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Unlocking The Cloud: How A Computing Revolution Went Mainstream [Video]

Lindsey LaManna

By now, we’ve all heard about the cloud and the numerous benefits of cloud computing, but how are companies really using the cloud? Working with SAP, Oxford Economics surveyed 200 senior business and IT executives to find out.how are companies using the cloud

Respondents to the survey were highly diversified, representing various industry segments including banking, capital markets, consumer products, retail and telecommunications, as well as multiple countries including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, UK and US.

What they found is that companies are investing heavily in the cloud, with 95% using cloud technology. Companies are moving more and more business functions into the cloud, and making the cloud into a truly strategic option. As more and more functions (HR, finance, etc.) adopt cloud technologies, the barriers between executives disappear—clouds of information merge.

12% of HR functions are using cloud platforms now and it is expected to be 44% in 3 years

27% of marketing functions are using cloud platforms now and it is expected to be 62% in 3 years

The first wave of cloud computing services was built on basics, like simple hosted applications and software-as a-service. These early developments allowed IT to be more agile and flexible, but information and process silos made it difficult for companies to harness the full power of cloud technologies.

Today, a new generation of sophisticated cloud platforms is driving a remarkable transformation within IT and across the enterprise.

54% have developed new products/services (people buying something), 41% have developed new lines of business (new place for people to buy) and 37% have entered new markets

Using these platforms, companies can automate systems, processes, and interactions like never before. They can roll-out new services that connect all of their data and their partners’ data seamlessly and efficiently.

One key area of development involves cloud-supported mobile services to improve customer experience, worker capabilities, and bottom-line results. Mobile devices are flooding businesses with data and fueling new opportunities, making a customer-facing mobile strategy a priority.

All this new complexity makes the task of securing the cloud more complex—and companies overwhelmingly view it as a top concern and are taking steps to protect their data.

65% of respondents cite security as a major challenge to the use of cloud business networks and 95% have taken steps to deal with security risks

Cloud computing has transformed the business world by making IT more flexible and agile, allowing companies to remap workflows, reduce administrative overhead, and eliminate inefficiencies. In fact, more than four out of five respondents indicated that these technologies play a key role in managing customers, boosting internal productivity, enabling collaboration, and unleashing faster time to value for the business.

56% of companies plan to invest heavily in cloud platforms over the next three years

But these are only incremental gains compared with those promised by the merger of disparate clouds, whether operated by different groups within the same company or by external business partners. Ultimately, integrated cloud networks will make IT more flexible, agile, and cost-effective, creating the foundation of the digital enterprise and unleashing business and IT gains that would not have been imaginable only a few years ago.

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About Lindsey LaManna

Lindsey LaManna is a Marketing Manager at SAP. Her specialties include social media marketing, marketing strategy, and marketing communications.

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Innovation Without Boundaries: Why The Cloud Matters

Michael Haws

Is it possible to innovate without boundaries?

Of course – if you are using the cloud. An actual cloud doesn’t have any boundaries. It’s fluid. But more important, it can provide the much-needed precipitation that brings nature to life. So it is with cloud technology – but it’s your ideas that can grow and transform your business.USA --- Clouds, Heaven --- Image by © Ocean/Corbis

Running your business in the cloud is no longer just a consideration during a typical use-case exercise. Business executives are now faced with making decisions on solutions that go beyond previous limitations with cloud computing. Selecting the latest tools to address a business process gap is now less about features and more about functionality.

It doesn’t matter whether your organization is experienced with cloud solutions or new to the concept. Cloud technology is quickly becoming a core part of addressing the needs of a growing business.

5 considerations when planning your journey to the cloud

How can your organization define its successful path to the cloud? Here are five things you should consider when investigating whether a move to the cloud is right for you.

1. Understanding the cloud is great, but putting it into action is another thing.

For most CIOs, putting a cloud strategy on paper is new territory. Cloud computing is taking on new realms: Pure managed services to software-as-a-service (SaaS). Just as legacy computing had different flavors, so does cloud technology.

2. There is more than one way to innovate in the cloud.

Alignment with an open cloud reference architecture can help your CIO deliver on the promises of the cloud while using a stair-step approach to cloud adoption – from on-premise to hybrid to full cloud computing. Some companies find their own path by constantly reevaluating their needs and shifting their focus when necessary – making the move from running a data center to delivering real value to stakeholders, for example.

