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12 Marketing Trends Every Top Brand Needs To Know In 2016

Michael Brenner

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.

The post 12 Marketing Trends Every Top Brand Needs To Know In 2016 appeared first on Marketing Insider Group.

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About Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is the CEO of Marketing Insider Group, former Head of Strategy at NewsCred, and the former VP of Global Content Marketing here at SAP. Michael is also the co-author of the book The Content Formula, a contributor to leading publications like The Economist, Inc Magazine, The Guardian, and Forbes and a frequent speaker at industry events covering topics such as marketing strategy, social business, content marketing, digital marketing, social media and personal branding.  Follow Michael on Twitter (@BrennerMichael)LinkedInFacebook and Google+ and Subscribe to the Marketing Insider.

Data Analysts And Scientists More Important Than Ever For The Enterprise

Daniel Newman

The business world is now firmly in the age of data. Not that data wasn’t relevant before; it was just nowhere close to the speed and volume that’s available to us today. Businesses are buckling under the deluge of petabytes, exabytes, and zettabytes. Within these bytes lie valuable information on customer behavior, key business insights, and revenue generation. However, all that data is practically useless for businesses without the ability to identify the right data. Plus, if they don’t have the talent and resources to capture the right data, organize it, dissect it, draw actionable insights from it and, finally, deliver those insights in a meaningful way, their data initiatives will fail.

Rise of the CDO

Companies of all sizes can easily find themselves drowning in data generated from websites, landing pages, social streams, emails, text messages, and many other sources. Additionally, there is data in their own repositories. With so much data at their disposal, companies are under mounting pressure to utilize it to generate insights. These insights are critical because they can (and should) drive the overall business strategy and help companies make better business decisions. To leverage the power of data analytics, businesses need more “top-management muscle” specialized in the field of data science. This specialized field has lead to the creation of roles like Chief Data Officer (CDO).

In addition, with more companies undertaking digital transformations, there’s greater impetus for the C-suite to make data-driven decisions. The CDO helps make data-driven decisions and also develops a digital business strategy around those decisions. As data grows at an unstoppable rate, becoming an inseparable part of key business functions, we will see the CDO act as a bridge between other C-suite execs.

Data skills an emerging business necessity

So far, only large enterprises with bigger data mining and management needs maintain in-house solutions. These in-house teams and technologies handle the growing sets of diverse and dispersed data. Others work with third-party service providers to develop and execute their big data strategies.

As the amount of data grows, the need to mine it for insights becomes a key business requirement. For both large and small businesses, data-centric roles will experience endless upward mobility. These roles include data anlysts and scientists. There is going to be a huge opportunity for critical thinkers to turn their analytical skills into rapidly growing roles in the field of data science. In fact, data skills are now a prized qualification for titles like IT project managers and computer systems analysts.

Forbes cited the McKinsey Global Institute’s prediction that by 2018 there could be a massive shortage of data-skilled professionals. This indicates a disruption at the demand-supply level with the needs for data skills at an all-time high. With an increasing number of companies adopting big data strategies, salaries for data jobs are going through the roof. This is turning the position into a highly coveted one.

According to Harvard Professor Gary King, “There is a big data revolution. The big data revolution is that now we can do something with the data.” The big problem is that most enterprises don’t know what to do with data. Data professionals are helping businesses figure that out. So if you’re casting about for where to apply your skills and want to take advantage of one of the best career paths in the job market today, focus on data science.

I’m compensated by University of Phoenix for this blog. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

For more insight on our increasingly connected future, see The $19 Trillion Question: Are You Undervaluing The Internet Of Things?

The post Data Analysts and Scientists More Important Than Ever For the Enterprise appeared first on Millennial CEO.

