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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.

Platform Economy: Putting Customer Value First

Pedro Pereira

Can platform economies replace traditional commerce? The platform economy is about taking risks, learning, and trying. Digital platforms are driving a change in mindset by democratizing the way people look at what they want. Leaders who allow questions like “what if?” and “what is?” to guide the creative process can help organizations leverage platforms to deliver meaningful customer value.

The platform economy is no longer emerging; it has arrived. Linear business models that are resource-heavy and producer-driven are shifting to multi-sided platform models that are demand-driven. Major companies like Google, Etsy, and Uber have already created online structures or are diversifying existing ones, like Amazon as a web platform entering the B2B provider space.

Some companies are trying to build a digital platform, but end up providing only basic services rather than utilizing the full potential of digitization to exceed customer expectations, enhance the customer experience, and deliver convenience and personalization. For example, a grocery store could build an app that enables customers to order goods and have them delivered. An extension of the app could operate as a digital twin, adding convenience by guiding users on what to buy.

But what, exactly, does a digital platform economy do?

Platforms push change in mindset

Platforms democratize the way people look at what they want. Consumers are looking for choices, comparisons, and help with decision-making. The idea that consumers make decisions at the store is no longer the norm—now they are looking to have an experience in the store. Stores need to focus on not only enabling experiences, but also helping people make decisions.

Digital platforms are driving people to change the way they consume. This means companies need to radically change how they offer products and services, how they capture information to deliver meaningful customer service, how they create value in this economy, and finally, how they compete for profits. 

Traditional commerce versus digital platforms

In traditional commerce, companies must compete at many different levels. Digital platforms disrupt this process because they consume the value and deliver the service. Why, then, do we need brick-and-mortar organizations regulating the environment?

Before we discuss bringing the digital platform to traditional retailers, we need to evaluate the way people consume products now. Today’s consumers buy products and services to pursue a lifestyle. That means we need to focus on adding value first, and then move on to the transaction.

That is why traditional e-commerce is at a loss in the game. Where traditional e-commerce ecosystems push, the new platforms pull. As data lies at the core of platform economies—versus products or transactions at the core of traditional commerce—the platform economy provides an edge by enabling companies to offer meaningful and relevant content, products, and services.

In the end, it is all about:

  • Convergence
  • Understanding what is meaningful to the customer
  • A brands’ ability to communicate with and understand its customers and make recommendations based what is meaningful to them

Dematerializing traditional ecosystems

My role at SAP has involved looking at the concept of the platform, bringing it to customers, and enabling companies to become the platform. Let’s look at the two sides of the market: the creators of the service are on one side, and consumers are on the other. To facilitate more trade through the platform so that it becomes an active marketplace, we need to break the concept of suppliers and start looking at them as value creators. Once we aggregate functions on a platform and dematerialize a traditional ecosystem, we see that many of the activities, and much of the exchange of information that does not happen in a traditional model, is centralized in the platform.

Who makes the decision to move to the platform economy?

The decision to transition to the platform economy comes either from a strong leader who is trying to grow a company through innovative disruption or, ideally, a CEO who embraces digital transformation and has a structured agenda in their strategy to make this happen.

Most core companies are typically hinged on two key components: time and performance. After a point, they need a new S curve, which requires investment. Ideally, this should be done in the growth phase rather than when during a downturn. And the answer lies in digital platform ecosystems. Today’s smart leaders will pursue a strategy that experiments with and invests heavily in disruptive platform economies.

What are the key learnings of building/leveraging a platform?

Shifting your mindset to a platform business model means moving away from the concept of “I,” “my,” and “mine.” It is imperative to give power to the ecosystem by enabling its components to shine.

The platform economy is about taking risks, experimenting, trying, and learning. We need leaders who believe in, and are willing to invest in, these ecosystems and ask “What if?” and “What is?”

