Rapid changes in customers’ attitudes and expectations are challenging marketers like never before. Finding the right balance between the efficiency of technology and personal connection through human interaction has become even more challenging for marketers. At the same time, it also presents major opportunities, concludes new research from The Conference Board.

The report, Customers Are Changing, and So Should Marketing, is based on a survey of senior marketing and communications executives at 84 leading firms across North America, Europe and Asia. It highlights their views on how a variety of customer preferences and behaviors as well as marketing may evolve.

While half of respondents expect customers to use more voice communications to interact with companies, more than a third expect customers’ cravings for human interaction to increase. Specialist skills, including data analytics, AI and digital media, are the most sought-after skills in future marketing hires.

However, “left brain/right brain” thinking and creative skills, which marketers prioritize least, shouldn’t be underestimated. Such skills will be important in designing competitive strategies and customer-friendly processes and interfaces. They complement marketing teams’ digital expertise and are certainly crucial for managing the COVID-19 crisis and recovery.

“The pandemic has inspired much more digital interaction with companies at all stages of the customer journey. While people may appreciate technology even more now, human touch points are still essential. They complement tech efficiency and convenience and help maximize the customer experience,” says Denise Dahlhoff, senior researcher at The Conference Board.