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Top 16 Digital Trends Of 2016

Michael Brenner

Marketing has undergone a major transformation in the last few years, responding to new technologies and changes in consumer behaviors and attitudes.

Digital marketing and automation are just some of the new skills and technologies successful marketers need to learn today to better understand and help their consumers.

So what do marketers need to know to stay ahead of their competition in 2016 and beyond? Here are 16 marketing trends you can’t ignore. Respond to them now or risk extinction.

1. Relationship marketing

It is estimated that 2 billion consumers worldwide will own a smartphone by 2016. The opportunity and need to stay connected with customers and prospects on the go is more important now than ever.

Relationship marketing has shifted away from short-term customer engagement and individual sales to building longer-term engagement and stronger loyalty, to drive more meaningful customer connections, word-of-mouth promotions, lead generation, and ultimately sales.

Krispy Kreme has succeeded with this approach to improve customer engagement and loyalty. Through Krispy Kreme’s Red Light app, consumers can search for the nearest location and receive notifications on their smartphones whenever a batch of fresh donuts becomes available. Without spending a cent on marketing or advertising, Krispy Kreme saw nearly 7% boost in sales after the app launched.

2. Crowdsourced brand content

Creating and scaling content can be costly, time-consuming, and hard to do. Many brands are starting to realize the untapped opportunity in crowdsourcing free brand content as they see how effective it is in engaging their consumers and amplifying their marketing.

In recent research, Onalytica reported that of all the content on YouTube in which a brand is mentioned, 99% is created by brand fans. And that is just YouTube alone. Imagine all the free attention you can earn if you can get your consumers and fans to create and share content about your brand.

Minecraft is a great example of a brand that is doing this right. At the annual Minecraft conferences, attendees are offered free workshops on video-making rather than just on how to play the video game. Why? When these Minecraft fans go home, the first thing they do is create videos about Minecraft and start sharing them on YouTube.

These videos generate 2.5 billion views a month on YouTube for Minecraft, and Minecraft didn’t need to spend a dime on content marketing or advertising, other than providing their fans a few video-making workshops.

3. Location-based marketing technology

Today’s marketers are able to create interactive experiences and connect with customers at the point of engagement, thanks to new technologies like iBeacons and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID).

iBeacons are inexpensive transmitters that can detect nearby devices and can be used in merchandising areas, point-of sale-displays, and at retail stores. RFIDs are small electronic devices that provide a unique identifier for a specific tag, such as a wristband, card, or app. These location-based technologies allow marketers and event organizers to connect with customers in real time, helping attendees interact and engage with the event and with other attendees in ways never before possible.

4. Marketing automation

Marketing automation platforms make it easier for marketers to manage content, schedule posts, segment contacts, and track customers through the sales funnel, helping them get more done without compromising on quality and effectiveness.

With greater pressure and focus on delivering results, marketing leaders will need to train their teams so they have the knowledge needed to use these automation tools and improve sales.

While marketing automation is nothing new, recent research indicates only 50% of companies are using it today.

5. Virtual reality and wearable technology

With big players like Google and Facebook investing in virtual reality, and with the upcoming release of Oculus Rift, marketers will have the ability to tell 360-degree brand stories and engage consumers through immersive marketing like never before.

Regardless of adoption rates, you can definitely expect leading marketers to take advantage of virtual reality technology to create even more interactive and personalized experiences for consumers.

Similarly, wearable technology, like the Apple Watch, will provide marketers with opportunities to experiment with exciting new ways of communicating with customers.

6. Ephemeral marketing

With more than 100 million users every day, Snapchat is becoming a standard marketing platform for many brands. Snapchat is no longer just a platform to experiment with fun marketing campaigns, but a place where consumers are flocking for content in real time.

In order to reach consumers, particularly the younger generation whose time is often split between multiple channels, Snapchat is one of the hottest marketing channels.

Ephemeral marketing is all about shorter, to-the-point communication that takes up a small segment of an audience’s time. With Snapchat, each piece of content lasts for only a few seconds, and once viewed, it disappears from the user’s stream. This fast pace is especially important to engage and connect with consumers who are pressed for time.

