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7 Trends to Shape Your Digital Marketing Efforts in 2017

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What don’t you know about digital marketing? A lot.

A major challenge for CMOs for 2017 will be in fully understanding the MarTech Landscape. We all know that technology is transforming marketing faster than ever before– and we need to be agile enough to keep up. The number of vendors that are competing for marketers’ budgets has exploded. “In 2014, there were about 1000 companies. In 2015, there were about 2000 companies. In 2016, there are about 4000 companies! (see Scott Brinker’s Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic here) and it is expected to double again within the next 18 months” [1]. The challenge will lie in understanding the solutions available and determining the right partners to solve these challenges.

With the rise of machine learning, programmatic, customer journey mapping, mobile, social, Google algorithms, big data, micro-moments, content creation and more, our plate is pretty full, and this list  is just a tiny slice of a marketer’s overall responsibility.  Marketers today are not only tasked with staying on top of these trends, they also need to be able to be forward thinking and develop strategies for success.  As my Grandfather used to say: “Work is work. There’s nothing easy about it, if you’re doing it right.” With all of these considerations and more, how can a dedicated marketer plan for 2017? To help you out, we’ve put together this list of 7 trends that should help shape your efforts in 2017:

  1.    Data informed marketing

There is an overwhelming amount of data available to marketers today. One shift that has occurred is that big data seems to be giving way to smart data – actionable insight from data analysis that digital marketers can use to achieve goals.  More data has been developed in the past 2 years in the form of big data than all other years combined!  However, only 38% of CMOs are making smart decisions with that data[2]. Every bit of data is useful if it can be tied back to a KPI from a business objective.  Focus on evolving those standards and you’ll have the data necessary to find the answers you seek.

  1.    Customer Experience

This is an ongoing trend that should be an integral part of everyday business.  Our primary role as digital marketers is to assist prospective new business in the form of customers.  How we do that is through a treasure trove of good and bad user experiences.  Consider this… you are a user on the web searching for the perfect handbag.  You search ‘handbags’ and dive into the massive search results page.  When you click on your first organic link, it drives you to the homepage of retailmerchant.com where you see no handbags for sale, just a bunch of other products the retail merchant is trying to push on you. It goes without saying that this is a bad user experience, and one that is easily avoided.  We know that when a user is seeking products or information on the web, relevance is key. Consumers expect to find exactly what they are looking for- and why shouldn’t they?  This should be the same for non e-commerce searches.

Technology changes quickly, but consumer actions change slowly.  Developing your technology with the customer at the center can only serve to make their experience better. Drive consumers to landing pages that respond to their initial search.  Do this through paid advertising and search engine optimization. You know your products , how they are being staged online and on mobile. Develop a customer journey map that allows you to consider the buying influences involved in buying patterns, and  A/B test those landing pages. Optimizely.com is a great resource, and so is Google Optimize (which was just released and comes with a very functional free version as well!). Keep tracking them and learn from where and why your site traffic is heaviest.  It all goes back to data research!

  1.    Machine Learning

Machine learning is born from pattern recognition and comes from a theory that computers performing specific repeated tasks begin to learn from data. They learn from previous computations to produce reliable, repeatable decisions and results.[3]

The point at which this becomes new and interesting is when you add in the variable of big data.  Imagine the ability of a computer to learn from algorithms at a faster pace to automatically apply complex mathematical equations. The effects in this field are far reaching and so complex, that is can be hard to wrap your head around. Machine learning today is providing[4]:

  • The heavily hyped, self-driving Google car. This is the essence of machine learning.
  • Online recommendation offers such as those from Amazon and Netflix. An example of machine learning applications for everyday life.
  • Knowledge of what customers are saying about you on Twitter at any given time. This is machine learning combined with linguistic rule creation.
  • Fraud detection. One of the more obvious, important uses in our world today.

But how can machine learning help marketers today? It can be a tool that allows you to dig deep into structured and non-structured data to find new insights about customer interactions with your brand,  and provide you with ideal next steps to help further that relationship. Although machine learning is not a new idea, in 2017 it will be used in different ways.

  1.    Double-Down on Programmatic

The use of programmatic ads isn’t just increasing on the video side; it’s now representing a larger portion of the overall advertising market. Programmatic represents 50% of all display advertising and continues to grow.  With real-time bidding and display side platforms, it allows you to be significantly more selective about exactly who you show your ads to regardless of where they may be.  Some products and services will always perform better in SEM than in display, simply because SEM is almost always at the end of the conversion funnel, and display is often closer to the beginning.  However, a well-balanced strategy of both will narrow in on the consumer acquisition journey and focus your efforts beyond last-click performance.

  1.    Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

Marketers have a tremendous opportunity to provide timely and relevant offers to customers directly to their mobile phones. GPS, SMS, geofencing, social, push notifications, etc. will all allow your company to know where consumers are at any given moment.  It enables you to communicate with them actively.  That being said, mobile web isn’t always a great experience for mobile users.

Oftentimes, reading on mobile web is clunky and slow.  AMP, although not new, is an open source initiative that focuses on the publisher’s ability to create mobile content that will open instantly.  Implementing faster mobile webpages mainly benefits users, who are increasingly frustrated by slow–loading pages.  Google research shows that 53% of people will leave a site if it fails to load in 3 seconds or less [5].  AMP will continue as an important trend in 2017 as Google prioritizes it as a key battleground in search. Although it may not be a ranking item yet, only time will tell.  

  1.    Technology explosion

As marketers today, we’re fortunate to have a huge number of free and low-cost tools to provide us with insights about our customers, competitors, and market. Yet there is a huge challenge with the sheer number of tools available. How does one develop a strategic stack of technology that assists in retaining more actionable insights that are cost appropriate, provide time efficiencies, and actual produce insights to move the business forward? Read, read, read.  And give yourself time each week to take a call from a vendor and take them up on that demo!

  1.    Search Engine Optimization

Although not as sexy as some of the ideas described above, SEO still makes the list as an important/essential trend for 2017.  As a marketer, you want your pages to be found on all devices with page one visibility.  Consider that 93% of all online research begins with search[6].  That alone makes SEO a contender.

There are tons of trends emerging in 2017,  and these only just scratch the surface.  I encourage you to share this post and weigh in with your own thoughts on 2017 trends.

You already know a lot about digital marketing.  But the challenge is keeping up to speed with the next big thing.  Surround yourself with smart people, and you’ll find your passion for digital will blossom.  And hey, if it doesn’t, give us a call here at Cardinal Path.  We live for this stuff!

References:

[1] Forbes2016 Nov. 2016
[2] 2017 CMO Report
[2] SAS 2016
[3] SAS 2016
[4] Search Engine Watch Nov. 2016
[5] Search Engine Watch Nov. 2016

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