CRM marketing trends 2019

My inbox is filling up with industry insights and trends for 2019, which I consume with vigour.

What’s new that I don’t know about? Which amazing innovation can I excite my beloved clients with? What other channels can I use to enhance the customer experience? Am I still talking the talk and walking the walk as a CRM consultant at Profusion? And how can I bring new value?

So far, I’m seeing similar content and topics to those from previous yearly trend reports. However, what’s a little different this year is a sense of experience. Having dipped toes in the water, there’s a need to go deeper to provide that engaging 1:1 customer communication across multiple channels.

The three key areas are:

1. The single customer view

The SCV is the golden record. Whatever we choose to call it, it remains the number one priority. Businesses are still striving to align data silos and deliver the dream 1:1 omnichannel customer communications experience as seamlessly as possible.

The single customer view is on nearly every CRM trend report and so it should be, because it typically takes years to establish. I have the good fortune of working with a tremendously successful digital retailer. Two years in, after investing heavily in the ‘dream’, they are still trying to get the single customer view omnichannel experience working. But regardless of technology, we’re able to plan great post-purchase journeys that offer a truly personalised aftercare experience. Now we just need to work out if the technology can deliver it. If it can’t, we’ll adapt. But nothing should stop us from mapping out top quality customer journeys across channels.

So, as we continue our quest to build hyper-personalised communications into our overall comms strategy, let’s design more automated behavioural triggers and optimise existing ones to make them work harder.

Customer engagement through email and SMS should be regarded as a conversation between the customer and the brand. A standard ‘business as usual’ product comms brief should now consider this two-way dialogue and include priority ‘next best steps’ communications that can be automated depending on what a customer chooses to engage with.

A great example of this is the simple inclusion of a calendar feature within email inviting customers to tell us their key contact dates: whether their birthday, insurance renewal due date or anything else that’s important to them. Triggered emails and/or SMS metrics can expect to see a 100% increase in engagement compared with generic comms.

2. Storytelling – moving towards customer conversation

It’s not all about technology and automation. The human art of storytelling is alive in 2019 and we have the opportunity to leverage social media channels for this.

Nowadays Facebook and Instagram stories are overtaking feeds. Direct marketing initiatives need to generate the same emotional connection (rather than just commercial) with their customers and storytelling is an effective way of doing this.

Real-life experiences that resonate on a personal level, tailored to create rapport and compassion at each stage of the customer journey, will drive engagement and help you stand out against your competitors. At a most basic level, the old faithful email newsletter is a perfect platform to build out storytelling. Through highlighting and sharing customer experiences, authenticity is naturally generated. Video clips, social share options and quick ‘in email’ polls are other features that invite customers to be part of the story/dialogue you are generating.

The Ometria Consumer Census 2018 says email is still consumers’ channel of choice to hear from their favourite brands (45%), but social media is not far behind (42%). This brings me to the importance of user-generated content within the whole of storytelling and how social media posts can naturally feed this type of content into email. Back to point 1, the ability to map email addresses to customers social IDs – especially our influencers – should be part of the 2019 strategy. These teams should work closely together to do this.

3. Artificial intelligence

Leveraging AI – especially machine learning – to optimise all aspects of your communication is now mainstream. The more we learn about AI capabilities, the more we are starting to incorporate them into comms strategies. And the more AI learns from customer data, the more sophisticated it becomes.

From the basic send time optimisation to AI subject line optimisation (a machine can create a better subject line than a human every time) to chatbots, AI is expected to go from strength to strength in 2019. Our Send Time Optimiser model delivers an email at each and every customer’s preferred time and, so far, results are showing a 26% increase in engagement compared with a control group.

Increasing numbers of people are more comfortable with tech channels than voice (ie speaking to a machine). But you always need to carry customers with you and be as transparent as possible in how you are using their data. These are imperative parts of your comms dialogues.

Predictive modelling identifying an individual’s propensity to buy and/or churn are being embedded into CRM strategies with automated triggers to support these predictions. We’ve recently added the email unsubscribe forecaster model – a proactive response to reducing email engagement attrition – to our AI suite for one of our banking clients.

Live chat provides a wealth of digitally recorded data to support the roll-out of a chatbot – making it the most personalised and helpful experience possible. We will see chatbots serving ‘dark social’ conversations through untrackable leading messaging apps. Hootsuite tells us that messaging apps have nearly 5 billion monthly active users between them and that 90% of messaging app customers would like to use messaging to communicate with brands. Using historical analysis, we will be advising on and building decision trees that will form the basis of chatbots for frequently asked questions across all our clients.

Summary

The year 2019 is going to be tricky for the UK economy, with retail and finance challenges only exacerbated by the continuing uncertainty around Brexit.

This is no time for wild experimentation, so start strong with effective email communications – arguably even more than usual as channels proliferate and audiences fragment.

In this ephemeral communications landscape, and amid the battle for attention, email continues to speak to audiences across the age and lifestyle spectrum. It plays a quietly effective role, consistently delivering revenue and leading ROI, increasing engagement and customer retention.

Last but not least, we should remain conscious of the requirements of GDPR. Ensure that all your communications are built transparently but also consider how best to capture more of your customer data honestly and directly fuel the next phase of your communications.

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Author

Emma Church

Senior Consultant

Senior Consultant and Team Lead @ Profusion. Passionate curator of personalised customer journeys powered by data; experienced in transforming the power of data into meaningful insights for my clients. Devoted mum of two! Chair of Seal St Lawrence preschool and Spanish language teacher at St Lawrence CEP School.

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