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The Future of Social Media: 50+ Experts Share Their 2013 Predictions

Brian Rice

The world of social media underwent major changes in 2012.

We saw the addition of Facebook Timelines for Fan Pages, the rise of Pinterest, revamped LinkedIn Company Pages, improved Twitter profile pages, and the increasing pressure to prove social media ROI.

As more companies begin leveraging social media for marketing, sales and customer service, it is more important than ever to stay ahead of the curve.

On December 4th, 2012 at 2pm EST, Anthony Leaper, Shep Hyken and Pam Moore will participate in a roundtable discussion around “The Future of Social Media: How Will It Impact Marketing, Sales & Customer Service?”.  We hope you will join us and in the meantime please enjoy the following predications from over 50 thought leaders.

The Future of Social Media: How Will It Impact Marketing, Sales and Customer Service?

1.  Jason Stein, Founder and President of 24/7 Laundry Service – @jasonwstein

Social media has completely blurred the lines between all aspects of marketing. We live in a world where Facebook posts double as paid ads, and people’s tweets are a form of journalism. As a result, in the new year brands will really embrace the concept of “converged media,” and see owned, earned and paid as a unified program. This is the future of B2C communications.

2.  Mike Lewis, VP of Marketing and Sales at Awareness, Inc. – @bostonmike

Small and mid-sized market will be revolutionized by social customer acquisition at scale. Specifically, new social profiling and scoring tools will allows marketers to analyze and apply custom segmentation logic to their social databases to meet specific customer acquisition and conversion goals. As a result companies will see a tangible social marketing ROI – increase in sales and customer retention.

3.  Natalie Bidnick, Account Supervisor and Social Media Strategist at The Marketing Zen Group – @NatalieBid

Social Media will become an essential – not optional – form of communicating with customers. More companies will use Facebok and Twitter to both listen to their customers, solicit feedback, and practice public crisis management.

4.  Zubin Mowlavi, CEO of Lucid Fusion – @ZubinMowlavi

2012 was the year of data and more specifically, data as it relates to the Social Interest Graph. People and companies shared content more than ever, and this data was organized around interests rather than personal relationships. This trend continues in 2013 with the Social Product Graph which highlights shifting the focus to the sharing and serving of actionable content around products of interest. By doing so, social media will become a social stream for product discovery and commerce, thereby driving sales.

5.  Jeremy Goldman, Entrepreneur, strategist, & author of the upcoming book, Going Social – @jeremarketer  

Companies will begin to shift from thinking of “Social Media” as a department, or as a component headed by the same person who heads their E-Commerce operations. Instead, they will begin to shift social media responsibilities into multiple departments. Companies will begin to see social media as something akin to a telephone that can be used in multiple ways by multiple departments.

6.  Mike Wolfe, Founder & President, WAM Enterprises LLC – @WAMGolfs

Social Media will continue to grow in 2013 due to the increase usage of mobile technology, specifically smartphones. We can expect to see visual (images) to be a driving force and I believe an increase in internet video usage too.

7.  Patrick J. Sweeney II,­ featured contributor to Social Media Today and CNBC – @PJSweeney

The future of social media will evolve around the frictionless capturing of precious memories in the real world. When people are skiing, doing a triathlon, at a concert, or doing anything fun and engaging – mobile technology will enable them to capture the moment with very high quality pictures and video and instantly share online without lifting a finger. Brands will pay for or sponsor this infrastructure in order to have “product placement” on social media. See Cadbury at the Olympics for a great example.

8.  Kelby Brick, Esq., Vice President, Regulatory & Strategic Policy at Purple Communications, Inc. – @kelbybrick

In 2013 smart businesses will emphasize using social media for personal interactions and connections with their customers. This is different from 2012 where macro blasts were the norm. Personal connections result in a more loyal and valued customer base.

9.  Mike Bal, Creative and Digital Marketing Director at Baseline21 – @CreativeIthink

The biggest change we will see in the next year is that we are over the main hump on the adoption curve. At this point it’s not a specific demographic, it’s all of them from grandmas to elementary aged children.
Now that the majority of society has adopted social expectations have changed. Those expectations will dramatically affect customer service, marketing and sales.

Customer Service – People know they don’t have to wait on the phone to get help, they can tweet. This makes it easy for the customer to let the brand know about any and all problems. So any company who went ahead and distributed products with minor flaws in hopes that the customer wouldn’t want to deal with the hassle of a return or exchange will have a rude awakening. Many companies have adopted social media as a customer service tool purely for the fact that they can look good in front of thousands of potential customers. This year companies will start adopting it out of necessity. If a customer who doesn’t want to talk to a machine or wait on hold for 20 minutes, they are going to reach out via social. If you
don’t answer and they HAVE to call, they are going to be highly irritated and more demanding, ultimately costing the company more money.

Marketing – Having a presence on social media has become (or will soon) as important as having a website. Not being on social means you’re missing out on big opportunities in search engine real estate and with your customers. More firms will add social media to their offerings and the smartest ones
already have. We should have realized by now that it’s not a stand along media channel, it’s an essential part of a successful media mix.

Sales – Social media has become a powerful tool for both B2B and B2C industries. It can generate leads and drive buyer traffic to a specific product. Sales teams will evolve to include a digital lead generation
specialist and marketing strategies will be broadened as location isn’t as much of an issue when you’re running a powerful social platform.

10.  Joey Sargent, Principal, BrandSprout Advisors – @brandsprout

In 2013, we’ll see more social maturity in both B2C and B2B applications. Business will get “social smarts” and more fully integrate social media into their day-to-day operations across the organization. This means less social for social’s sake, and more focus on social media as a legitimate business tool to facilitate communication, engagement and loyalty.

11.  Beverly Solomon, Creative Director at musee-solomon

People are over saturated with social media. They will gradually remove themselves from all but a few networks, blogs, etc. So many ads come in everyday that they have lost their impact. Most
people just delete them before reading them.  Social media will function more to alert friends of rip-offs than to encourage sales.  Only the most clever sales campaigns will have any impact.  More and more advertisers will be leaving social media and returning to snail mail, print and other traditional ads.  Social media will continue to be a dating hook up, gossip fest and avenue for “gurus” to sell seminars. But real businesses will use social media less and less.

