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2014 Trends: Organizing Around the Social Customer

Andrew Jones

Customer attention will continue to fragment in 2014, making it harder than ever for brands to engage with customers. But it will also be the year in which brands capitalize on a largely untapped opportunity presented by social media—applying social signals to enhance targeting and personalization in existing customer engagement channels such as email and advertising. Here are six trends that relate to this theme:

1. The promise of Social CRM will finally be fulfilled. Social Media Management Systems (SMMS) were never meant to be just a set of engagement features, and brands have been collecting varying degrees of information about social interactions for years. However, 2014 will see more insights come out of that data, as well as opportunities to apply them beyond a siloed social channel.

2. Email marketing will become more important, not less. It is still the primary engagement point with customers and, by incorporating social and other data for improved targeting and customization, will gain relevance and remain the most important customer engagement channel.

3. Marketing automation will become increasingly important to leverage customer data and engage in real-time, regardless of the channel. Marketing automation vendors (and their customers) have the mixed blessing of countless available data sources to improve segmentation. “Mixed” in the sense that there’s so much that could be done and more data every day, but also because optimization never ends and much of it is manual today. We will see more partnerships and acquisitions to improve targeting, content creation, and right-time delivery on the right channels.

4. Data collection and application will become an increasingly important value proposition for technology vendors. Social sign-on vendors Janrain and Gigya have sold their services based on facilitating customer sign-ups and lower bounce rates, yet in the future they will sell on the benefit of increased customer insight at least as much. Tealium, which simplifies tag management for large brands, is aggregating data to provide real-time customer-action data to better engage them in the moment. This data layer will be more important than ever before for these and many other vendors.

5. The tech giants see a big opportunity and are working to enable personalized, cross-channel marketing at scale. Oracle, Salesforce, and Adobe in particular have made significant acquisitions and investments [http://www.altimetergroup.com/2013/10/digital-marketing-suite.html] in the social, content, and marketing automation spaces. They are each aiming to offer consolidated, simplified offerings that “close the loop” as much as possible on understanding customers and engaging them throughout their dynamic digital journeys.

6. The customer experience will be put at the center of business operation, rather than department-specific efforts. The customer journey has become fluid and dynamic, no longer the domain of just one business unit. Marketing can no longer operate independently of sales or customer service, because the customer doesn’t care about the difference but does expect consistency. We are even seeing the creation of a Chief Experience Officer (CXO) who coordinates efforts across departments and channels to ensure a consistent customer experience.

What this means for Social Business:

As part of this trend, Social will move out of its silo to become part of Digital. Social media has played a big part in enabling a more dynamic customer journey, yet until now has been often treated as trivial or separate. The application of social to improve efforts in other channels (views, open rates, CTR, etc.) will also provide an important answer to the eternal question of Social Media’s ROI.

Is your company doing this, or are you a vendor that provides related services? Please leave a comment or submit a briefing request! We’d like to include you in our research for an upcoming report.