Looking back, many businesses were woefully unprepared for the waves of disruption and change that occurred over the last few years. And many people realized that ‘the future’ is not a yearly exercise. Even the best-laid plans, according to current intelligence, are frequently not future-ready in times of upheaval. So, the big shift in future readiness is the shift from working with what we know today to work to be ready for what we can't say now. Future readiness, like so many transformative business elements, is a journey rather than a specific destination - a state of mind if you will, in preparing the enterprise for resilience in the face of challenge and preparedness in the face of opportunity.
When discussing marketing strategy and operations these days, the most frequently asked questions revolve around how to be prepared the next time the world turns upside down or throws a curveball. All of the pre-COVID challenges remain, but they have been exacerbated by questions about how the marketing organization could have handled the previous two years differently, what will make their brands more robust and resilient, and how marketing needs to change to remain a driver of business growth - now and in the future. They want to know what effective marketing looks like now, in 2025, and in 2030. And they want to know what it will take to get there in terms of specific execution roadmaps and investment models. This raises the larger questions: How to Prepare- How to adapt your brand proposition to reflect a changing operating environment and evolving customer expectations? How can I modernize my marketing operations so that I can better understand and address my customers and prospects? How can I do all of this with the capabilities, organization, governance structure, and so on that I already have, some of which were designed for very different eras?
Gartner predicted that more than half of organizations' transformation readiness was uncertain. As everything becomes more modern, evolution in data analytics is becoming critical for organizations to become future-ready. While digital transformation is a continuous process, the new normal has compelled organizations to maximize their efforts. The need for seamless customer engagements via the remote workforce is driving this. Furthermore, most organizations have begun to prioritize cybersecurity, building out infrastructure to support the remote workforce.
Trends accelerate and others fade in the face of change, but one thing is certain: the future of marketing is coming at us fast. But it's not all doom and gloom. Indeed, there has never been a better time to be a marketer. New technologies and consumer behaviors are transforming the industry at breakneck speed, opening up a plethora of opportunities for those who can keep up - or, better yet, get ahead of the curve. To get a sense of what the future of marketing might look like, let's look at five of the most important changes that marketing organizations will have to deal with.
Maybe the Metaverse offers an infinite, multi-sensory interface for new products, services, and experiences. While it is too early to predict what the Metaverse will be, we are confident that it will be more than the latest shiny object because, at its core, it is a convergence of already existing technologies, social, commerce, and service habits and expectations that are changing the way people live their lives. In the coming years, new technologies will continue to refine the Metaverse, but it is already emerging as a digital layer atop everyday life - a digital twin of the physical world that necessitates a reflection on purpose - and business models.
The War For Talent
The ‘great resignation’ has thrown the workforce into disarray, from white collar to labor markets. Employers are scrambling to replace departing employees while also hiring for expansion and retaining current high performers. While the long-term impact of this trend is unknown, workers are voting with their feet and letting companies of all sizes know that they expect something different. Much of this comes down to culture. While culture change has long been on the corporate agenda, companies that will win the talent war will look outside their organizations for a more complete understanding of what emerging talent wants and needs.
Marketing to Machines
Brands will increasingly implement strategies for marketing machines to support ‘bot commerce’. As AI systems and bots pick up the slack, people will be increasingly liberated from many essential routine activities and decisions. People will have AI-based shopping apps that do their grocery shopping or gift selection based on their criteria and shopping behaviors. To maximize sales and ROI, businesses and brands will need to adapt and optimize their advertising and content to interface with personal shopping AI tools.
A New Era of Channel Disruption
Fragmented and diversified channel ecosystems are nothing new. But in the future, the types of channels marketers deploy will evolve. The rise of connected and autonomous vehicles will pave the way for a growing number of screens to be used for intelligence, entertainment, and advertising. Elon Musk’s company Neuralink is even building tools that communicate directly with the brain with the applications for the technology stated to be limitless – could this allow marketers to get product reviews or influence decision-making in real-time? Maybe. The fact is, the channel ecosystem of the future will be wildly complex. Even start-ups will need to invest in an extensive portfolio of channels to successfully compete.
Supply Shortages and Global Inflation
If you've been paying attention to the news lately, you've probably noticed that supply chains are being disrupted, global inflation is rising, and wage stagnation is a problem in many markets. Consumer prices rose faster than expected over the last year, and interest rate hikes have already begun. While consumer appetite has not changed, how consumers shop and with which brands have. While shortages of building materials and microchips are crippling enough, consumers feel the pinch of less disposable income the most at the local supermarket. Marketers must not only address consumer frustrations with delayed delivery times and out-of-stock messaging, but they must also transition from pithy empathetic communications to the "squeezed middle" and start acting in ways that make difficult times easier for customers’ experiences. To maintain customer relationships, they must use Value-based Innovation to find new ways to promote growth and engage with customers.
No matter where you are on the journey, there are two common principles that successful companies apply to the transformation that increases the chances of success: first, the transformation is from the outside in. Ensure that the motivation for change is to better serve a customer (or stakeholder) need rather than to meet an internally focused scorecard goal. Second, the transformation is oriented toward the future. Take into account the customer's unmet and unknown needs. The transformation will be more resilient and capable of driving growth over multiple time horizons if it is designed with a future-ready mindset.