Welcome to 2018, the year when your marketing team will have the power of an embedded data scientist team, allowing you to take personalization to new heights! No, not because artificial intelligence (AI) is going push all of us out of our jobs, but because AI will help us focus on delivering business impact.

Among the many trends B2C marketers will focus on in the months ahead – data, personalization, AI and more – here are three that will rise quickly to the top to demand your attention.

AI will take mundane tasks off your plate allowing you to focus on higher-level strategy

What’s the best time of day to send email campaigns? How often should you push messages to the inbox? Which efforts are feeding repeat purchases?

Machine learning embedded in core marketing applications – the capability most marketers refer to as “AI” – will answer these content and channel optimization questions in 2018. With these questions more easily answered, marketers will be free to give more of their time and effort toward applying their knowledge of their customers to create a competitive advantage.

In 2018, that will mean human marketers become more important, not less. And with machine learning embedded in core marketing applications, marketers will have the time to gain deeper insights into what drives customer loyalty and repeat purchases. This will sharpen the focus on the power of the message, not just the segment.

B2C brands that build loyalty among existing customers will win

As Amazon enters more and more markets, building customer loyalty becomes job No. 1 for brands and retailers. And the companies that succeed do it by creating a strong consistent narrative, communicating it clearly and unifying their customer experience around it.

Patagonia is a great example of this. You can buy a warm, beautiful, well-made coat for hiking from a lot of companies, but if you care about sustainability and the environment, you buy it from Patagonia, which has crafted compelling campaigns around those ideals. Premium brands like Patagonia don’t need to fear Amazon because they have a compelling message that resonates with their buyers. They earn consumers’ attention, and they keep it.

That kind of consistent message can drive one of the most important key performance indicators (KPIs) for marketers: repeat purchase rate. There is no buyer more important to your bottom line than the one who comes back to spend again and again.

And the data supports this. The Online Marketing Institute found that on average, 8 percent of your customer base is responsible for 40 percent of your revenue. Clearly, it pays to not only keep in touch with that 8 percent, but increase the percentage of loyal customers. Repeat purchase rate is the KPI everyone will talk about in 2018, because unlike vanity metrics such as opens, clicks and views, repeat purchases drive real revenue.

B2C CRM will drive new levels of personalization

In 2018, marketers will finally take personalization to new heights. The days of “Hi, NAME” are over. That doesn’t cut it for consumers anymore. Marketers will consolidate systems around a single customer record and use that data to personalize all their marketing, not just in individual channels.

B2C customer relationship management (CRM) will advance this effort by unifying customer data from every channel, every device and every platform. This breaks marketers away from the persistent application fatigue they’ve suffered over the past few years which has forced marketers to deploy a new application for every new use case or channel. In fact, every B2C marketer on average uses 12.5 different systems to accomplish 12.5 different tasks.

Consolidation in the mar-tech landscape will be a boon to marketers. When you don’t have to manually merge data from a dozen different tools, you’ll be able to better focus on leveraging the consolidated insight you now have from your B2C CRM to understand and influence the journey customers follow from first touch to purchase to loyalty. This will help you personalize your entire marketing program in a way that will make 2017 “personalization” efforts obsolete.

More empowered marketers in 2018

The importance of customer data will matter more than it ever has in 2018. Unified customer data is the common thread between every trend B2C marketers will care about in 2018. Marketing teams will be more empowered than ever to connect with customers and drive revenue for the business.

About the Author: Mark Gally is the CEO of Zaius. He has over 20 years of experience helping emerging companies scale during exponential growth. Prior to Zaius, Mark led sales and marketing at TribeHR. Under his leadership, the company grew more than 11X, leading to the acquisition by Netsuite — the largest in company history at the time. Mark started his career helping MicroStrategy and Siebel Systems lead critical teams through periods of rapid growth, both pre- and post-IPO.