Looking for how to get started on Snapchat? Check out this advice from MarketingLand.

7. Social and digital content assets

In the new age of digital, the importance of creating quality content optimized for search engines will only increase. Digital content you create today, including your website, blog, and videos, will still be found on the web and in Google searches years from now. Digital content assets are an investment in your brand’s future success.

Another digital asset is your brand fans and advocates on social media. They are the ones who will help distribute and promote your content. If you’re not already investing in and growing your social network following, you need to start now.

8. Search past search engines

With Facebook already testing its own search engine, search capabilities are expected expand in 2016 and beyond, which will give brands an automatic boost. Coupled with the introduction of buy buttons and payment messaging on social, both marketers and consumers can expect an all-in-one-type platform in 2016.

These advanced capabilities will bring a more integrated social experience and buying process, as consumers will be able to purchase, share with friends, and post social proof of their purchases all in one place. Marketers who leverage this integrated social media search trend as part of their marketing efforts will clearly see a boost in their returns.

9. Paid social distribution

Social media may have been free five years ago, but things have changed. If you want to reach your Facebook audience, you will likely need to pay to access users’ attention and eyeballs. And if you choose to pay, you need to measure the results to make sure you are getting the most out of your investment.

This is why analytics and digital marketing automation software should be your best friend in 2016. The web provides us with the data we need to find out what’s working and what’s not. Instead of relying on guesswork and intuition, data-driven decisions will help marketers achieve the results they want.

10. Mobile

Mobile has now become the primary screen for most people. Look at Facebook: 75% of its revenue comes from mobile advertising, so it’s clear that mobile should be a key focus for marketers.

Since you cannot do everything you do on desktop with the limited screen space of mobile, you need to focus on what matters the most: easy-to-read content, easy-to-use calls to action, easy-to-find contact details, and the ability to capture email leads via mobile.

The same goes for mobile apps. They are no longer an option but a necessity for businesses, as more and more consumers go mobile with their research and purchases.

11. Personalization

Personalization is here, and it won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Relevance is key to capturing consumer attention and eyeballs. Effective marketers will leverage all the digital marketing technologies available today to deliver personalized marketing and content that engages and sells.

12. Return on marketing investment

For the last 7 years, marketers have been talking about vanity metrics like Facebook likes, traffic, and social sharing. In 2016 and beyond, effective marketers will need to focus on what really matters: the metrics that will show your execs the sales and return on investment.

That’s why Liz Bedor and I wrote the Content Formula. If you haven’t read it yet, get it now!

13. Advertising industry will experience a market correction

I shared this in my content marketing prediction for 2016: The leading marketing trend of 2016 will be the maturing of the age of ad blocking. I think we’ll see a massive correction in the advertising market.

As more and more consumers download ad blockers on their computers and cell phones, opt out of telemarketing lists, and cut their cable subscription cords, marketers will start to see the futility of spending so much of their budgets on ads no one wants; ads we are willing to pay an ad blocker to avoid.

This will drive an increase in content marketing budgets. It will force more marketers to consider how to create and publish content their customers actually want. And it will require content marketers to get pretty damn good at showing ROI.

14. Visual content will continue to explode

Yep, folks, this is still huge. I can’t believe how few marketers are creating Slideshares from existing executive presentations and videotaping them as they speak to customers.

15. Entertaining and funny content

Just check out my favorite new example of content marketing, mattress company Casper’s VanWinkles.com. This is a content brand from a company that understands a very tight niche of their market that was underserved. They use an amazing design, fresh content (literally), and a strong call-to-action (subscribe) to generate a list of consumers who might be interested to buy their stuff at some point.

16. Podcasting, media brand M&A, or ?

I asked my friends across the content marketing industry for their top predictions. An explosion in podcasting was predicted by Jay Acunzo. Joe Pulizzi thinks a major brand will buy a media company.

What do you think? Which trends have you adopted already or will be adding to your 2016 marketing strategy? Please share your ideas below!

Are you interested in engaging and converting new customer for your business? Contact me here and let’s talk about how we can help.