  • What if I started solving problems that are more meaningful to customers instead of pushing products?
  • What if I relied on assets that are not mine? Can I let go control with enough governance to facilitate the exchange of value between people I don’t control?
  • What if I stopped making money and focused on adding value to my customers? What would happen to by business? Where would I go?
  • What if I made these changes and came to a level of balance?
  • What is in it for me?
  • What is the story you want to tell? Tell the story and honor the MVP.
  • What is the upside potential? What do you have as a result of this platform?
  • What is the downside and the risk?

The rise of platforms is being driven by three transformative technologies: cloud, social, and mobile. Platforms can be an important competitive advantage if allowed to evolve and managed effectively on both the supply and demand side.

Time to get thinking.

For more insight on how platform is transforming business strategy, see Disrupt Or Be Disrupted: Why Platform, Not Pipeline, Will Save Your Business.

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Pedro Pereira

About Pedro Pereira

Pedro S. Pereira is Head of Digital Innovation for Middle East and North Africa at SAP.

3 Millennial Expectations Every E-Commerce Business Needs To Address

Tracy Vides

Ah, the millennials – the generation brought up with the Internet and the rest of the digital revolution! While there may be a good deal of stigma attached to this crowd, there’s no stopping the fact they are flooding the job market and are predicted to spend $1.4 trillion in the U.S. retail market by 2020.

Due the fascinating point in history this age group grew up in, they are an extremely tricky bunch to market and sell to. They have essentially caused a lot of brands to throw out their entire playbook and start from scratch.

Let’s a take a quick look at a couple of the top brands today: Amazon, the leading retailer, does not own any physical stores. Uber, the leader in transportation, does not own any cars. Both of have one thing in common: the point-of-sale happens electronically.

This phenomenon is a big indicator that e-commerce is taking over. Modern shoppers (particularly millennials) have much different values and expectations than shoppers did 20 to 30 years ago. No surprise, therefore, that for most online companies, appealing to a millennial audience has become a top priority. Let’s discuss three of the most prominent expectations these shoppers have for e-commerce businesses.

1. Persuasive social media presence

Hundreds of years from now, when historians discuss the biggest breakthroughs happening early in the second millennium, the rise of social media will undoubtedly be one of the most debated topics.

What took off in the early 2000s now has a collective user count around 2.5 billion, many of them millennials. In fact, a recent survey found that 88% of millennials get their news via Facebook.

With this many eyes on social media, having a strong brand presence on popular outlets is no longer an option. The harsh truth is that millennials are not responsive to traditional ads or played-out sales tactics. While social advertising is proving to be very effective, one of the main goals of your brand’s social media presence must be to give your messaging a playful and humanized tone that connects with the younger audience on a more in-depth level.

Red Bull is well known for its superior social media presence. It uses its accounts to become so much more than just an energy drink. If you follow Red Bull, you’ll see how good it is at promoting original, branded material such as films, competitions, live shows, and of course, user-generated content.

In addition to favoring e-commerce brands with a human touch, millennials value consistency and responsiveness across channels. Be sure you are keeping up with all your accounts in all networks to remain in touch with your audience.

2. Personalized user experience

Even though the development of technology and the evolution of the Internet have done a lot to bring us together as a species, e-commerce is getting more individualized. Millennials are not fazed by traditional marketing and sales pitches. They want interactions to be tailored to their needs.

Unfortunately, there is no formula written in stone about how to deliver the perfect personalized experience.

However, there are certain things you can do to embrace this concept. For example, Amazon’s homepage looks different to each and every customer. Using workflows and user information, it recommends relevant items to customers based around their online behavior.

The overarching goal for retailers is to understand customers’ needs throughout the entire sales funnel. The most effective way to do this by implementing marketing automation within your e-commerce platform. For example, Shopify lets you profile customers, map their journey, market to them across digital channels, and provide a consistent shopping experience across multiple devices, online and in-store.

Personalization has become a staple in many e-commerce operations. In fact, a study by Gartner predicts by 2020, smart personalization engines used to recognize customer intent will enable businesses to increase their profits by up to 15%.