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About Daniel Newman

Daniel Newman serves as the Co-Founder and CEO of EC3, a quickly growing hosted IT and Communication service provider. Prior to this role Daniel has held several prominent leadership roles including serving as CEO of United Visual. Parent company to United Visual Systems, United Visual Productions, and United GlobalComm; a family of companies focused on Visual Communications and Audio Visual Technologies. Daniel is also widely published and active in the Social Media Community. He is the Author of Amazon Best Selling Business Book "The Millennial CEO." Daniel also Co-Founded the Global online Community 12 Most and was recognized by the Huffington Post as one of the 100 Business and Leadership Accounts to Follow on Twitter. Newman is an Adjunct Professor of Management at North Central College. He attained his undergraduate degree in Marketing at Northern Illinois University and an Executive MBA from North Central College in Naperville, IL. Newman currently resides in Aurora, Illinois with his wife (Lisa) and his two daughters (Hailey 9, Avery 5). A Chicago native all of his life, Newman is an avid golfer, a fitness fan, and a classically trained pianist

When Good Is Good Enough: Guiding Business Users On BI Practices

Ina Felsheim

Image_part2-300x200In Part One of this blog series, I talked about changing your IT culture to better support self-service BI and data discovery. Absolutely essential. However, your work is not done!

Self-service BI and data discovery will drive the number of users using the BI solutions to rapidly expand. Yet all of these more casual users will not be well versed in BI and visualization best practices.

When your user base rapidly expands to more casual users, you need to help educate them on what is important. For example, one IT manager told me that his casual BI users were making visualizations with very difficult-to-read charts and customizing color palettes to incredible degrees.

I had a similar experience when I was a technical writer. One of our lead writers was so concerned with readability of every sentence that he was going through the 300+ page manuals (yes, they were printed then) and manually adjusting all of the line breaks and page breaks. (!) Yes, readability was incrementally improved. But now any number of changes–technical capabilities, edits, inserting larger graphics—required re-adjusting all of those manual “optimizations.” The time it took just to do the additional optimization was incredible, much less the maintenance of these optimizations! Meanwhile, the technical writing team was falling behind on new deliverables.

The same scenario applies to your new casual BI users. This new group needs guidance to help them focus on the highest value practices:

  • Customization of color and appearance of visualizations: When is this customization necessary for a management deliverable, versus indulging an OCD tendency? I too have to stop myself from obsessing about the font, line spacing, and that a certain blue is just a bit different than another shade of blue. Yes, these options do matter. But help these casual users determine when that time is well spent.
  • Proper visualizations: When is a spinning 3D pie chart necessary to grab someone’s attention? BI professionals would firmly say “NEVER!” But these casual users do not have a lot of depth on BI best practices. Give them a few simple guidelines as to when “flash” needs to subsume understanding. Consider offering a monthly one-hour Lunch and Learn that shows them how to create impactful, polished visuals. Understanding if their visualizations are going to be viewed casually on the way to a meeting, or dissected at a laptop, also helps determine how much time to spend optimizing a visualization. No, you can’t just mandate that they all read Tufte.
  • Predictive: Provide advanced analytics capabilities like forecasting and regression directly in their casual BI tools. Using these capabilities will really help them wow their audience with substance instead of flash.
  • Feature requests: Make sure you understand the motivation and business value behind some of the casual users’ requests. These casual users are less likely to understand the implications of supporting specific requests across an enterprise, so make sure you are collaborating on use cases and priorities for substantive requests.

By working with your casual BI users on the above points, you will be able to collectively understand when the absolute exact request is critical (and supports good visualization practices), and when it is an “optimization” that may impact productivity. In many cases, “good” is good enough for the fast turnaround of data discovery.

Next week, I’ll wrap this series up with hints on getting your casual users to embrace the “we” not “me” mentality.

Read Part One of this series: Changing The IT Culture For Self-Service BI Success.

Follow me on Twitter: @InaSAP

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Robots: Job Destroyers or Human Partners? [INFOGRAPHIC]

Christopher Koch

Robots: Job Destroyers or Human Partners? [INFOGRAPHIC]

To learn more about how humans and robots will co-evolve, read the in-depth report Bring Your Robot to Work.

Download the PDF (91KB)

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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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Building A Business Case For Financial Transformation

Nilly Essaides

There’s constant pressure on the CFO from the CEO to do better—to innovate, and to transform the finance organization into both a leaner and a more forward-looking analytics hub that provides insight and foresight to the enterprise. CFOs today must:

  • Interpret numbers instead of reporting them
  • Deploy enabling technology to automate low-value work
  • Scout for business and growth opportunities
  • Work effectively with Big Data to turn their teams into the brains of the organization
  • Act as true partners to the CEO, business leaders, and board of directors

Defining the ROI for transformation

Transformation sounds great in theory, but to get finance to literally go beyond its form—not an easy feat—executives need to see a strong business case and a tangible payback. After all, finance is all about the ROI.

