Customer Experience, The Future of Digital Marketing: 8 Trends
The success of today's marketing organizations is largely driven by their adoption of digital technologies to transform the business. As a result, the CMO and CIO need to work hand in glove to ensure marketing is enabled with the IT tools and processes to further engage with customers in an increasingly connected world. Whether it is with mobile, cloud or social technologies, marketers must embrace digital if they want to be relevant to today's customers. But this can only be achieved by working closely with IT to fulfill the goals of the business.

As we move towards 2014, the digital transformation of today’s organizations will only accelerate, with several trends driving this forward.

1. Online Communities Fuel the Social Engine

The companies that will thrive in today’s connected world recognize that customers are their most important asset. Customers today have higher expectations than ever before, and communities can provide the perfect platform for them to share their opinions and needs.

The community serves as the central hub for all social interactions. Communities can help companies determine the content that makes the most significant impact on the market, adding a new level of intelligence that can then successfully drive sales. According to an IBM study, 85 percent of users say social networks influence their purchasing decisions. Moreover, the community serves as the “ultimate social network,” facilitating meaningful relationships between customers and companies to bolster customer satisfaction and, ultimately, sales.

2. Ignore the Cloud at Your Own Peril

More and more organizations are utilizing cloud-based tools and applications to advance their businesses. IDC predicts that by 2015, one of every seven dollars spent on packaged software, server and storage offerings will be done so through the public cloud model. Furthermore, SaaS models can help organizations enhance collaboration and share information in near real-time.

We use Salesforce Chatter to communicate critical updates throughout the company and to foster an open, unified environment. We also use predictive social analytics to enable our customer service team to evaluate existing customer temperature. Such real-time interactions and data will drive the most innovative companies forward in the year ahead.

3. Gamification Accelerates Productivity

Communities can also serve as a sufficient medium for companies that want to adopt new models for driving productivity and gamification technologies.

Many companies, such as Accenture, have recently experienced technology adoption growth through the implementation of gamification technology. The company promotes an interactive environment at its global leadership council, made up of the top 150 leaders at Accenture, displaying statistics on blogging activity, video and audio minutes, and more. The top participants are also rewarded and ranked in comparison to their peers, encouraging a fun competition throughout the council.

We have also enjoyed the benefits of gamification in the enterprise through an award-winning Sales 2.0 approach, which gamifies the sales process and tracks employees’ sales progress during a given time period. This has resulted in a 30 percent boost in sales productivity from our inside sales team. 

4. The Rise of the Chief Digital Officer

It’s predicted that there will be a 40 percent projected growth in global data generated per year versus only a five percent growth in global IT spending, per McKinsey. As data analytics and the world of big data explode, the relationship between the CIO and CMO will take on an even greater meaning.

The CIO can no longer work in a vacuum. We are seeing the blending of the CIO and CMO roles, with the IT budget going outside of IT, and with every aspect of business becoming digitized, the new role of the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) is starting to emerge as well. In a recent Gartner poll, while only 500 Chief Digital Officers were identified worldwide, the company stated “they seem to be sprouting up faster than we can count them.” This trend will only increase as companies place a strategic emphasis on digital content.

5. Your Consumers are Mobile, So are You

In 2013, smartphones outsold regular phones for the first time. The shift to mobile is already here and companies that don’t make the transition through the implementation of adaptive websites and a more mobile friendly user experience for customers are risking obsolescence. In the end, today’s CMO has to be mobile-first focused when it comes to marketing to the customer. Nowadays, it is more about catering to consumers’ lifestyles and how they choose to interact with businesses.

6. Focus on Inbound Content

All companies want to strengthen their relationship with customers and prospects. One of the best ways to do so is through a rock-solid content strategy. Interesting content is one of the top three reasons people connect with brands on social media. And 68 percent of consumers spend time reading content from a brand they are interested in. 

Paid, earned and owned content all offer ways to increase your brand’s awareness and better connect with your audience. But it is through earned content, from organic search and industry blogs, that you can increase share of voice, which will be a key consideration for 2014.

7. Contextual Content via Marketing Automation

Marketing automation, integrated with CRM, is only accelerating as companies look to refine sales influencer reporting. It is squarely about driving revenue for the company through targeted content.

Businesses need to be able to map the influence of marketing along the buying journey for a customer. As Gartner analyst Jake Sorofman wrote, “digital experiences and engagement draw consumers closer to a brand and more efficiently drive conversions and transactions, both online and off.” This process needs to include nurturing existing customers and delivering the right content at the right time across the right channel to the right audience.

8. Measure Your Social Impact

The science around social media metrics has become much more precise of late. Social metrics such as engagement, conversion and reach all point to a new level of science when it comes to your social media activity.

It is no longer about broadcasting your message, but instead finding ways to engage with your audience and turn them into customers. Including the customer in that social content is key to gaining their approval. According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, today’s digital CMO has “more opportunities to develop compelling and relevant brand identities by including your customers in the narrative creation process right from the start.” Make the customer part of your story, and your social media program will immediately see the benefits.

While business leaders must be the ones to drive the digital transformation, company-wide employee participation and momentum will help companies evolve into open, collaborative and socially connected organizations. It is only through the efforts of a collaborative environment, which includes a seamless relationship between marketing and IT, that the benefits of digital transformation will be realized.

Title image courtesy of iQoncept (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Read more from Vala in his The Pursuit of Social Business is Not About Technology