3 Trends I’d Like to See in 2016

While it may be difficult to believe, here we are at the end of October and many of you are likely preparing for your upcoming Holiday Code Freeze. November always ends up being a big month for our company, as we spend a bit of time doing a post-mortem analysis of the business over the past year, while focusing most of our efforts on the innovation for the year ahead. So, I thought I’d share a partial list of the trends with you that we hope to see catch on in 2016:
  1. Evolution of the implementation discovery process
  2. Evolution of reporting methodology
  3. Evolution of the vendor selection process
You’re behind the times if your implementation framework doesn't involve at least these three things across your digital presence:
  1. A Strategic Data Layer 
  2. Visitor identification and stitching framework across channel and device
  3. Business discovery and road mapping
With regards to business discovery, I'm not simply repeating the sentiment that the business should dictate the implementation. That's obvious. Rather, you should focus your implementation of analytics and other technologies around use cases for testing, targeting, and personalization. Stop building implementations simply so you can report on anything and everything. Focus on creating in-session data that can be used in that moment (via the data layer) or as part of a visitor's history to solve for a variety of use cases when you build your optimization program. Just because you might not be ready for this, doesn't mean you shouldn't build for the future!
I'm not going to say you should stop reporting, because that's unrealistic and not ideal. I will say, however, that you could probably do without 70% of your existing reporting and not miss a beat. The "sanity check" reports and "how am I doing?" reports are important, especially for execs. Overall though, the evolution in this sector needs to move more towards data analysis and simply providing a sandbox for analysts to ask questions and dig for answers. Those questions should be sourced from the business as well, and your stakeholders don't necessarily need to see the data to ask those questions. Also, that sandbox should be easy to use, not some behemoth that requires years of technical knowledge to interact with.
It pains me to see how many organizations spend over 90% of their time nitpicking over metrics that lack any real business value and building mundane reports simply because "that's how we have always done it."  Let's use this coming year to break out of the shell, question everything, and march towards building a data-driven culture that shifts the amount of time spent on reports over to the insights side of the fence.
Vendor Selection Process
I've seen so many organizations select vendors as a result of historical relationships, a high-powered exec forcing the decision, politics, and a variety of other incorrect reasons. Realistically speaking, if you're not selecting a vendor based on three key elements, you will most likely end up replacing that vendor, losing momentum, or simply spending most of your days angrily trying to put a square peg through a round hole. Those three elements are:
  1. Alignment against a clearly-defined list of business requirements and needs
  2. Assessment of the system's flexibility and openness for both data in and out
  3. A POC in a production environment to ensure scalability
While re-evaluating all of your vendors would be unrealistic, I think it's time for organizations to give some real thought heading into renewals about whether or not they are getting what they need from their technology stack. In today's world, we have a double-edged sword of innovation sending organizations down a variety of rabbit holes. On one hand, you have an incredible amount of options as a marketer for measuring, analyzing, and optimizing your investments and the customer journey. On the other hand, there are a lot of "fake it till you make it" technologies floating around out there looking to gain market share and relevance.  
I have no doubt that 2016 will be the year of personalization: defining it for your business, building an insightful dataset, and taking action on the insights within that data. The amount of excitement we have for our clients and their strategies in the coming year is palpable. 
While these three trends are some of the top trends I hope to see stick in 2016, I would love to hear your thoughts on those at the top of your list! Comment below or reach out to us at info@stratigent.com
By Bill Bruno
About the Author:

Bill Bruno is the CEO - North America, Ebiquity.

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