With consumer expectations and data collection methods shifting, first-party data and artificial intelligence (AI) will be key themes in 2022.
Eighty-seven percent of senior executives believe that the events of 2020 and 2021 have rewired customers to be digital-first, according to the Adobe's “2022 Digital Trends" report. And with customer expectations around digitalization continuing to ramp up, businesses' ability to adapt to the realities of 2022 is crucial.
In 2022, the dizzying pace of change is only going to accelerate, according to the survey, which collected responses from marketers and business leaders from a variety of organizations and industries around the world.
On average, organizations have driven seven years' worth of digital progress in just a matter of months. Three in 4 respondents observed a surge in existing customers using digital channels over the past 18 months, with nearly the same percentage (72%) observing a surge in new customers using digital channels. To keep up with customers' expectations around digitalization, 82% of respondents say their digital experience emphasis will either remain steady or accelerate.
The biggest barrier to meeting customer expectations is friction in the employee experience. Issues such as poor systems integration, workflow issues, and lack of digital capabilities and skills haunted organizations across the board.
Adobe's survey also identified three levels of proficiencies in marketing and meeting customer expectations: leaders, mainstream and laggard.
Of organizations that fell into the leadership category, 29% identified workflow issues as an internal barrier holding marketing and customer experience back. However, 34% of mainstream organizations and 43% of laggard organizations admitted that workflow issues were holding them back.
Across all proficiencies, digitalization of the customer experience is taking a larger priority in budgets. In 2022, over 50% of senior executives are increasing investment in platforms that will empower their organization to serve customers across increasingly complex omnichannel customer journeys.
Ethical data stewardship will be a major theme in 2022. With two-thirds of global consumers concerned with how their personal data is used, according to a 2021 Deloitte study, responsible data usage is vital to strengthen customer relationships.
Data collection isn't the problem—respondents are more likely to regard their organization as effective in collecting first-party data (74%) than they are in using that data to personalize experiences (68%). It's the ability to turn the data into actionable insights that will make or break success in 2022—one of the areas in which leaders differentiate themselves from the pack. Fifty percent of leaders have significant insight into the journeys of new customers, versus 20% of mainstream and 6% of laggards.
Additionally, 52% of leaders said they had very significant insight into new customers' drivers of purchase, compared to 21% of mainstream and 9% of laggards. Nearly 1 in 2 leaders had very significant insight into drivers of loyalty and retention, versus 1 in 5 of mainstream and less than 1 in 10 of laggards.
Collecting and using first-party data will become even more crucial this year as organizations will need to use 2022 to prepare for the end of the cookie. Extending their original January 2022 deadline, Google is ending its third-party Chrome cookies in late 2023. Despite the extension and increasing regulations, 38% of respondents are unprepared for a cookieless future. In the laggards category, only 1 in 5 consider themselves prepared for the end of the cookie.
The big takeway: In 2022, it's more important than ever to translate data into insights—and at a rate that keeps up with rapidly shifting customer preferences.
Sixty-five percent of marketing organization leaders rate their speed of getting insights as strong or very strong, with 64% rating their speed of acting on customer insights as strong or very strong. In contrasting, 5% of laggards get insights with speed and 5% act on their insights with speed.
“With customer expectations continuing to rise, the importance of developing and nurturing direct relationships with customers has never been more important," said Dave Carrel, vice president, marketing, Adobe Experience Cloud. “How companies gather and extract insights from customer data will become more critical, especially as marketers shift from relying on third-party data and embrace first-party strategies."
“Our findings suggest that there is much work to be done here as executives see their organization as more effective at collecting first-party data than using it to personalize experiences," Carrel said. “Artificial intelligence (AI) is a key area of opportunity that not enough organizations are taking advantage of to drive real-time business decisions and improve customer experiences."
AnneMarie McPherson is IA news editor.