3. The cloud can help accelerate processes and lower cost.

By recognizing unprecedented growth, your organization can embark on a path to significant transformation that powers greater agility and competitiveness. Choose a solution set that best meets your needs, and implement and support it moving forward. By leveraging the cloud to support the chosen solution, ongoing maintenance, training, and system issues becomes the cloud provider’s responsibility. And for you, this offers the freedom to focus on the core business.

4. You can lock down your infrastructure and ensure more efficient processes.

Do you use a traditional reporting engine against a large relational database to generate a sequential batched report to close your books at quarter’s end? If so, you’re not alone. Sure, a new solution with new technology may be an obvious improvement. But how valuable to your board will you become when you reduce the financial closing process by 1–3 days? That’s the beauty of the cloud: You can accelerate the deployment of your chosen solution and realize ROI quickly – even before the next full reporting period.

5. The cloud opens the door to new opportunity in a secure environment.

For many companies, moving to the cloud may seem impossible due to the time and effort needed to train workers and hire resources with the right skill sets. Plus, if you are a startup in a rural location, it may not be as easy to attract the right talent as it is for your Silicon Valley counterparts. The cloud allows your business to secure your infrastructure as well as recruit and onboard those hard-to-find resources by applying a managed services contract to run your cloud model

The cloud means many things to different people. What’s your path?

With SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud service, you can navigate the best path to building, running, and operating your own cloud when running critical business processes. Find out how SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud can deliver the speed and resources necessary to quickly validate and realize solid ROI.

Check out the video below or visit us at www.sap.com/services-support/svc/in-memory-computing/hana-consulting/enterprise-cloud-services/index.html.

Connect with us on Twitter: @SAPServices

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Michael Haws

About Michael Haws

Michael Haws is the Vice President of HANA Enterprise Cloud at SAP. His specialties include Enterprise Resource Planning Software & Services, Onshore, Nearshore, Offshore--Application, Infrastructure and Business Process Outsourcing.

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Consumers And Providers: Two Halves Of The Hybrid Cloud Equation

Marty McCormick

Long gone are the days of CIOs and IT managers freely spending money to move their 02 Jun 2012 --- Young creatives having lunch and conversation. --- Image by © Hero/Corbisexisting systems to the cloud without any real business justification just to be part of the latest hype. As cloud deployments are becoming more prevalent, IT leaders are now tasked with proving the tangible benefits of adopting a cloud strategy from an operational, efficiency, and cost perspective. At the same time, they must balance their end users’ increasing demand for access to more data from an ever-expanding list of public cloud sources.

Lately, public cloud systems have become part of IT landscapes both in the form of multi-tenant systems, such as software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings and data consumption applications such as Twitter. Along with the integration of applications and data outside of the corporate domain, new architectures have been spawned, requiring real-time and seamless integration points.  As shown in the figure below, these hybrid clouds – loosely defined as the integration of data from systems in both public and private clouds in a unified fashion – are the foundation of this new IT architecture.

hybridCloudImage

Not only has the hybrid cloud changed a company’s approach to deploying new software, but it has also changed the way software is developed and sold from a provider’s perspective.

The provider perspective: Unifying development and operations

Thanks to the hybrid cloud approach, system administrators and developers are sitting side by side in an agile development model known as Development and Operations (DevOps). By increasing collaboration, communication, innovation, and problem resolution, development teams can closely collaborate with system administrators and provide a continuous feedback loop of both sides of the agile methodology.

For example, operations teams can provide feedback on reported software bugs, software support issues, and new feature requests to development teams in real time. Likewise, development teams develop and test new applications with support and maintainability as a key pillar in design.
After seeing the advantages realized by cloud providers that have embraced this approach long ago, other companies that have traditionally separated these two areas are now adopting the DevOps model.

The consumer perspective: Moving to the cloud on its own terms

From the standpoint of the corporate consumer, hybrid cloud deployments bring a number of advantages to an IT organization. Specifically, the hybrid approach allows companies to move some application functionality to the cloud at their own pace.
Many applications naturally lend themselves to public cloud domains given their application and data requirements. For most companies, HR, indirect procurement, travel, and CRM systems are the first to be deployed in a public cloud. This approach eliminates the requirement for building and operating these applications in house while allowing IT areas to take advantage of new features and technologies much faster.

However, there is one challenge consumers need to overcome: The lack of capabilities needed to extend these applications and meet business requirements when the standard offering is often insufficient. Unfortunately, this tempts organizations to create extensive custom applications that replicate information across a variety of systems to meet end user requirements. This development work can offset the cost benefits of the initial cloud application, especially when you consider the upgrades and support required to maintain the application.

