When I think back to the beginning of my career, there was much worry about Y2K and the impact it would have on our professional and personal lives. The world watched in trepidation as the year 2000 came, but thankfully the fears ended up being mostly unfounded.

Fast-forward 20 years, and technology is still causing disruption, albeit in more positive ways. Now, we're harnessing ever more innovative technology, such as AI and machine-learning. (Article updated Oct. 2021.)

It is an exciting time to be a marketer. Marketing's ability to affect the bottom line is greater than ever before, and marketers can engage with customers in ways we've never been able to do before.

But what are the things that marketers must think about today to ensure they, along with their companies, are performing better than ever 10 years from now?

1. Embrace immersive tech

A recent study from Futurum Research set out to uncover what customer experience (CX) will look like in 2030. Something that struck me from the research is the pace of predicted innovation and the adoption of immersive tech.

As marketers, we are continually striving to keep up with tech, whether wearables, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), or devices. And the pace will just continue to grow more rapid: 80% of people expect to accept delivery of a product by drone or autonomous vehicle by 2030; 78% expect to use AR or VR apps in the next decade to see how a product will look in its final setting, whether that's furniture for the home or equipment for the workplace.

So as marketers we will have to adapt quickly and digitally transform. How do you bring the store to the customer? If you're a B2B marketer, how do I bring your software to your customers?

2. Be efficient, but be human

As we innovate, how do we ensure that we balance the needs of all customer? According to the research, businesses expect that two-thirds of customer engagement to be handled by smart machines by 2030.

That's both a great opportunity but also a great risk. We must balance efficiency with empathy. Self-checkout is a boon for many, but some people like personal interaction. Balance is key.

As is relevance: at my organization, we recently introduced a chatbot specifically designed to interact with students who have questions late at night and often prefer automated or assisted interactions when our support center staff members are away from their desks; in the case of this young demographic, the chatbot has been very successful, but would I have rolled it out if my audience consisted of Boomers?

3. Obsess about customers (and their privacy)

Customer-centricity is a theme woven throughout the research, and as marketers we should be customer-obsessed. We have mountains of data we can use to understand our customers and help deliver exceptional experiences. When people trust us with their data, we should guard how we use it.

One of the most alarming findings in the research was that 73% think the use of their personal data is "out of control"! That should concern all of us in marketing. Luckily, 59% of brands strongly agree that securing customer information is the most important factor in ensuring strong CX.

4. Be a loyalty company

What's the saying? You only have one chance to make a first impression? Potential customers' perception of your brand begins the moment they hear your brand name. That's important because brand perception helps drive loyalty.

Loyalty isn't spontaneous. Just as in your individual relationships, in customer relationships loyalty is earned. And it must be nurtured.

The more loyalty touchpoints you have across your organization, the stronger your relationship will be with your customers. You can't rely on a loyalty program to do all the heavy lifting. Look at your customer journey today, and pinpoint markers along the way where you can surprise and delight your customer—whether that's a customer service call, or by being "always on," or by upgrading your customer-facing technology to ensure that the discovery and purchase experience is agile and as efficient as it can possibly be.

5. Be 'always-on'

The need for speed and agility is another point that jumped out from the research. Top technology loyalty drivers in 2030, according to the study, will be mobile apps, high-speed access, and ordering via smart home systems. All of those indicate the consumer of the future will want "always-on," real-time access and service. That will quickly translate into similar expectations in B2B digital marketing.

This is going to put tremendous pressure on the technology needs of marketing organizations. And we can't do it alone. It is going to take the whole organization to be customer-centric. It is going to take strong alignment with other groups to succeed.

* * *

The pace of change looks set to accelerate over the next decade. To get to 2030 and beyond, marketers will need to put data to work, take an introspective look at their data and privacy blueprint, reinvent operating models, align with other departments for ultimate efficiency, and make sure that along the customer journey Marketing is delivering exceptional customer experience.

More Resources on the Future of Marketing

The Future of Marketing Organizations Post-Pandemic: Top 5 Predictions

The 5 Most Important Skills for the Future of Marketing

The Great Compression and the Future of Marketing Post-Pandemic: Mitch Joel on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]

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Marketing 2030: Five Ways to Survive and Thrive Over the Next 10 Years

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Jennifer Chase is the CMO and executive vice-president at SAS, a leader in analytics, providing innovative software and services to transform data into intelligence.

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Twitter: @JennChase