12.  Caroline Kornowicz, Social Media Manager for CliqStudios Cabinets – @CarolineSofiaK

The future of social media lies heavily in images, video and interaction for the user. It is exploring our senses further with sight, sound and touch. We are seeing current trends with infographs and statistics speak for themselves that an image or video provides higher engagement than plain text posts.

13.  Melissa Brodsky, co-founder of Smart Savvy Social – @smartsavvysoc

More and more brands will realize the importance and relevance of social media and begin to grow their online footprint. Also, I believe that Facebook will eventually burn too many bridges and a new network will become dominant, one that WANTS to help brands instead of only themselves.

14.  Brittany Dowell, Director of Publication Relations at Digital Talent Agents

Social media use is not going anywhere but up in 2013. Companies will hire more full-time employees dedicated solely to engaging with customers via Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. With customer service moving to more online interaction, we could see the need for traditional office space steadily decline.

15.  Jayme Pretzloff, Online Marketing Director for Wixon Jewelers – @jpretz

Going into 2013 social media will impact sales more than any other metric because of the continued integration as a marketing platform and the acceptance of users to be marketed to. In 2011, almost 70% of users said that no social media platform influenced their buying decision and in 2012, that was cut in half to 35%. In 2013, this number will be decreased significantly again because these sites have become an integral way to gain access to information on companies, promotions and products.

16.  Amanda Vega – @amandavega

Social media will continue to have direct and indirect impact on sales in 2013. Consumers will continue to expect an immediate response to their needs online, and a lack of timely response will have a hard-to-measure, but certain impact on brand satisfaction and recommendations.

17.  Tom Koulopoulos, Chairman at Delphi Group and Author of “Cloud Surfing: A New Way
to Think About Risk, Innovation, Scale, and Success” –
@tkspeaks

The greatest shift in Social media over the next year will be the maturing of “behavioral business models” that use a deep and comprehensive cross platform understanding of consumer and enterprise
online behaviors as the basis for predictive analytics about their interests and habits. Companies that own the broadest range of platforms such as Apple and Google will be able to track online consumer activity
in ways that create enormous value for retailers. The same is true of enterprise applications of social media where online B2B transactions are being collected and analyzed by companies such as E2Open, which have created a similar capability in projecting future behaviors of markets in order to dynamically alter supply chains in real time to meet the needs of consumers. This notion of using behavior to predict the future will be a critical contribution of social media in an increasingly uncertain world.

18.  Joey Beachum, Digital Content Specialist at Markstein Consulting – @MarksteinChats

As wireless technology advances and smartphones continue to proliferate (they’re projected to form 54% of the total mobile phone market in 2013), consumers will become increasingly tied to social media in some form or fashion. This gives sales professionals even more of an opportunity at something I call ‘mass direct access’: reaching out directly to consumers on an individual level, like with a traditional sales approach, yet on a mass scale. More socially-connected consumers equal more potential touch-points and more sales opportunities.

19.  Kurt Uhlir, Cofounder and Chief Servant at Buzztastic – @KurtUhlir

There is a great wave of un-liking/un-following that will hit brands, at the least we will see people unselect “show in newsfeed” on Facebook. Consumers want higher quality content than what most brands are offering. This is a huge opportunity for brands offering engaging content that know how to activate an audience.

20.  Aalap Shah, co-founder at SoMe Connect – @some_connect

A companies mobile/tablet strategy (or lack thereof will define sales & marketing success for brands and companies in 2013. Consumers can access apps that display social data and activity of their friends anywhere and at anytime and retailers and brands need to have a consistent and clear message to push across social media channels. Without a mobile strategy, most companies will see their sales go to competitors that are where their customers are consuming information.

21.  Ed McMasters, Director of Marketing & Communication at Flottman Company

The future of social media for B2B will be held in the hands of LinkedIn – the new advances of LinkedIn make it a true Business To Business relationship builder. People that have their profiles at 100% and
continue to update them will have the biggest advantages. Knowledge that posting monthly or bi-weekly updates to your profile puts you in front of clients and potential clients is just like advertising only a
lot less expensive. I am a firm believer that LinkedIn will be the Social Media BIG GUY of the future.

22.  Sheryl Johnson, Founder of BD-PRo Marketing Solutions – @BD_PRoMarketing

Social media is here to stay. I predict that social media will evolve into a powerful knowledge management system that leverages virtual connections while capturing valuable information. The biggest challenge moving forward is to create a method of harnessing and connecting this data from all sources in a meaningful, searchable way.

23.  Ty Kiisel, Director of Content Marketing at Lendio – @tykiisel

I don’ think there’s any question that social media has become a relevant part of many brand discussions over the last few years generally, and 2012 in particular. However, more and more marketing leaders are finding that being social just to be social isn’t gaining them the traction in the marketplace they might have hoped. 2013 will see a greater focus on the creation of relevant and substantive content creation initiatives that provide value to customers that will ultimately create greater affinity for those brands that are most successful.

24.  Valerie Jennings, CEO of Viral Bolt Media and Jennings Social Media Marketing – @valeriejennings

Sales and marketing will continue to be impacted by organic SEO and SMO via social media. One major change may be the shift away from exclusively focusing on Facebook as a business sales and marketing tool and moving into more advanced programs including sales and marketing strategies that generate sales on Pinterest, Google+ and even FourSquare. If these platforms do not support sales and marketing strategies, other platforms via social networks will evolve quickly in the marketplace until there is one sold and remarkably profitable solution.

25.  Vickens Moscova, Owner/President of VM Enterprises – @VickensMoscova

I predict more and more people will get focused on utilizing social media to build their own personal brands, while more brands and businesses will realize that the control of their brand has shifted to having consumers having more control over their choices.

26.  Joan Barrett, Owner of The Content Factory – @ContentFac

My prediction is that social media will continue to have a strong impact on SEO, especially with Google
Algorithms becoming more and more personalized. The more social shares an article or site has, the higher it is going to rank.

27.  Tom Corson-Knowles, best-selling author of How To Make Money With Twitter – @JuiceTom

In 2013, we’ll see a lot more companies turning to social media primarily for customer service. We’ve already seen American Airlines cut down their phone service and instead encouraging customers to talk on Twitter if they need customer support. A lot more big companies will follow this trend in an effort to reduce overhead and expand their social media presence.