What this all means to everyone involved in the hybrid cloud

Given these two perspectives, on-premise software providers are transforming themselves so they can meet the ever-evolving demands of today’s information consumer. In particular, they are preparing for these unique challenges facing customers and creating a smooth journey to a hybrid cloud.

Take SAP, for example. By adopting a DevOps model to break down a huge internal barrier and allowing tighter collaboration, the company has delivered a simpler approach to hybrid cloud deployments through the SAP HANA Cloud Platform for extending applications and SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud for hosting solutions.

Find out how these two innovations can help you implement a robust and secure hybrid cloud solution:
SAP HANA Cloud Platform
SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud

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Marty McCormick

About Marty McCormick

Marty McCormick is the Lead Technical Architect, Managed Cloud Delivery, at SAP. He is experienced in a wide range of SAP solutions, including SAP Netweaver SAP Portal, SAP CRM, SAP SRM, SAP MDM, SAP BI, and SAP ERP.

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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100 Top Digital Marketing Influencers And Brands

Michael Brenner

New technologies and social media in the last two decades have fundamentally changed the way consumers think, behave, and engage with brands. While traditional marketing models are still applicable, marketers today are learning a whole new set of digital marketing skills and strategies to better connect with consumers.

It’s no surprise then that digital marketing spending is forecasted to account for at least 35% of total marketing budget this year, and is predicted to grow another 12% next year. This increase in digital marketing investment has created a surge in demand for digital marketers. These digital marketers are marketing nerds who are obsessed with analytics and Big Data, but are also highly creative and skilled in everything from copywriting to graphic design, photography, and videography.

If you are a digital marketer or aspire to become one, what are some of the top digital marketing trends or ideas you’ll need to know this year? Onalytica asked seven of the influencers identified in its Top 100 Influencers And Brands research to share their views; check out what they have to say! In full disclosure, I was identified as one of the influencers and was asked to share my opinion on the topic. You can find last year’s list here and 2014’s list here.

What the experts are saying about digital marketing

Jeff-BullasJeff Bullas – CEO at Jeffbullas.com Pty Ltd

“There is an elephant in the room for many digital marketers. They love the vanity metrics of traffic, social media sharing, and follower growth. They are hooked on the engagement and feedback that cool content provides to the brand. But they often don’t work on the last few hard yards. It isn’t seen as sexy and it can be boring. It’s converting that traffic and engagement into leads and sales. It’s is time for many social media and content marketers to grow up”

sam-hurleySam Hurley, Founder of OPTIM-EYEZ

“This saturated, fast-paced digital world in which we live can seem overwhelming for business owners and marketers alike. Aside from the sheer amount of information and data we force ourselves to consume each and every day, there’s one precious unit of measurement which we most commonly neglect: Time. To become a successful business owner, brand, solopreneur, marketer… you have to become a master of time. Digital marketing is evolving at incredible rates, which only feeds our fixation with shiny new objects such as virtual reality and the newest social media platforms. My advice for this year onward? Focus your time and energy into three key revenue generators which suit your business model (and you!). Become exceptional at nurturing these generators and don’t veer off course. Take heed of the new digital trends and adapt, but don’t divert. For these three revenue generators, funnel effort into three primary traffic channels (paid, owned, and earned) that will gain qualified exposure for your business — exposure that converts into sales. That’s all! Test what works and stick with it. Don’t waste your time being a jack of all trades. Finally; build relationships, be yourself, and push your name through social media. I cannot express enough how important this is. Personal branding is absolutely critical for trust, credibility, and inbound leads. Spend time on yourself and everything else will follow. Seriously, I’m living proof of this methodology. I’ve never had to advertise to attract my own clients. My website isn’t even live yet! If this seems crazy to you, it’s time to alter your approach to business. Concepts of marketing will always remain unchanged. It’s only the tools, buzzwords, and technologies that form and shift around us…don’t be dazzled by them. Digital marketing is fun. Profit as a result (and your continued sanity) is better.”

Larry-KimLarry Kim – Founder of WordStream

“We’ve reached peak social – a point at which the signal to noise ratio of social updates is unsustainable – companies, individuals, and automated tools are cranking out so many social updates that post engagement rate is getting crushed. At the same time, the social platforms are obviously looking to monetize their platforms with an increasing number of ads, which further diminishes organic visibility. As more content and ads floods social networks, the slice of engagement for the average brand must shrink because there’s only a finite amount of content consumption and engagement to be had. Social platforms are responding by creating and refining curated user timelines, and only the top brands with the most engaging content will survive.”

