Opinion: 4 business and marketing trends that will fire up the 'post-digital' twenties
It feels like just yesterday we were introducing the concept of the creative digital consultancy—a groundbreaking model that merged the worlds of technology, creativity and business strategy, just as digital technologies started to revolutionize organizations’ customer relationships.
But now, here we are at the beginning of the post-digital era, and technology is no longer a competitive advantage but an imperative. In this era, nothing is constant—except change, of course.
As we tend to do at the end of a significant period of time, business leaders are thinking about what’s next. We’re reflecting, planning and asking ourselves how we can thrive in the unknown business landscape of the next decade. 2020 is going to be a notable year, for sure, but perhaps not for the reasons people are currently discussing:
AR works at work (VR not so much)
I can’t spend more than two minutes at an industry event without being bombarded with messaging about virtual reality (VR). It feels like it’s been the “next big thing” for a few years now. The promise of VR still excites me, but I don’t think we’re going to see significant movement in this area in the year ahead.
Instead, we’re going to see a continued focus on augmented reality (AR) in the workplace. As businesses look to create genuine human connections with their employees and customers, they’re going to use technology to enhance reality, rather than distract from it. For significant advancements in AR, keep an eye on new enterprise opportunities that will help corporations train employees, empower collaboration between employees or improve customer service and support, remotely, using virtual spaces. The technology has an added sustainability and savings bonus of not having to fly employees long distances.
The design of the chief marketing officer role
The powerful rise of the CMO has been a remarkable thing to witness. Chief marketers transformed, seemingly overnight, from brand ambassadors to lead revenue drivers. However, this transition hasn’t been without its challenges. Astonishingly, CMOs now have the shortest average tenure of all C-suite positions, at 43 months. This turnover is due, in part, to the breadth of responsibility a single CMO must shoulder. From data management and analysis, to lead generation, to market research, to product marketing, the CMO is responsible for nearly every revenue-driving function, often caught between the need to prioritize short-term gains and focus on long-term brand-building.
In 2020, we will see the CMO role continue to evolve based on the needs of each company. Just as consumers are demanding product personalization, there will be no one-size-fits-all job description for CMOs, except each one will design their role based on the needs of the company. Marketing isn’t going away, instead companies will reexamine growth opportunities to identify the distinct needs with each company, such as increased tenure or steadier revenue growth. Top companies will determine their CMO “design” inclusive of areas such as data, brand and product development. Additionally, some companies may take this to extremes as they develop new monikers and titles, such as chief commercial officer.
Humans weren’t designed to type—a keyboardless future is coming
Let’s face it, typing isn’t one of the five senses for which humans were designed. We could use a fresh approach. How we interact with computers is constantly changing due to ever-shrinking sizes and wearables, and how we communicate through them must change as well. As someone who travels around quite a bit, I’m one of the world’s millions of remote workers for whom a physical keyboard and/or mouse are not always the best answer. Fortunately there are several technologies on the verge of helping humans get back to the senses they were initially designed to use.
We’ve already seen speech succeed since the launch of Siri and Alexa. While useful, especially in the home space, it isn’t always practical to dictate questions or emails, after all many are still resistant to talking to computers in public. Next gen, such as touch-based wearable keyboards like Tap enable the user to type using any surface. Beyond wearables, tech companies are racing to develop, “virtual keyboards” without a wearable requirement, capable of finger, eye, expression and brain-only interaction.
CRM is heading out, data ownership is rushing in
Over the last decade, we heard a lot of talk about the importance of establishing an approach to customer relationship management (CRM) that would not only organize leads and streamline processes but enable meaningful human connections as well. Unfortunately, while CRM platforms have undoubtedly allowed companies to effectively break down internal data silos and track customer touchpoints, they’ve got a ways to go to build meaningful customer relationships that result in long-term loyalty.
This year, brands are going to make bigger investments in data-driven customer management than ever before, and more brands will make the decision to own their data, rather than relying on an outside partner to harvest and manage it.
Everyone talks about data being used to “personalize” customer engagements, but it’s not as much about personalization as it is about humanizing how businesses interact with customers. This year, we'll see brands experimenting with how to use data to understand customer needs and emotions, and demonstrate genuine empathy. There are sure to be some misses along the way, but I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of successes, too.
I’m excited to see how we can use the power of technology, collectively, to transform brands and elevate the human experience in 2020 and beyond. We don’t know for certain what the future holds, but I can assure you that the fun ride of the past decade will continue.