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About Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of  The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider GroupHe has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and   a top  CMO influencer by Forbes.

What Are The New Rules For Engaging An Online Community?

Scott Steinberg

Marketing and public relations’ role within professional organizations has shifted drastically with the advent of the online community. Now there’s a greater emphasis placed on storytelling. Traditionally, organizations would simply broadcast news or channel it through the media – observe the reaction, then respond on a flexible timetable. Today, branding isn’t simply about beaming out a message. It’s about building trust with end users, telling a compelling story, and creating two-way social streams of dialogue.

While the media matrix and consumption patterns have irrevocably shifted, the value of powerful communication strategies has only become more vital. In an online community and multitasking world, companies must first find ways to connect with increasingly fragmented audiences and build empathy and awareness. They must create channels for customers and influencers to help organizations engage with brands and products in exciting new ways.

Customer impressions carry increasing weight, with brand impressions now traveling greater distances in less time. Users increasingly look to their personal networks for expertise and validation as opposed to traditional media channels.

Traditional marketing and public relations principles now play an increased role. Practitioners can excel in the modern world – provided they adapt to changing markets and best practices.

The book Netiquette Essentials: New Rules for Minding Your Manners in a Digital World offers several tips as you nurture positive conversation in an online community.

Establish a social media policy

Make it clear to employees what is okay to share online, how and when to do so, and the most appropriate manner in which to conduct outreach efforts. With every employee serving as a brand ambassador, training should begin the first day on the job to reinforce the importance of these organizational values. Detail formal rules of engagement with the online community and explain what’s expected from hires.

Develop an internal program to teach social media literacy and aptitude, provide continued education efforts, and reward employees for successfully practicing these skills. You may wish to consider regular skills refreshes, training sessions, certifications, and gamification-based programs to reinforce these maxims.

Be specific about what’s expected in terms of tone, attitude, end results, and output from your social media pros, and regularly monitor and assess how well they align with and meet these goals. Providing running feedback and commentary to help them grow and improve is vital to bolster performance in these areas. To this extent, you may wish to have team leaders provide sample tweets, posts, or updates to provide a sense of how to better shape these communications efforts.

For sake of clarity and assurance of appropriate conduct, post formal guidelines for communication within your own blogs, communities, and online venues, public-facing or otherwise. Having guidelines in place sets expectations upfront and helps you address any issues that may arise, such as having to ban argumentative users or remove inappropriate posts.

Set clear guidelines for interacting with the online community

Social media’s immediacy allows you to interact with customers without filters. However, policy and protocols set in place beforehand ensure professional and productive interactions. Understanding that some room must be given to operate between formal guidelines, make it clear to employees the appropriate rules of conduct when speaking directly to end users or customers, whether exchanges are B2B or B2C in nature.

Provide ongoing development and training to your team regarding these policies, especially for employees who manage social media efforts, outreach, and campaigns. Pass on learning and knowledge gained from direct frontline interactions with customers and promote positive transfer and enhance best practices.

Marketing campaigns and branding efforts should adhere to consistent guidelines. This ensures the right messages are sent and that your company is portrayed with the image and professionalism you desire. Outside of formal guidelines, practice basic rules of politeness, professionalism, and business etiquette online just as you would when engaging with customers face-to-face.

Identify which influencers to reach out to, and brief employees on the best methods for doing so. Through social media, you will likely also interact not just with individual customers, but also entire communities. As in real life, virtual group dynamics can differ greatly from one-on-one interactions.

Express your brand’s online personality

Be less formal, but adhere to your company’s rules and guidelines about your brand, message, and tone of voice, thus creating value for your online community. When people visit social media sites, they expect exchanges to be more personal, immediate, and engaging.

Be cognizant of post quality, taking care to eliminate grammatical and spelling errors. Note that kindness, courtesy, positivity, and empathy should be reflected in every post. Casual and fun doesn’t equate to flippant, glib, or self-centered. Think about how you or your brand may be perceived, and present yourself as affably and respectfully as possible.

