A quick look at the trends you should be aware of in 2017.
1. The smart home is already here
Almost half of US millennials use a smart home product now. Amazon claims to have sold millions of Alexa devices this past Christmas. The smart home is no longer a distant concept but a very real part of society. This means people using voice control and interacting with apps and search in a whole new manner. It may reduce Google search volumes and change the phrasing of search terms. It may mean less time spent on manual tasks and more time to relax. There is a way to go before the market matures and the devices integrate better and standardise. There is also the question of the obvious reliance on wifi which remains a challenge in some areas. These behavioural shifts affect our digital strategies and we must be ready to embrace them.
2. Automation and AI will be everywhere
Marketing automation is growing and many businesses now use cloud based automation suites. Beyond that we are automating day to day experiences such as autonomous cars. As artificial intelligence and machine learning become increasingly common place we will see a reduced reliance on human resource but an increased reliance on scientific thinking. Chat bots are increasingly popular and pattern recognition is becoming very clever. We can see areas such as delivery, driving, finance, sales, financial planning and many others becoming increasingly automated. Marketing is no different and the automation of campaigns and strategic deliverable is entirely possible in many areas already.
3. Personalisation is critical
This is beyond a nice feature and is now an expectation. We can use data to understand our consumers very well. Privacy is important to consider here but let’s park that for a moment. We can understand who a consumer is, what they like, where they shop, their wealth, they’re passions, family status, content engagement patterns and much more. Simple putting “dear mrs x” doesn’t cut it. We should be communicating with the right people, in the right place, at the right time with the right message. That goes all the way to the individual level, not on mass. Conversion and response rates will improve and the consumer gets a piece of comms they genuinely want – everyone wins.
4. Messaging is bigger than social networks
Most of us use messaging apps now. In fact the user base is bigger than the user base for social networks such as Facebook. Many of us however haven’t investigated this in a great level of detail. Look at opportunities here to engage with consumers. Blasting messages into someone’s personal messaging service is not the answer as that’s too intrusive and brand damaging but be smart and there’s a huge opportunity here. There are a billion users if WhatsApp alone and messages have a 70% open rate. Also opt out rates are low. Talking to your customers through this channel rather than, say, email can make a big difference.
5. Fake news and algorithmic influence
We have all read the stories about how we see content online that is filtered to match content we’ve shown an interest in. Brexit in the U.K. is a great example where both sides of the country thought victory was inevitable because they didn’t see over the other side of the fence. Fake news is everywhere and this is very dangerous. Of course it affects mindsets and causes unnecessary issues but it also deteriorates trust in content. Best advice here – be careful. Check what you’re doing and don’t fall into the fake news trap.
6. Video must be part of your strategy
Video continues to dominate engagement stats. Every business worth it’s salt is driving a video strategy forward now. There are so many options and people can absorb the content incredibly easily. Live video and 360 video are great opportunities but even just creating simple, short videos on stories, how to’s and guides will create great engagement. Also consider vertical video for mobile experiences. Most people use social on their mobiles so why force them to turn the device to watch your video?
7. Data remains central
Much of the above is dependent on a good data strategy. This is too complex to go into in any detail here but ensuring our data setup is integrated, automated and managed is vital. Also ensuring your data is correct and clean is essential. Too many companies bring exciting technology in and waste it because the data is not in a fit state to enable the use of a powerful automation platform for example. Clean and append your data and, if you don’t have the expertise then bring in a data expert to help you get it in shape and develop ongoing processes.
8. Mobile first
Mobile first is not new. It’s been the message for a few years now and Google has increasingly punished those that don’t embrace it. Google’s next algorithm is set to take that a step further. Your experiences must be mobile optimised. It’s not too late to fix this but it has to be tackled with some urgency or you WILL lose business.
Some quick insights for you there. Hope you find them useful and good luck with driving the digital agenda in 2017.