Is the term ‘digital marketing’ still valid in 2016? Is digital now so woven into the fabric of modern marketing that the ‘digital’ prefix has become superfluous? It’s an interesting debate, but certainly there are sufficient numbers still using the term that it’s probably not yet time to consign it to the dustbin just yet.
John Watton, EMEA marketing director at Adobe, for instance, recently said: “The phrase ‘digital marketing’ will not be around forever, but its time is not over yet and companies will still be talking about it in 2016.”
He elaborates: “We’ve seen in recent years the barriers between our physical and online worlds becoming weaker, and the growing use of in-store technologies (such as iBeacons and interactive displays) is a good example of how digital marketing has broken away from the confines of our computers and mobile devices. Eventually, just like cloud computing is becoming simply ‘computing’, we’ll see the same happen for marketing. However, until all marketers are cross-platform experts, organisations need dedicated digital specialists to lead the charge.”
So with digital marketing still on the agenda for at least another year, let’s take a look at what will be characterising this discipline in the coming year.
Social messaging apps will be embraced as customer engagement tools
Given the news that WhatsApp is to encourage interaction with brands, this prediction is already coming to pass.
Social messaging apps may be considered as purely private comms channels, but with WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger set to top 1 billion monthly active users this year, it is unsurprising that they would eventually be targeted as the latest tool to support social commerce.
“Brands are already seeing success across social networks like Instagram, so the rise of social messaging apps as a means for engaging customers with targeted products and offers, and providing support will be the next phase of this trend,” notes Nick Fletcher, director of multichannel services at Rakuten Marketing. “For example, YouGov found that 61% of customers aged 18-30 would prefer to communicate with their bank through WhatsApp.
“In 2016, brands will increasingly use social messaging apps to build personal and targeted relationships with customers and if executed correctly it could be highly successful. Already, Facebook is testing ‘M’, a personal assistant in Messenger, as well as providing payment capabilities and customer service feedback via the messaging app and it is likely to expand this service to WhatsApp in 2016.”
Marketers will start to take Internet of Things seriously as a data source
The Internet of Things (IoT) is appearing in most prediction lists this year – unsurprising, given that its adoption will only increase in the coming years. However, as it’s still in its infancy, don’t expect IoT to become a mainstream marketing tool this year. Nonetheless, 2016 will witness some exploratory work by leading-edge brands.
“The Internet of Things will continue to be a theme with tech getting smarter in general, including white goods like smart-fridges,” predicts Dan Cohen, regional director at Tradedoubler. “With the pool of devices available in the digital marketing mix growing, the amount of traffic will widen. Marketers need to ensure they allocate their digital budgets to the right channels and use customer insights to optimise across devices.”
Fletcher believes that smart marketers will already appreciate IoT’s potential for providing greater insight and personalisation.
“With adoption of the IoT expected to rise steadily in the coming years, these devices will become more available in our day to day lives. Marketers will then be able to tap into this detailed lifestyle data to foster loyalty, by providing a personalised customer experience across all touchpoints. Consumers already expect brands to recognise their shopping activities and personalise their experience through relevant messaging, products and promotions, and the data collected by these devices will enable marketers to build a much fuller picture of customer behaviour. The data will also assist automated and programmatic buying to make future transactions more efficient and effective.”
Ad blocking will force advertisers to up their game
2015 was the year that Apple launched iOS 9, the first update that allowed ad blocking software, and a move that was a wake-up call to the marketing world. As Fletcher notes, advertisers will be forced to raise their game in order to avoid being overlooked by customers with ad-blocking technology and leading-edge brands will view this as an opportunity to differentiate themselves from the competition.
He notes: “In 2016, it will become even more important for marketers to provide outstanding audience experiences and deliver relevant and targeted messages at all times. With consumers able to interact with and share feedback with marketers on a variety of different devices, as well as having the choice to ignore certain brands with ad-blocking technology, the winners in 2016 will be the brands that really know their customers. The smart choice for brands will be providing personalised content made for the individual and recognising the way customers search and shop for items, both offline and online.”
The demand for more data-driven leaders will increase
“As marketers squeeze the last drop of workflow efficiency out of programmatic advertising, they’ll look to optimise strategies to improve targeting efficiency in 2016,” suggests Neil Joyce, MD EMEA at Signal. Coupled with the increased use of Big Data across organisations, this will lead to a rise in data-related business challenges that need addressing in the coming year.
Joyce predicts: “In 2016, a new breed of data-driven leaders will emerge to help businesses leverage data to drive more value across the enterprise and mitigate hurdles such as silos and fragmented governance strategies.”
Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 20 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined MyCustomer in 2007.