Humor is appropriate to use, depending on context. Consider using only the same sort of humor that is appropriate for use in an office or business casual setting. Unless it is part of your brand’s marketing strategy, proceed with caution when using risqué or controversial statements.

Every employee is a brand ambassador in today’s socially driven world. Learn How to Weave Social Media Into the Fabric of the Business.

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How To Master Social Media Marketing In 2017

Michael Brenner

Social media is a constantly evolving medium, from which sites are trending within your industry to the latest Facebook features and Instagram influencers – let alone the development of completely new social media platforms every time you turn on your laptop. How can modern marketers expect to keep up?

The secret is to embrace the change. After all, it is the rapid advancements and constant stream of innovations that have provided digital marketers with so much to work with in the first place. So, no, your social media marketing campaigns this year are not going to look the same as the ones you used in 2016—at least, not if you want to generate more leads and stand a chance against your competitors.

If you want to make an impact with your social media efforts, it is time to give your strategy a refresh. Here is what you need to know to master your social media marketing and to stay ahead of the trends in 2017.

Customize your use of major and niche social media sites

Facebook is still number one, and that isn’t going to change in 2017. In fact, Facebook itself is a world in itself to keep up to date with – in this year alone, it is predicted that Facebook Live will be monetized and that the Call to Action buttons for local business pages will be updated.

Currently the top five social media sites in terms of reach and impact are:

  1. Facebook
  2. Instagram
  3. Twitter
  4. Pinterest
  5. Tumblr

While these networks are important, there is also value in niche networks for many businesses. For example, DeviantArt is geared towards illustrators, designers, and other artists, as well as art enthusiasts – and has a huge network of 26,000,000. While this site might be useless for, say, an insurance brokerage, it would be incredibly powerful for a photography school. Other examples include eToro for finance professionals, Wayn for travel and tourism, 43 Things for health and wellness brands—and the list goes on as more networks are created and gain active users.

This year, instead of trying to have your brand on every major site and spreading your resources too thin, create a strategy that makes sense for your industry – and your business.

Start with the biggest. With 1.79 billion monthly active users, Facebook is a wise choice.

Next, choose one or two other major networks. Visual industries like clothing and apparel, food, and travel are well-suited to sites like Pinterest and Instagram, while service-oriented industries may gain more leads from LinkedIn and Twitter.

Finally, consider a niche social media network. Many have several million active users and may offer a unique way for you to reach out to leads and to build brand awareness.

Make your video more sophisticated

pixabay

Throughout 2016, the use of video on social media grew, but its impact exploded. A recent survey by Wyzowl found that 84% of consumers said they have been convinced to make a purchase choice after viewing a brand’s video – and 91% claimed to have watched a video to learn about a product or service they were interested in. Now consider that only 63% of businesses taking advantage of video right now.

Videos that engage with viewers tend to be very effective. While customer testimonials and demonstration videos will always have their place, add challenges, puzzles, games, and surveys to your video content, along with informational videos, to keep people interested and talking on social media. Buzzfeed’s Tasty does an excellent job of this.

For some businesses, live streaming can make a strong impact. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are all being used by social media savvy brands to engage with consumers in real-time with interviews, Q&A sessions, and brand events.

If you haven’t already branched into video, 2017 is the year. If you are already using promotional videos on your social media channels, then this is the year to make them better. The use of video for social media marketing is no longer new. This year, it’s about coming up with creative, fresh ideas that will capture your audience and inspire leads.

Focus on the influencers

A business could run eleven different social media accounts, with Twitter updates every two hours, Facebook postings twice a day, vibrant Pinterest boards, and an active presence on LinkedIn. But they still would not make the same impact that a couple of mentions by one major social media influencer would create. The big influencers have legions of followers who often look to their voice as a sort of industry guiding force.

While in the past, consistent regular posting was the way to go, make sure you aren’t overextending your marketing efforts with too many platforms – and too many posts. You may not just be draining your resources, but these resources may be better spent with a more concentrated focal point, like an industry influencer.

