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2014: Data Scientist Shortage May Hurt Consumer Demands for Personalized, Mobile Experiences

Posted by Joelle Kaufman on January 20th, 2014 at 10:00 am

As we come close to finishing the first month of 2014, I looked back at the past year and was amazed at how much the marketing landscape changed. In many aspects, it was the year of mobile shopping; in other aspects, it was the year of Amazon. Yet, in other aspects, it was the year that social media became a burgeoning force for driving e-commerce. But, which one really summed it all up? With an abbreviated holiday shopping season, more fragmentation of channels and devices, combined with higher expectations from consumers, 2013 was quite dizzying. And, this year looks to be much just as difficult to navigate. Here’s what’s ahead in 2014 and what marketers need to do.

Mobile will not be considered a channel:

Savvy merchant will stop seeing the mobile phone as a channel; instead it is the glue that channel that holds all shopping together. Merchants will need to rethink their budgeting, compensation and organizational structure to incorporate mobile experiences into every interaction.  Like at Marriott, mobile teams will join existing customer experience and marketing organizations as experts who lead in mobile-first design.  Consumers encounter brands through many entry points – including social, brick-and-mortar, and both organic and paid search – all of which carry potential experiential shortfalls. Omnichannel may be the buzz right now, but mobile is the linchpin. Unlike other marketing, the mobile experience accompanies discovery all the way through to check out. While many industry pundits expect that mobile commerce will breakout in 2014, the smartest companies will realize that truly mobile considerations must be part of every strategy.

Personalization to Redefine: Beyond Segments – Know and Serve Each and Every Consumer:

Don’t you remember me? Personalization has been the goal of Internet technologies since the dawn of the medium. With so many selections for almost every type of product, often with little differentiation or quality discrepancies, choice can come down to convenience, speed and the personalization factor. Predict what I want, present it to me quickly and make the experience relevant and familiar no matter how I contact you. Disagree? It’s one reason why Google has such a dominant market share; it provides users with the most accurate content, accurate suggestions, all with an uncanny ability to learn from user behavior down to the individual on any device. To get to know each user, connect the dots and continually learn in real-time, Google processes a massive amount of data. Yet, to the consumer, it’s virtually seamless.

However, on the other side of the click, the experience is not so satisfying. Spoiled by this new technological luxury, consumers will increasingly expect their favorite brands to cater directly to them as if they were every-day regulars in a brick-and-mortar boutique. Marketers will need to go beyond matching content to segments to present their most relevant content precisely to their most interested visitor. You can kiss the days of unchallenged brand loyalty goodbye, because the 2014 class of consumers will distinguish between the brands that understand their behavior and act as a live salesperson would – making suggestions, adapting on the fly and/or picking up on small behavioral cues. In 2014, expect marketers to invest heavily in strategies that personalize content for each visitor uniquely no matter what channel or device through which they come.

The Visual Economy: Product Listing Ads (PLAs) and Pinterest Marketing Will Rise Significantly:

Since Google Shopping moved exclusively to PLAs in October 2012, consumers have shown an extreme proclivity to click on products with a visual element. Consequently, 40 percent of search results include a visual and we’ve seen the cost-per-click rise over the last two years as the market competes for these highly effective advertising placements.

At the same time, Pinterest’s effectiveness as a marketing channel is rising. A BloomReach study conducted last year demonstrated this, in particular that consumers coming from Pinterest spent 60 percent more than those from Facebook. A large portion of this success for Pinterest can be attributed to the imagery of products and content curated by trusted, impartial experts.

In 2014, Pinterest and PLAs will continue trending upwards, and companies will respond by investing an increasing part of their marketing budgets on these two channels.

Talent Shortage In Big Data Marketing:

The biggest challenge for marketing in 2014 will be a shortage of data-scientist talent. “Big data marketing” was undeniably one of the biggest catchphrases of last year, and the smart retail brands realized that they needed to adapt or lose. As Greg Satell points out in Forbes, we should embrace machine intelligence, because there is simply too much data, insight and behavior to analyze by humans.

As more and more companies understand the benefits of big data marketing, they will not get the number of data experts and programmers needed to be effective. I expect that the number of positions for data scientists will increase by 40 percent, with a large percentage of those going unfilled. Unfortunately, this will lead to even greater market-share losses to Amazon, a company valued as a technology with the clout to get the top talent. Savvy CMOs will look to outside data-science labs and big data driven applications to help shore up the gap.

All in all, 2014 will be the year of consumer-centric discovery where retailers understand where and how individual consumers engage with their brands. Then, the most successful companies will adjust in near real-time, taking into account a gargantuan amount of variables at the same time. Seems like a lot? That’s because it is. If 2013 was the year of the phrase “big data marketing,” then 2014 will be the year that big data marketing becomes necessary as opposed to simply a buzzword.

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