The Big Focus for Marketers: Customer Experience

In 2016 and beyond advertisers & marketers will need to focus on improving the customer experience and marketing in a digital-first world.

Emerging channels like mobile, video, and social media gain traction among brands and advertisers. Meanwhile, issues surrounding ad view-ability and ad blocking became even more apparent. The marketing and advertising community will need to find solutions that satisfy all parties: publishers, marketers and especially consumers.

Marketing trends shaping the future of marketing in 2016.

1. Digital has become a top priority for marketers while traditional channels lag

As digital ad spending soars and spending on traditional media stagnates, digital media will be an even greater focus for marketers in 2016.

Pervasive changing customer behaviors” have made it so that there has to be “a digital consideration to all marketing. Being able to tie specific revenue outcomes to digital marketing initiatives is helping “close the loop” for marketers, and has driven marketers to shift where they spend their budgets.

Digital ad spending worldwide makes up nearly 30% of the overall ad market. The growth is having a negative impact on traditional channels such as print and TV.

The growth in digital and the stagnation (or even decline) in traditional media underscores an overarching trend that has dominated the last few years: Consumers and marketers are favoring new media.

Digital marketing is essentially “mainstream – the mindset should be about marketing in the digital world where digital is the default.

2. Marketers will have to think mobile-first

Today, mobile is already one of the fastest-growing media channels in history – marketers will need to prioritize it if they want to reach consumers on their own terms.

In the past five years alone, mobile has gone from an emerging trend to the new normal. Nearly two-thirds of Americans own smartphones, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center study, and that number seems likely to only rise in the next year.

Mobile’s surge has redrawn marketing budgets and strategies, ushered in new ad products and platforms, and caused a fundamental change in the relationship between brands and consumers.

In the last 18-24 months in particular, marketers have taken a “much more purposeful approach to mobile,” and are increasingly looking at how it affects the user experience and adds value to their business.

The migration to mobile has left marketers pondering how to adapt their campaigns to different ad formats even within mobile, such as in-app ads. These ads accounted for 10% of mobile ad dollars last year, representing an 80% year-over-year increase.

In the year ahead, consumer usage and better ad formats will continue to drive ad dollars toward mobile. Mobile will provide marketers a unique environment to gather multi-dimensional consumer data that can be used to better personalize messages.

As the buying process and the marketing funnel continue to evolve, brands that leverage this data to improve their mobile marketing efforts should reap the rewards.

3. Social media is becoming a mainstream marketing channel

Social media companies from Facebook to Snapchat are looking to bulk up their innovative ad offerings and continue growing into major players for ad dollars.

According to the Pew Research Center – 65% of adults used social media in 2015, nearly ten times the number in 2005. Facebook and Instagram alone make up 1 billion and 400 million users, respectively, while the micro-blogging network Twitter has 320 million and Snapchat boasted about 100 million daily active users mid-way through 2015.

Now that the big social companies have built engaged audiences, many are turning their attention towards monetizing them and helping marketers reach their target audiences.

Of all the social networks, Facebook is the most popular for marketers, according to Socially Aware data. The world’s largest social network has worked in recent years to become mobile-first and build out a top-notch ad system. Facebook’s data and targeting tools allow marketers to personalize their social campaigns at scale.

Instagram which shares parent Facebook’s data and targeting system, has become a favorite among fashion and beauty brands with its visual format. With offerings such as “carousel ads,” the photo-sharing app wants to give brand marketers the space and tools to attract consumers.

Twitter is looking to find ways to help marketers leverage the social audience it has built. A handful of updates, including its Moments feature, events targeting, and conversion metrics, positions it as a powerful channel for real-time engagement.

Meanwhile, Snapchat, the go-to messaging app for many younger users, has started to offer marketers ad spots and targeting abilities. The app has set itself apart with its highly-coveted – and highly-engaged – millennial and Gen Z user base.