Basically, younger audiences want e-commerce companies to show them exactly what they want to see.

3. Transparency

Sales techniques have seen a huge shift as millennials gain spending power. Smartphones have literally given people all the information in the world in the palms of their hands. With this in mind, e-commerce brands need to come to terms with the fact that each buying decision will be well-researched.

“Millennials have changed the old retail model of price obfuscation, especially in online commerce,” says Jason Goldberg, VP of strategy at Razorfish. “They have grown up with transparency and information available to them at their fingertips, so brands have to design their business around transparency.”

Everlane, a luxury clothing store, is a prime example of how to use this concept in a business model. It openly promotes how all of its products are made, from A to Z, directly on its e-commerce website.

It doesn’t hide any manufacturing costs or warehouse details from the public. A lot of companies are known for relying on cheap labor, and the stigma around that helps get Everlane’s transparent approach into millennials’ good books.

Additionally, it maintains a strong social media presence that constantly reinforces its values. For example, it famously gives its audience behind-the-scenes glances at its factories in action via Snapchat. Using raw footage like this puts customers in a better state of mind about their purchases.

Transparency and authenticity are essential for gaining traction with millennials. It’s not just about what you sell anymore. It’s about how you promote it.

Parting words

Millennials are a fascinating group. Apart from the selfies and constant social media updates, they have a lot to offer in terms of digital consumerism. The truth of the matter is the online shopping landscape is incredibly crowded. Regardless of what products or services you provide, chances are there hundreds of other businesses working towards the same goals. Since millennials have been brought up in the middle of this reality, they have no problem looking around until they find an experience that really speaks to them. It’s up to you to differentiate yourself as a brand that meets them where they hang out.

For more on marketing to today’s consumers, see 5 Steps to Your Customer’s Heart with Emotionally Aware Computing.

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About Tracy Vides

Tracy is a content marketer and social media consultant who works with small businesses and startups to increase their visibility. Although new to the digital marketing scene, Tracy has started off well by building a good reputation for herself, with posts featured on Steamfeed, Business 2 Community and elsewhere. Hit her up @TracyVides on Twitter.

The Future of Cybersecurity: Trust as Competitive Advantage

Justin Somaini and Dan Wellers

 

The cost of data breaches will reach US$2.1 trillion globally by 2019—nearly four times the cost in 2015.

Cyberattacks could cost up to $90 trillion in net global economic benefits by 2030 if cybersecurity doesn’t keep pace with growing threat levels.

Cyber insurance premiums could increase tenfold to $20 billion annually by 2025.

Cyberattacks are one of the top 10 global risks of highest concern for the next decade.


Companies are collaborating with a wider network of partners, embracing distributed systems, and meeting new demands for 24/7 operations.

But the bad guys are sharing intelligence, harnessing emerging technologies, and working round the clock as well—and companies are giving them plenty of weaknesses to exploit.

  • 33% of companies today are prepared to prevent a worst-case attack.
  • 25% treat cyber risk as a significant corporate risk.
  • 80% fail to assess their customers and suppliers for cyber risk.

The ROI of Zero Trust

Perimeter security will not be enough. As interconnectivity increases so will the adoption of zero-trust networks, which place controls around data assets and increases visibility into how they are used across the digital ecosystem.


A Layered Approach

Companies that embrace trust as a competitive advantage will build robust security on three core tenets:

  • Prevention: Evolving defensive strategies from security policies and educational approaches to access controls
  • Detection: Deploying effective systems for the timely detection and notification of intrusions
  • Reaction: Implementing incident response plans similar to those for other disaster recovery scenarios

They’ll build security into their digital ecosystems at three levels:

  1. Secure products. Security in all applications to protect data and transactions
  2. Secure operations. Hardened systems, patch management, security monitoring, end-to-end incident handling, and a comprehensive cloud-operations security framework
  3. Secure companies. A security-aware workforce, end-to-end physical security, and a thorough business continuity framework

Against Digital Armageddon

Experts warn that the worst-case scenario is a state of perpetual cybercrime and cyber warfare, vulnerable critical infrastructure, and trillions of dollars in losses. A collaborative approach will be critical to combatting this persistent global threat with implications not just for corporate and personal data but also strategy, supply chains, products, and physical operations.


