2016 is the year of the customer. But wait a minute, wasn’t 2015 the year of the customer? In fact, for several years it’s been all hail customer centric marketing.

But 2016 really does feel as though it could be the year we begin to put the customer up front and central, not only in marketing activity, but to the wider business strategy. And that’s because the two go hand in hand.

Without good quality, customer driven data, marketing creative and customer support services, companies cannot offer their customers the relevant and valuable content and services that they aspire to. Many organizations are beginning to look at their business from a variety of dimensions, to ensure that all of the different parts of the system work together for the good of the customer.

Data driven marketing

And this is why I’m ranking data driven marketing as my first key trend. Data-driven marketing is increasingly seen as the heart of the new customer-centric strategy. To improve customer experience, customer data is needed. To improve user experience, data is needed. To personalize and optimize, data is needed. Companies which can effectively capitalize on the data they collect will be able to tailor communications based on customer habits and their context in the wider world.

Smart physical spaces

What’s more, retailers can now connect their own business data with a wide range of external data, and bring it all together into one dashboard. Businesses have had access to website analytics for many years, and now they are able to do the same for their physical space. By taking data from WiFi, GPS, bluetooth, beacons and even the weather, a retailer can see how external factors influence and affect sales – in real time – which connects both the offline and and online shopping experience and makes speedy changes across campaign activity possible.

Personalization and content optimization

Having opened the customer data tap, the sky’s the limit when it comes to creating individual, personalized content that will engage customers and hold their attention by giving real value. Something that will become increasingly important in a world that grows ever noisier.

When kept simple I’ve found Amazon’s book recommendations to be helpful and Netflix’s ‘we’ve just added a programme you might like’ emails to be accurate. The personalised sticker on my delivery from Wool and the Gang was a nice touch – and yes I bought more. Others must have a similar experience as the ‘response to buying suggestions’ that Amazon offers its customers is said to generate an additional 10% to 30% in revenue for the business.

Mobile and location based technology

For many customers their experience of a brand’s mobile offering is very important and goes beyond the mobile site. There are many examples of retailers such as Tesco, Target and Waitrose experimenting with location-sensing technologies. Most of these examples revolve around location based offers and reviews. Could this be the year where improved content and personalization increases the number of customers willing to download the retailer’s mobile app or login to their WiFi and therefore provide their location in return for an even better experience or reward?

Cisco also stated recently that almost 40% of shoppers use WiFi in-store to view a retailer’s website while physically shopping in the store, and nearly half (46%) then go on to buy products in the store after they’ve conducted online research on their mobiles. The figure is even higher for the younger generation.

“Retail knows what you respond to. Stores want to know when you go to different areas, your primary means of interaction and the money spent per customer,” said Brendan O’Brien, Cisco’s Director of Global Marketing and Sales.

In another Cisco survey, 46 percent of respondents said they wanted personalized promotions delivered via a smartphone, while 38% said they wanted personalized product offers. Another 30% wanted personalized shopping lists, with personalized service mentioned by another 30 percent.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things is the interconnectivity of our digital devices that provides endless opportunities for brands to listen and respond to the needs of their customers – with the right message, at the right time, on the right device.

Devices such as Apple Watch, Fitbit and Nest Thermostat are leading the way when it comes to products that offer opportunities for real-time engagement and customer service. Gone are the days when marketing teams had to try to figure out what the customer wants. Will 2016 be the year we see many more companies developing IoT initiatives to meet customer demand – and reaping the benefits?

Bring it all together to create an omni-channel experience

Customers think in terms of a general brand experience; they don’t differentiate between touchpoints and channels, inbound and outbound. Whether the customer is shopping online from a desktop or mobile device, by telephone or in a store, they want a consistent brand experience.

Disney created an omni-channel experience and gained great insights into the lives of their customers:

  1. Their experience starts on their mobile responsive website.
  2. Users book a trip and then use the My Disney Experience tool to help them plan the whole trip from booking hotels, obtaining passes etc.
  3. Once they arrive at the park, the app helps users locate attractions and waiting times.
  4. But the experience gets better with their Magic Band which acts as a hotel room key, photo storage device for any pictures, and a food ordering tool.

So far, Disney is just one example of a brand that has pulled together all of the trends I’ve tipped for 2016.  By doing this they have built new insights into what their customers are doing throughout a Disney holiday, they can find out what is working, and they know what needs to  change. Surely having so much actionable insight is any marketer’s dream?