GLOBAL: Data, customer experience and artificial intelligence are among the areas that both agencies and brands plan on prioritising in 2018, which promises to be a year of digital transformation, according to an exclusive survey by WARC.

This forms part of WARC’s Toolkit 2018, published today, an annual guide to key trends and challenges that marketers around the world will be faced with in the coming year. For the first time, this year’s study includes a survey of 616 marketing and advertising professionals from around the world.

This found that drawing insights from data is seen as one of the most important areas of focus for both brands (55%) and agencies (59%) in 2018.

Alongside that, data organisation and management (40% brands, 45% agencies) will be another pillar around which strategies are built.

Data considerations also feed into customer experience, the third of the top three priorities. More than half of brand (53%) and agency (58%) respondents believe that will be an important area for them over the next 12 months.

The biggest challenge for any business using data is the implementation of GDPR, now only months away, and few marketers think their organisations are ready.

In Europe, only a quarter (25%) agree that they are ready for GDPR, with 40% disagreeing that their businesses are prepared for the new regulations around consumer data.

For the rest of the world the picture is even worse, with only 12% agreeing they feel ready and prepared for GDPR – despite the fact that all companies with EU consumers will be affected.

At a global level, brands are slightly more likely to believe that they are equipped to handle the changes than agencies (22% compared to 15%).

When asked about emerging technologies, brands in particular (56%) saw artificial intelligence as the one with most potential, followed by chat bots and messenger apps (46%). Agencies, however, were slightly more enthused by the possibilities of chatbots (52%) than AI (50%).

Alarmingly for agencies, more than one in three (38%) brand respondents agreed that management consultancies are better placed than agencies to help them achieve digital transformation, with only 31% disagreeing.

And while half of agency respondents expressed confidence in their business model, one third thought consultancies had the edge – showing a level of concern is spreading through the agency world.

Sourced from WARC