Rand-FishkinRand Fishkin – Founder of Moz

“Adblocking was part of a huge conversation in 2015, and my guess is that the reaction to this growing technology is going to mimic how entrenched players have reacted to technology leaps in the past — by trying to legislate it away. I anticipate that in either the U.S. or the EU, some form of government action will arise (in the U.S., most likely due to lobbying, a.k.a. our legalized system of bribery) to “protect the interests of publishers and journalists who serve the public good.”

Evan-DunnEvan Dunn – Digital Marketing Practice Lead at Transform

“The digital media landscape is complex. With new channels, media and technology popping up every month, it’s only getting more complex. The most critical component of success in today’s marketing universe is a cohesive strategy – a theoretical framework that makes sense of every marketing activity executed by your brand, and provides an architecture for measurement and optimization of every activity. After all, if you’re not sure whether an activity is driving ROI, is it really worth doing? Today’s marketing, whether online or off, must be a scientific art (or an artistic science, either one). It can no longer be gut-driven, dominated by creative, and powered by trendy jargon. Measurement, analytics, statistics, quantification, optimization – these are the stuff of proven strategies. Don’t be distracted by flashy ad-tech, although it is sometimes useful. If your digital marketing objective is growing numbers (customers, sales), then your means of accomplishing it must be by analyzing the numbers. Quantitative Marketing is the future of all forms of marketing, including digital.”

Michael-BrennerMichael Brenner CEO of Marketing Insider Group

“Ten years ago, you would have found it difficult to find anything labeled “digital marketing” on the job boards or even listed in the descriptions for openings companies were trying to fill. Now, digital marketing is the hottest job title in all of marketing. Digital marketing skills are in such high demand because we understand how to market to today’s always-connected, multi-device consumer. The top digital marketers today combine right and left-brain talents. We are one part content marketers, editors, and writers, who understand how to create the kind of content that people actually want to read and share. On the other hand, we are also one part data nerds, who understand how to analyze all the information available to us as we continuously create and promote content across email, search, social, and even offline platforms. Today’s digital marketer knows how to reach, engage, and convert new customers for our businesses. We defy the old notion that marketing can’t be measured. Because we’re doing it every day.”

Michael-J.-SchiemerMichael J. Schiemer – Founder at Schiemer Consulting

“In today’s ultra-competitive digital marketing landscape, differentiating your company from the competition is paramount. There are too many generic or mediocre digital marketers and digital marketing agencies out there that won’t stand the test of time. Other more established marketers will rest on their laurels, fail to adapt, and become obsolete in a short period of time. I think all digital marketers and agencies should ask themselves three questions: How are you going above and beyond for your clients? What value do you bring to the table that they can’t get anywhere else? What prevents your services from being outsourced or replaced by a few inexpensive software programs? If you can’t answer those questions quickly and confidently, then you need to step up your efforts or find a new industry.”

