More than trends and prices, trust and understanding will drive marketeers in 2023

The Christmas holiday period during a cost-of-living-crisis proved challenging for many brands. Even more so than normal, retailers had to balance the necessity to compete for reduced customer spend, with the need to read what could be a very lukewarm room. With rising inflation and rocketing energy prices, a broad-brush approach to marketing that promotes luxury goods and expensive gifts can do more damage than good.

However, consumers still want to treat themselves and their loved ones at this time of year, and into January where many be making the most of the sales. Our recent Make it Personal research has shown both that consumers’ preferences are evolving and changing all the time, and just how important it is that brands consider the individual’s circumstances in all communications.

A broad-brush approach to marketing is no longer working, and people increasingly want to be engaged and recognised as the individuals they are. As such, broad, generalised marketing campaigns look increasingly clumsy and out of touch. Now that we all have access to so much information, we increasingly look for and expect nuanced, tailored content. Brands need to deliver the best possible experiences to their customers; to be there, in the moment, to build the type of close connection that drives true business value and creates long term loyalty. The relationship between brands and their customers – like all good relationships in life – is grounded in two things: Trust and Understanding.

Trust: the essential building block

Our own research shows how important it is to be transparent about how and why we collect our customers’ valuable data, and be clear about how we protect it. A related report by Deloitte also shows 66% of global consumers are concerned about how brands use their personal data. Trust, then, really is just the starting point; it is the foundation on which everything else is built, but it doesn’t come easily. One of my favourite quotes is from Under Armour founder Kevin Plank: “Trust is built in drops and lost in buckets.”

Earning trust isn’t just about dispelling negatives, such as we don’t sell your data, but also about positives and adding value. Brands need to show – at every opportunity – that by sharing their data with us, they are able to give consumers a better, more personal experience. The expectations of today’s consumers are high – the bar is set and raised with every experience from every brand they interact with, on every channel. It takes time, effort, consistency and the right technology to earn trust and then to maintain it once it’s established. Those are the drops that count. But for those that get it right, the payoff is significant, because it crucially paves the way to take that relationship to the next level, where brands can create even greater value for themselves and their customers.

Data is nothing without Understanding

Today’s consumers are unlike those from any generation that has come before - they see themselves differently. They don’t relate to the generational labels like “Millennials” and “Gen Z,” that have for so long been relied on to tell us something meaningful about the people we are trying to reach. These demographic labels have been the centrepiece of many a strategy document, but according to our latest research, the usefulness of these broad, generalising segments could be coming to an end. In reality, 76% of UK consumers view themselves as unique individuals, with a unique mix of tastes, preferences and interests.

Similarly, understanding your customers is about more than having insights into what they have done in the past: their purchase history, service history or delivery preferences. That will only show you were they were, and when 3 in 4 consumers change their tastes and interests every few months, that approach will always leave you at least a step behind.

Digitally, without real-time data that gives us the ability to step forward and be there in-the-moment, we have to look at the data we have and make assumptions – educated and informed guesses – about what they might want and what next action might resonate most strongly with them.

But customers expect more. Far more productive is the ability to see when they are active on one of your digital channels, what they are browsing for right now and what they are considering so you can respond in-the-moment. Our study shows 50% of consumers expect brands to understand virtually every aspect of their lives, and market to the complete, unique person they are. They expect things to happen in real time, and they expect touch points that are relevant to them – in both digital and physical worlds.

Bring something positive to the table

So, how are we doing? Our research shows 1 in 10 consumers say they think brands aren’t getting their personalisation right: it's clear that more needs to be done. As 2023 kicks-off against the backdrop of a continued cost-of-living crisis, customer loyalty and trust will be more important than ever.

To ensure they build that all-important trust with their customers, brands will need to focus on delivering these more tailored, thoughtful and considerate experiences. To do that effectively requires a data-led approach, building up a better understanding of customers’ changing wants and needs and acting on that information in real-time. Luckily the technology to do this already exists, and by investing in it now, brands don’t have to be left out in the cold. Through better understanding consumers and building greater trust with their customers, brands can retain the loyalty that will enable them to weather the storms ahead.

Find out more about how Adobe can help your business build trust and grow your understanding of customers with our Real-Time Customer Data Platform here.