Product, price, place and promotion – the basic tenets of marketing have remained the same for decades. Digital innovations have opened up more channels than ever before but the principles at the centre remain the same.
I have been in this digital game for over a decade now and how time flies.
Back in the day, digital innovation moved rapidly and constantly changed how marketers approached these tenets. In 2019, drastic innovations have been replaced with steady transformation. New technologies have grown and become an intrinsic part of marketing strategies, while others have been refined and their potential is now beginning to be realised.
Do you think about future-proofing your marketing? Trust me, not many people are.
Artificial intelligence (AI) was once a promising technology that had little practical application in the marketing world. Since I started in the industry, it has moved from science fiction to science fact and companies use it for a wide range of marketing tasks. It can help businesses segment audiences and retarget customers, track buying and browsing habits, and much more. Instead of a person creating rules for a computer to follow, AI learns about your customers and creates profiles to personalise and promote what is most likely to appeal to each individual.
While AI is making waves, companies without the resources to invest in machine learning rely on automation to perform similar functions. Automation helps improve the timing and impact of email marketing, allows businesses to react quickly to pre-determined situations and reduces missed opportunities and strengthens brand engagement.
Hand in hand with AI is the ability to follow your customers across all of your channels. Omnichannel means that your customers can interact with your brand on any of your platforms and receive seamless service regardless of whether they stay on the same one for all their interactions or change devices and channel.
How many times have you received one answer on social media and then another when you call or email a business? Pulling together the strands of social, web, mobile apps, marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon, and even a physical store, omnichannel allows you to keep up with your customers as they browse and buy in their preferred manner. Where a mere multichannel approach would see them start again at every new step, your omnichannel approach ensures you know where they left off and increases the likelihood of a completed sale.
You might know my good friends Google, Siri and Alexa. They help me find facts, buy books and turn my lights on and off.Sure, it's making us all lazy but with the rise in popularity of home assistants, voice search is a new frontier for digital marketers and now is the time to learn how they work.
Users around the world are more and more using these devices to organise their homes and lives. Rather than stopping to sit at a computer or pulling out their smartphone, users are simply asking their assistant a question. This means that websites now need to think more carefully about how they optimise their content. Queries typed into a search engine have been shown to be vastly different to how people use their home assistants. This means that it becomes more imperative than ever to ensure that content provides answers and information, not just keywords.
User experience is a vitally important part of the marketing equation and converting traffic into sales. As internet technology has advanced, data speeds have increased and innovations in the compression of web elements have made page loading speeds incredibly fast.
Meanwhile, user expectations have grown apace.
Back in 1999, a three-second page load speed was a crazy dream, by 2009 it had become the goal businesses strove to achieve and now, in 2019, research indicates that more than half of users will abandon a page that takes that long to load.
More than half of Google’s traffic comes from mobile devices now, which makes page load times more crucial than ever. Accelerated mobile pages (AMP) have a load time of five seconds or less, and while AMP isn’t currently a rankings factor, site speed and engagement rates are, and fast pages mean fewer frustrated visitors and abandoned sessions.
A progressive web app (PWA) straddles the line between regular website and a computer application. It offers a fast, easy to use platform regardless of OS and hardware, and a better user experience than standard web pages.
As we have become more savvy and mobile browsing continues to outstrip desktop, the patience for pop up and content obscuring ads lessens. I am forever hitting the ‘back’ button to escape a website with live chat widgets, pop up boxes and footer countdown timers obscuring the important things. In contrast, native ads sit within the template of the site, much like a traditional newspaper column advertisement, rather than take over the screen. They often don’t look like ads either. Instead, they seamlessly sit alongside the site’s content, much like the paid results at the top of a Google results page. By styling ads to appear more elegantly placed and less intrusive, they lose the sense of tackiness that so many pop-ups and banners can give a website.
Always a major part of any digital marketing strategy, content marketing evolves as the landscape changes. Every year the bar of “good content” is raised as companies and agencies create bigger and better audio, visual and written content, and in greater quantities. The last decade alone I have seen the standard rise exponentially as once out of reach mediums, like video, have become open to virtually everyone. Content marketing will further mature and develop as marketers find new ways to reach ever-more segmented audiences with technology and devices that are getting better every day.
Video is still the most engaging form of content available, with high-quality videos offering versatility and shareability. This makes short, well-made videos the perfect way to reach more people on more devices, at the perfect time of the day. Remember when you used to mute the ads on TV? These days people are looking for content to view while they’re killing time on a commute, wasting time at work or taking a break. In the old days, television was the simple, easy medium to reach as many people as possible, without requiring us to do much more than look at the screen and today’s modern marketing videos capitalise on the same ease while adding convenience and mobility.
Augmented and virtual reality have taken a while to reach the level of affordability and convenience to be an essential marketing tool but the technology is now better than ever. Augmented reality (AR) puts a layer of CGIover the physical spaces you view through your phone or glasses while virtual reality (VR) has fully computer-generated scenes and settings.
When they were first introduced the hype was huge and the possibilities seemingly endless. You might have seen some of the country’s biggest companies add AR or VR to their customers’ experiences. I recommend downloading the IKEA app to see AR in full flight.
AR works perfectly with video to create an immersive experience and stronger connections between consumers, products and brands.
Taking the conversation offline and not solely relying on digital engagement is gaining more traction. I remember the dream of paper-less offices and remote workforces but people are physical beings and face-to-face interactions are still valuable.You don’t have to go as far as Amazon’s brick and mortar stores but hosting events, attending industry conferences, supporting local charities and all the community-focused things shops and business did in the past still make a difference to brand trust, loyalty and recognition today.
If there is one thing that I can guarantee in digital marketing, it’s that the age of innovation is still alive and well. Regardless of your size or industry, it’s important to incorporate new innovations into your marketing strategy to keep pace with what your audience is exploring without neglecting what has worked in the past. There are now so many discrete channels and niches to explore and target that even the smallest details and personalisation can make a big difference for customer engagement.
This report draws on our work driving change at large companies as well as from thought leadership in the space of not just management literature, but also evolutionary biology, psychology and sociology, because in order to see things clearly and influence human behaviour, we need to think holistically.