/ Digital Marketing

Digital Marketing 2017: Trends, Priorities, and Potential Pitfalls

Kevin McKernan

Each year brings big changes to digital marketing and 2016 was no exception. Last year we saw a rise in the creation of programs that are truly focused on providing a 1:1 digital marketing experience, not just when it comes to email marketing, but also from an omni-channel experience, one that takes into account all the places online customers are interacting with your brand.

Geographically, we saw the gap between how brands in the U.S. and Asia utilize social mobile apps such as Viber, Line and WeChat widen. While the popularity of such apps in the U.S. has been slow to build, if you’re doing business in Asia, and you’re not communicating with consumers on social mobile apps, you’re likely missing out on 90% of your customers.
The biggest star, however, of 2016 was the introduction of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and the Automated Marketer which allows marketers to take a step back and allow technology to optimize campaigns based on what it learns about your customers and their engagement with marketing materials.

While we expect some of the trends we saw in 2016 to continue to expand, it’s clear that 2017 will see its own trends rise and fall, some of which could have big long-term payoffs if brands and digital marketers are prepared to embrace them.

 

Trends to Look out For in 2017

 

The Expansion of Automations and AI

Digital marketing technologies are getting smarter and easier to implement, meaning automation and artificial intelligence (AI) have a solid foundation for becoming more common place. In 2017, programs like Einstein by Salesforce or IBM Watson will allow marketers to set up their programs in a way that allows them to take a step back and let the technology tell them what should be done next.

Emails, social media ads, push notifications, etc. will be deployed based on the initial criteria set up by your marketing department, and further enhanced based on the real-time customer data the program collects. This means consumers will continue to see an increase in more personalized, relevant communications, and brands will see an improvement in customer satisfaction and revenue.

In the end, the goal is to bring consumers the information they need, when they need it, in order to feel confident in their purchasing decisions. Digital marketers and the power of AI will allow this to be a reality in 2017.

The Need for Comprehensive Dashboards and Data Analysis

We’re collecting so much data on customers that marketers are going to be looking for a way to better digest that data to make it actionable. This is where set-it-and-forget-it dashboards are going to become not just handy, but completely necessary.

Marketers don’t want to spend time every month sorting through data; they want to see it in a clear dashboard and analyze it. And CMOs are going to want to have a resource that allows them to quickly see the status of their various programs, as well as a big picture view of how they all fit together to help the bottom line.

For those who are new to providing more comprehensive reporting, gathering data into a free tool like Data Studio from Google may be a good starting point. However, to really get the most out of having your data all in one place, a more comprehensive data tool like Tableau or Domo will be well worth the investment.

The Rise of Complex Customer Journeys

Customer Journeys are still in their early stages and CMOs have a lot to learn about how to best use them for their different audience types. But as access to customer data improves, and the ability to automate digital marketing elements becomes easier to navigate, this will allow brands to create more complex customer journeys, those that take into account not just the “what” of the messaging they deliver, but the “where” of the messaging in as close to real-time as possible.

Take for example a retailer who already has an email program, an SMS program, several social media accounts and an app. In the past, many of these individual programs have been just that—individual. Here is an example of these programs working in concert to optimize the customer experience: Let’s say that retailer sends out an email prompting visitors to visit their nearest store for a special promotion. When they get to the store, a push notification could trigger with another promotion. When a sale is completed, an SMS notification could link them to something extra off their next visit. And finally, an email can be sent asking the customer to review their purchase online.

 

What to Prioritize

 

Know Your Customers Better

2017 should be the year that marketers get to know their customers better. Marketers need to move beyond just knowing basic demographic info and expand their parameters to include strategies for knowing what devices they’re using, what language resonates, and what mediums (email, social, search, mobile, etc.) they favor —and then formulate strategies around how each of these components can come into play for each of your audience segments.

Get IT and the C-Suite on the Same Page

We talk about this every year, but pulling all of the data your organization has into one place that a marketer is able to utilize it and organize campaigns around it key. This often means getting members from IT, the C-Suite, and everywhere in-between on the same page about when and how this data is available. Access to data will continue to be of vital importance, and without it, you could miss out on valuable information that is causing you to lose out on sales.

Communicate Where Your Customers Are

While email still has the highest ROI in digital marketing, it is starting to slowly decline. This isn’t because customers aren’t interested in your emails, rather, it’s because more and more customers are omni-channel, meaning each place you reach them can play a role in an eventual conversion or sale.

More than ever, marketers need a better understanding of where their customers are, and they need to create strategies that take into account these different modes of communication in a way that allows social, email, search, etc. to work together instead of existing in silos.

 

Potential Pitfalls

 

Resources

This is a classic problem every year for marketers, but as more brands move towards an increasingly data driven approach, they’re going to need someone not only understand their data, but help them structure it in a way that is actionable and can help them get the most out of any new technologies they’re using. This is where the use of partners to implement these technologies will be well worth the investment. Brands shouldn’t let a lack of resources in their marketing or IT departments hold them back as they move towards these more robust, technology dependent programs.

Incomplete and/or Disorganized Data

2016 was a big eye opener for many marketers in terms of how incomplete and unorganized their customer data was, and this caused some major delays in allowing them to move their programs forward. Everyone in the industry keeps saying “Personalize now!” and marketers were looking at their data and finding they knew nothing about their customers. They knew basic things like name and maybe location, but today’s personalization goes far beyond that. We’ve oversaturated consumers with content through a batch and blast approach and we need to move towards an approach that actually considers their individual preferences—an experience that is relevant and targeted. But this can only exist if the data is available and properly structured.

Lack of Patience

Many marketing teams are reactive. They see something and they react and they see something else, and they react again. The marketing landscape is changing. And marketer’s need to show some patience and take the time to set things up the right way. This means taking the time to understand their data, map out customer journeys, and give themselves the opportunity to test, test, and test again.

Complacency

On the other hand, as marketers set new programs up and allow things like automations and AI to take the reigns, they need to make sure they aren’t getting complacent. You should regularly be looking for new opportunities and making small adjustments to your programs as you learn more about your consumer base. Nothing at this point (or maybe any point) should be fully set-it-and-forget-it. Always take the time review, analyze, and test, test, and test again.

There’s still a great lack of knowledge when it comes to digital marketing technology, even in industries that are always striving to be current, like e-commerce and retail. At Pierry we’re constantly running into scenarios in which CMOs have paid large amounts for new technology, but once it’s implemented, they really have no idea how to fully utilize what they’ve bought.

Much of this stems from one of the biggest pain points in the industry—a lack of clear strategy. In 2017, it won’t be enough to just buy the latest and greatest technologies. You have to come into that purchase with a clear vision of what you want to do, that way you have the ability to make a purchase based on what you want the technology to do for you, not just based on the laundry list of possibilities a new technology could bring.