What are the biggest trends in marketing, sales and service for 2017? Instead of asking tarot cards, fortune tellers or the stars, I turned to my colleagues and received some interesting answers and outlooks.

Intelligent service via artificial intelligence

Most suggestions covered everything from digital transformation to the internet of things, however, one trend surely stood out: artificial intelligence in form of language assistants or chatbots (like Siri or Echo).

„Chatbots are game changing for B2B-business because they can help sales and service personnel by taking over afterhours. They are ready to go 24/7.“ (Frank Müller)

Chatbots are already part of customer service in B2B-areas (e.g. IKEA uses chatbots for customer questions), but in combination with data analytics they can actually learn and evolve on their own. Some of my colleagues even suggested that they can and should be used not only by customers but by employees as well.

„There’s already so much data available, if we use machine learning, we can apply those intelligent artificial assistants in marketing, sales and service. They could, for example, suggest the best leads (based on algorithms) or help deciding which next step would be the best in any sales strategy.“ (Kevin Chemerka)

On- and offline omni-channels

Customers move more and more flexibly throughout the internet and therefore demand the same flexibility when they are using one of your channels (whether it is online or offline). Companies need to offer alternative communication channels that are easy to use, reach and change without information loss. Furthermore, it is time to say goodbye to the notion that social media is just a marketing tool. Social media can be one of the best means to offer customer centric services without long waiting periods.

„The impact of social media for the customer journey is growing. We move daily through social networks like Facebook, Twitter, etc. They can influence our decisions and actions. In comparison to other classic touchpoints, social media will grow in importance. Companies that ignore or delay social media strategies will stay behind.“ (Carsten Stuwe)

Easy processes for customers usually take complex in-house-processes. It takes a lot of work, a potentially new infrastructure and acceptance to offer on- and offline communication and services that don’t „rinse & repeat“ with each change from one channel to the next.

„Customer behavior changes from the „either-or-customer“ to the „as-well-as-customer“. That’s why we need hybrid concepts.“ (Max Weber)

One of the most fascinating developments of this trend is the fact that this is no one-way-street from offline to online as recent examples show. Amazon opened their first stationary shop in 2016 and plan digitalized supermarkets, hence showing that offline channels and services don’t have to be given up for the digital transformation but instead need to be connected with digital channels and services for a better customer experience.

The customer is central thanks to data analytics

Optimization of marketing, sales and service through use of data analytics is one of the big topics ec4u focuses on this year. In fact, we put so much faith in the possibilities of business intelligence and data analytics that we welcomed the analytics experts of Insight Dimensions into our midst last year. One of our goals is to show that automatization through use of customer data is not a step away from the human touch but a step closer to more individual contacts.

„By collecting customer data and analyzing them and getting more insights into customer behavior, we can address customer issues more individually and with more relevance. We can do this from the first opt-in to the last click. The customer no longer gets random content and product/service offerings until someone hands them over to sales. They get their own, individual customer journey.“ (Amelie Höllersberger)

Last but not least: let’s take it down a notch with the hypes

2016 was a year full of trends, disruption and innovation. From the Amazon DashButton to self-driving cars we got all the Science Fiction that we needed. But just as too many cooks spoil the broth, too many trends can create confusion and stress. Which trend will pull through, which technology should be bought and used, what needs to be implemented now and which trends should you have an eye on?

„I think that 2017 will show a little ease when it comes to hypes. Things will get calmer; companies can figure out their strategies and make decisions. I don’t think that artificial intelligence, the internet of things or mesh-technology will make such big steps in 2017, because this year, it’s time to do your homework and establish new technologies, understand them and proof their worth. There’s this saying that you need to take a break whenever you reach a new place because your soul needs time to catch up. I think that’s equally fitting for trends and change in general.“ (Sabine Kirchem)

Find out how you can implement and use Customer Journey Management in your company.

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