The Changes That Will Shape the Marketing Industry in 2016

Philippa Snare

Philippa Snare, the Chief Marketing Officer of Microsoft UK, discusses the next big thing to hit the marketing industry within the coming 12 months – and how marketers can prepare for this.

The future of marketing and most innovative trends that will shape the marketing industry in 2016 are the same as they were in 1916: understanding who your audience and customers are, where they are and then showing you are listening and responding to their feedback. The only difference now is that there are millions more ways to listen, to engage and, more importantly, to show you are responding.

Technology, of course, has driven the more recent channels. First there were message boards and chat rooms, then there were websites, blogs, text messages, click to chat, instant messenger, Bots, emails, mobile sites. Now there are real-time chats, in gaming bubbles, video blogging and millions of apps.

So what is the next big thing? Most people I know are working on automation. Some would say because of the efficiency and responsiveness of the medium, others would say because it is what digital was always driving towards to make customised solutions and services so responsive to their customers that fulfilment of goods and services are immediate, but still feel personal and not programmatic.

Automation is a smart way of using technology to join the dots in a customer’s journey through all the complex ways of communication, to enable the customer to get to the goods or services they want as quickly as possible. For business it drives quicker fulfilment and reduces the cost of sale, and customers get what they are looking for quickly and with as little fuss as possible.

A different breed of marketer

But what does it pragmatically mean to implement? You need different kinds of marketers because you need to find the balance between people driven by creative problems solving and people who love data; those who are thirsty to read data, recognise customer journey patterns and who can build or work with analysts to build intuitive algorithms that embed those insights into a marketing tool that can then automate recognising those patterns again.

This marketer is a cross-breed of the original creative advertising guru with the search, performance optimisation god. This is the biggest challenge we have – finding the people who can appreciate both, and learn how to bring these skills together to create the most extraordinary customer experience out there.

Bringing together performance marketing skills with creative problem solving means you then have a team of people who care deeply about the customers’ objectives, understand where they are and who influences them, and can make educated decisions about the route to market they use to truly show to that individual customer that we know you, we care and we are putting ourselves in your shoes to help you find the best possible market solution.

I believe most companies are already on this route. Small companies have to be as they have limited resources and time, and so any tools and services out there offering this automation now is critical to them reaching customers immediately. This is why the likes of Facebook, eBay, and Amazon are experience exponential growth; their SME customers are driving their own adoption, and for those apps and service providers their job it to almost recognise where they play a useful role and try not to get in the way.

For larger organisations and enterprises this can cause enormous infrastructure challenges – centralising customer data, protecting and governing the access to such precious information and creating or implementing existing tools are options, though many will opt to design their own to work better with their existing systems.

Additionally there are significant cultural changes. Not just for marketers, but also for example for SME sales. Why have a costly sales force if the long tail business can be automated? How do you recognise higher value customers that require a more personal service? And how do you include your reseller partners in this journey?

This is where great companies recognise the fundamental shifts and realise that this capability means that the line between sales and marketing just became irrelevant. They are one in the same, marketers will just as soon be on quotas and demanding rewards for closing business at scale, as much as sales will start to demand better content and richer insights before they contact a new customer.

This is what SMEs are doing successfully today and why many economies are growing faster in this sector than in enterprise business.

How can marketers adapt?

There are many ways in which today’s marketer can adapt to the changing landscape. If I was at the start of my career I would recommend marketers to learn by working or starting up their own business; becoming comfortable with data and processes or finding a partner that is; never being more than one step removed from talking to your customers; following influential video bloggers; and getting familiar with having a profile for yourself and your business.