There has been an accelerated shift towards digital channels over the last couple of years, driven forward by Covid, forcing many organisations to re-think their marketing strategy.

Retailbiz spoke to Dotdigital CEO, Milan Patel and chief product and technology officer, Steve Shaw about the marketing automation industry, the trends to watch out for in 2023 and the future roadmap of the company.

“Over the last couple of years, everyone has become accustomed to digital experiences. As such, marketing strategies, not only from a customer acquisition perspective, but also customer retention, has become a higher priority,” Patel told Retailbiz.

“Previously, marketers would launch one activity to generate leads but that doesn’t work anymore. We’ve seen an acceleration of building experiences and connecting with the customer on a more personal level because you need to be relevant to ensure customers stay engaged.”

He believes companies are using more channels as part of the overall marketing strategy, whether its email marketing or transactional SMS, to enhance the experience. “Digital marketing as a portion of overall budgets has increased because it’s more cost-effective, quicker to deploy and ROI can be easily measured. There is a greater emphasis on building out zero-party and first-party data because it helps with relevance and personalisation.

Dotdigital CEO, Milan Patel.

“The use of data is extremely important, even among smaller businesses who are investing in additional resources around digital. Gen Z and Gen Y expect relevant and targeted communication on all types of media.”

Shaw added: “Businesses have made a large investment to get a single customer view. There are challenges with having data in one place when it’s not connected in real-time. Companies are looking to have customer data and customer experience in one place to personalise the customer journey to grow revenue, retain customers and expand their reach.”

With growth slowing and a recession looming, the challenge for brands is to retain customers, particularly as the cost to acquire new customers increases, especially on paid advertising such as Google Ads. “We want to see the customer experience improve in 2023 and beyond but the right data must be there to take action on,” Shaw said.

“Making sure online and offline are merged into one is key. Businesses can’t just personalise the online experience and forget about what’s happening in-store. In-store products and technologies will become critical to enable this.

“Chief marketing officers will need to focus on the operational, ‘tried and tested’ channels with a clear return on investment. Over and above, new and trending technology such as the Metaverse. It’s less about the potential long-term future and more on the day-to-day to stabilise revenue and growth.”

Dotdigital chief product and technology officer, Steve Shaw.

Speaking more directly to Dotdigital’s strategy and key priorities moving forward, Patel said the focus is on growth – but sustainable growth as opposed to hyper growth.

“We invest in product innovation, customer success and building out hubs from a geographical expansion perspective. For example, in the APAC region, we’ve added to our headcount to support our new wave of growth,” he said.

“We will continue to push research and development (R&D) to ensure we are delivering the functionality that helps marketers not only get through market downturns but also future trading conditions.”

Shaw said integration is a key pillar that the company focuses on. “We’ve delivered more integrations than ever in the last year alone, and we have more Dotdigital built integrations than our competitors so customers can tap into those out of the box. We’ve also invested in product innovation around unifying customer data so it can be actionable more quickly.

“We also have an Intelligence Lab that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) for more predictive purchase data, predictive churn dates and product recommendations. We want to democratise these types of technology as they can make a big difference in customer growth.

“There are certainly challenges ahead for CMOs and ecommerce merchants, so brands need to ensure they get the right support from their technology partners.”

Patel added that sustainability – environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) more broadly – is also a huge part of the Dotdigital business.

“We were the first email marketing automation platform to become carbon neutral and we take that seriously. Our people are not only enthusiasts, but they feel accountable and responsible, whether it’s diversity and inclusion, the environment, the communities that we’re building, or the wellbeing of our employees. From a cultural perspective, I believe this is what makes us a successful company. You can build great technology but it’s the people who bring it to life.”