Gerry Murray
At a time when nothing seems clear, there’s strength in knowing that some things, at least, are slated to proceed in an expected way. Predictions in the annual FutureScape report published by International Data Corporation (IDC) are always a good indicator of worldwide information technology (IT) industry trends, but there’s a special grounding in this year’s report, with its focus on the disruptive forces of COVID-19.

“We’re essentially going through a fundamental business model transformation in digital marketing,” said Gerry Murray, Research Director, Marketing & Sales Technology for IDC. “Companies that start preparing for that are going to have a big advantage.”

Murray joined ITWC President Fawn Annan for a January 27, 2021 installment of CMO Talks, a podcast series presented by ITWC and IDC to address pressing marketing challenges. A frequent speaker on maximizing marketing performance, he shared his thoughts on how disruptions caused by the global pandemic have accelerated digital as a preferred domain for customer interactions of all kinds.

In response to a question from Annan about the increasing importance of digital, Murray spoke of the evolution from digital ready, to digital first, to digital only. “It’s clear that there are a number of different modes that marketers need to cover in order to serve their consumers, particularly their digital first and digital only consumers,” he said.

Murray and Annan began their discussion of FutureScape predictions with a look at Prediction 4, which posits that by 2025, 20% of B2B high-tech MarCom departments will include training teams to accelerate the customer experience. “Marketers need to start moving into an empathetic relationship with their customers,” said Murray. “You’re not just a plain old marketer, you’re a teacher, and there’s a big transformation in the relationship.”

Annan expressed her surprise at a prediction that by 2022, two thirds of the top 50 public companies will have adopted partisan political positions, thereby increasing sales by up to 10%. “Brands are going to be in a tough position,” said Murray. “One of the techniques they could potentially use is having some of their donations and advertising reflect the preferences of their customer base. Doing so could potentially drive sales and increase customer loyalty, but they would have to really understand their audience and their growth trajectory, because they may not be serving the same customers two or three years from now.”

In a discussion of Prediction 8, which states that by 2023, AI driven emotional intelligence will be used in over 90% of real-time digital customer interactions, both Annan and Murray envisioned a resulting boost in loyalty and trust. “It really boils down to the pervasive availability of AI capabilities and the fact that it’s being baked into cloud release cycles of systems that are already in place,” said Murray. “So much of it is being embedded into current applications that it will soon become pervasive.”

Concluding their discussion with a close look at IDC’s 10th prediction, which focuses on AI enabled contextual sentiment analysis, Annan asked how the current understanding of the customer will change if AI is being used by 32% of consumer brands by 2024. From Murray’s perspective, those who move quickly to adopt AI will have a significant advantage. “It’s the end of an era, but it’s also the beginning of an opportunity to reinvent the role of marketing,” he said. “Some brands are going to stumble and others are going to be terrific at it.”

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