Marketers are taking note: In the last year, marketing perceptions about social media have changed, with social now seen as a place where marketers can find highly-targeted audiences and track their campaigns with granular metrics.

As social platforms build out their ad offerings – with a particular focus on mobile and video – marketers are shifting their budgets towards social, eMarketer projected that social media ad spend would reach $25.14 billion by the end of 2015, a 40.8% jump from the $17.85 billion spent in 2014. That figure is only expected to climb higher in the coming years, with $41 billion projected by 2017.

An ongoing challenge for marketers persists: linking social media campaigns to sales. Socially Aware reports that nearly half of all marketing executives have thus far been unable to measure social media spending’s impact on their business. As social companies continue to improve their ad and measurement offerings, expect brands to leverage these audiences in fresh ways.

4. Online video will see its star shine bright

Online video is quickly becoming a vital channel for many marketers.

It’s simply easier to consume and audiences tend to prefer it for its efficiency. It’s also, generally speaking, more effective as a storytelling medium, creating the inspiration that drives action.

A recent study by Cisco Systems shows consumer video will account for 80% of all internet traffic by 2019. Consumer viewing habits are moving away from TV and toward streaming video.

New tech innovations are expected to drive the momentum in that medium. Social companies like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are finding ways to integrate powerful video offerings into their ad systems. A few budding areas include auto-play videos, native in-app video ads and live streaming.

In the next year, we will see the live video, or the streaming experience, become more powerful. People have a much greater desire for community, in the moment, shared experiences.”

From smartphones and tablets to desktop computers, video views are up across devices, making it ever more important for marketers to construct multi-platform video ad strategies.

A November 2015 study by Yahoo found desktop video views grew 34% over the last year, while tablet and mobile video views grew even faster – 48% and 55%, respectively. Building an ad experience that connects with consumers across devices is key.

5. The bleeding edge in digital marketing begins with augmented reality

There has been a lot of chatter around augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies lately.

Developers are rolling out new technologies, and the talk is turning to how brands and marketers might be able to use them for advertising purposes. While AR and VR – AR’s pricier and more complex older sibling – may not be mainstream marketing channels just yet, they shouldn’t be overlooked.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sees virtual reality as having a similar potential to smartphones.

In the future, AR technologies could help drum up attention around product launches and experiential events in a more tangible, complete manner. For example, Facebook already has several brands, including Disney and AT&T, advertising with its 360 degree video campaigns, which can be described as a VR “lite” experience for users. These immersive ads help marketers tell richer stories and give consumers new reasons to interact with the ads.

Virtual reality technology could also give B2B marketers a way to showcase large equipment to potential buyers at a lower cost. Think for example a Caterpillar tractor or GE jet engine – telling the “story” of a complex sale is a challenge when the buyer is unable to physically see or test the product. VR offers marketers a way to create a compelling visual story around big ticket items in a 3D environment, and can help create a virtual “try before you buy” experience.

Digital industrial giant GE has already used VR to transport clients on a tour of its oil and gas exploration and to events like the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston.

Marketers will be smart to keep an eye on AR and VR technologies and see if there are ways to test out their viability for their brands.

6. Brands and publishers are homing in on content marketing

With all the focus on the consumer experience, many brands today are looking to boost their content marketing strategies to build stronger relationships with their potential customers. As a result, content marketing will home in further on providing value to the consumer, as opposed to focusing primarily on the brand’s message.

Content marketing is how you rise above the noise – it is inherently consumer-centered.

It will be crucial for brands to make sure their messages are as native and personalized as possible.

One emerging area for brands looking to create content marketing is through user-generated content (UGC). Through UGC campaigns – in which consumers provide the content – brands can build loyalty among their target audiences while simultaneously figuring out what sort of messaging really resonates with them. By bolstering their campaigns with UGC, brands can tell original stories based in the consumer experience.

Gone are the days of million-dollar ad investments and one-directional marketing messages. User generated content will become more than just a buzzword, with organizations from large enterprises to ‘mom and pop’ small businesses seeking more effective and efficient ways to activate ‘brand advocates.'”

