The business environment today is quite complex and customer groups are diverse, well-informed, and demanding; characteristics of people with high expectations, and zero tolerance towards businesses that fail to deliver. Remaining visible and relevant to such customers is not an easy feat, and it requires making profound changes in how businesses market themselves in the coming year.
There are certain trends that are expected to dominate and shape marketing activities in 2016. Following these trends will lead to better interaction with customers, and result in increased conversions, and consequently, more revenue and greater profits.
1. Customer Experience Will be Paramount
The online environment makes it very difficult for businesses to stand out, simply because it offers a plethora of choices. What distinguishes successful businesses from mediocre ones is customer experience. All processes will need to be streamlined to such an extent that they make the entire purchasing process hassle-free and painless for the customers. This is no news, even though some businesses have been making painfully slow progress in this area.
What is different in 2016 is the fact that marketers will need to get more involved. Campaigns will have to be tailored around customers, taking into account their desires and needs, and good businesses will see their communications and marketing budgets increase significantly in order achieve the required minimum of customer integration and interaction.
2. Marketing Will Need to Produce Real Engagement
Ad blockers are probably the worst nightmare of all businesses that rely too heavily on outbound marketing. In truth, they are a God-sent for all Internet users. They allow us to control what we see. In the future, if you want your ad to count for anything you will have to make a real effort.
All businesses that want to reach customers will need to avoid in-your-face campaigns that trigger ad blockers by creating advertisements that drive relevant content, encourage social engagement, and don’t interrupt customer’s browsing experience.
3. Virtual Reality Will Gain More Traction
There have been huge advancements in the world of virtual reality over the last few years, and especially in 2015. Though virtual reality is currently used widely in the gaming industry, companies that sell every day consumer goods, and are interested in selling a ‘real’ experience’ will explore virtual reality and try to incorporate it into their marketing strategy.
Completely new services will emerge, creating new industries, and destroying the ones that fail to adapt. All businesses should start carefully examining to which extent they can be harmed by VR, or how to use it to their advantage.
4. Social Media Marketing is Here to Stay
Social media marketing is slowly becoming an irreplaceable part of every marketing mix, a trend that will only continue to grow in 2016. Soon, it will become as basic as lead generation, or cold calling. Businesses that are still struggling with the concept will have to adapt fast if they do not wish to get overrun by their competition.
Incorporating social media marketing into the marketing mix will see a shift of resources, manpower allocation, and sales effort, so businesses will have to have solid footing in order to handle the changes that are looming. Getting more familiar with the techniques, tactics, and overall purpose of social media marketing should be a priority for all businesses. Ignoring it will mean ignoring a significant consumer population (millennials) that has adopted social media as its primary source of information.
5. Retail Will go More Omni-Channel
Products will need to be available across the board, so businesses running brick-and-mortar stores will have to venture into that bright, new –actually old – online world. As customers are getting accustomed to shopping online, foot traffic will decrease, and lack of presence in the online world may cause them to loose otherwise faithful customers. Going Omni-channel will ensure that they are present, discoverable, and easier to buy from.
6. Big Data =Bigger Role=the Biggest Responsibility
While it is easier today to mine and analyze data than it ever was, it’s also easier to misinterpret it. Up-and-coming marketers today believe that no analytical skill is required to pour through tens of different metrics coming from numerous sources, and to incorporate those findings into their marketing decisions. Seasoned dogs beg to differ.
Since data-driven decisions are more accurate, it stands to reason that they yield better results, so make sure you know your numbers and that you know how to interpret them correctly.
7. Greater Optimization for Mobile
Statistics and reports show that browsing on mobile is bigger than browsing on desktop, so it is quite baffling to see so many businesses that have webpages that are still not optimized.
As more and more people upgrade to smartphones in 2016, it will become very important to have a responsive and mobile-friendly page. And there is no excuse for not making this effort; most webpages can easily be converted into a mobile-friendly format, and there are even plug-ins that do it automatically for new pages. Even if the transition is difficult, it will pay off in the long run, especially for e-commerce websites. A significant portion of the population is now accustomed to buying things right from their phone, and having an unresponsive page costs you money!
8. Content, Content, Content.
Emphasis on content continues. Customers will be looking for relevant content with real interactive stories from influencers and real people who are sharing their experiences. This will force businesses to shift their efforts towards platforms where customers are discussing their purchases and finding relevant information. Going forward, content will need to become even more engaging and personable since customers will have less and less time, and will be even less inclined to sift through fluff and filler. 2016 will make content even more relevant, but we also suspect that it will push it more and more towards new platforms.
9. Non-Conventional Marketing Channels Will Thrive
Millennials will devote less time to reading – which is already the case- and their focus will shift toward video sharing platforms. All businesses targeting that specific consumer group will have to make the same marketing shift. YouTube and other video sharing platforms will gain even more popularity simply because the content delivered there is more personable and fun. Businesses that adapt to this successfully will be the ones that have mastered the art of social media marketing, and know how to use ‘shares’ and ‘likes’ to drive content and have it go viral.
To remain competitive in 2016, businesses will need to ‘up the ante’ when it comes to delivering content that is relevant and speaks to the customers. It will also be more important to create and run specifically tailored, unique, and fun campaigns. All businesses not adapting to changes will have a tough time cutting through the competition to reach their customers.