Furious Pete (TV, food, and fitness) has more than 5 million YouTube followers. Kristina Bazan (fashion) has more than 2.4 million Instagram followers. Jake Paul (millennials) has more than 17 million social media followers. A social media mention from an influencer, or better yet, a video post that mentions your product or service is going to reach a profoundly broad and engaged audience.

Many major companies are now partnering – and paying – the big influencers to promote their product. If you want to master social media, pay attention to who the influencers are in your market.

They don’t have to be the biggest names around, but with a few hundred thousand followers you can make an impact if you can get these people to share, like, tweet, or feature your content in some way. Use resources like BuzzSumo and find the top blogs in your industry to get a better idea of who the influencers are that you may want to connect with.

Examine your social media ads – a lot

Ads continue to be a popular social media marketing tool as they offer marketers a cost-effective way not just to build brand awareness, but also to test their products and messaging and to get important feedback for building future campaigns.

Facebook ads still offer the best ROI by far – 95.8%, compared to 63.5% on Twitter and 2.1% on Snapchat. However, these numbers can shift quickly, especially as the newer networks like Snapchat and Instagram blossom in 2017.

Managing director of Traktek Partners Cyril Lemaire warns that Twitter will see a double-digit decline in active users this year. While this may or may not come to pass, it is important to be agile and to switch gears midstream if your ads aren’t working.

Make sure you are consistently measuring the results of your advertising campaigns, and track changes over time. This will help your team make smart decisions when it comes to social media advertising.

Take a fresh approach to your social media marketing efforts in order to take advantage of the opportunities that are available right now. No longer does it make sense to just chug away with your accounts and follow general trends. Your marketing efforts should be both more sophisticated and much more creative. The brands that can master these qualities will leap ahead in 2017.

For more insight on social media strategies, see How To Weave Social Media Into The Fabric Of The Business.

Image: pixabay

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About Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of  The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider GroupHe has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and   a top  CMO influencer by Forbes.

How Emotionally Aware Computing Can Bring Happiness to Your Organization

Christopher Koch


Do you feel me?

Just as once-novel voice recognition technology is now a ubiquitous part of human–machine relationships, so too could mood recognition technology (aka “affective computing”) soon pervade digital interactions.

Through the application of machine learning, Big Data inputs, image recognition, sensors, and in some cases robotics, artificially intelligent systems hunt for affective clues: widened eyes, quickened speech, and crossed arms, as well as heart rate or skin changes.




Emotions are big business

The global affective computing market is estimated to grow from just over US$9.3 billion a year in 2015 to more than $42.5 billion by 2020.

Source: “Affective Computing Market 2015 – Technology, Software, Hardware, Vertical, & Regional Forecasts to 2020 for the $42 Billion Industry” (Research and Markets, 2015)

Customer experience is the sweet spot

Forrester found that emotion was the number-one factor in determining customer loyalty in 17 out of the 18 industries it surveyed – far more important than the ease or effectiveness of customers’ interactions with a company.


Source: “You Can’t Afford to Overlook Your Customers’ Emotional Experience” (Forrester, 2015)


Humana gets an emotional clue

Source: “Artificial Intelligence Helps Humana Avoid Call Center Meltdowns” (The Wall Street Journal, October 27, 2016)

Insurer Humana uses artificial intelligence software that can detect conversational cues to guide call-center workers through difficult customer calls. The system recognizes that a steady rise in the pitch of a customer’s voice or instances of agent and customer talking over one another are causes for concern.

The system has led to hard results: Humana says it has seen an 28% improvement in customer satisfaction, a 63% improvement in agent engagement, and a 6% improvement in first-contact resolution.


Spread happiness across the organization

Source: “Happiness and Productivity” (University of Warwick, February 10, 2014)

Employers could monitor employee moods to make organizational adjustments that increase productivity, effectiveness, and satisfaction. Happy employees are around 12% more productive.




Walking on emotional eggshells

Whether customers and employees will be comfortable having their emotions logged and broadcast by companies is an open question. Customers may find some uses of affective computing creepy or, worse, predatory. Be sure to get their permission.


Other limiting factors

The availability of the data required to infer a person’s emotional state is still limited. Further, it can be difficult to capture all the physical cues that may be relevant to an interaction, such as facial expression, tone of voice, or posture.



