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We’re deep into the mechanisms of digital transformation. Retailers are gradually migrating to more automated customer experiences, there’s an app for everything and algorithms rule advertising even when it comes to the influencers who’ve most recently challenged the value proposition of traditional advertising. With AI, automation, algorithms and big tech making instrumental changes to how brands engage with consumers and employees come great power. And with great power comes even greater accountability as brands seek to innovate with impact.

Below are nine opportunities that business and brand executives should be examining more closely with 2019 right around the corner.

Gen Z will transform your organization

Looming generational changeover in the workforce will have transformative effects on entire business. Organizational leaders today have a choice: empower and enable Gen Z to make your entire business better or stifle them with the wrong roles, systems and technologies and risk becoming the next wave of corporate bureaucratic dinosaurs.

Businesses should strive toward an instantaneous review cycle to transform new employees into consultants and to feed self-directed self-improvement with strategic internal communications. Such recruitment and engagement efforts benefit not only Gen Z employees but the entire organization.

The need for an integrated marketing tech ecosystem

The new year will represent an “era of accountability,” and impact will be measured through the combined lens of business, society and culture.

With the ever-increasing scrutiny of measurable ROI, marketers are experiencing pressure to integrate their sales, marketing and communications operations and to measure across all channels and technologies. The latest trend of convergences sees organizations matching new technologies that address data integration with internal efforts to introduce enterprise marketing technologies. Companies who do this successfully will reap the benefits of better decision-making, customer journey analysis capabilities and higher growth by having a consolidated view of their data.

Organizations looking to capitalize on the opportunity have two options: consolidate by deepening existing investments or work with third parties to stitch data together between existing systems.

Brands will innovate with their ecosystems

Today, fluid innovation and savvy corporations have shifted to nimbler practices to meet demands. Marketing innovation teams are on the forefront in understanding how to connect to customers and should be leading the charge within organizations to drive innovation by activating all resources, such as employees, customers and outside partners. The most advanced open innovation programs activate the entire ecosystem allowing brands, startups and competitors alike to win.

Creating real value with authentic influencers

As platforms continue to evolve and the influencer marketing industry matures, it is essential for marketers to conduct due diligence and combat against inauthenticity in follower and engagement metrics. To stand out, custom integrated campaigns that combine the strategic leveraging of influencer voices and the production of compelling content for mixed use across brand objectives must be adhered to. Influencer marketing throughout 2019 will center around working with authentic ambassadors who are open to collaborating on a deeper level than organic posts, leveraging a mixture of owned, earned and paid advertising to drive long-lasting results.

Evolving expectations for the C-suite

We’re reaching a critical juncture where expectations for accessibility and transparency have increased for all business leaders, not just those who are more comfortable in the spotlight. Responsible social media use will become a key metric by which CEO candidates are evaluated. Impactful programs will require new levels of coordination and integration across an organization. Building and managing executive social channels is now a critical business function more companies must embrace. It’s no longer just about personal branding; they have tangible business implications.

Digital identity and the future of customer experience

In an era of increased standards of accountability and as consumers take more control over their digital identities, organizations will need to adapt. Brands must be prepared to provide transparency in data collection, customer protection as sound data stewards and fair reward for data use. If data stewardship is not prioritized, they risk not attracting new data-conscious customers and may also struggle to retain their existing customer base. Organizations will need to solve for fragmentation of customer data and move toward providing a fair, equitable data marketplace option for their consumers.

Contextual content for social commerce

Social commerce is a subset of ecommerce that involves leveraging social media to assist online selling of products and services. Fueled by the untapped potential of visual commerce and the continued rise of voice assistant integrations, social commerce is poised for explosive growth, but consumer trust is a hurdle that must first be cleared. Brands who strategically evolve their commerce strategies alongside advances in platform features (like Pinterest Lens, Google Lens, Instagram and Snapchat) will be best prepared to reap the rewards.

Marketing and machines in an AI world

Machine learning is reshaping—not replacing—the role of the paid search marketer. They fill gaps that publisher-provided machine learning tools do not take into account. The best search marketers have a strategic mindset, understand the realities and limitations of AI and have the programming skills to improve ROI in a world where most ads will be managed by the same algorithms. While machine learning will continue to expand its capabilities and grow more sophisticated, it will not replace human thought and instinct.

The rise of AI ethics

As automation grows evermore ubiquitous and artificial intelligence becomes more entrenched in our online experiences, unintended consequences can emerge, paving the way for a technology backlash. In 2018, the combination of eroding societal trust and rising AI-driven innovation has laid the foundation for change. In 2019, brands must develop a new ethics function, with the objective of shifting from risk avoidance only to forward-thinking, planning and counter efforts across key areas.

In short, 2019 will be a year where marketers and businesses will be held accountable for their digital initiatives both from a performance lens as well as an ethical one. The new year will represent an “era of accountability,” and impact will be measured through the combined lens of business, society and culture. Look for continued opportunities to innovate in areas ranging from influencer marketing to artificial intelligence, but consider that today’s executives will be challenged do so with a good sense of benefit for their organization, customer and, more broadly, culture.

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