2023 saw rapidly increasing cost of living, exceptionally high inflation rates and a surge in interest rates directly affecting consumers’ discretionary spending. As such, businesses found themselves in a complex environment, requiring constant re-adjustments to navigate the ever-changing financial landscape and remain competitive in what was already a highly competitive market.

With continued demands from internal stakeholders for growth and external consumer pressure for better service and lower prices, marketers will continue to be challenged to rethink how they do business.

Ultimately, customer perceptions, trends and market conditions will always be in flux. How your consumers are doing, living, feeling and spending will always be constantly evolving and changing. However, staying ahead of the curve isn’t just about knowing what your customers are doing today but how they’re going to feel and want to engage with brands in the future.

As we enter 2024, turning these challenges into opportunities requires leveraging data at the most granular level.

Higher expectations for integrated in-store and eCommerce experiences

While there is no doubt a small subset of customers that solely shop in-store, I would anticipate this proportion is small and ever diminishing. Digital natives represent an increasingly large portion of consumer buying power, at the same time, older generations are maintaining more active lifestyles and are continuing to embrace the conveniences of technology. 

We can expect to see higher expectations for integrated in-store and eCommerce experiences. An ‘integrated experience’ means more than simply having both a physical store and website, or even maintaining brand consistency in both spaces. True integration across in-store and eCommerce experiences means being able to identify a shopper as they move from one channel to another and understanding the intent signals along the customer journey.  

Consider a shopper who has begun their purchase journey online before completing it in store. Being able to identify the customer across channels means saving resources and spend on trying to convert a purchase that was already made. The result? Shoppers benefit from a more convenient and personalised experience and marketers are able to forge deeper connections with their customers – incentivising recurring purchases.

The value of increased data security and protection

From cyber threats to data breaches, consumers have become increasingly aware of their privacy risks in a digital environment and are therefore, being more cautious when it comes to sharing their information. In fact, the latest Australian Community Attitudes to Privacy Survey (ACAPS) revealed 84 per cent of Australians want more control and choice over the collection and use of their information.

At the same time, customers are demanding highly personalised and curated experiences. Despite appearances, these two need states aren’t in opposition to one another. Customers want to be confident their data will be protected, but are often willing to hand over their information with the right value exchange. Money and time are two of the most valuable resources consumers trade with as both are limited. Monetary trades – member only offers, or points towards a loyalty program – can incentivise customers who have finite discretionary spend. Time based information – for example, demographic, location or interest data – can save consumers time reentering information, receiving non-relevant communications.

As you grow your first-party data, implementing a customer identity solution or customer relationship management (CRM) system will be able to activate it across channels and drive revenue more effectively.

The reprioritisation of owned channel experiences versus paid channels

Amid paid channels seeing low engagement and a decline in ROI, 2024 will see the reprioritisation of owned channel experiences as brands identify and invest in the channels delivering smarter, scalable growth. While paid channels offer immediate exposure, organic channel growth is consistent and trustworthy – both of which are important attributes in today’s business environment with heightened need for data privacy.

In contrast, owned channels provide potential for long-term organic growth offering greater control over the narrative and fostering a more authentic connection. The shift towards owned channels represents a strategic realignment enabling brands to build a more sustainable and enduring relationship with their customer base.

As 2024 unfolds and technology platforms continue to play a pivotal role in moving businesses forward, the role of the marketer will continue to evolve. Marketers must continue to invest in zero-and first-party data. However, having the right data is only one part of the equation.

Jamie Hoey is general manager for Australia at Wunderkind.