Get a head start


Discover the data

Companies should determine what inferences about mental states they want the system to make and how accurately those inferences can be made using the inputs available.


Work with IT

Involve IT and engineering groups to figure out the challenges of integrating with existing systems for collecting, assimilating, and analyzing large volumes of emotional data.


Consider the complexity

Some emotions may be more difficult to discern or respond to. Context is also key. An emotionally aware machine would need to respond differently to frustration in a user in an educational setting than to frustration in a user in a vehicle.

 


 

download arrowTo learn more about how affective computing can help your organization, read the feature story Empathy: The Killer App for Artificial Intelligence.


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About Christopher Koch

Christopher Koch is the Editorial Director of the SAP Center for Business Insight. He is an experienced publishing professional, researcher, editor, and writer in business, technology, and B2B marketing. Share your thoughts with Chris on Twitter @Ckochster.

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In An Agile Environment, Revenue Models Are Flexible Too

Todd Wasserman

In 2012, Dollar Shave Club burst on the scene with a cheeky viral video that won praise for its creativity and marketing acumen. Less heralded at the time was the startup’s pricing model, which swapped traditional retail for subscriptions.

For as low as $1 a month (for five two-bladed cartridges), consumers got a package in the mail that saved them a trip to the pharmacy or grocery store. Dollar Shave Club received the ultimate vindication for the idea in 2016 when Unilever purchased the company for $1 billion.

As that example shows, new technology creates the possibility for new pricing models that can disrupt existing industries. The same phenomenon has occurred in software, in which the cloud and Web-based interfaces have ushered in Software as a Service (SaaS), which charges users on a monthly basis, like a utility, instead of the typical purchase-and-later-upgrade model.

Pricing, in other words, is a variable that can be used to disrupt industries. Other options include usage-based pricing and freemium.

Products as services, services as products

There are basically two ways that businesses can use pricing to disrupt the status quo: Turn products into services and turn services into products. Dollar Shave Club and SaaS are two examples of turning products into services.

Others include Amazon’s Dash, a bare-bones Internet of Things device that lets consumers reorder items ranging from Campbell’s Soup to Play-Doh. Another example is Rent the Runway, which rents high-end fashion items for a weekend rather than selling the items. Trunk Club offers a twist on this by sending items picked out by a stylist to users every month. Users pay for what they want and send back the rest.

The other option is productizing a service. Restaurant franchising is based on this model. While the restaurant offers food service to consumers, for entrepreneurs the franchise offers guidance and brand equity that can be condensed into a product format. For instance, a global HR firm called Littler has productized its offerings with Littler CaseSmart-Charges, which is designed for in-house attorneys and features software, project management tools, and access to flextime attorneys.

As that example shows, technology offers opportunities to try new revenue models. Another example is APIs, which have become a large source of revenue for companies. The monetization of APIs is often viewed as a side business that encompasses a wholly different pricing model that’s often engineered to create huge user bases with volume discounts.

Not a new idea

Though technology has opened up new vistas for businesses seeking alternate pricing models, Rajkumar Venkatesan, a marketing professor at University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, points out that this isn’t necessarily a new idea. For instance, King Gillette made his fortune in the early part of the 20th Century by realizing that a cheap shaving device would pave the way for a recurring revenue stream via replacement razor blades.

“The new variation was the Keurig,” said Venkatesan, referring to the coffee machine that relies on replaceable cartridges. “It has started becoming more prevalent in the last 10 years, but the fundamental model has been there.” For businesses, this can be an attractive model not only for the recurring revenue but also for the ability to cross-sell new goods to existing customers, Venkatesan said.

Another benefit to a subscription model is that it can also supply first-party data that companies can use to better understand and market to their customers. Some believe that Dollar Shave Club’s close relationship with its young male user base was one reason for Unilever’s purchase, for instance. In such a cut-throat market, such relationships can fetch a high price.

To learn more about how you can monetize disruption, watch this video overview of the new SAP Hybris Revenue Cloud.

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