28.  Jeff Browning, Sr Director, Online Strategy at F5 Networks – @jeffbrowning

2013 is the year social leaps beyond projection / syndication and becomes more about listening, understanding, and driving better products and relationships that drive business. Vendors and agencies that provide useful big data analytics (ideally blending the inside and outside the enterprise) will become big dollar rockstars. Over 50% of C-level will finally realize social does not equal Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

29. Jim Caruso, marketing strategist & CEO at MediaFirst PR – @jimcaruso

Facebook will matter more for B2B, as will FB advertising, since stock price matters when you are a public company.  LinkedIn with matter more across industries and new players, like Pinterest, will continue to disrupt the big players in social media

30.  James Medd, Social Media Marketing Manager at Emailvision – @jamespmedd

In 2013, I predict brands will grow their investments in social customer service to better serve customers who engage with them through social media channels – who have been shown to spend 20% to 40% more than customers who are not socially engaged.

As social customer service matures, I expect to see more integration of technology platforms from traditional customer services with social monitoring and team collaboration. This will enable customers to receive the same level of support and information, regardless of their communication channel preference.

31.  Ryan Schram, CMO of IZEA – @ryanschram

Today’s consumer demands a genuine relationship with the brands they love; nowhere is that more apparent than in social, where soft-selling, brand-building, and real-time problem solving comes into the main more and more each day.   Brands are utilizing a diverse array of tools and resources to
maximize their presence on the social web, including the compensation of social influencers to promote products and services (known as Social Media Sponsorship).   The 2012 State of Social Media Sponsorship study indicated that almost 60% of brands have a stand-alone social marketing budget with that amount having increased dramatically since 2009.

32.  Stephanie Ciccarelli, co-Founder of Voices.com – @stephciccarelli

Sales, Customer Service and Marketing departments will need to work together to engage, sell and retain customers who choose to interact with a brand online via social networks. Companies will need to view those managing their social media as being on the “front lines” of a brand’s online customer service efforts. The best way to do this is to have a dedicated social media manager who can share content and engage a community online but also be a means of support to those asking questions.

33.  Dimple Thakkar, CEO and Impresario of SYNHERGY MARKETING – @dimplethakkar

Start planning a serious budget for social media advertising in 2013. Make sure you skip the promotional tone in your ad copy to build trust with followers. Consumers have an amazing radar for bullshit and your brand has a small window to make a good [first] impression.

34.  Caitlin Connors, Social Media Director at Boomtown Internet Group – @boomtownig

Social media is an elusive program for companies because it changes with your goals and with your audience and especially with technology. I predict that companies who use social media correctly, with an outsourced company that understands their brands and goals perfectly, will be overwhelmed with how much it can positively impact leads/conversions/sales.  In 2013, hopefully more people who claim to have an understanding of SMO will be aware of what effects ROI and how to customize SMO for each company. If they don’t (as many don’t know), leads aren’t happening and CEOs and Executives are doubting the effect of SMO. Customer Service could greatly benefit from SMO in 2013 with Twitter API’s for sites to have an “Ask Us Now” option to live chat, and a full-time Twitter manager to answer incoming questions. Google Hangout and new conversation management tools are now all in place to be utilized to find people having products with brands and services and actively seek them out to answer their qualms.

35.  Kevin Ohashi, Founder of Review Signal – @kevinohashi

I think the most important trend is customer service over social media.  Companies are more actively monitoring what is being said about them and consumers will become more empowered to see and react to the ways companies are engaging their customers. Access to information is democratizing and
consumers will be able to make decisions based on company behavior, and customer service is the biggest touch point between most companies and consumers.

36.  Adam Itkoff, Strategist at Fueled Mobile Design, NYC – @adamitkoff

As we look at growing usage trends across multiple social media platforms, we can only assume that these mediums will become more crucial to both business and sales. No longer must we ask, do we participate in Twitter or Facebook, but rather, how can we leverage these platforms best?  Look especially for Twitter and Instragram to keep growing strong.

37.  Flynn Zaiger, Founder of Online Optimism – @onlineoptimism

Social Media will help E-Commerce begin to surpass actual brick and mortar sales numbers. Expect Amazon to team up with either Facebook or Twitter to release an app that allows you to both see if a product is cheaper online, and also if your friends approve of how it looks.

38.  Melinda Janicki, Online Business Growth Catalyst, Internet Marketing Strategist & Implementation Expert – @melindajanicki

As social media moves from a simple networking site into being at the fore front of technology and SEO, I predict social media to be a must have customer services tool. Much like email has brought tech support
and customer service to a new level social media will be a must with apps, groups, Google+ hangouts, even Twitter chat rooms.

39.  Eula M. Young, COO of Griot’s Roll Film Production & Services Inc. – @griotsroll

Social media will replace the business website. If you don’t have a social media page with information on your products, services on your about page you are not in business. People will judge you on how they can get in contact with you through your social media page. Your “About” page will be more important than your website and you better have links to any other social media pages you have.

40.  David Drake, The Soho Loft – @TSLCCevents

US SMEs will start embracing social media strategies and crowd funding will drive this for startups and local business as crowd funding for equity is implemented as a law.  Social media strategies will become more readily available to consulting firms helping small medium-sized enterprises with the winners being local businesses learning the tools to embrace their eco system.

41.  Alex Schenker, President at www.WeRockYourWeb.com  – @WeRockYourWeb

Marketers will need to use fewer words and more voice, video and images to connect with today’s overly stimulated consumer (e.g. Pinterest, Voxer, YouTube).  More filters will allow consumers to better target/find what they are looking for which will lead to more qualified sales’ leads. As we become more inundated with content, it will become more vital to have filters on how we choose to consume the content.  Mobile devices will continue to drive social media communication so the social media of choice may depend on which device you hold and the successful marketing efforts will be customized to that
platform. For example, Google Chat is not directly accessible via an app on an iPhone so they will likely turn to iMessage which allows you to text several people at once, creating your own “social network” for each message you create.

42.  Raghu Bala, Board Member at Fanggle – @raghurambala

Vertical social platforms will emerge to enable people with similar interests to share information (text, images/pictures, video) on topics of mutual interest. The current metrics – ‘Likes’, ‘Followers’, ‘Fans’ – will give way to more meaningful means of measuring engagement. I also see social media becoming more immersed in everyday activity. For instance, with Google Glass combined with voice to text, one can automatically tweet and attach an image more naturally than currently possible.