Here are some solutions CFOs can wrap their heads around to help drive change:

  • Manage competitive disruption. Today’s business environment is rife with competitive threats. My last post listed five ways financial planning and analysis (FP&A) in its future form can help companies battle these threats. The cost of not transforming the finance function into the fast-thinking, forward-looking brains of the enterprise is the opportunity cost of falling behind. It’s the risk of becoming irrelevant through the inability to foresee competitive threats, or of lacking an action plan for dealing with the potential impact of such pressures on the financial health of the corporation.
  • Streamline processes. Obviously, there’s the dollars-and-cents savings that come from streamlining processes, using new technologies, and breaking down internal silos. For example, in many organizations, forecasting processes occur in different departments. Merging these disparate processes into one and using a single technology platform can save enormous resources in terms of systems and time. It eliminates duplicate entries of data and the need to reconcile discordant information, or the need to later argue about which number is right. It creates a single version of the truth.

Even within finance, things can be improved. Often the processes of budgeting, forecasting, and planning happen in isolation in different time frames. And operational and financial planning occur in different cycles and levels. By syncing up these processes, companies can get rid of redundancies. What’s more important, they can discover efficiencies and improve the quality of the end product.

  • Eliminate waste and free up strategic time. New technologies are enabling the finance function to automate low-value work and free up executives’ time to focus on strategic thinking, developing partnerships with the business, and advising management on how to drive growth. The payback is smarter decisions (faster growth, higher investment returns) while lowering operating expenses.
  • Look forward. Finance and FP&A today are shifting their focus from yesterday to tomorrow, from what happened to what’s going to happen. Transforming their mindset is key to helping the business move forward. Using techniques and technologies like driver-based modeling and predictive analytics, finance is remaking itself and producing faster, more frequent and—most importantly—more accurate forecasts. It’s giving management the one thing that matters most: time to pull business levers to affect future financial results. The payback is higher sales, wider margins, and lower cost of operations.
  • Change the mindset. There’s no transformation of the financial organization without a transformation of the financial skill set of executives. The first-quarter Deloitte CFO Signal Survey indicated that CFOs expect to embark on a wide range of efforts to improve the performance of their teams before the end of 2016. While foundational finance skills remain a must, to transform finance into the “A-team” of the future, executives must possess business acumen, diplomacy skills, intellectual curiosity, technology savvy, and a degree of comfort with ambivalence. They have to be okay with making decisions without 100% of the information. One can argue that the return on soft skills is soft. But it also means being able to move fast and grab windows of opportunity. Not all business cases are based on cost savings.
  • Build an analytics hub. The biggest challenge for CFOs today is to transform finance into the analytical hub of the organization and leverage Big Data to drive smarter business decisions—both in terms of cost cutting and in giving the business units advice on how to market, sell, develop, and grow their operations. That’s how finance fits within the digital enterprise. Finance needs to funnel Big Data from all corners of the organization—and outside it—to leverage its unique central viewpoint. It must bring the information together and run it through advanced analytics models to come up with causal relationships that explain what business initiatives are really moving the needle, what steps the company can take to improve results, and what its customers are doing and are likely to do. Digitizing finance has a huge payback: It allows companies to stay competitive in a digital economy.

Is finance transformation worth the effort? That may be the wrong question. The question is, can companies afford not to transform their finance function and remain relevant now and going forward?

Learn how the FP&A team at CF Industries Holdings Inc. prioritized business partnering options and transformed the organization to optimally support strategic goals by establishing an integrated business planning process at the AFP Annual Conference session, Driving Finance Transformation Through Integrated Business Planning.

For more of my insights on FP&A, subscribe to the monthly FP&A e-newsletter from my company, the Association for Financial Professionals. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter.

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Nilly Essaides

About Nilly Essaides

Nilly Essaides is the director of the FP&A Practice at the Association for Financial Professionals. She has over 25 years of experience in the finance field. Nilly has written multiple in-depth research reports on FP&A and Treasury topics, as well as countless articles. She also speaks at conferences and moderates financial executives' roundtables across the country. Nilly has published a book on best-practice transfer and process excellence with the APQC, "If We Only Knew What We Know."