Recent years have put data front-and-centre for brands, customers and regulators alike. Brands have gained access to more data from a broader range of sources than ever, helping them to cut through the noise and deliver more relevant experiences to their audience. For their part, customers and regulators appreciate the value of more personalised services, but want companies to take greater control of their data and manage it responsibly.
This focus on control is a unifying theme of our latest Digital Trends Report. Nearly 13,000 respondents participated in our survey, and one priority stood out for them above all else – to handle data in a more unified and transparent way so they can continue improving the customer experience.
Here’s a snapshot of this year’s findings:
- Brands are taking data back into their hands
Companies everywhere understand the value of data in helping them get closer to customers. Indeed, 55% of marketers are prioritising better use of data for more effective segmentation and targeting. However, businesses also realise the need to own and manage this data to differentiate themselves.
A heavy reliance on walled gardens – third party advertising platforms – continues to complicate matters. For brands control and visibility into how their data is being used is hugely important. As a result, 44% of agency respondents say a reliance on walled gardens is the number one headache for their clients, a trend that is driving businesses to bring elements of their data management in-house.
- Privacy regulation is seen as a positive, but there’s work to be done
The aim for brands is to improve their experience across every piece of the customer journey, and protecting consumers is a significant part of that. That’s why a majority of respondents believe laws such as Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation will have a positive impact on their business.
That said, brands understand they must adapt and be more conscious of the way they collect and manage information. Just under 30% of marketers say they are kept up at night by the challenge of personalising customer experiences without violating consumer privacy, providing them with yet another reason to take control of their data.
Control is not enough. In many cases, companies still work with systems that are no longer fit to manage data to modern standards. Nearly two-thirds of companies say their marketing and CX technologies are fragmented, with a lack of integration between tools. But progress is on the horizon – 63% of IT professionals have made it a priority to improve the way they collect data and unify it onto a single platform.
- Customer Experience Management has become everyone’s job
Looking back at the respondent base for our Digital Trends Report in previous years, it was once almost exclusively made up of marketers. This is no longer the case. Marketers only account for 23% of this year’s responses. Joining them are creative professionals (28%), IT experts (10%) and content specialists (7%), among others. This tells us that the customer journey is no longer seen as the sole domain of customer-facing teams. It has become a company-wide effort, and as brands make greater use of data to serve customers they will need to drive even more collaboration between to achieve their goals.
- CX investment is on the rise
Delivering better customer experiences remains a main priority for brands, with 50% of respondents planning to invest in improving their CX this year. Along with a more robust data foundation behind the scenes, this investment will help companies to draw additional value from their data and craft a more compelling customer journey.
Relevance at speed is seen as a major opportunity. One third of brands (33%) believe the ability to deliver real-time personalisation is one of their most exciting prospects for 2019. Equally telling is the fact that 36% of respondents have implemented Artificial Intelligence (AI) in a bid to personalise their customer experience more quickly and at scale, a 50% jump from last year.
These technologies show enormous promise, but brands understand that alongside a commitment to innovation they also need greater control over the data feeding these systems. AI in particular has put us on the cusp of a new era for digital customer experiences, and the results of our research give us a reason to be optimistic about what the future holds.
Learn more about what the next year has in store. Read our full Digital Trends Report here.