43.  Ziggi Yaxley, Social Media Specialist at Bozboz, UK. – @ziggidotcom

Social media is instant, personal and available to everyone. It’s the new way to do customer service and it’s a way to connect with current and potential customers in exciting and innovative ways. It’s human.
2013 will see more businesses investing in social media for the first time and socially-equipped businesses allocating more resource to running their social media more efficiently.

44.  Vala Afshar, Chief Marketing Officer & Chief Customer Officer for Enterasys – @ValaAfshar

A truly social enterprise is not just about technology, it is about lifestyle. Enterprises that collaborate socially (and not just through social media) with their customers and employees are able to not only grow mindshare, but also their business.  For example, at Enterasys, we believe there is nothing more important than our customers – internally and externally – so if both are delighted, we know we are doing our job socially now and into the future.

45. Marifran Manzo-Ritchie, Director of Corporate Communications at Monetate

For marketers specifically, social media will continue to be a force in driving traffic to websites. Marketers will use social the same way that they’ve used pay-per-click and banner advertising in the past. However,
marketers need to take a careful look at metrics such as conversion rates before dedicating a huge chunk of the budget to advertizing on social media sites.

46.  Bill Corbett, Jr., President of Corbett Public Relations – @wjcorbett

The hype proliferated by “marketing” people about the tremendous business generating benefits of social media for small business will wind down. The reality will set in that social media marketing is only
part of an a comprehensive marketing plan which includes a digital media strategy. Businesses, particularly those in the business to business space, will recognize that they are not getting and probably will not get the ROI they need to continue to focus significant time, energy, effort and funds on social media marketing.

47.  Carrie Peterson, Social Media Director at Internet Marketing Inc. – @CarrieSavvy

2013 will be the year of social media mobile and tablet application for marketers. As consumers become more and more socially savvy and are using their mobile devices for research and purchases, it is imperative that marketers hop on the mobile train with a solid strategy and targeted ad campaigns. These campaigns should integrate behavioral targeting, relevant content per the niche demographic, and social share features to maximize reach and social word of mouth.

49.  Eric Courville, Director of Marketing and Alliances

Social media channels are creating more demand and opportunity for immediate content from brands. To take full advantage, marketers in 2013 will need to have marketing processes agile enough to produce fresh, relevant content at lightning speed and the tools necessary to easily track the use of all digital assets.

50.  Jane Horowitz, Founder of More Than A Resume

Today’s college student and those about to enter college (our next wave into the workplace) will reshape, along with new technologies the workplace over the next decade.  The way this generation, (Millennials) communicate in their social lives will be introduced to the workplace, and then transform it; fostering new ways of sharing ideas and collaborating to achieve outcomes. Goodbye email and PowerPoint presentations. Hello file-sharing, multi-media presentations.  Everything we use and come into contact with will be converted into data that will be available at our fingertips to make informed and therefore smarter decisions. Marketing, sales and customer service professional will need critical thinking, analytical and problem-solving skills.

51.  Ryan Aynes, Founder & Managing Director at EDGE Collective – @ryanaynes

There will be a larger demand to quantify social media impact and how that is impacting business performance. As spending becomes tighter due to the economy and a higher level of financial accountability takes place across organizations, agencies pitching social media will have to come up with their own annotations for “like” value.

There will also be a higher demand for integrating the entire marketing process. This means ad-buying teams will have to work more closely with social. The most effective strategies will be integrated paid, owned, and earned. Consumer analysis from each end educates the other on consumer behavior, which builds better forward strategies.

Mobile strategy will become the norm and not just an additional option. As more ways to reach consumers opens up through mobile experiences, brands and agencies will make the appropriate modifications to add this into their strategy and planning.

52.  Devin Redmond, CEO and Co-founder at Social iQ Networks – @DevinHRed

It’s very common these days to walk into a business and find that different departments all have their own social accounts and social marketing tools to connect with customers, recruit employees, and drive marketing campaigns. That new reality and infrastructure has become a rapidly increasing sprawl that can be disharmonious and prone to risk for their company and their own efforts. This will lead to a push toward greater social infrastructure management as companies try to get a handle on social media sprawl to improve their efforts without having to worrying about mishaps, abuse, and social media mistakes.

53.  Rick Mathieson, author of Branding Unbound and The On-Demand Brand – @rickmathieson

Look for a nascent social media backlash to gain traction among consumers and the brands trying to connect with them. While 20% of Facebook users say they log on once or twice a day, 52% say they plan to spend less time there in the future ­ and that’s an emerging dynamic across the socialsphere. In 2013, look for a new emphasis on quality of engagement versus quantity.  When engaging in social media, look for the emphasis for many brands to finally move away from “How” the mechanics of going social to the “Why”,  by clarifying objectives and building social media strategies to meet them.

54.  Molly Glover Gallatin, VP of Marketing at Compass Labs – @CompassLabs

As marketers we need to stop being hyper-focused on the immediate ROI question around social media (I know, it’s hard!), and instead get our management team focused on another question: What have I learned today from my customers? The future will be best for those who stop marketing and speaking *at* their audience and start creating dialogues instead. Content strategy should include conversations – they are the most critical element of social media – hence, the “social,” and they increase brand affinity and tip the scales in your favor regarding revenue, as well.

Free Webcast:  Join us on December 4th, 2012 at 2pm EST, as Anthony Leaper, Shep Hyken and Pam Moore participate in a roundtable discussion around “The Future of Social Media: How Will It Impact Marketing, Sales & Customer Service?”.

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About Brian Rice

Brian Rice is a Sr. Manager on the SAP Global Social Media Marketing Team. Follow Brian on Twitter @BrianSRice

Amazing Digital Marketing Trends And Tips To Expand Your Business In 2015

Sunny Popali

Amazing Digital Marketing Trends & Tips To Expand Your Business In 2015The fast-paced world of digital marketing is changing too quickly for most companies to adapt. But staying up to date with the latest industry trends is imperative for anyone involved with expanding a business.

Here are five trends that have shaped the industry this year and that will become more important as we move forward:

  1. Email marketing will need to become smarter

Whether you like it or not, email is the most ubiquitous tool online. Everyone has it, and utilizing it properly can push your marketing ahead of your rivals. Because business use of email is still very widespread, you need to get smarter about email marketing in order to fully realize your business’s marketing strategy. Luckily, there are a number of tools that can help you market more effectively, such as Mailchimp.

