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For their ninth annual Digital Trends Report, Adobe surveyed nearly 13,000 marketers, creatives, and IT professionals about their marketing priorities in 2019.

The report reveals that the top marketers invest heavily in personalized customer experience (CX) through marketing integration and CX technology, but most companies lag behind in both. For those companies leading the push to integrate these technologies, the benefit is unmistakable. The companies who identify as having a very advanced CX strategy were nearly 3x as likely to have exceeded their top 2018 business goal.

Companies that identified themselves as “digital first” – meaning that digital marketing was the priority over (and sometimes to the exclusion of) all other marketing activities — outperformed their peers in exceeding their top 2018 business goal.

percent of companies that exceeded their top 2018 business goal
Data Source: 2019 Adobe Digital Trends Report

Improving customer experience is a top priority

Investing in the right CX technology is a driving force behind industry leaders’ digital marketing strategy, with 65% of leaders indicating they have a highly integrated or somewhat integrated cloud-based technology stack (versus 33% of other companies).

CX technology helps marketers and IT professionals deliver highly personalized, optimized experiences for customers. A quarter of respondents ranked investing in new technology deployment as their top priority in their job role, followed by optimizing existing technology (22%).

Other top priorities included delivering improved employee experiences by optimizing existing technology (20%) and improving data collection and unification processes (19%).

Need for more unified, integrated data

The investment in CX technology and the focus on delivering improved personalized marketing experiences is driven by the need for more unified, integrated data. Essentially, you can’t have one without the other.

"If the technology platform is the engine room that drives CX and marketing activities, then the data is the oil that lubricates and powers this increasingly sophisticated machinery"

Adobe asked companies what they considered to be the most exciting opportunities associated with successful data integration. The responses differed somewhat for B2C versus B2B companies, but top opportunities included: delivering an optimized customer experience, creating compelling content and more personalized marketing, and increasing efficiency through marketing automation.

"which one area is the single most exciting opportunity for your organization in 2019?
Image Source: 2019 Adobe Digital Trends Report

More than half—55%–of marketers indicated that investing in technology that makes their data more effective is one of their top three priorities for 2019. This was followed by improving customer intelligence and insights (42%) and integration of marketing tools to help improve workflow (42%).

Data-driven marketing is the holy grail for large organizations, with 24% regarding it as the single most exciting opportunity in 2019, even winning out over improved customer experience.

There are some challenges to streamlining data, however, with 44% of companies stating they have difficulty getting a holistic view of customers across all interactions and 41% expressing difficulty with tracking the effectiveness of marketing and media spend.

Internal bottlenecks and organizational silos can pose additional challenges to data integration as well as platform incompatibility. Additionally, 38% of marketers indicated that a lack of internal resources is a top marketing challenge.

what are the top three marketing-related challenges most likely to keep you awake at night?
Image Source: 2019 Adobe Digital Trends Report

Understanding the customer journey

Marketers stated that understanding the customer journey is a key ingredient to delivering personalized content. In fact, 33% of respondents listed customer journey management as a top priority for their organization in 2019. This was the number one priority, followed by targeting and personalization (28%), customer data management (21%), content marketing (21%) and ecommerce (21%).

37% of larger companies—defined as organizations with annual revenues above 195m—indicated that delivering personalized experiences in real time was the most exciting prospect when looking ahead over the next three years.

Smaller organizations (those with annual revenues below 195m) also listed real-time personalized experiences as their top future prospect.

Other new technologies that companies are excited about include the following:

  • Utilizing AI/bots to drive campaigns and experiences
  • Internet of Things (IoT) – e.g., connected devices/wearables/audience tracking
  • Engaging audiences via virtual reality
  • Block-chain based functionality
  • Voice interfaces such as Amazon Echo and Google Home
  • Enhanced payment technologies/mobile wallets/e-receipts

All the above technologies can work independently or in collaboration with each other to help companies better understand the customer journey.

Many companies have already begun integrating some of these technologies into their business, with 39% of B2B and B2C marketers indicating that they are already delivering personalized experiences in real time. Embracing IoT technology is more prevalent with B2B marketers, with 25% of respondents indicating they have begun incorporating connected devices such as wearables into their marketing initiatives versus 18% of B2C marketers.

The other large disparity between B2B and B2C marketers was with enhanced payment technologies (EPTs) such as mobile wallets and e-receipts. In this category, B2C marketers come out way ahead, with 33% of them indicating they’ve already started to incorporate EPT technologies into their business versus 18% of B2B marketers.

Creative drives marketing

Technology can only go so far when it comes to delivering a successful marketing campaign—the other piece of the puzzle is the creative and design. More than 25% of the Adobe survey respondents were in creative or design roles and more than half (51%) indicated that creating standout content and campaigns was their organization’s top priority.

Other top priorities included maintaining consistency of brand (37%), ensuring high quality experiences across devices and channels (37%), speeding up/scaling content creating (34%) and team collaboration 24%).

Obviously, data integration and CX technologies can help with all of the above, but the most successful companies are able to integrate all of these tools to create the most impactful campaigns.

The importance of data governance

One of the key challenges that companies face with leveraging customer data in real-time in order to deliver relevant, personalized messaging, is gaining control of all their data.

Data that resides in a closed system such as Facebook or Google Ads (also called a walled garden), is challenging for companies who want to unify all customer data. These platforms typically offer a lower level of data control and transparency.  This makes it difficult for companies to integrate their data across channels and personalize consumer experiences without violating privacy.

The Adobe report also touches on the importance of data governance as it relates to regulatory compliance in an environment of increased consumer data protection.

Over half (52%) of CX leaders indicated that the increased focus on consumer data protection (e.g., GDPR), has had a positive impact on their organization, compared to just 32% of non-industry leaders.

Conversely, 16% of non-industry leaders indicated that consumer data protection increases have negatively impacted their organization, versus 8% of CX leaders.

The full 39-page report can be viewed from Adobe here.

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