Following a year and a half of upheaval across the business landscape, the future of marketing and customer experience holds a lot of unknowns. To gain a better understanding of how brands can thrive in an increasingly complex world, Deloitte conducted research among C-suite executives and consumers globally as part of our annual Global Marketing Trends Report.
According to the data and insights we gathered, holistically rethinking customer engagement and experience is crucial to remaining competitive. When we surveyed over 1,000 global executives, we found the highest-growing brands (those with +10% annual growth) are moving beyond point solutions to comprehensively address the entire customer experience — from activating an enterprise-wide purpose to overhauling entire customer data strategies.
The results of our research provide a roadmap for brand leaders across industries to harness in the year ahead, identifying the seven trends driving companies forward. Ultimately, it all comes down to people, data, and experience.
People: the foundation through which everything must flow
Everything a brand does is based on one key foundation: the people it is serving. It’s critical for leaders to start here to understand the key movements impacting consumer views of the brands they engage with.
Right now, many brands are redefining why they exist beyond profit. Having purpose has evolved from aspiration to strategic priority, and it’s working — high-growth brands are cutting through the noise of competing on price and quality alone and building a competitive advantage by committing to and communicating their impact beyond profit.
To that end, DE&I and inclusive marketing are becoming paramount for consumers, especially younger ones. Our research found that 57% of consumers are more loyal to brands that commit to actionably addressing social inequities. Marketers and their advertisements are generally the faces of what a brand stands for to consumers, and it’s important to get the brand authentically right or risk losing current and future customers.
This commitment to authenticity also lends itself to internal audiences. It’s time for marketers to cultivate an intelligent creative engine to unleash creative content that better resonates with today’s world. When we surveyed 556 global CMOs and asked them to identify the top skills of their highest performers, analytical expertise edged out creative skills. This will likely become increasingly important as leaders look to marry these skills to solve customer problems and reposition external partnerships, for example, by transforming influencers from product spokespeople into creative agents.
These trends show that by centring purpose, inclusivity and creativity in programming, brands can generate a stronger experience for their people, both within and outside of the business.
Data: implementing the infrastructure to navigate a complex environment
One way brands can learn about and better relate to their customers is through the data they share. However, the data ecosystem marketers know is poised to change dramatically in the year ahead. As third-party cookies continue to disappear, owning customer data is likely the best way to prepare for the environment ahead.
To remain competitive, marketers should invest in their first-party data strategy and infrastructure. In fact, many leading brands are already ahead in their first-party data strategies – 61% of high-growth companies as identified by our research say they are already shifting to a first-party data strategy, while only 40% of negative-growth companies say the same.
With consumer data more protected and consumers increasingly guarded and discerning about sharing their own personal information, marketers should design a human-first data experience anchored in transparency and trust to capture the data necessary for their brands to thrive. Doing so centres the consumer to help marketers better understand the balance between people finding the use of their data helpful and creepy. In our research, almost every one of our scenarios that were grounded in brand relationships — and shied away from in-depth tracking — were ranked by customers as most helpful.
While navigating the consumer privacy landscape is difficult, being transparent about how data is used and always keeping customers’ needs in mind can lead to better experiences and the most important relationship builder of all: trust.
Experiences: curating dynamic, end-to-end experiences that entice today’s consumer
When exploring how brands can hone in on the people they serve through, experience design is essential for matching the experience with aspirations of delivering dynamic solutions to customers.
The importance of emphasizing experience design in marketing is clear: 75% of global executives plan to invest more in delivering hybrid experiences over the next year. The top reasons C-suite leaders also invest more in hybrid: amplifying personalization (43%), innovation (43%), customer connection (40%), and inclusion (38%).
As brands build dynamic, cohesive experiences in their digital and in-person environments, the most successful are letting the principles of human-centred design inform their experience strategy. By centring on human needs, involving the end-user in the development of the experience, and then rapidly innovating, brands can make their physical and digital experiences as agile and flexible as consumers have come to expect.
A key tactic in accomplishing this involves integrating AI with customer service to bring the best of both to the entire customer journey. In doing so, brands can enhance the relational elements necessary to provide ongoing value and demonstrate their capability and reliability to consumers. In one case, a travel and hospitality company funnelled its data through a cloud-based CRM system to feed the critical parts of interactions front-of-house staff needs in real-time and uncover moments to provide great personalization at scale.
Altogether, these trends highlight that by moving beyond point solutions to a 360 degree-view and creating an interdependent system built upon people, data, and experiences, leaders can utilize marketing as a powerful force for enterprise-level growth that resonates, fosters trust, and meets human needs. And in today’s world, this is paramount to success, both now and into the future.