Download the executive brief The Future of Cybersecurity: Trust as Competitive Advantage.


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How Digital Transformation Is Rewriting Business Models

Ginger Shimp

Everybody knows someone who has a stack of 3½-inch floppies in a desk drawer “just in case we may need them someday.” While that might be amusing, the truth is that relatively few people are confident that they’re making satisfactory progress on their digital journey. The boundaries between the digital and physical worlds continue to blur — with profound implications for the way we do business. Virtually every industry and every enterprise feels the effects of this ongoing digital transformation, whether from its own initiative or due to pressure from competitors.

What is digital transformation? It’s the wholesale reimagining and reinvention of how businesses operate, enabled by today’s advanced technology. Businesses have always changed with the times, but the confluence of technologies such as mobile, cloud, social, and Big Data analytics has accelerated the pace at which today’s businesses are evolving — and the degree to which they transform the way they innovate, operate, and serve customers.

The process of digital transformation began decades ago. Think back to how word processing fundamentally changed the way we write, or how email transformed the way we communicate. However, the scale of transformation currently underway is drastically more significant, with dramatically higher stakes. For some businesses, digital transformation is a disruptive force that leaves them playing catch-up. For others, it opens to door to unparalleled opportunities.

Upending traditional business models

To understand how the businesses that embrace digital transformation can ultimately benefit, it helps to look at the changes in business models currently in process.

Some of the more prominent examples include:

  • A focus on outcome-based models — Open the door to business value to customers as determined by the outcome or impact on the customer’s business.
  • Expansion into new industries and markets — Extend the business’ reach virtually anywhere — beyond strictly defined customer demographics, physical locations, and traditional market segments.
  • Pervasive digitization of products and services — Accelerate the way products and services are conceived, designed, and delivered with no barriers between customers and the businesses that serve them.
  • Ecosystem competition — Create a more compelling value proposition in new markets through connections with other companies to enhance the value available to the customer.
  • Access a shared economy — Realize more value from underutilized sources by extending access to other business entities and customers — with the ability to access the resources of others.
  • Realize value from digital platforms — Monetize the inherent, previously untapped value of customer relationships to improve customer experiences, collaborate more effectively with partners, and drive ongoing innovation in products and services,

In other words, the time-tested assumptions about how to identify customers, develop and market products and services, and manage organizations may no longer apply. Every aspect of business operations — from forecasting demand to sourcing materials to recruiting and training staff to balancing the books — is subject to this wave of reinvention.

The question is not if, but when

These new models aren’t predictions of what could happen. They’re already realities for innovative, fast-moving companies across the globe. In this environment, playing the role of late adopter can put a business at a serious disadvantage. Ready or not, digital transformation is coming — and it’s coming fast.

Is your company ready for this sea of change in business models? At SAP, we’ve helped thousands of organizations embrace digital transformation — and turn the threat of disruption into new opportunities for innovation and growth. We’d relish the opportunity to do the same for you. Our Digital Readiness Assessment can help you see where you are in the journey and map out the next steps you’ll need to take.

Up next I’ll discuss the impact of digital transformation on processes and work. Until then, you can read more on how digital transformation is impacting your industry.

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About Ginger Shimp

With more than 20 years’ experience in marketing, Ginger Shimp has been with SAP since 2004. She has won numerous awards and honors at SAP, including being designated “Top Talent” for two consecutive years. Not only is she a Professional Certified Marketer with the American Marketing Association, but she's also earned her Connoisseur's Certificate in California Reds from the Chicago Wine School. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of San Francisco, and an MBA in marketing and managerial economics from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. Personally, Ginger is the proud mother of a precocious son and happy wife of one of YouTube's 10 EDU Gurus, Ed Shimp.