Last year it was predicted that CMOs would outspend CIOs on tech purchases. Shocking, right? I guess that depends how you look at it. If we all agree digital transformation is meant to improve the customer journey and overall customer experience, it makes sense that marketing teams would at some point end up managing the new technologies being developed. After all, they’re the front lines to our customers.
As we face 2018, the crux of that theory is being tested. After a few years in the training-wheels phase, tech-side employees are ready to work hand-in-hand with their marketing counterparts to put technologies like AI, blockchain, and the Internet of Things (IoT) to the real life (er, marketing) test. Whether CMOs are ready for it or not (and Forrester thinks they aren’t—eeek), the virtual tech hand-off is happening. To keep moving forward, these are the top 5 martech trends that CMOs cannot ignore in the coming years—whether they understand them or not.
AI will Trend Data—and Prove ROI
Forget how fantastical artificial intelligence sounds. For martech professionals, the true value of AI is not about robots and self-flying drones, it’s about data and information. Using AI and machine learning, CMOs need to harness the vast amounts of data being created every day on social, the web, and everything in between, to create clearer, more accurate profiles of their customers. When do they shop? When do they abandon their shopping carts? Which aisles do they hit first when they visit brick-and-mortar locations? AI and machine learning can help you process—and trend—that information so that you can make smarter and more informed marketing decisions for your company. AI can also help you extract the most relevant data from your campaigns to decide what paid off—and how—so that you can easily replicate those campaigns for maximum results. (Not a data-backed decision person? You won’t last long in martech in 2018.)
Blockchain will Add Transparency
As customers become increasingly vigilant about social responsibility and online security, blockchain will become increasingly important. For the companies that actually have a positive story to tell, it will be a valuable way to create transparency and build brand in a way they never could before. So, you say all your coffee is fair trade, sourced from local farmers in Guatemala? None of your clothing is manufactured in sweatshops overseas? All of the upscale re-sale apparel you sell has been verified? Blockchain can help you prove it—and make your customers love you even more in the process. In a system using blockchain, it’s nearly impossible to forge digital transactions and scam customers—improving trust with those customers.
Adtech and Martech Collide—Even More
If you don’t really understand the difference between adtech and martech, don’t worry. Pretty soon, you won’t need to. As technology continues to advance, the two segments of marketing will continue to merge, using the same data sets to reach audiences in smarter and more personalized ways. Ads will be micro-targeted, and campaigns will be increasingly customizable, with hyper-localization—such as that created with smart beacons and eventually connected vehicles—playing an increasingly important role.
The Customer Journey is (Increasingly) Personalized
Adding a customer’s name to marketing emails is no longer enough. The more customers feel like people, rather than wallets, the more connected they feel to the companies that serve them. And when they’re connected, they will stay with your company far beyond the point of sale—into the next sale, product referral, or Facebook post. Which begs the question: Do you like to shop in the morning, from your work computer, while drinking your favorite coffee? Do you celebrate your birthday by purchasing a new outfit? Do you wait until the last minute to fill your gas tank? Marketing agencies will soon know that, and communicate [incentives and platitudes] accordingly.
The IoT Explains the Customer Journey
Obviously, the more connected we are, the more data marketing departments can gain from us. And in today’s market, data is always a monetizable commodity. As your phone, car, watch, and home become connected to the IoT, marketing teams will be able to gain even greater glimpses into your life—and our lifestyle. As such, they will be even more equipped not just to understand your journey, but to steward your journey in the way you like best.
The truth is, CMOs have a huge new repertoire of tools in their arsenal to make even greater connections with their customers in the coming year. Whether they know how to use them efficiently—that’s another story. We all know from our (frustrating) experiences talking to various customer service representatives on a daily basis, the customer experience has a bit of a ways to go. As time goes on, we may see a martech division of marketing develop to bridge the gap between traditional marketing experts and emerging marketing technologists to help customers experience the benefits of martech sooner than later. In the meantime—may the most tech-savvy CMO win.
This article was first published on Forbes.