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From art to science: Marketing trends in 2014

22nd Dec 2014
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It’s been a fascinating year for marketing, with so many trends evolving and so much debate about what the role of the marketer should now incorporate.  

Technology has inevitably been the main driver for change, but with customer experience and customer-centricity now very much a part of the CEO priority list, many marketers are experiencing a shift in focus: from outbound to inbound marketing.

That is nothing wholly surprising; wind back 12 months and most of the key trends for marketers were largely seen as the following: personalisation, data and metrics, mobile and social media monitoring – all with the aim of improving our understanding of inbound as part of the marketing mix. However, has a year developed what we know about these practices? We asked a panel of experts their views about what’s changed in 2014.

Data to drive decisions, not defend decisions
Bill Sullivan, European marketing lead, IBM interactive experience

“The biggest trend of 2014 has definitely been marketers “getting it” on data; the competitive advantages that appropriate data can deliver and the risks of failure if you don’t have or can’t use that data.

Our research tells us that over 3 quarters of consumers expect organisations to understand individual needs. There is a growing awareness that companies that don’t embrace this change and this demand face failure. We’ve all seen the rise of some companies and the demise of others.

The figures are there in cold hard facts: 70% of Fortune 1000 companies that were around 10 years ago don’t exist today.

“Today, it is about more than the singular, inspirational moment, it is about being able to change the game, at the speed of the customer expectation. So it’s no longer just the “what” that defines the winners and losers, it’s the “how”. How to take advantage of all the data in the world, and use it to provide a properly personalised experience.” 

Marketers steering business decisions
John Watton, director, digital marketing at Adobe EMEA

“Until now, marketers have been primarily using data to report on campaign success retrospectively, with the main objective being to prove their worth in the business and on the bottom line. We have seen this change in 2014 with advanced maths and algorithms more frequently used to inform decisions about how, when and where to best spend future marketing budget.

“The troves of multichannel data collected over recent years offers an intelligent view on the customer beyond targeting and personalisation, so marketers have got their hands on an invaluable crystal ball. Data insights, often accessed in real time, will offer marketers a pulse on the business so they will be better placed to steer business decisions.”

Marketing as science – predictive analytics
Matt Preschern, chief marketing officer at HCL Technologies

“Performance-driven analytics tools have become an increasingly important part of the marketer’s toolkit in 2014."

“Gone are the days when the success of a marketing campaign was measured solely in terms of clicks to a website, or audience reach. This emphasis on exploring the ‘science of marketing’ to measure ROI will go beyond merely demonstrating that the marketing function is accountable for its actions. Put simply, those who fail to deliver and demonstrate results won’t survive long enough to tell the tale.

Measurement takes prominence
Ian Simons, marketing director - capabilities, RSA Insurance

“For us in the insurance sector, the biggest development has been the need for measurement, and critically in commercial impact.

“The slow return to a growth economy and a still very challenging insurance market means that it is no longer possible to invest in marketing activity that cannot be clearly linked to a positive commercial outcome.

“We have always been good at measurement of marketing KPIs, but now we have to get better at translating these into meaningful commercial outcomes. This doesn't always have to mean just sales, however, it must link to a clear customer benefit, cost saving or other hard business outcome, rather than solely marketing measures.

“RSA has shifted to a single Net Promoter Score measure consistent across all businesses and functions, which has made it easier for us to see where our customers most value our propositions and where further focus is needed. Marketing functions have needed to work more closely with sales, customer service and other key functions to ensure marketing activity joins up and has visibility across the organisation.”

Content marketing not quite hitting the spot?
Scott Logie, Direct Marketing Association board member and partner, Mothership Group

“I’d like to nominate content marketing as the biggest non-trend in 2014.  Everyone predicted that this would be the year of content marketing but my view is that while many people still see it as a huge growth area (including me), it hasn’t taken off in the way that people hoped.  I think this is because it is hard.  Great content on its own won’t win; great direct marketing coupled with great content will.