  1. Content marketing will become integrated and more valuable

Content is king, and it seems to be getting more important every day. Google and other search engines are focusing more on the content you create as the potential of the online world as marketing tool becomes apparent. Now there seems to be a push for current, relevant content that you can use for your services and promote your business.

Staying fresh with the content you provide is almost as important as ensuring high-quality content. Customers will pay more attention if your content is relevant and timely.

  1. Mobile assets and paid social media are more important than ever

It’s no secret that mobile is key to your marketing efforts. More mobile devices are sold and more people are reading content on mobile screens than ever before, so it is crucial to your overall strategy to have mobile marketing expertise on your team. London-based Abacus Marketing agrees that mobile marketing could overtake desktop website marketing in just a few years.

  1. Big Data for personalization plays a key role

Marketers are increasingly using Big Data to get their brand message out to the public in a more personalized format. One obvious example is Google Trend analysis, a highly useful tool that marketing experts use to obtain the latest on what is trending around the world. You can — and should — use it in your business marketing efforts. Big Data will also let you offer specific content to buyers who are more likely to look for certain items, for example, and offer personalized deals to specific groups of within your customer base. Other tools, which until recently were the stuff of science fiction, are also available that let you do things like use predictive analysis to score leads.

  1. Visual media matters

A picture really is worth a thousand words, as the saying goes, and nobody can deny the effectiveness of a well-designed infographic. In fact, some studies suggest that Millennials are particularly attracted to content with great visuals. Animated gifs and colorful bar graphs have even found their way into heavy-duty financial reports, so why not give them a try in your business marketing efforts?

A few more tips:

  • Always keep your content relevant and current to attract the attention of your target audience.
  • Always keep all your social media and public accounts fresh. Don’t use old content or outdated pictures in any public forum.
  • Your reviews are a proxy for your online reputation, so pay careful attention to them.
  • Much online content is being consumed on mobile now, so focus specifically on the design and usability of your mobile apps.
  • Online marketing is essentially geared towards getting more traffic onto your site. The more people visit, the better your chances of increasing sales.

Want more insight on how digital marketing is evolving? See Shutterstock Report: The Face Of Marketing Is Changing — And It Doesn’t Include Vince Vaughn.

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About Sunny Popali

Sunny Popali is SEO Director at www.tempocreative.com. Tempo Creative is a Phoenix inbound marketing company that has served over 700 clients since 2001. Tempos team specializes in digital and internet marketing services including web design, SEO, social media and strategy.

Social Media Matters: 6 Content And Social Media Trend Predictions For 2016 [INFOGRAPHIC]

Julie Ellis

As 2015 winds down, it’s time to look forward to 2016 and explore the social media and content marketing trends that will impact marketing strategies over the next 15 months or so.

Some of the upcoming trends simply indicate an intensification of current trends, however others indicate that there are new things that will have a big impact in 2016.

Take a look at a few trends that should definitely factor in your planning for 2016.

1. SEO will focus more on social media platforms and less on search engines

Clearly Google is going nowhere. In fact, in 2016 Google’s word will still essentially be law when it comes to search engine optimization.

However, in 2016 there will be some changes in SEO. Many of these changes will be due to the fact that users are increasingly searching for products and services directly from websites such as Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube.

There are two reasons for this shift in customer habits:

  • Customers are relying more and more on customer comments, feedback, and reviews before making purchasing decisions. This means that they are most likely to search directly on platforms where they can find that information.
  • Customers who are seeking information about products and services feel that video- and image-based content is more trustworthy.

2. The need to optimize for mobile and touchscreens will intensify

Consumers are using their mobile devices and tablets for the following tasks at a sharply increasing rate:

  • Sending and receiving emails and messages
  • Making purchases
  • Researching products and services
  • Watching videos
  • Reading or writing reviews and comments
  • Obtaining driving directions and using navigation apps
  • Visiting news and entertainment websites
  • Using social media

Most marketers would be hard-pressed to look at this list and see any case for continuing to avoid mobile and touchscreen optimization. Yet, for some reason many companies still see mobile optimization as something that is nice to do, but not urgent.

This lack of a sense of urgency seemingly ignores the fact that more than 80% of the highest growing group of consumers indicate that it is highly important that retailers provide mobile apps that work well. According to the same study, nearly 90% of Millennials believe that there are a large number of websites that have not done a very good job of optimizing for mobile.

3. Content marketing will move to edgier social media platforms

Platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat weren’t considered to be valid targets for mainstream content marketing efforts until now.

This is because they were considered to be too unproven and too “on the fringe” to warrant the time and marketing budget investments, when platforms such as Facebook and YouTube were so popular and had proven track records when it came to content marketing opportunity and success.

However, now that Instagram is enjoying such tremendous growth, and is opening up advertising opportunities to businesses beyond its brand partners, it (along with other platforms) will be seen as more and more viable in 2016.

4. Facebook will remain a strong player, but the demographic of the average user will age

In 2016, Facebook will likely remain the flagship social media website when it comes to sharing and promoting content, engaging with customers, and increasing Internet recognition.

However, it will become less and less possible to ignore the fact that younger consumers are moving away from the platform as their primary source of online social interaction and content consumption. Some companies may be able to maintain status quo for 2016 without feeling any negative impacts.

However, others may need to rethink their content marketing strategies for 2016 to take these shifts into account. Depending on their branding and the products or services that they offer, some companies may be able to profit from these changes by customizing the content that they promote on Facebook for an older demographic.

5. Content production must reflect quality and variety

  • Both B2B and B2C buyers value video based content over text based content.
  • While some curated content is a good thing, consumers believe that custom content is an indication that a company wishes to create a relationship with them.
  • The great majority of these same consumers report that customized content is useful for them.
  • B2B customers prefer learning about products and services through content as opposed to paid advertising.
  • Consumers believe that videos are more trustworthy forms of content than text.

Here is a great infographic depicting the importance of video in content marketing efforts:
Small Business Video infographic

A final, very important thing to note when considering content trends for 2016 is the decreasing value of the keyword as a way of optimizing content. In fact, in an effort to crack down on keyword stuffing, Google’s optimization rules have been updated to to kick offending sites out of prime SERP positions.

