If there’s one thing we learned in 2015, it’s that in 2016 marketers are increasingly moving away from a “Mad Men” advertising era to a digital marketing age focused on the customer experience and journey. So what strategies, technologies, and tactics do marketers need to understand and learn to better engage, entertain, and delight their consumers? According to Andreas von der Heydt, a senior executive at Amazon, these are the top 12 trends marketers need to know to build a stronger brand in 2016:
1. Personalization and simplicity
Today’s consumers have more choices and information than ever before when it comes to making a purchase. But they also want to spend as little time as they need to when choosing what fits their needs and wants.
That’s why many top brands today are implementing lead nurturing programs that are personalized to the needs, interests and actions of different prospects, so they are sent off to the appropriate nurture paths.
An example of personalized marketing approach is dynamic pricing. Subscription models like Amazon Prime Video or Spotify, and “Pay What You Want” strategies like Humble Bundle, are effective marketing tactics to deliver a customized, simplified and improved customer experience.
2. Big Data and analytics
Using big data and analytics, brands can uncover new insights on their existing and new target groups, and better understand and predict consumer needs and wants to improve their sales and marketing strategies.
Data-driven tools and CRM solutions like Hubspot, Salesforce Pardot, Oracle CRM, and Nimble are helping marketers collect, organize, and analyze their data; generate new insights to incorporate into their marketing strategies; and make better recommendations and predictions for future actions. Whether you’re a small, mid-sized, or large company, you’ll want to consider taking advantage of these tools to gain a competitive edge.
3. Social selling
Today nearly two-thirds of American adults use social networking sites, according to a recent study by Pew Research Center. Another Pew research found that 62% of all American adults are Facebook users, with 31% on Pinterest and 28% on Instagram. User engagement for these social media sites has also increased significantly, with 59% of Instagram users, 27% of Pinterest users, and 22% of LinkedIn users visiting these sites on a daily basis.
It’s clear that social media is an effective tool for driving site traffic, and top brands are taking social media to the next level by using it to drive sales. For those who are looking to develop or improve their social media strategy this year, having the right metrics and social listening are key.
Regardless of the channels your brand is on, you need the right metrics to define and measure ROI and success. Going beyond vanity metrics like “views,” top brands are tracking engagement and other metrics like comments, shares, and even quality of comments (i.e. Klout score of users, leads and sales generated from comments, etc.).
Social listening is also critical to your marketing and sales success. Andreas suggests brands to keep social “social.” Use it to listen to your audience, understand their needs, answer their questions, and gather feedback and ideas from them. You also want to set realistic expectations for your social activities, and not over-stretch too much too fast.
4. Generation Z consumers
Generation Z is here. Defined as those born between mid to late-1990s and 2010, Gen Z grew up with digital technology and a world with easy, constant access to the web. Their comfort with technologies will represent both an opportunity and challenge for brands who want to reach them.
Generally speaking, Gen Z is more financially conservative than their Gen Y peers. They are also very entrepreneurial, independent-minded, and socially responsible. They embrace diversity and differences. Compared to Gen Y, Gen Z is much harder to interact with and they have much shorter attention spans.
But one important thing marketers need to understand is that they are no different than any other generations of consumers, in that they are looking for brands who they can trust and relate with, and can add value and help with their needs and wants.
5. Mobile and location-based marketing
According to Google, more searches are now performed on mobile devices than computers. This means leading marketers will be investing even more on mobile. Marketers can use location-based marketing technologies such as iBeacons and Radio Frequency Identification (RFIDs) to connect and interact with consumers in real time and to promote more sales.
313 Somerset, for example, is the first mall in Singapore to implement location-based marketing technology. Shoppers can use the mall’s app to get sales alerts and coupons on their mobile devices when they are near the shopping center. Retailers have reported 46% sales conversion as a result of the app.
6. Messaging apps
36% of smartphone owners use messaging apps like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger on their devices in the U.S. Globally, this number reaches billions of users. For brands and marketers, messaging apps represent huge opportunities to drive more sales and revenue.
WeChat, a popular messaging app in China, is already leading the way in mobile commerce and marketing. It’s had great success as a mobile payment platform, allowing users to purchase movie tickets and taxi services, for example.
