10 Digital Marketing Predictions for 2018

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It’s that time of year again! And I’m predicting that 2018 will be the Year of the Responsive Organization. Being responsive has evolved from a nice-to-have to an expectation to a business imperative. In 2018, businesses will finally integrate their channels to gain a holistic view of the customer—and they’ll use this insight to deliver personalized service that exceeds customer expectations.

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Here’s how it will shake it out:

  1. Digital transformation will become operational, moving from theory to practice.

For the past five years, we’ve been chipping away at pieces of the digital transformation puzzle. We started with the customer-facing stuff, then realized that we need to integrate our back-end operations. But our systems weren’t ready and we hadn’t gone through the organizational change to break down internal silos. In 2018, the complete picture will finally fall into place. Organizations now have the technology, tools, and thinking to integrate the customer experience with their business model and their operational processes. The result will be a true digital transformation that changes the way companies relate and respond to their customers. Huzzah!

  1. Blockchain will revolutionize collaboration with customers and partners.

Although there’s a big buzz about the potential for Blockchain to improve advertising exchanges and customer loyalty programs (all true), I think it also has the potential to revolutionize customer and partner collaboration networks. Wherever there is a need for verified data sources, Blockchain can take center stage. From pharmaceutical companies being able to learn from patient experiences in aggregated and protected ways; to doctors sharing select pieces of research data with other researchers; to the ability to pay for user generated content and influencer marketing activities with a single safe click, Blockchain has it all. At the moment, the technology is more advanced than our imagination. But, as 2018 unfolds, keep your eye on organizations finding new ways to unlock its vast potential to deliver more personalized products and services. This is one to watch, for sure.

  1. Online communities will be recognized as the center of the customer journey.

Although the technology capabilities are there, the use cases for comprehensive online communities haven’t yet reached maturity. Most organizations aren’t using a community across their buyer journey: inviting prospective customers to learn and explore, collaborating with customers to ensure they are off to a good start, listening to their ongoing desires, and orchestrating the fulfillment of their needs. In 2018, companies will recognize that an online community is an enchanted place where all of this is possible, if only they expand their view. Look for companies to leverage their communities to sell more humanistically—boosting customer satisfaction and retention while gathering ideas to fuel future products and services.

  1. AI will be applied to marketing and sales to yield greater personalization. Everybody will win.

As context aware computing has come to the forefront, companies are using information about customers’ activities and preferences to anticipate their needs and serve up the most appropriate and customized content, product, or service. But it’s not just about the robots becoming more human. The big a-ha is that by letting technology do more work, the real humans can focus on activities that make a huge difference to customer intimacy. Things like helping customers solve complex problems using the insight and know-how that only humans can bring to the table. The end result? Good news for robots, companies, and customers alike.

  1. Social platform convergence will continue—and only the strong will survive.

Back in the day of siloed social systems, companies had two choices: cobble together a suite of best-in-class applications and hope for the best, or chose a system that professed to do it all, but did some of it poorly. Thankfully, those days are over. In 2018, we’ll continue to see social media platforms converge due to better and more APIs.These systems form the backbone of responsiveness by enabling companies to connect the dots between data and experience. Vendors who don’t evolve will go the way of the dinosaur. And companies who don’t apply the new systems strategically, to drive customer acquisition and retention, will topple into the tar pit right behind them.

  1. Knowledge managers will become corporate heroes.

We talk a lot about the data we collect on our customers. What about the data that resides within our organization—and within individual employees? In 2018, more and more companies will hire knowledge managers to ensure that internal information and resources are codified and can be tapped to meet customer needs. In 2018, more and more companies will hire knowledge managers to ensure that internal information and resources are codified and can be tapped to meet customer needs. With a strong knowledge manager in place, organizations can break silos, cross organizational boundaries, and get the right information—or the right person—in front of the right customer at the right time.

  1. Digital performance metrics will become standardized—which is sexier than it sounds.

Anyone who knows me knows I love a good metric. That’s why the continued move toward cross-industry standards for performance metrics has me shimmying in my swivel chair. Standardized metrics will, at last, enable us to measure what’s happening across the enterprise in a federated way. This will allow us to amp up responsiveness by doing things that customers love and doing away with the rest. But what’s equally exciting is that standardized metrics will level the playing field for marketing investments—bringing long-awaited consistency to things like ad buys and influencer campaigns.

  1. Social media types will finally learn to speak the language of business.

Speaking of standards, we’ve finally figured out that business executives don’t give two figs about likes and shares. They want to hear about social success using language that resonates in the boardroom: acquisition, retention, revenue, ROI. In 2018 we’ll moved toward a shared vocabulary as more marketers link their social strategies to their marketing strategies to their business strategies. This will enable them to talk about their social and digital campaigns in the quantitative terms that make business and financial stakeholders sit up and take notice.

  1. Social selling will become just “selling.”

Remember when we put an ‘e’ in front of everything? Ecommerce, emarketing, esupport? Now, that’s just the way we do business. The same is true of social selling. In 2018, we can officially drop the ‘social’ before selling and recognize that any sales pro worth her salt is using digital and social means to complement her sales techniques. In 2018, we can officially drop the ‘social’ before selling and recognize that any sales pro worth her salt is using digital and social means to complement her sales techniques. What we’ll see more of is sales pros ratcheting up responsiveness by using their powers to connect people to people and people to data.

  1. Customer experience professionals will start to look more like Margaret Mead and Max Weber.

As we focus on being more responsive to customer needs, it’s only natural to apply social science to fuel our approach. Our first toe-dip in the water was using the principles of psychology to create customer personas and customer journey maps. In 2018, we’ll begin to use anthropology and sociology to gain deeper customer insight based on cultural influences and social interaction. In the process, we’ll be able to see customers not as targets, segments, and demographics but as individual people. That will make us better at predicting customer needs and preferences and moving them from like, to want, to need, to love.

Now it’s your turn. Mix yourself a nice Hot Toddy and share your predictions in the comments.

A version of this post originally appeared on CMO.com

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