Further digitalisation of marketing services has led to a significant change in customer behaviour. The possibility to interact with the brand on every channel has made audiences more demanding, but it has also opened up many opportunities for brands themselves. Here are my thoughts on what three trends will define the year in digital marketing in 2018.

1. Big Data & Personalisation

When it comes to getting personalisation right, brands have a mixed reputation. Global research confirmed that we’re particularly bad at it in the UK – in fact 98% of UK consumers believe that there is such a thing as ‘bad personalisation,’ because brands have out of date information (66% of UK consumers said this), or they’re getting personal customer details wrong (63%).

Yet brands say on average they’re collecting seven different types of data about their online customers to better understand their wants and needs. The problem is that companies admit that they’re out of their depth. For example, almost a fifth (18%) admit they lack the skills needed to properly use or analyse the data they collect and 42% don’t have the capabilities to integrate the data.

This means businesses are left with its lots of disparate data sets, intertwined but somewhat skewed – a data spaghetti if you like – which doesn’t enable them to create a true picture of the individual. As a result, customers are left frustrated and harassed when they’re spammed with offers, discounts and communications that are either out of date or simply irrelevant.

Next year retailers will – we hope – increasingly rely on information based on real-time shopper behaviour and combine it with previous history, contextual data, social media interests, etc. to create personalised shopping experiences. Amazon, for example, has been mastering personalisation for a few years now, and its ability to use data for customised user experience cannot be unrecognised.

2. Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning

2018 will be the year that AI and ML become more mainstream in digital marketing. These technologies have already started to prove value in number of areas including optimisation, personalisation, customer segmentation and contextual intelligence, enabling marketers to automate incredibly complex processes, so they can focus on the marketing rather than manual tasks. 2018 will see three main drivers powering the adoption of AI and ML in marketing:

  • The complexity of the industry: The marketing landscape has become ever more complex with the growing number of channels, the sheer volume of data, the fragmentation of the tech stack, and the unpredictable nature of the buyer’s journey.
  • The need to process all this in real time: making decisions about offers, personalisation and context in milliseconds, letting you improve your engagements in digital channels.
  • The need to do it at scale: The complexity and real-time imperatives might be manageable by using rules if you were handling a few interactions. But the reality is that you’re handling millions of those.

As the algorithms and its uses continue to advance, we’ll see more benefits as AI will be able to take this data and turn it into increasingly meaningful insight which can be acted upon.

3. Measuring The Omnichannel Experience

The expectation for a consistent and connected omnichannel experience is forcing retailers and brands to adopt a new approach that appeals to customers across all channels. In fact, Gartner suggests that by 2018 organisations that have fully invested in all types of online personalisation will outsell companies that have not, by more than 20%. 2018 will be pivotal year for embracing personalisation at every channel if you want to make your customers happy.

Despite the advent of the multichannel consumer in 2017, some brands are still creating personalised experiences through one channel only and are not making use of all the data which consumers provide. And as data is an excellent tool to master the omnichannel experience, 2018 should be a great time to embrace it!