Winners always look ahead. Matching vision with insights has always been the hallmark of success in digital marketing (and also entrepreneurship, but that calls for a much wider scope of a blog post).
As the year 2016 draws to a close, and as another year is about to begin, it always makes sense to take stock of what’s already on, what’s hot, and what’s next.
There are mandates, and then there are trends. Add megatrends to the equation, and you have more than you ever asked for, as a marketer or as an entrepreneur.
To take stock, though, it only makes sense to take a look back at some of the strongest digital marketing trends this year.
According to Smart Insights, digital marketing activities and trends such as mobile, big data, branded communities, display advertising, mobile marketing, affiliate marketing, and the all-new wearables have made significant impact
Behemoths like Google & Facebook have been pushing the “mobile mantra” with a simultaneous change in the complexity of customer behavior.
Data is everything
Big-data, Data-driven decision making, data analysis, consumer data, and more – all this points to an inevitable fact, and is one of the most essential digital marketing trends : Data is all that matters.
The folks at Adobe write:
“Only one in five companies combine different data sources to obtain a 360-degree view of individual customers. Marketing experts should know by now that unless they really know their customers, they won’t be able to provide tailored customer experiences.”
Data driven decisions run the most successful digital marketing campaigns. Data also drives customers’ journey mapping, explains the “why” and “how” behind every purchase (and a repeat purchase) and also influences product development and process enhancements for business.
No wonder big-data is huge today, and you clearly see why. Take this, though: it’s only going to get bigger.
Micro-moments will Matter
Consumers are savvy today. On top of that, they’ve all been attacked by a steady stream of ad content to which they are now impervious. The new generation of customers (and that doesn’t mean only Millennials) don’t sit down and wait for your next blog post, infographic, Tweet, Snap, and Vine. They absolutely have no patience with sub-standard copy and selfish advertising (defined as ads that don’t mean a thing in terms of value for customers).
For businesses that hope to survive with digital marketing, consider what Google calls as Micro-moments.
What are micro-moments, you ask? Google tends to box them into:
- I-Want-to-Do Moments
- I-Want-to-Know Moments
- I-Want-to-Go Moments
For businesses, there’s a lot more than just that, however. Search is still a predominant starting point for the new age customers’ micro-moments (which can lead all the way up to purchase decisions).
Now, as customers conduct a search, visit websites, download apps, interact with brands on social, and use maps, or look for addresses – these are just the start of the micro-moment universe.
All micro-moments are subject to optimization and testing, and as such, businesses have a lot more work to do.
Mobile moves in Permanently
Smartphone adoption has been growing and that the rule of the desktop is subsiding — that’s no longer a trend; it’s reality. Mobile adoption by consumers has been on the rise for the last few years, and it’s going to get crowded.
Latest KPCB Mobile Trends by Mary Meeker suggest that digital media time in the U.S is about 51% compared to desktop (at 42%)
For businesses, however, it’s not just about mobile adoption; it’s also about context. Forrester defines context as the “total of what is known about an individual along with what he or she is currently experiencing.” Context goes beyond location. It takes geo-targeting, carriers customers use, situation, attitude, preferences, and more.
Digital marketing professionals now have to launch not only mobile campaigns but also tailor campaigns based on what kind of contextual information (as against spray-and-pray digital campaigns) will be effective.
Silvio Porcellana of Business.com quotes John Doer of Kleiner Perkins (a VC firm) who calls this SoLoMo – a personal, continuous and interconnected experience between the real world and the digital.
He isn’t too far with that statement as it agrees with research by Flurry Mobile Analytics which reports that mobile use on the Internet, across industries and use categories, grows by a huge 58% year on year.
Artificial Intelligence Will Step Up
Think Artificial intelligence is still Sci-Fi? Think again.
Grid.io can build websites all by itself. Adroll’s new SendRoll feature sends out custom emails (retargeting) to specific site visitors. Flow is an A.I driven Interaction platform that makes bots help humans at work. Then there’s Natural Language Processing (NLP), machine learning algorithms, segmentation, semantic analysis, Chatbots, messaging, and even a super smart Assistant like Amelia – a cognitive agent that’s already changing how banking is done, for instance.
Artificial Intelligence is one of those digital marketing trends that not only change the way business is done but also make digital marketer’s life easier, and smarter.
Cross-channel Digital Experiences Will Rule
Brands operate within ecosystems, and customer experience is paramount as far as that ecosystem is concerned. Plus, those ecosystems always change along with consumer behavior. Cross-channel experiences are unique to our way of life today.
Consider this: you’re about to visit your bank but you wanted to check your account balance before you sit down to chat with a manager. You flip open the app, check your balance. You’d then place a call to bank’s customer support through a phone call to get more details about a transaction. Then, you’d visit the website to make some changes to your personal information. By then, the manager comes through, and you sit down for a conversation to discuss investments.
All this, In a span of a few minutes.
Mapping a customer’s cross-channel interaction isn’t a straight line. As years come by, the cross-channel experiences for customers are going to get more complex. More than 48% of households have multiple personal computers. 91% of adults have cell phones, and 56% of them have smartphones (and this is growing). About 43% of Americans own a tablet.
That’s just the beginning. The explosion of device types and sizes makes cross-channel experiences one of the most critical digital marketing trends. Businesses now have to work on consistently offering a seamless experience while being available to work in context.
Jim Yu of Search Engine Land stresses the importance of understanding channel performances, use data, glean insights about which channels convert better, a firm understanding of your target audience, and then optimizing throughout.
Conclusion: Get Ready for Super Convergence
This is the era of SMAC (Social Media, Analytics, and Cloud), and it sure is going to be that way. Digital marketing trends don’t mean a thing without businesses adapting to the fast changing environs.
According to KPMG Insights, the social commerce market is worth the US $30 billion alone. And we are not even getting anywhere near mobile, analytics, or the cloud.
New age business demands proactive convergence. Marketing today calls for adherence of digital marketing trends as they come by while stretching across devices, user behavior, mobility, context, technology, strategy, and more.
Are you up for it?