“Making predictions is hard.” – A late Finnish football coach.
Around the turn of the year it is however equally hard not to think about upcoming events and rising trends.
Here are the eight hottest phenomena we think will change digital marketing in 2017.
1. AI revolutionizes digital marketing
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is widely expected to be the biggest revolution in digital marketing since the Internet. AI won’t take our jobs anytime soon, but it will influence what we do in our jobs. By leaving the most time-consuming and logic-based jobs to AI, marketers can free up time to think creatively and ensure that AI efforts are aligned with strategic goals.
Two things that we can be sure to see more of in the next year are:
- Adoption of AI as a service. AI-based products are built into more and more vendor applications and there are plenty of open source libraries to use.
- Changing marketing from one-way communication to a customer dialogue as a results of AI language processing (e.g. chatbots) allowing us to do this with minimal human effort.
2. It’s all about customer experience
Even if your company might be able to deliver a “personalized” email (often simply meaning addressing a receiver with his or her first name), it doesn’t mean you have hit the jackpot in delivering great Customer Experience.
The ability to engage with an individual with relevant timing and with great content throughout the customer’s entire journey cannot be built in one month. It’s the truth regardless of how many touch points there are, what transactions or activities your customer has or has not done online or offline over short or long period of time. In 2017, leading marketers will be taking steps towards optimizing their Customer Experience through personalized content and with new way of operating content.
3. Multichannel marketing becomes a norm
The number of touchpoints where we can reach our customers has continued to grow at an astonishing speed over recent years. We as marketers have often enthusiastically ran after these different opportunities to engage with our customers. Yes, we all know what this causes – unconnected customer experience.
Today, we have luckily slowly started to see a shift in thinking: from a focus on channels to a focus on audiences. In practice this means that instead of communicating to different channels (and to the consumers that happen to be there), leading companies are increasingly building audiences and engaging with them across channels.
The change has been largely enabled by the increasing sophistication of marketing and advertising technologies. For example, through the development of data management platforms, we can more and more easily build customer journeys across own media (e.g. email) and bought media (e.g. display advertising). Going forward, companies which are able to build engaging customer journeys with the right audiences across different channels are sure to gain a competitive advantage.
4. Social media analytics go beyond engagement
”The picture is good and the text is catchy, but does it bring any value to us?”
Social media analytics are getting more powerful, precise and easier to use. Marketers are going beyond engagement rate because they are in desperate need of tools for measuring the quality of content and the most important – ROI.
Instead of measuring single indicators of engagement like clicks or likes, we should go further and focus on tracking the whole customer path on its multiple touchpoints. Rather than staring at the number of shares we should find out how many leads or purchases the post actually generated.
The numbers should always be viewed in context with one another to understand the visitor’s true motives. Proving the campaign successful is only possible when we know what happens after the click.
5. Martech budgets continue to grow
Gartner’s much-cited prediction that marketing will become the largest buyer of IT services is becoming true in 2017. Martech and related services will represent 28% of marketing budgets next year. How much will you invest?
6. Augmented Reality moves beyond gaming
Pokémon Go proved that consumers are ready for augmented reality. Next year will see more brands coming out with AR related products and applications. VR technology is yet to be truly democratized, but it already has massive marketing potential to expand storytelling and take people closer to experiences than ever before.
7. The potential of Account Based Marketing is finally realized
ABM has become the buzzword of B2B marketing. But is it only a fad?
We think it’s something more profound. It’s finally possible for companies to execute ABM at scale, thanks to evolving marketing technologies. Furthermore, ABM requires that marketing and sales finally speak the same language. It’s no longer only about leads, as marketers need to understand how to target chosen accounts in similar manner as sales does.
The benefits of ABM range from better resource allocation to improved pipeline metrics. It’s not just about technologies (which are important), but about a new mindset that drives sales results better than ever before.
8. Marketers start to use their own data in advertising
The world where you separate advertising from other customer communication is becoming a thing of the past. You need to start combining these two to serve the customer on his or her customer journey to reach the experience they are expecting from a brand of today. This is where new technologies, such as DMPs, play a significant role.
Strongly linked to this is the exponential increase in programmatic ad buying. When marketers start to use their own data in advertising, the buying is always carried out programmatically and run by the company’s own buying desk or external agencies.
New capabilities, roles and way of working are needed as the customer experience runs your business and where data has become the glue in your operations. Some capabilities need to be implemented within organizations while others can be outsourced to new types of agencies. The change is not easy, but it is crucial to any company that aims to be a pioneer in data driven marketing and advertising.