6. Oculus Rift will create significant changes in customer engagement

Oculus Rift is not likely to offer much to marketers in 2016. After all, it isn’t expected to ship to consumers until the first quarter. However, what Oculus Rift will do is influence the decisions that marketers make when it comes to creating customer interaction.

For example, companies that have not yet embraced storytelling may want to make 2016 the year that they do just that, because later in 2016 Oculus Rift may be the platform that their competitors will be using to tell stories while giving consumers a 360-degree vantage point.

For a deeper dive on engaging with customers through storytelling, see Brand Storytelling: Where Humanity Takes Center Stage.

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About Julie Ellis

Julie Ellis – marketer and professional blogger, writes about social media, education, self-improvement, marketing and psychology. To contact Julie follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Live Businesses Deliver a Personal Customer Experience Without Losing Trust

Lori Mitchell-Keller, Brian Walker, Johann Wrede, Polly Traylor, and Stephanie Overby

Trust is the foundation of customer relationships. People who don’t trust your business are not likely to become or remain customers.

The trust relationship has taken some big hits lately. Beloved brands like Chipotle and Toyota have seen customer trust ebb due to public perception of their roles in safety issues. Consumers continue to experience occasional data breaches from large brands.

Yet these traditional threats have short half-lives. The latest threat could last forever.

Most customers claim they want personalization across all the channels in which they interact with companies. Such personalization should create long-term loyalty by creating a new level of intimacy in the relationship.

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images2But that intimacy comes at a high price. For personalization to work, brands need to gather unprecedented amounts of personal information about customers and continue to do so over the course of the relationship. Customers are already wary: 80% of consumers have updated their privacy settings recently, according to an article in VentureBeat.

Companies must get personalization right. If they do, customers are more likely to purchase again and less likely to switch to a competitor. Personalization is also an important step toward the holy grail of digital transformation: becoming a Live Business, capable of meeting customers with relevant and customized offers, products, and services in real time or in the moments of customers’ choosing.

When done wrong, personalization can cause customers to feel that they’ve been deceived and that their privacy has been violated. It can also turn into an uncomfortable headline. When Target used its database of customer purchases to send coupons for diapers to the home of an expectant teen before her father knew about the pregnancy, its action backfired. The incident became the centerpiece of a New York Times story on Target’s consumer intelligence gathering practices and privacy.

Straddling the Line of Trust

Customers can’t define the line between helpful and creepy, but they know it when they see it.

Research conducted by RichRelevance in 2015 made something abundantly clear: what marketers think is cool may be seen as creepy by consumers. For example, facial-recognition technology that identifies age and gender to target advertisements on digital screens is considered creepy by 73% of people surveyed. Yet consumers were happy about scanning a product on their mobile device to see product reviews and recommendations for other items they might like, the survey revealed. Here’s what else resonates as creepy or cool when it comes to digital engagement with consumers, courtesy of RichRelevance and Edelman Berland (now called Edelman).

Creepy

  • Shoppers are put off when salespeople greet them by name because of mobile phone signals or know their spending habits because of facial-recognition software.
  • Dynamic pricing, such as a digital display showing a lower price “just for you,” also puts shoppers off.
  • When brands collect data on consumers without their knowledge, 83% of people consider it an invasion of privacy, according to RichRelevance’s research, and 65% feel the same way about ads that follow them from Web site to Web site (retargeting).

Cool

  • Shoppers like mobile apps with interactive maps that efficiently guide them to products in the store.
  • They also like when their in-store location triggers a coupon or other promotion for a product nearby.
  • When a Web site reminds the consumer of past purchases, a majority of shoppers like it.

There are no hard-and-fast rules about which personalization tactics are creepy and which are cool, but trust is particularly threatened in face-to-face interactions. Nobody minds much if Amazon sends product recommendations through a computer, but when salespeople approach customers like a long-lost friend based on information collected without the customer’s knowledge or permission, the violation of trust feels much more personal and emotional. The stage is set for an angry, embarrassed customer to walk out  the door, forever.

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images3It doesn’t help that the limits of trust shift constantly as social media tempts us to reveal more and more about ourselves and as companies’ data collection techniques continue to improve. It’s easy to cross the line from helpful to creepy or annoying (see Straddling the Line of Trust).

Online, customers are similarly choosy about personalization. For example, when online shoppers are simply looking at a product category, ads that matched their prior Web-browsing interests are ineffective, an MIT study reports. Yet after consumers have visited a review site to seek out information and are closer to a purchase, personalized content is more effective than generic ads.

Personalization Requires a Live Business

Yet the limits of trust are definitely shifting toward more personalization, not less. Customers already enjoy frictionless personalized experiences with digital-native companies like Uber, and they are applying those heightened expectations to all companies. For example, 91% of customers want to pick up where they left off when they switch between channels, according to Aspect research. And personalization is helpful when you receive recommendations for products that you would like based on previous in-store or online purchases.

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images-0004Customers also want their interactions to be live—or in the moment they choose. Fulfilling that need means that companies must become Live Businesses, capable of creating a technological infrastructure that allows real-time interactions and that allows the entire organization—its structure, people, and processes—to respond to customers in all the moments that matter.

Coordinating across channels and meeting customers in the right moments with personalized interactions will become critical as the digital economy matures and customer expectations rise. For instance, when customers air complaints about a brand on social media, 72% expect a response within an hour, according to consulting firm Bain & Company. Meanwhile, an Accenture survey found that nearly 60% of consumers want real-time promotions; 48% like online reminders to order items that they might have run out of; and 51% like the idea of a one-click checkout, where they can skip payment method or shipping forms because the retailer has saved their preferences. Those types of services build trust, showing that companies care enough to understand their customers and send offers or information that save them time, money, or both.

So while trust is difficult to earn, once you’ve earned it and figured out how to maintain it, you can have customers for life—as long as you respect the shifting boundaries.

“Do customers think the company is truly acting with their best interests at heart, or is it just trying to feed the quarterly earnings beast?” asks Donna Peeples, a customer experience expert and the former chief customer experience officer at AIG. “Customer data should be accurate and timely, the company should be transparent about how the data is being used, and it should give customers control over data collection.”