“I think one really good aspect of content marketing becoming more prevalent is that everyone thinks about the who will digest content much more, and in a much more coherent way.  The knock on of this is that people also think more about the customer – does this content work for all our customers?  If not, why not?  What would work?  The only conclusion is to consider how to get to know the customer better to see what would work – a great innovation!

Inbound marketing and better use of social media
Peter Connell, managing director, CallPro CRM     

"One of the most fundamental shifts has been the move from outbound to inbound marketing.  Customers now have a wealth of information available at their fingertips and can easily do their research online. This means that it's more important than ever to develop an online presence which allows customers to find this content; in other words, aligning your content with their specific needs and interests.

"Inevitably this is impacting the way in which clients find the right prospects,  build leads and develop relationships.  In this climate, 'tele-nurturing'  - as opposed to 'tele-sales' is the way forward. That means enabling clients to have the right tools in place to build a relationship with a contact over a period of time. It's basically about taking a longer term approach to lead-qualification, in order to yield far better results.

"This was also the year when we saw the use of social media in B2B sales and marketing really come of age.  It's become integral to marketing strategies rather than an 'add-on' to the traditional mix. There's a neat logic to this; we want to do business with organisations that really understand us and our needs. Social media platforms play a powerful role in connecting  audiences with meaningful content that can really engage and add value to them."

"We've recognised that organisations need improved information from social platforms within CRM, and have developed tools to enable just this.  We have to help sales and marketing teams to really harness social selling techniques to find the right prospects, and build an ongoing dialogue with their customers."  

The rise and rise of mobile marketing
Simon Robinson, senior director marketing & alliances EMEA, Oracle Marketing Cloud

“Increased investment in mobile marketing has had a huge impact on the industry. More than 20% of all mobile traffic now goes to ecommerce sites, and 48% of emails in Q2 this year were read on a mobile or tablet device. A wider understanding of mobile’s impact on the overall customer journey has resulted in much higher investment from brands in the mobile experience.

“There is still a long way to go, but this investment is significant for several reasons. First, through mobile marketing programmes, you have access to a new data set that can tell you much more about your customers (e.g. location, browsing priorities). Second, mobile can allow you to deliver promotions to individual users through many more mechanisms (e.g. app, beacon). And third, through mobile, brands can reach customers wherever they are. The real clues aren’t just in the number of customers who are using mobile devices, or through which channel they are accessing your content on mobile. It’s about what they themselves are using their mobile device for in that moment. This is how brands can really connect with the customer.

“Transparency, relevancy and immediacy are the most important aspects of a client’s campaigns on mobile and we’ve been developing our services to support customers to achieve these principles. Three key areas of focus are: SMS, push notifications and responsive design. We found that over half of email opens are on mobile devices so it’s been absolutely vital for any of our clients that don’t already have responsively designed sites, to implement one. SMS continues to be a really effective and instant way to interact with customers on mobile – 95% of SMS messages are replied to within a matter of seconds. And push is an absolutely burgeoning area of opportunity, especially with more and more geo-fenced promotions being launched.”

Beacons shine the light for new tech
Ian Malone, CEO, Geemo

“Over the past year we have seen a number of retailers in the UK begin to ‘dip their toes in’ and trial proximity marketing technologies.  Most recently, we have seen one of the UK’s largest supermarket chains, ASDA, join an impressive array of retailers, including John Lewis, Tesco and Waitrose, to trial beacon technology across a selection of stores within the UK.

“This has demonstrated how marketers in the industry have seen the enormous potential afforded to them and the impact the subsequent benefits, such as an improved customer journey or increase in footfall in-store and ROI, has had within the retail technology space.

“Proximity marketing tools are not just a mechanism for delivering vouchers and coupons, but rather an innovative new method for retailers and businesses to better understand the needs and wants of their customer base, as well as notable patterns in buying behaviour. As we look to 2015, we predict that the increase in retailers trialling beacon technology will naturally lead to a change in people’s perceptions as it highlights just how important effective engagement through mobile devices has become in this digital age of hyper-connectivity.”

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