Top 100 individuals

RANK TWITTER HANDLE NAME COMPANY INFLUENCER SCORE
1 @jeffbullas Jeff Bullas Jeffbullas.com 44.13
2 @Sam___Hurley Sam Hurley OPTIM-EYEZ 38.2
3 @MarketingProfs Ann Handley MarketingProfs 31.99
4 @AshleyFriedlein Ashley Friedlein Econsultancy 28.46
5 @Rocco_Zebra_Adv Rocco Baldassarre Zebra Advertisement 27.97
6 @iMariaJohnsen Maria Johnsen Golden Way Media 26.57
7 @larrykim Larry Kim Wordstream 21.45
8 @randfish Rand Fishkin Moz 21.07
9 @PamMktgNut Pam Moore Marketing Nutz 18.67
10 @leeodden Lee Odden Top Rank Marketing 16.82
11 @acfrank Andrew Frank Gartner for Marketing 15.73
12 @dknowlton1 Daniel Knowlton KPS DigitalMarketing 13.62
13 @DioFavatas Dio Favatas Truth Initiative 13.08
14 @evanpdunn Evan Dunn Transform 12.53
15 @BrennerMichael Michael Brenner Marketing Insider Group 12.43
16 @adamwoodsaus Adam Woods Reed Exhibitions 12.37
17 @WBB_13 Brent Bouldin Bank of America 11.47
18 @jaybaer Jay Baer Convince & Convert 10.41
19 @davidbnz David Bell University of Pennsylvania 10.32
20 @DaveChaffey Dr Dave Chaffey Smart Insights 10.24
21 @chuckaikens Chuck Aikens Volume Nine 10.18
22 @JenPolk1 Jennifer Polk Gartner 9.92
23 @AlexTachalova Alexandra Tachalova alextachalova.com 9.76
24 @ajalumnify AJ Agrawal Alumnify 9.6
25 @MikeSchiemer Michael J. Schiemer Colbea 9.23
26 @jeremywaite Jeremy ☁️ Colbea Enterprises 9.18
27 @azeckman Ashley Zeckman Top Rank Marketing 8.4
28 @MariSmith Mari Smith marismith.com 8.18
29 @MelonieDodaro Melonie Dodaro Top Dog Social Media 8.11
30 @augieray Augie Ray Gartner for Marketers 8
31 @krbenedict Kevin R Benedict Cognizant 7.93
32 @SimonYates Simon Yates Gartner for Marketers 7.82
33 @NealSchaffer Neal Schaffer Maximize Your Social 7.58
34 @Matt_Umbro Matthew Umbro PPCChat 7.35
35 @markwschaefer Mark Schaefer Schaefer Marketing Solutions 7.21
36 @FeldmanCreative Barry Feldman Feldman Creative 7.1
37 @BrianHughes116 Brian Hughes Integrity Marketing 6.76
38 @ItsDUHnise Jenise Henrikson Search Engine Journal 6.64
39 @DanScalco Dan Scalco digitalux 6.62
40 @neilpatel Neil Patel Crazy Egg 6.59
41 @martykihn Martin Kihn Gartner 6.47
42 @MarketingLetter Dr. Angela Hausman Hausman and Associates 6.41
43 @lacostejonathan Jonathan Lacoste Jebbit 6.37
44 @crestodina Andy Crestodina Orbit Media 6.29
45 @markfidelman Mark Fidelman Evolve! 6.2
46 @marktraphagen Mark Traphagen Stone Temple Consulting 6.06
47 @jacobvar Jacob Varghese jacobv.com 6.01
48 @marcusbowlerhat Marcus Miller Bowler Hat 5.89
49 @CynthiaLIVE Cynthia Johnson American Addiction Centers 5.87
50 @BrettRelander Brett Relander Launch & Hustle 5.65

Top marketing topics

Onalytica was interested in seeing which topics were most popular among their identified top influencers, so they analyzed their tweets and blogs from January 1st to April 19th this year, counting the number of mentions each marketing topic received.

Social Media dominated the list with 27% share of voice, with Content Marketing coming in at second with 12%, and Branding at 9%. Facebook, Twitter, and SEO were tied for fourth place at 8%, followed by Strategy and Advertising both at 5% and Analytics at 4%. Email Marketing, PPC, LinkedIn, and Planning all received 3%, with Growth Hacking rounding out the list at 2%.

Topic-Share-of-Voice-Among-the-Top-100-Digital-Marketing-Influencers-and-Brands

Mapping the digital marketing community

Onalytica also looked at which marketers and brands were leading the conversation on Twitter, so they analyzed over 1.5 million tweets from December 4th, 2015, to April 29th, 2016, mentioning the keyword “digital marketing,” and identified the top 100 most influential individuals and brands who were leading the online discussion.

Onalytica discovered that there was a very engaged community of high-profile marketers, business professionals, and brands. Below you can see the network map of the online conversation Onalytica created with its Influencer Relationship Management software (IRM), showing the No. 1 Influencer, Jeff Bullas, at the center and the conversations to and from the influencers in his field.

Network-Map-5-Jeff-Bullas

Here’s another network map with the No. 1 brand, Econsultancy, at the center, and the conversations to and from the influencers in its field.

Network-Map-6-Econsultancy

Disclaimer: As ever with these lists, it must be stressed that the ranking is by no means a definitive measurement of influence, as there is no such thing. The brands and individuals listed are undoubtedly influential when it comes to driving discussion in Digital Marketing.

The PageRank based methodology we use to extract influencers on a particular topic takes into account the number and quality of contextual references that a user receives. These calculations are independent of a user’s number of followers, but we do filter our lists based on how much a user is engaged in the conversation and the influence they drive through their networks.

Stop confining social media to marketing. To boost returns, it must be embedded into how companies do business. Learn more about this topic in our research inquiry In a Live Business, Social Gets Its MBA.

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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.