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images-0005How to Earn Trust for a Live Business

Despite spending US$600 billion on online purchases, U.S. consumers are concerned with transaction privacy, the 2015 Consumer Trust Survey from CA Security Council reveals. These concerns will become acute as Live Businesses make personalization across channels a reality.

Here are some ways to improve trust while moving forward with omnichannel personalization.

  • Determine the value of trust. Customers want to know what value they are getting in exchange for their data. An Accenture study found that the majority of consumers in the United States and the United Kingdom are willing to have trusted retailers use some of their personal data in order to present personalized and targeted products, services, recommendations, and offers.
    “If customers get substantial discounts or offers that are appealing to them, they are often more than willing to make that trade-off,” says Tom Davenport, author of Big Data at Work: Dispelling the Myths, Uncovering the Opportunities. “But a lot of companies are cheap. They use the information but don’t give anything back. They make offers that aren’t particularly relevant or useful. They don’t give discounts for loyalty. They’re just trying to sell more.”
  • Let customers make the first move. Customers who voluntarily give up data are more likely to trust personalization across the channels where they do business. Mobile apps are a great way to invite customers to share more data in a more intimate relationship that they control. By entering the data they choose into the app, customers won’t be annoyed by personalization that’s built around it.
    For example, a leading luxury retailer’s sales associates may offer customers their favorite beverages based on information they entered into the app about their interests and preferences.
  • Simplify data collection and usage policies. Slapping a dense data- use policy written in legalese on the corporate website does little to earn customers’ trust. Instead, companies should think about the customer data transaction, such as what information the customer is giving them, how they’re using it, and what the result will be, and describe it as simply as possible.
    “Try to describe it in words so simple that your grandmother can understand it. And then ask your grandmother if it’s reasonable,” suggests Elea McDonnell Feit, assistant professor of marketing at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business. “If your grandmother can’t understand what’s happening, you’ve got a problem.”
    The use of data should be totally transparent in the interaction itself, adds Feit. “When a company uses data to customize a service or offering to a customer, the customer should be able to figure out where the company got the data and immediately see how the company is providing added value to the customers by using the data,” Feit says.
  • Create trust through education. Yes, bombarding customers with generic offers and pushing those offers across the different Web sites they visit may boost profits over the short term, but customers will eventually become weary and mistrustful. To create trust that lasts and that supports personalization, educate the customers.

Procter & Gamble’s (P&G’s) Mean Stinks campaign for Secret deodorant encourages girl-to-girl anti-bullying posts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The pages let participants send apologies to those they have bullied; view videos; and share tips, tools, and challenges with their peers.

P&G has said that participation in Mean Stinks has helped drive market share increases for the core Secret brand as well as the specific line of deodorant promoted by the effort. Offering education without pushing products or services creates a sense that companies are putting customers’ interests before their own, which is one of the bedrock elements of trust. Opting in to personalization seems less risky to customers if they perceive that companies have built up a reserve of value and trust.

“Companies that do personalization well demonstrate that they care, respect customers’ time, know and understand their customers and their needs and interests,” says Peeples. “It also reinforces that interactions are not merely transactions but opportunities to build a long-term relationship with that customer.”

Laying the Foundation for Live, Personalized Omnichannel Processes

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images-0006Creating a personalized omnichannel strategy that balances trust and business goals starts with knowing the customer. This can happen only when multiple aspects of your business are coordinated in a live fashion. But marketers today struggle to collect the kind of data that could drive more meaningful connections with customers. In an Infogroup survey of more than 500 marketers, only 21% said they are “very confident in the accuracy and completeness of their customer profiles.” A little over half of respondents said they aren’t collecting enough data overall.

Collecting enough of the right types of data requires more holistic data-collection techniques:

  • Take advantage of the lower costs for processing and storing terabytes of data, and develop a data strategy that combines and crunches all the customer data points needed to drive relevant interactions. This includes transactional, mobile, sensor, and  Web data.
  • Social media analytics is also a central tactic. Social profiles and activity are rich sources of data about behavior and character, merging what people buy or look for with their interests, for instance. Such data can feed predictive analytics and personalization campaigns.
  • Experiment with commercial tools that can filter and mine the data of customers and prospects in real time. This is a significant step beyond basic demographic data collections of the past.

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images-0007Once the necessary data is available, companies need the technology, processes, and people to make sensible use of it in an omnichannel personalization strategy. Only when a company is organized as a Live Business can that happen. Here’s how your company can move toward being a Live Business:
Be live across channels. Having a consistent customer journey map across channels is core to omnichannel personalization. It requires integration across multiple systems and organizational silos to enable core capabilities, such as inventory visibility and purchase/pickup/return across channels. This integration also constitutes a major chunk of the transition to becoming a company that can act in the moments that matter most to customers. If all channels can sync in real time, customers can get what they want in the moment they want it.

Free the data scientists. Marketing rarely has full control over the omnichannel experience, but it is the undisputed leader in understanding customer behavior. While data science is part of that understanding, it has traditionally played a background role. Marketers need to bring the data scientists into efforts to sort through the different options for digitizing the omnichannel experience. The right data scientists understand not only how to use the tools but also how to apply the data to make accurate decisions and follow customers from channel to channel with personalized offers.

Walgreens’ Technology Approach to Personalization

Walgreens is a leader in building the kind of technology base that can enable real-time, omnichannel personalization. Its digital transformation is 16 years in the making, according to Jason Fei, senior director of architecture for digital engineering at Walgreens. At the heart of its infrastructure is a Big Data engine that feeds many customer interaction and omnichannel processes, including customer segmentation. The company adds third-party systems in areas such as predictive analytics and marketing software. Walgreens has a cloud-first strategy for all new applications, such as its image-processing and print-ordering applications. Other elements of the drugstore chain’s technology platform include:

  • Application programming interface (API)-driven architecture. Walgreens’ APIs enable more than 50 partners to connect with its apps and systems to drive customer-facing processes, including integrations with consumer wearables to drive reward points for healthy habits, as well as content partnerships with companies such as WebMD. “With APIs we can be an extensible business, allowing other companies to connect to us easily and help in the digital enablement of our physical stores,” Fei says.
  • Responsive Web sites. The company’s Web site is built using responsive and adaptive design practices so that the site automatically adapts to the consumer’s device, whether that is a mobile phone, tablet, or desktop computer. “We have a single code base that runs anywhere and delivers a consistent, optimized experience to all of our customers,” Fei says.

