From online shoppers to affiliate marketing pros, service expectations are changing

The link between digital marketing and consumerism is resulting in a greater emphasis on the quality of customer experience, ranging from online retail shoppers to associated services like affiliate marketing. A glance at any one of the dozens of articles that include the words “Marketing Trends for 2015” will show that customer experience, and the technology that supports it, will be big drivers of innovation and strategy in the forthcoming year.

This trend will come as little surprise to B2C organizations as success is now based on more than just the quality of product offerings. Customers are also evaluating brands on how they respond to their needs pre-sale and facilitate engagement to offer more personalised service. With the growth of online consumerism and expectations of social media engagement, customers are more prone to view brands as entities with their own personalities and obligations to help navigate the purchase funnel.

We also see those expectations expanding into the domain of service providers as it relates to the role of affiliates and affiliate marketing managers. The “customers” in this case are represented by both affiliates and the companies that rely on them to drive traffic. Like any other consumer, these stakeholders desire tailored service based on information gleaned from their behavior and performance.

Although affiliate marketing professionals are not viewed in the same way as customers making day-to-day purchases, they are still essential to generating profits and are therefore a crucial audience. Between existing affiliate marketing software and other technology solutions that make it easier to collect information and respond accordingly, customer service providers have little excuse for not addressing the expectations of their clients.

The belief that customer experience and technology will each play larger and complementary roles in marketing strategy is further supported by Gartner Research VP Laura McLellan. In a recent blog post, McLellan outlines her expectations for advancements in marketing innovation and how it will impact the customer experience:

“Recent research found more than half of marketers have already deployed or are piloting and implementing bleeding edge emerging technologies such as automatic content recognition, artificial intelligence for marketing, and the use of virtual assistants for marketing purposes,” says McLellan. “If your company seeks competitive differentiation, you won’t find it in off-the-shelf technologies – that will get you to competitive parity at best.”

Marketing Technology Rising

As we head into 2015, one term gaining traction is “marketing technologists”, which refers to technology experts migrating to marketing roles with the goal of using their expertise to enhance customer experience and increase brand loyalty. This emerging role should create a good deal of excitement and optimism in the long-term, although short-term prospects may be confronted with a shortage of individuals prepared to assume the role.

Earlier this year, John Ellett, contributor to Forbes online, wrote a piece entitled “The Rise of The Unicorns — Why Marketing Technologists Will Rule Modern Marketing”. In the article, Ellett discusses the growing importance of Chief Marketing Technology Officers (CMTOs), which are also referred to as unicorns due to their scarcity. He goes on to explain that the growing influence of CMTOs is linked to acceptance on the part of traditional marketers that they need help in an evolving digital landscape.word_power_button

“It is a fast changing world indeed and virtually impossible to know it all,” says Ellett. “So hiring resources, either internal or external advisors, who are dedicated to understanding the technologies needed to execute your marketing strategies and build better customer experiences is a prudent investment to make.”

As customer experience evolves and becomes increasingly tied to technological advancements, it will be important for concerned companies to find both the right tools and the right professionals to use those tools. The next year or two will continue to show that we are entering an era where customers can, and should, expect a higher quality of service – with a personal touch, of course.