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2018: The Year To Abandon Your Comfort Zone For Good

This article is part of CMO.com’s December series about 2018 trends, predictions, and new opportunities. Click here for more.

If 2017 felt fast-paced for those of us who work in martech, I’m pretty sure that 2018 will see another major gear shift. Technology has become a catalyst for change, so those who like to sit tight in their comfort zones had better don their safety helmets.

But technology won’t be the only thing driving the agenda in 2018. Security, organisational change, and legislation—in particular, the GDPR—will be firmly on the agenda, forcing action in areas where we might traditionally be tempted to adopt a wait-and-see approach.

Here is what we can look forward to.

CMO And CIO Team To Improve CX
As the world embraces the customer experience mandate, CMOs have increasingly become the primary spender on martech within their organisations.

The challenge for CMOs is to have the courage and vision to invest in the right technology. Marketers use technology in much of their day-to-day roles, but most aren’t geared up to create IT platforms that can support future innovation and be built on seamlessly.

This is why neither marketers nor IT can afford to work in silos. To embrace CX, they need to work together and embrace a truly agile way of thinking, doing, and being. Organisations need to enable the full range of technology, deployed through marketing, to engage and offer value to consumers across a unified platform, delivering a consistent experience wherever a person joins the customer journey.

AI: From Science Fiction To Everyday Value
In 2018, AI will become mainstream, enhancing business processes and enabling new marketing capabilities. Automation of monotonous tasks will enable the industry to focus on high-value interactions that are best left to humans. This will free resources for human innovation and creativity to be applied to the customer experience. This will drive change across the marketing function, moving from traditional campaign cycles to real-time, agile working.

Customers also will benefit through more relevant, targeted messaging and a frictionless journey, from search to the shopping cart. Voice recognition will be a key part of the customer experience, as well, with technology in this area improving to the extent that error rates and call quality will be on a par with human operators. Of course, this will require increasing amounts of customer data to realise its full potential.

As a result, we will see many organisations designing their own voice interfaces and building from the ground up in order to be able to generate action and, ultimately, own the customer data derived from it.

Purpose-Led Brands Will Win The Customer
The new age of customer experience will be rooted in purpose in order to better connect with the Millennial audience who desire and demand a personal affinity to a brand. Purpose, combined with digital experience, will create the new brand experience. Brands that want to succeed in 2018 and beyond will need to be outward-looking and embed their missions in their organisations’ DNA.

GDPR Will Change The Way We Use Data
A truly personalised experience needs huge amounts of personal data to power it. With GDPR regulations coming into force in May, marketers need to understand the issues and ensure they are fully prepared. It might be that data officers will need to report into both the CMO and CIO.

And as marketers move away, by necessity, from relying on personal data, there will be more emphasis on behavioural data and sentiment analysis, as well as a need to process this information quickly and efficiently in order to deliver relevant, timely messaging.

Personalisation Gets An AI Boost
We have already seen more resources committed to producing and targeting content for very specific buyers based on buying behaviour, geography, personal interests, and preferences.

This is set to become a more fine-tuned affair, with AI to better read and react to consumer behaviours as they make their journey. Add voice to this mix and, perhaps not in 2018 but in the not-too-distant future, this could mean highly personalised personas will front brands. It will be less about screens and more about using AI to create characters based on behaviour, sentiment, and interactions. These characters will be our “friends” and our interfaces with brands.

This new world of technology and data represents a huge opportunity in 2018 for those organisations prepared to reframe their approach to respond in an agile way.

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