Last year was a momentous one to say the least. Worldwide, we witnessed events like Brexit that will go down in history books, saw game-changing technologies enter the mainstream and experienced shifts in every way we operate – from communication to making purchases. 2017 however, will bring on the full impact of these changes and industry advances. The EMEA market is the perfect encapsulation for how the notable events of 2016 will impact expectations this year.

    1. Customer experience and personalization: The customer experience has changed with the Digital Age. The quality of experience has changed, people are expecting more communication and expecting it to be customized for their needs. The expectation for more personalization puts pressure on businesses to get more targeted, connected and data-oriented.
    2. Brand selection: According to SiriusDecisions, 67 percent of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally. Customers are doing their own research to become more knowledgeable about products before making any decisions. And with more knowledge, customers will become more selective about which brands they choose to engage. Specifically, as customers look for meaningful experiences, they’ll demonstrate preferences toward brands with a purpose as well as those that have proven themselves trustworthy.
    3. Need fulfillment: Have you heard about Google’s micro-moment? That 8.25 seconds of time is the moment we’re currently living in. In 2017, we’ll see the “on demand” environment permeate industries with customers expecting more and better demand fulfillment of their needs. Businesses will have to know their customers – past, current and likely future – needs as well as their preferences in order to meet this expectation.

How should EMEA marketers respond?

With new expectations on the rise, it’s clear that we marketers have to roll our sleeves up and get to work. To respond to the demands for quality, marketers have work to do. First, they must recognize that technology is everywhere. And this doesn’t just mean new developments in mobile or social. While these technologies are constantly improving, marketers should also recognize completely new categories – artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR). These new technologies have brought us to a point where technology is literally everywhere and embedded in everything we do.

EMEA marketers should put all intentions into knowing their customers better. Get more targeted. The ubiquity of technology gives us the opportunity to know our customer better, an opportunity marketers can’t afford to miss. Delivering the personalization that customers now demand, requires us to know customers like the back of our hands. This is where new categories of technology like AI play a major role, becoming tools for more than just customer engagement. AI can assist in learning about customer needs and preferences to feed marketing automation platforms the information to put together a more complete picture of our customers.

Having a complete picture of each customer or lead that comes through the pipeline means it’s time to get more targeted. From the rise of programmatic ads that make cross-device advertising and targeting possible to the use of learning technology in a variety of platforms, the opportunities to get incredibility specific with individual customers are endless. Social media also presents new targeting opportunities by reinventing itself from a brand megaphone to a great platform for one-to-one engagements, even in the B2B category.

Finally, marketers across the globe, not just in EMEA need to work smarter, not harder. Hard work is great when it pays off, but if you’re running around in circles just trying to “get stuff done”, maybe you’re not working smart enough. Between tapping new channels, getting more targeted, creating more personalized content, marketers will certainly have a full plate and then some. But even with a massive workload, the key in 2017 will be to work smarter, not harder. There are a few specific things you can do to ensure a smarter working environment:

  • Track efforts across channels to maintain consistency
  • Use automation to trigger real-time responses
  • Review data to understand customer preferences and determine what’s working

What tools should EMEA marketers invest in to amplify efforts?

The key to keep in mind this year is that none of these new initiatives will matter if you can’t put any automation or intelligence behind them. To achieve your 2017 goals and keep up with EMEA market trends, you need a marketing automation platform that can keep up with your changing needs.

Marketers should make sure you’re using that platform properly to maximize it’s value. Partner with technology vendors that no matter where their global headquarters are, they’ve taken initiative in investing in EMEA priorities – specific items such as implementing a team in EMEA to be available for their customers and achieving proper EMEA certifications like the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield. And, if you aren’t confident in running marketing technology yourself right out of the gate, look for a vendor that is willing to do it for you – with minimal effort on your part. Do it for me (DIFM) services are becoming increasingly popular in a world where we know technology is a major piece of our strategy but we may not necessarily have the time and resources to invest in using technology to its full advantage. Let the experts (i.e. the vendor) do it for you. With this strategy, the marketer (you) will write the message but the vendor will drive the campaigns. DIFM methods can bring quick ROI back to your business.

Finally, as creative as we need to be as marketers in 2017, it’s also imperative we rely on data. As we move into 2017, data about our customers, our campaigns and our market should flow through everything we do. This data gives us the ability to automate activities, allowing us to satisfy increasing demands – on personalization, need fulfillment, etc. – by providing the necessary intelligence to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time.

We’re ready for you 2017

Yes, 2017 has high expectations for marketers. However, when equipped with the right tools and the right strategies, you can dive head first into this year knowing exactly how you will tackle anything that is thrown your way.