Slowly but steadily, messaging apps have also begun experimenting with advertising. WeChat has successfully integrated ads into users’ timelines already, and we are starting to see this with popular apps in the West as well like SnapChat Discover, which allows brands to directly reach consumers in creative ways.
7. Wearable technology, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence
Virtual reality and wearable technology will hit the mainstream. Wearables and VR headsets like Oculus Rift will present marketers new ways to tell their brand stories and communicate with consumers through immersive 360 experiences.
In 2016, we’ll also see improved artificial intelligence capabilities (see the RoboWatch project) and more sophisticated “Chatbots.” In a few years, we may see AI-powered robots and personal assistants searching the web to help consumers find what they want, and making personalized recommendations based on their needs.
8. Video and moving images
2015 has already been an incredible year for video, and its popularity will further increase in 2016. With shorter attention spans, video is here to stay and won’t be going away anytime soon. In fact, according to Cisco, consumer Internet video traffic will make up 80% of all Internet traffic by 2019, up from 64% in 2014.
We are already seeing brands re-prioritizing their traditional advertising budgets for digital video. For many marketers, branded video content has already become an essential component of their marketing activities, and soon it will become the center.
Leading marketers will also focus more on live-stream video platforms like Periscope and Vine videos. Red Bull, for example, is known for live streaming behind-the-scene views of its snowboarding contests on Meerkat.
A newer video streaming app called Blab is also growing in popularity. Blab allows up to four people video chatting simultaneously with the audience watching and commenting live. Blab video chats can easily be shared on Twitter, which helps with social sharing and viral growth.
9. Data security
Hacking, in Michael Dell’s words, has become a “multi-billion-dollar industry.” For top marketers, cybersecurity is an essential focus to ensure customer data is protected. Leading brands are hiring specialized companies like Social-Engineer to test and identify weak points in their security both online and offline.
10. Meaningful, real-time communication
As consumers increasingly expect more personable and real-time interactions with brands, top marketers will need to focus on strategies that deliver such experiences, such as video streaming, blogging, and webinars to get people’s attention and engagement.
As well, finding “moments” that matter to consumers where brands can build authentic emotional connections will be key for top marketers. These moments, for example, may be the Olympics, Super Bowl, or blockbuster movies like Star Wars. But it’s not enough to just show up with real-time messages. You need meaningful, bold, and inspirational content to stand out from all other competing brand messages.
Smart marketers will also develop an influencer plan to identify top bloggers, relevant experts and influential leaders they can collaborate with to help amplify their messages to the relevant audiences.
11. Employee advocacy
To build a strong brand, you need a fan base of highly engaged and committed brand ambassadors who can help share and promote your brand messages through their networks.
Content shared by employees gets 8 times more engagement than when shared by official brand channels. 90% of consumers also said that they trust social media and word-of-mouth recommendations by family or friends more than other advertising, and that’s where your employees can come in.
According to the 2015 Edelmann Trust Barometer, 63% of consumers surveyed refuse to buy products or services from a company they do no trust. On the other hand, 80% of respondents will buy from companies they trust, and 68% will recommend them to a friend or colleague.
That goes to show how important it is for top brands to build trust and honest, authentic relationships with their audiences. By empowering your employees to take an active role in telling and sharing your brand stories, they help improve your company’s personal branding efforts, as well as increase their own engagement and commitment to your brand.
12. Customer and content-centric organizations
Leading brands are thinking and taking their digital strategy beyond marketing, to everything from sales, HR, finance, R&D, legal, and business planning. Many companies have introduced the new role of chief digital officer (CDO) to lead the digital transformation for the entire organization. Others are building their digital capabilities by improving their business models and processes, then building leadership capabilities across the organization to drive change.
Forward-thinking brands are also rethinking their key departments and functions and reorganizing based on customer experience and innovation. As well, they will work hard to recruit hybrid marketers who have both strong analytical and tech-savvy skills as well as an aptitude and passion for marketing. These next-gen marketers will help top brands evolve, compete, and win in the modern marketing era.
What do you think? Which of these trends have you adopted already or will be executing this year? Please share your thoughts below!
For more marketing strategies to boost your company’s growth this year and beyond, see Digital Tactics That Help Acquire, Convert, And Retain Customers.
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