Making the Most of the Technology Base

This technology foundation has allowed Walgreens to push forward in personalization. For example, according to Fei the company uses sophisticated segmentation and personalization engines to drive outbound e-mail and text campaigns to customers based on their purchase history and profile. “We don’t blast out messages to customers; we use our personalization recommendations to be relevant,” says Fei.

The next phase of this strategy is to develop live inbound personalization tactics, such as recognizing customers when they come back to the Web site and tailoring their experience accordingly. These highly automated, self-learning systems improve over time, becoming more relevant at the moment a customer logs back in.

“When you search for a product, the Web site will take a good guess of what you might actually want. If you always print greeting cards at the same time of year, for example, the system would automatically deliver content around that,” Fei explains. “Everyone comes to Walgreens with a mission, so we can be very targeted with our communications.”

Walgreens’ mobile app combines real-time personalization with convenience. You can scan a pill bottle to refill a prescription, access coupons, send photos from your phone to print in the store, track rewards, and find the exact location of a product on the shelf.

Walgreens also recently deployed a new integrated interactive voice-response system that includes a personalization engine that recognizes the individual, says Troy Mills, vice president of customer care at Walgreens. The system can then predict the most probable reason for the customer’s call and quickly get them to the right individual for further help.

How to Get Started with Live Customer Experiences

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images-0008As Fei can attest, getting Walgreens’ omnichannel and personalization infrastructure to this point has involved a lot of work, with much more to come. For companies just now embarking on this journey, especially midsize and large companies, getting started will mean overhauling an outdated and ineffective technology infrastructure where duplicate systems and processes for managing customer data, marketing programs, and transactions are common.

A bad internal user experience often transcends into a bad customer-facing experience, says Peeples. “We can’t afford the distractions of the latest app or social ‘shiny penny’ without addressing the root causes of our systems’ issues.”

Live Business Requires Striking the Right Balance

The boundaries of trust are a moving target. Sales tactics that used to be acceptable decades ago, such as the door-to-door salesperson, are unwelcome today to most homeowners. And consumers’ expectations are unpredictable. At the dawn of social media, many people were anxious about their photos unexpectedly showing up online. Now our identities are tagged and our posts and photos distributed and commented on regularly.

But while consumers are getting more comfortable with online technology and its trade-offs, they won’t put up with personalization efforts that make use of their data without their knowledge or permission. That data has value, and customers want to decide for themselves when it’s worth giving it away. Marketers need to strike the right balance between personalization and a healthy respect for the unique needs and concerns of individuals. D!

 

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Lori Mitchell-Keller

About Lori Mitchell-Keller

Lori Mitchell-Keller is the Executive Vice President and Global General Manager Consumer Industries at SAP. She leads the Retail, Wholesale Distribution, Consumer Products, and Life Sciences Industries with a strong focus on helping our customers transform their business and derive value while getting closer to their customers.

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Digital Transformation Needs More Than Technology (Part 2)

Andreas Hauser

In my last blog, I explained why design, design thinking, and experience matter in digital transformation, which goes beyond pure technology and business skills. The credo is to engage with your customers, and most importantly, with the users right from the beginning, in an iterative, user-centric design process.

Digital transformation is more than a one-time project; it is a journey. Ultimately, enterprises want to prepare their organization for a sustainable design-led digital transformation.

But how to achieve this? That is the focus of today’s blog.

Foster a design-led innovation culture

Changing a company culture is not easy. If you don’t want your company ending up like Nokia or Blackberry, you better start sooner than later experiencing new practices. More and more companies are training their people on design thinking and want to establish a culture of design-led innovation.Slide3.JPG

My formula for innovation culture is people + process + place.

You need to have the right skills in your organization (people): Business, technical and design skills to better understand the needs of customers and users. Business and technical skills are typically not the problem. But how many people with design background do you have in your organization? This is why more and more companies start hiring designers and train their employees on design thinking.

It is not just about having the people with the right skills. You also need to change the way (process) how you engage with customer and users. To be successful, you need to combine design thinking with agile methodologies. The process is pretty simple: You need to get people with the right skills together working as one team and iterate from the beginning to the end with the customers and users. Sounds simple, but it is sometimes difficult to execute in large global organizations.

Let me tell you a story.

We have trained about 300 people (business + IT) at one of our customers in design thinking and helped to establish five design thinking coaches in their organization. This was the most interesting outcome: After the exercise, seven out of 10 IT projects were initiated by the business. The customer told us that this was the first time where business proactively wanted to work with IT. This is a great start to improve a relationship which in recent years has gotten separated in many organizations.

In our experience, the place where people work together also has a huge impact on creativity. Therefore, we have established at SAP “customer-facing” co-innovation spaces – called SAP AppHaus – where customers and SAP collaborate and co-innovate as partners. Establishing creative spaces within your organization gives the cultural change a face. Skills and new ways of working are often not very visible. The space is physical and people see and feel that your organization is changing. Check out our virtual walk-through our AppHaus in Heidelberg.

In my last blog, I discussed our co-innovation journey with Mercedes-AMG, which paved Mercedes-AMG’s way to a sustainable digital transformation. Based on my experience, you first need to show with a lighthouse project that this methodology creates business value for the company. You can then build on this success and start the journey to establish a sustainable design-led culture in your organization.

Be prepared for a long journey. It takes time to change and influence the way how organizations work. There has never been a more exciting time for designers, because the industry is starting to see the huge value they can bring to organizations and the value they can bring for a successful digital transformation.

Have a look at a more detailed presentation and a video recording about the concept that “digital transformation is more than technology.” Learn more about customer success stories on the UX Design Services web page.

Stay tuned for more articles as part of this blog series, in which you can explore further perspectives on digital transformation and its various aspects, learn about organizational readiness for design thinking, and assess how ready your organization is to embark on this journey.

Read Part 1 of this discussion: Digital Transformation Needs More Than Technology.

This article originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.

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Andreas Hauser

About Andreas Hauser

Andreas is global head of the design and co-innovation center at SAP. His team drives customer & strategic design projects through Co-Innovation and Design Thinking. Before he was Vice President of User Experience at SAP SE for OnDemand Solutions.