Digital marketing trends are, like all trends, trendy, which means they come and go like fashions, catchphrases, and any other flashes in the pan. But not all trends are equal: some are hollow and some contain incredibly valuable lessons for your business. With this in mind, we’ve assembled six of the most profitable digital marketing trends for 2015 below. Whether they’ll stand the test of time, or will only be good for a year, no one can say. For the time being at least, following them may offer sound benefits.
It doesn’t take a digital prophet to tell that mobile is here to stay. Almost no one predicted how popular mobile devices would become, yet after just a few short years, they now account for the majority of digital media consumption! What’s more, that amount is growing and 21% of millennials access the internet almost exclusively through phone.
So, you will likely want to make any digital property you develop mobile-first: designed for mobile devices first and desktop devices second, rather than the other way around. Mobile-first helps ensure that your app or site works great across all devices by designing for the most restrictive interfaces first, then scaling up and adding features for more permissive devices. It’s 2015 – a sloppy mobile experience isn’t just an annoyance, but a disaster. In the good-design arms race, it’s not enough to simply be multi-device or responsive anymore. Mobile-first is the new cutting edge.
Parents who make their kids play the “rake the leaves” game know it, and math teachers who get a class of 7th graders to focus on probabilities by making them play dice games know it. It’s not a secret… people like games! And, with the popularization of digital gamification, marketers are envisioning the possibilities.
Gamification can take the form of mini-games, quizzes, calculators, or any other sort of bite-sized entertainment with just a hint of accomplishment marked by scores or badges. By turning what might be a dreary interaction into a lighthearted game, you can increase users’ satisfaction, motivation and social media sharing. The runaway success of the video games industry has taught us the lesson that when there’s work to be done, having fun is the best way to accomplish it.
Just as gamification has shown how marketing works better when presented as a game, native advertising has shown that ads work better when they’re presented as content, or at least in line with content. Think of Facebook – if you saw a big banner ad above your newsfeed, you’d probably just ignore it. If the same ad were woven deftly into your newsfeed, though, research shows you’d be 25% more likely to look at it, and considerably more likely to share it. The main goal of native advertising is to use sharable content to build trust and engagement with consumers. Making it feel less like an ‘ad’ makes for better marketing, and marketers who don’t take note risk falling behind.
Experiential marketing – connecting consumers with brands using real life interaction – is as old as marketing itself. But with mobile devices being commonplace, entirely new types of interactions are possible, and thanks to social media, small events can be shared globally, indefinitely. This added efficiency, combined with the growing consensus that branded experiences are more powerful than branded messages, has led to a renaissance of experiential marketing.
While all brands can benefit from experiential marketing, retail is particularly well-positioned to take advantage of its latest developments. With in-store screens or downloadable apps, retailers can let shoppers instantly browse their entire catalogue, provide a customer-tailored list of offers, display helpful information, customize items (and share their creations), and order out-of-stock items online, thus satisfying customers, keeping business out of the hand of competitors, and providing a more memorable experience.
Big data gets bigger every day and shows no sign of slowing down. What was once the simple tallying of pageview counts is now the complicated measurement of almost everything else. The current favourite stats focus on customer profiles and habits, which provide enlightening context for classic stats such as bounce rates and time-per-view. More advanced methods like eye tracking allow for even richer data to be collected, and thus enable more effective site design and marketing campaigns.
More data makes for better marketing but beware of gathering data without a strategy. Data, after all, is nothing without the know-how to make sense of it and there are already rumblings of a shift of focus from “big data” to “smart data” or “agile data.” Computers can provide gigabytes of data, but it takes thoughtful analysis to make it valuable.
Customization, Curation, Personalization
As we’re confronted by ever more content, data, branding, sharing and, well, stuff, it’s becoming necessary to filter some of it out – but what? How do you know what people want to see, and what they can do without? Well, obviously, you can leave it up to them! Letting people customize their experiences, in apps, websites, products, services, and beyond is a major trend. It improves users’ experiences, gives them a sense of control and creativity (the coveted “co-creation”), and prevents information overload. It’s one of the secrets to the success of social media and is now being incorporated all over.
But why let the users have all the fun? By gathering and analyzing client data, you can create intelligent models that provide user-personalized content right when they want it, before they even ask for it! Predictive personalization is very much on the rise: where once you could only scan a page for keywords and plug in relevant content, now you can draw on known customer preferences and behaviours and provide a uniquely catered experience.
Taken in aggregate, these trends point towards a larger meta-trend of catering to your customer like never before. Make your campaign fun for them. Reach them where they live: if mobile is king, then focus on mobile; if Facebook is king, then make it native to Facebook; if they’re in-store, join them there. And if you can’t even tell what they want, then give them the means to pick it out themselves. Marketing-reachable technology is now a part of everyone’s daily life; big, loud, broad messages don’t make sense in this context. 2015 should be the year you learn to advertise with your indoor voice.