By Scot Riches

The Canadian Marketing Association’s (CMA) Insights Council kicked off 2019 with a lively discussion about trends and hot topics at a recent meeting. We debated what the data-driven Canadian marketer should be paying attention to in the year ahead. This energetic conversation with data scientists, strategists and research professionals covered a lot of ground, from emerging technology to age-old organizational challenges.

Here are five topics that seemed to drive the most discussion.

  1. Voice. Even beyond insights and analytics, the role of voice search and personal assistants in the marketing mix will have the attention of many marketers in 2019. Some on the CMA Insights Council are focused on how the use of voice can capture more natural customer insights, but also on the privacy concerns with this kind of data collection. Others on the council are struggling with how to use all this voice data they are already collecting and how to cope with the pace of change and volume
    of insights.

Much of the council’s discussion was about what’s next. The way consumers are asking questions is changing so rapidly, along with consumer expectations. The idea of picking up or interacting with a specific device to ask our questions is slowly disappearing. We have moved from query by search bar, to smartphone and to “air” (via personal assistants). Where does this leave the brands that we are marketing? What role can the insights and analytics function play in ensuring marketing success in this new environment?

  1. Augmented reality (AR). AR is finally starting to find its way into marketing programmes in a more practical way than ever before. From a data and insights perspective, Insights Council members are confronting the actual implementation and measurement challenges associated with AR becoming a day-to-day reality versus just pie-in-the-sky thinking. Really understanding how customers are experiencing and interacting with brands via AR applications and then turning those insights into action will be a hot topic for many marketers this year.
  2. Hyper-personalization versus hyper-relevance. Consumers’ expectations of personalization are on the rise. From an insights and analytics perspective, delivering on the expectation of customized experiences remains a hot topic. While in the past we discussed this in terms of delivering hyper-personalized experiences, our latest conversation focused on how we ensure that these personalized experiences are actually relevant to consumers. “Just because it has my name on it doesn’t make it relevant” is something we are hearing more often. A lot of the time, relevance equals speed: the most hyper-personalized communications can be irrelevant if they are delivered after the purchase decisions have been made.
  3. Single view of the customer. Insights Council members noted that many Canadian organizations, particularly larger ones, still struggle with how to define and manage a single view of the customer. In other words, the idea of having an aggregated view of all the data an organization has on a customer in one place rather than across disparate systems or platforms. With new, emerging and more unstructured data sources becoming available all the time, this idea has never been more important from both marketing measurement and planning perspectives.
  4. Attracting and retaining data and analytics talent. The Insights Council discussed the fact that almost two-thirds of big companies and brands are now employing chief data officers (CDOs)1 and adding more and more data scientists into their business teams. For some, the struggle is finding and keeping the right data talent: and the focus in 2019 will be on creating collaborative environments, with fewer silos and more teamwork. In this kind of environment, insights and analytics can provide the most value and practitioners also feel the most valued.

These five hot topics were not the only issues raised by the Insights Council. As an example, marketing practitioners are still trying to make sure they are balancing the basics of personalization with organizational pressures on the return on investment (ROI), basically the costs/benefits of doing what customers expect. The good news is that it seems like data and insights-based marketing is getting more and more attention: leaving no shortage of topics for the Insights Council to discuss. The Canadian data-driven marketer certainly has a lot to think about in 2019, and that’s a good thing.

Scot Riches is the chair of the Canadian Marketing Association (CMA) ( Insights Council and Chief CRM Officer at RI. The CMA’s Insights Council has a mandate to provide thought leadership to Canadian marketers about leveraging data, analytics and consumer insights to improve business decision-making. The Council meets on a monthly basis and creates content for the Association’s blog.

1 Randy Bean, “Big Data Executive Survey 2018”, NewVantage Partners, report, January 8, 2018.

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