Dreamforce: Three Marketing Trends for 2018 (1 of 2)

Dreamforce, one of the world’s largest sales & marketing conferences, was hosted by Salesforce again (as always) in San Francisco, and I was privileged to participate. Over 2,700 sessions were conducted over 4 days, with topics focused on the transformations in line with the 4th industrial revolution, including the implementation of AI, community and organization building to realize innovation, and equality as part of corporate social responsibility (CSR). This article covers the new key trends that marketers must pay attention to in 2018.

The Challenges of the 4th Industrial Revolution

The 4th industrial revolution and related trends repeatedly came up during the sessions. According to Miles Everson, PwC's Global Advisory Leader, 43% of CEOs surveyed by PwC are not comfortable with these current innovation trends, although 100% of them believe that their institutions need to innovate along these line in order to survive. This reality—that innovation is very challenging—came up in many sessions.

This difficulty comes from (big) data and AI, as may be expected. Currently, only data scientists and those with PhDs in computer engineering have the skills to intrinsically utilize both. Despite this, everyone has experiences with AI in one form or another, such as on Amazon and Facebook. For this reason, many companies fear whether they are utilizing AI properly, or whether they are being left behind.

It will take some time until machines and humans can work together comfortably, and every industry and job will be affected. However, what I saw was that rather than worrying about the changes of an unknown future, everyone sincerely considered what must be done now to proactively embrace change, one step at a time.

100% of jobs will change with the evolution of AI

Ginni Rometty, the CEO of IBM, claimed, “First of all, I am certain that singularity will not come for many, many decades. According to a study by MIT, roughly 10% of jobs will disappear, but 100% of jobs will change. It is important to create an environment where anybody, even people who are not computer experts or PhD holders, can work together with machines and build their skills through training.”

Marc Benioff, the Chairman and CEO of Salesforce, stated, “Our company’s services are creating an ecosystem that enables data to be handled even if you are not a data scientist. As long as you study, you can become a leader of the digital transformation, even if you are in the middle of your career. We will continue to produce these kinds of leaders and pioneers.” The company reported that 3.3 million Salesforce-related jobs are expected to be created through IT. Although some jobs will disappear as a result of the 4th industrial revolution, these will be offset by the jobs being created.

Three New Trends

I saw three main marketing trends from the event.

The first is that the age of true “one-to-one” marketing is finally here. As a result, the barriers between BtoB and BtoC will gradually disappear.

The second is that the more we become one-to-one, companies must utilize data science and create a unique customer experience for each customer, especially for end users. To do so, they will need to leverage AI and data. If not, they will be unable to survive.

The third is that the most important capability of marketers will be to develop and lead a community. Employees that are able to create this type of customer experience will have a high probability of having been nurtured by a community that is not restricted by the company. Those who can develop such community by themselves will be the new leaders of society.

To the age of BtoI (Business to Individual)

I had an opportunity to interview Mike Kostow, senior vice president and general manager of Pardot, the marketing automation tool for Salesforce. What he said consistently is that even for BtoB, designing and controlling a journey that considers the customer experience of end users will have a significant impact on the point of purchase.

Originally, the characteristic feature of BtoB marketing was that the purchaser, put simply, is an organization (company) and differs from the actual end user. However, even at the point of purchase, it follows logically that products that have been thoroughly thought through to the needs of the end users have higher appeal and persuasiveness. The issue used to be that technology was not able to keep up in the past, making it difficult for BtoB companies to directly obtain data for end users. Now, it is becoming relatively easier to obtain data using the internet and AI. For this reason, grasping the experiences of end users is becoming important for BtoB also.

Construction companies may purchase screws, but the carpenters on site are the ones who use the screws. It is not difficult to imagine that a screw that reflects the opinions of the carpenters would be easier to sell, given that the screw has the same price. As IoT is advancing, these days even elevators speak to the people riding them. Even for these BtoB products, the customer experience for end users must be set up directly.

As Ms. Rometty stated, this is clearly a transition from BtoB and BtoC to BtoI. This means that even if money had been made through BtoB, we have entered an age where the needs of end users must be understood thoroughly.

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