As we head into the new year, a sense of normalcy is beginning to reign, at least here in Ontario. People are talking about returning to work and school, businesses are hiring again and international travel restrictions are easing. Beneath the surface, however, it is a brand new world – one where work-from-home and Zoom meetings will remain commonplace, where private businesses are asking for medical information (like vaccination status), where DEI committees are becoming table stakes and where fear continues as stories from around the world paint a bleak picture of the pandemic’s relentless onslaught.
And in the world of data-driven marketing, disruption is no less evident. Radical digital transformation, a focus on online privacy protection, and changing customer behaviour have combined to create a new playing field for marketers – one where the rules are very different.
Here are the changes we are tracking into the ‘Next Normal’:
The online world has changed significantly; in just a few months, the already evident digital transformation was accelerated by 3-4 years (McKinsey). This transformation has provided marketers with unparalleled access to data about customers; but it also brings increased expectations for a seamless digital customer experience. Marketers are having to adapt the ways they orchestrate their campaigns and the way they use data.
Increased Privacy Protection
The value exchange between consumers and brands has not always been fair and it appears that consumers are fighting back! And they have the support of technology brands who are making privacy a competitive advantage. Tracking restrictions have been growing and this has marketers worried. The “death” of third party cookies is but one of the consumer protections making the marketers job more complex. This coupled with Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) and Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) – and moves by Microsoft and Mozilla – all make tracking users more difficult invalidating many triggered journeys, reports, deliverability estimates, retargeting actions and much more. Even A/B testing just got harder.
Changing Customer Behaviour
Customers are also behaving differently – doing more online shopping, visiting stores with different frequency, buying different items (who among us purchased face masks in 2019?). This is forcing marketers to look hard at their models and past research to understand whether they still reflect customer behaviour accurately, and can still be in the same way as they were previously. Predictive analytics has always used the past to predict the future but what happens when the past and the future look so different? Couple that with the fact that the pandemic is not a black and white thing; behaviours and attitudes have shifted as more information on transmission becomes available, as cases rise and fall and as governments change.
Digging deeper: How to prepare and adapt
The industry is adapting in a variety of ways and it is a time of great learning for those who focus on customer understanding and the use of data. In this post, we will dig deeper into these changes and how data and insights professionals can adapt and prepare themselves for them.
For example, we will discuss the rise of Customer Data Platforms (CDP), which bring the promise of well-orchestrated customer experiences across channels – for those who can figure how to most effectively integrate them into their customer ecosystem.
In addition, we will look at why the changes in privacy protection and tracking aren’t all bad and how they can lead us to focusing on richer and more relevant customer insights. Finally we will discuss some of the ways data and analytic professionals can evaluate their models and research to determine what is still viable and what needs to be updated.
The key for marketers will be to plan for the Next Normal with the best information they have available and to adapt as it unfolds.