What’s in store for marketers? Forget crystal balls — this article in Forbes, written late last year by former CMO Kimberly A. Whitler, offered insights and predictions for the year ahead from CEOs, authors, and other marketing experts.

So what did these experts predict would happen in the wonderful world of marketing during 2016? More targeted, personalized efforts are a major theme among the experts, as is data-driven channel management and analytics. They also saw a more human element start to come through more in marketing, and an evolution of traditional channels such as television.

As we near the end of 2016, these predictions probably won’t come as too big of a surprise. In fact, you’ve probably started implementing a few of them into your own marketing strategies. Below, we sum up a few of the key trends that Whitler rounded up in the article.

Think360° Summary

  • The “human” element of marketing is here to stay.

Despite the rise of “MarTech,” marketing has always been about the people. Who is your prospect and how do you connect with him? How do you solve his problems better than your competitors? According to experts like CMO C. Dave Minifie and CEO Matt Goddard, these are the important questions that marketers need to refocus on in today’s technological age. Says Goddard, “This means that the CMO will [be] optimizing content, data and technology so that personalization becomes more of a predictive and pre-planned experience for the customer rather than a result of behavioral engagements that trigger personalization.”

  • But more targeted personalization is on the upswing — and that makes all the difference

Whether it’s creating more meaningful experiences for Gen Xers and Millennials, or integrating data science with traditional marketing efforts to better understand customer personas, experts agreed that more targeted personalization will bring success to marketing teams as they reach out to prospects. But how do marketers show what their personalization efforts are really accomplishing? On this, Goddard said, “For the CMO to capitalize on this and be able to show ROI on the investments, s/he should ensure they not only have an integrated marketing cloud now but also a clear set of fully defined personas and customer segments to whom they can deliver the right content the right time.”

  • Tracking offline activity is as necessary and realistic as tracking online activity.

New technologies are allowing companies to track activities both online and offline in real-time, and this information will only help businesses (and their marketing and sales teams) know how to proceed with their efforts and where to make changes. For example, as CMO of ThinkingPhones Brian Kardon stated, “Today, telephone call logs are being integrated with other behavioural data to better understand where the customer is on their buying journey. Perhaps that prospect who never came to your website or opened an email is actually engaged with a rep…Analytics that (finally) include phone connections will lead to better sales/marketing alignment and great productivity.”

  • Content differentiation becomes more important as customers see too much of the same.

Marketing teams are only facing more pressure to adopt original approaches to developing content that will deliver real value to prospects and customers. ‘Been there, done that!’ is what everyone seems to be saying these days, and as Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer of Corporate Visions Tim Riesterer said, “Companies will need to take more interesting, edgy and counter-intuitive stands in order to get credit for providing fresh thoughts and information.” Luckily, by utilizing insights gleaned from the data that marketing teams are now collecting, this is fast becoming our reality. It’s now easier than ever for marketers to discover the kinds of content are really resonating, and which kinds simply need to be retired.

  • Data will be at the center of everything.

Data science offers marketers insights that let them truly understand their buyers, and this has become more and more evident as 2016 has progressed. By utilizing data, marketers can better understand buyer profiles, develop more specific personas, and deliver more relevant messages and experiences. And as Andy Zimmerman, CMO of Evergage, predicted of 2016, “We’ll see marketers capitalize on these capabilities more in the year ahead.” As we move into 2017, we predict that data science will only continue to make it easier for marketers to target the right people with the right messages through the right channels.

How many of these predictions did you see realized within your organization this year? As we inch closer to next year, what are the marketing changes you expect to see ahead?

Original Post

What are the top predictions for marketers next year? To find out, I turned to some of the leading experts, including CEOs, Presidents/GMs, CMOs, authors and executive recruiters.

Prediction #1: Digital Marketing will Cease (as Marketers Shift to Marketing in a Digital World)

From Michael Schinelli, CMO, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

“Digital has become the consumer lens. The customer journey has become tremendously complex and connected. It’s omni-channel and always on, whether it’s a programmatic campaign or a sale in aisle three. Over the past decade, marketers have coped by optimizing multiple individual, (mostly digital) platforms. We hear “digital first” and “mobile first” as rallying cries for those in the throes of this sea change. But there’s a bigger picture emerging: it’s not just the new platforms that are digital, it’s the world. Marketers need to shift from sorting tactics and channels as either digital or not. When they do, they’ll catch up with their customers.”

Prediction #2: The Era of Cognitive Commerce has Begun

From Deepak Advani, General Manager for IBM Commerce

At a time when consumers demand instant gratification, marketers must more deeply engage each customer to build advocacy. According to Advani, a former Chief Marketing Officer, the key is cognitive commerce. This will enable marketers to gain insights into a vast collection of information and possibilities, understand what individuals really want and what they are saying, get a line of sight into their unique personalities, how they respond to different messages and much more. With this deeper level of insight, marketers can identify patterns and make unlikely connections that allow them to engage consumers in highly personalized in context conversations. This is exactly what we want from brands today and cognition is the key to making it all happen.

Read the complete article on Forbes.