward to today, and data privacy is more of a concern, so in response, regulations have become stricter with companies disabling third-party cookies, making it difficult for marketers to understand the accurate picture of their marketing. This has resulted in a strategy shift towards collecting first-party data to offer personalised communications to customers and serve ads via programmatic media. We’ve certainly seen some companies moving toward a reliance and strategy for collecting first-party data.
5. Designing a human-first data experience - carefully designing data-driven experiences that foster trust and create customer value.
There is a fine line between brands using data to improve the customer experience vs becoming ‘creepy’ and listening in on an individual. For example, Deloitte found that 53% of those surveyed would say that a coffee ad showing up after you’ve spoken to a friend about your caffeine craving was creepy, while 68% said they would find it helpful if a brand they shopped with alerted them when an item goes on sale. So, how do brands get the balance right so that customers trust and value the brand? It’s about being transparent with how you’re using a customer’s data and proving competency for keeping their data safe through increased cyber security assurances.
6. Elevating the hybrid experience - consumers interact with and purchase from brands on emerging channels, so how can businesses look to a hybrid solution to create more personalisation, innovation, and connections.
Today, as we live much more digital lives, brands are looking for ways to create better synergies between online and offline experiences - the future hybrid. 75% of global executives said they are investing in delivering hybrid experiences over the next 12 months, including increased personalisation, innovation, customer connection and inclusion. They think that human-centred design is key to unlocking the hybrid experience - by putting customers at the forefront and keeping up with how they wish to interact with brands (which is often more diverse depending on the customer segment). For example, younger generations are moving towards purchasing from emerging shopping channels such as social media, VR and voice assistants. As a result, brands need to consider how to move towards an omnichannel approach to cater for all customers.
7. Supercharging customer service with AI - brands can combine AI and customer service to deliver a true end-to-end experience.
AI can help service customers by providing more helpful information during the buying journey. Deloitte identified two crucial tactics for improving customer experience - timely offers and knowledgeable customer service. Based on this, marketers need to consider how they can use data and AI within the customer experience to provide the best service to help customers make purchasing decisions 24 hours around the clock. There is nothing worse than speaking to a live chatbot and being told that no one is available. To do this, marketers need to understand every channel and touchpoint along the customer journey, how they connect to create a harmonious experience for the customer, and how that experience comes to life for the individual.
Trend information is important for all marketers to understand how the landscape is evolving and what strategies they may need to consider for the future. Of course, none of this can happen overnight, but the good news is that they are all interconnected. So when you next have a coffee break, spend ten minutes reflecting on some of these topics and how your company is or isn’t responding - it might be time to put a plan together.