Beyond UGC, some see digital video and social media as the biggest game-changers in content marketing.

What sets social media apart is that it allows you to have a back and forth conversation with your customer, rather than brands just talking at consumers. If you’re doing it [content marketing on social] the right way, you’re inviting your consumers to post their own pictures and finished products from what they did with their purchase.

On the other side of the content marketing coin, publishers are increasingly taking branded content in-house and building out their own custom publishing units. Publishers see an opportunity to directly provide marketers with custom content, as they know their audiences best.

7. Data is essential to marketing

Data today has become essential to marketing, but marketers haven’t quite connected the dots between tracking data and then applying it.

Quantitative skills and inventive strategies make up the essence of the next generation of marketers.
The challenge is to sift through the data for meaningful signals that marketers can use.

While marketers have access to data like never before, much of the data is not available to them in a timely manner so it is very difficult for them to make data-driven decisions that truly have an impact on campaigns while they are being executed.

The solution lies in measurement. Standardizing measurement in a holistic and automated manner in the near term will make it possible for brands to make data-driven marketing decisions in real-time.

Real-time data management is the future of personalization. In order to achieve this, marketers need to leverage the most meaningful data specific to their audience. Filtering out meaningful signals may be a big task, but the end goal is clear: using the most pertinent data to better tailor marketing efforts to target audiences

In 2016, marketers will focus on smarter measurement and obtaining meaningful insights that will inform how marketers can better engage their target audiences.

8. Marketers look to boost personalization

Given the focus on customer experience and the potential for leveraging data, marketers should place a greater focus on personalized communications.

With the help of data, marketers who put highly-personalized campaigns in motion will be able to drive better results. The benefits of personalization include higher response and conversion rates, brand loyalty and repeat customers, amplified reach and increased relevance with today’s shoppers.

Consumers that are given a reason to share their personal information are often willing to do so, but they expect to see tangible benefits, such as tailored promotions, in return.

The challenge is that marketers’ perceptions of their personalization strategies don’t match the reality. Despite marketers’ best efforts to personalize their messaging, they often seem to fall short with consumers.

What’s missing is a more intimate understanding of the customer’s current needs, which comes from smarter measurements of existing data. With this information, marketers can better personalize their messages to customers and provide them with a better experience. Through personalization, brands have the opportunity to build brand loyalty and boost engagement.

With an eye on repairing the consumer-advertiser relationship, which needs to take priority in the year ahead, “a balance needs to be struck between sustainability and providing relevant and helpful advertising to the consumer,” DMA’s O’Keefe said. “The consumer may need to be willing to have ads appear in their feeds without ad blockers, but the onus is on publishers and marketers [to fix this].”

9. Smart marketers will focus on the consumer experience

The old adage goes, “the consumer is always right.” And with the rise of ad blocking, it is clear that there is still a disconnect between marketers and their audiences. The wide availability of information and resources makes it even harder for marketers to reach target audiences and easier for consumers to move onto the next best option.

Customer experience is that last durable way to build loyalty and advocacy with consumers. The perspective should be exclusively “how you serve customer needs, but only as they translate value to the business – meaning there needs to be a value-add on both ends of the transaction.

The marketing view should be from the outside in, rather than inside out.

Marketers should think about what consumers need and what they want to hear. This will position brands to better connect with consumers in the moments that matter most, he added. The customer experience should be looked at as “an opportunity to add convenience and reduce friction, while innovating your business model.

2016 will need to be the year of truly meaningful creative if brands want to reach their consumers in a way that resonates. Campaigns will need to be designed with a specific target individual and device in mind, and ads will have to contain tailored messages. As technology evolves, hyper-local targeting will also be necessary for activating specific audiences.

It’s time to say goodbye to one-size-fits-all creative.

Contact Radsick Ad Group for assistance with marketing your business to ensure the best customer experience.







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