Posted: Thursday 4th February 2016 in Owned and earned media, Paid Media, Retail Strategy, Thought Leadership.

We are now into the second month of 2016, and digital marketing predictions for the year ahead are everywhere. While the theories are interesting to read, many lack the real evidence and rationale needed in order to take action, and are often written by generalists who do not operate in the industry of digital. At Summit we think differently, so instead of listing my personal predictions I have gauged the opinions of my colleagues who work on the front line of digital every day, and collated their expectations for 2016 and beyond.

Increased adoption of first party customer data in marketing

What is it?

Data, data, data – this year data is going to be integral for brands to really get to know their customers. First party data from retailers can now be utilised to inform tactics and create a smarter buying journey.

What does this mean for retailers?

Retailers are going to be able to take their CRM data and plug it into all of their online marketing activity, meaning they will have more control and understanding of when best to target a customer with a specific marketing message to reactivate, upsell and increase retention rates. This development comes as no surprise, with Google recently launching customer match and planning more audience-based solutions to be rolled out throughout 2016.

What next?

Retailers need to ensure that they are harnessing all of the data that is available to them about their customers, for example using information stored in wishlists, email sign-ups and brochure requests. As soon as the data is all in order, it can be used to make marketing strategies smarter, and ultimately more profitable.

Emergence of Instagram for Paid Social

What is it?

Instagram’s popularity continues to grow and grow, with paid-for advertising on the platform becoming something that some brands just cannot afford to miss out on.

What does this mean for retailers?

Retailers are already beginning to invest in Instagram alongside the usual social suspects; Twitter and Facebook. Instagram’s rich ad format is likely to be particularly attractive to premium brands, and will become an ever-growing part of retailers’ social media strategies. Instagram is a Facebook-owned company which utilises the same interface and targeting data. This granular control and targeting will allow advertisers to leverage the platform to achieve reasonable ROI.

What next?

Retailers need to ensure they have high quality and engaging imagery to really make an impact on this social platform.

Smart Content

What is it?

As we reported last year, content is key for customer engagement, and this year retailers will continue to explore and invest more on interactive content features that enhance the customer’s journey. We expect in 2016 there will be a special focus on mobile applications. Recent examples include L’Oréal’s Make Up Genius, Brilliance’s 3D Ring-fitting app and IKEA’s virtual showroom. Expect lots more experimentation over the coming months.

What does this mean for retailers?

The content bandwagon continues to roll on, and retailers cannot afford to get left behind. What was once thought of as a gimmick rather than a strategy, has now become a proven technique that can be used to enhance user-experience and ultimately lead to customers being more likely to buy.

What next?

Retailers need to ensure all of their in-house and 3rd party teams such as online PR, content, brand and social are invested in the creation of content and are working together to create amazing cross-channel hard-hitting content campaigns.

Increase in Bing market share

What is it?

Bing’s market share has recently reached 16%, and the growth of the lesser-used search engine cannot be ignored.

What does it mean for retailers?

Retailers should make the most of lower CPCs and the Bing-specific audience before competitors get wise to the growth in the market share.

What next?

Retailers should take a look at the current performance of Bing and ensure they are distributing spend appropriately across search engines. We’d recommend doing this sooner rather than later, especially with the release of Windows 10. Bing are expecting their market share to continue to increase, and are aiming to have 1 billion users by 2018, so make use of the cheaper traffic while you can!

Mobile growth and cross-channel tracking

What is it?

Mobile has grown hugely over the past few years and will continue to do so as people become more confident purchasing on mobile devices. The average consumer now looks at their phone 150 times per day!

What does this mean for retailers?

Retailers need to fully understand the role that mobile plays within their customer journey and marketers need to become savvier about how to leverage this behavior. It will also be essential to apply cross-channel tracking in order to support spending more budget in this area.

What next?

They key is in understanding the importance of each device for customers and how this is evolving every year.

Increased shift in budget from paid media to earned and owned

What is it?

Delivering to a return on investment target is becoming more challenging through paid media, meaning we are seeing increased investment in areas such as content, PR and outreach to enhance natural search performance.

What does this mean for retailers?

Retailers who are investing more into their earned and owned media strategies are definitely looking to the future. Not only are they safeguarding the natural development of their SEO strategy, they are also developing as a brand; adapting how they communicate with their customers and enhance the user journey.

What next?

Investing in the longevity of a great content strategy has become one of the most impactful ways to drive traffic to a brand.  Retailers need to evaluate their paid media budgets to understand if it would be more cost-effective to invest more heavily in content in 2016.

Growth of in-house teams for paid media

What is it?

More brands are taking their digital marketing, specifically paid media, in house, using 3rd parties to provide consultancy around best practice, technology, actionable insights (driven by data) and media partner recommendations.

What does this mean for retailers?

Sharing knowledge and expertise with partners in digital marketing rather than simply using agencies really empowers retailers to drive their online strategies forward.

What next?

Once you get to a certain level of spend in-house marketing is definitely worth thinking about. Over the last year we have supported many of our clients on this journey and we expect for this to become more common throughout 2016..

Local, local, local

What is it?

There is no denying that online and offline retailing are becoming more aligned, and the tactics used in both areas are being recognised as hugely impactful on each other.

What does this mean for retailers?

The value of digital for offline sales is always a tricky to fully understand, but is a vital consideration nonetheless. We live in a multi-channel world where customers no longer go online; they live online! Understanding the impact of your digital activity at a local level, and its influence on offline behavior, is a fundamental part of any digital strategy. Measurement can be a challenge, with many retailers only able to partially track customers through check and reserve payment options.

What next?

With the ever-growing availability of data and technologies that increase understanding of customer movements between the online and offline worlds, there is no excuse not to invest time and effort in this area. Even just looking at store visits and Local Inventory Ads in search (two recent Google product launches) will help.

 

The above are just a few themes that are on the radar of the teams here at Summit, but one thing for sure is that all the trends, technologies and focus areas are pointing towards a customer first attitude. Retailers that adapt and move quickly in developing their understanding of their customers will be ahead of the curve in 2016.

If you would like to discuss any of these trends or challenges further, please contact Anwar Sultan on 01482 876876.

 


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