Computers and artificial intelligence have come along at an exponential rate over the past few decades, from being regarded as oversized adding machines to the point where they have played integral roles in some legitimately creative endeavours.
As we head into 2017, the push towards digital is more paramount than ever, and marketers must put digital capability, skills, media spend and content front and centre of their efforts.
To find out just how brands plan to do that, CMO caught up with three of Australia’s leading brands - L’Oreal, Helloworld and Expedia – to ask them for their marketing predictions for 2017 and how they are crafting their 2017 strategies amidst an ever-changing market.
L’Oreal: Putting the emphasis on digital creative and content
Global cosmetics company, L’Oreal, is on a mission to beef up its digital play, according to A/NZ head of digital and marketing, Christophe Eymery, who highlights a number of things marketers should focus on to improve their digital marketing prowess in 2017.
For starters, marketers need to focus on beefing up the digital creative and content.
“After shifting their investment from traditional channels to focus more on digital media investment, marketers will need to improve their digital creative and make sure that it is relevant for those new channels,” he says.
“It has taken decades to nail it for TV. They need to go faster for digital but it is inevitably a learning curve to understand what works in YouTube and the various social media networks. It is not-one-size-fits-all. Online measurement helps to understand what works and what does not work. However, as the recent reporting issues with video metrics from Facebook illustrate, it is not that simple as digital measures lack reliability and defining clear KPIs is challenging.”
Eymery says marketers will need to continue encouraging the key media owners to offer more transparency and independent third party ad tracking. “It is vital to build trust in the new dominant channels and leverage reliable metrics to optimise creative.”
Asked what big milestones and game changers for digital marketers in 2016 will shape 2017, Eymery says consumers will get more of an opportunity to experience augmented reality (AR).
“As Google and Facebook deploy new ad products leveraging 360-degree immersion and augmented reality, and as consumers start to embrace these new formats, there will be an opportunity for advertisers to start exploring that opportunity to engage at scale,” he says.
“The digital journey over the past 10 years has been towards more and more engaging ad formats. Online video is the latest form and reaching maturity. Contrary to TV distribution, online video offers a more engaging format but still today it is mainly used as an extension of a TV campaign.”
And while there’s still a concentrated digital media landscape, Eymery points to a rise in the number of media challengers.
“For the past two years, the digital media market has been dominated by Google and Facebook/Instagram. Snapchat is becoming a serious challenger in the social media space with a more innovative digital creative platform which is getting serious traction among the new generation of the millennials,” Eymery claims.
“In parallel, traditional media players like Vogue have proven successful in reinventing themselves in the digital age helping them to win their share of the digital marketing investment mix. As digital content becomes the key focus post media spend mix shift, the successful digital content owners will play a key role in 2017 to help marketers continue their journey in digital transformation of their communication to consumers.”
Eymery recommends digital marketers also place more emphasis in 2017 on precision marketing and leverage technology that will have a more personalised communication with consumers more consistently across all touch points.
“This requires marketers to integrate CRM and media buying more,” he says. “They are often managed separately and there is a lack of investment in technology platforms that helps connect it all into one ecosystem. But the priority for digital marketers will be to bridge that gap in 2017.”
Helloworld: Focusing on the in-house fundamentals
National travel retailer, Helloworld, is focusing on the fundamentals in 2017, according to its digital marketing manager, George Andreolas.
“Marketers can become obsessed with trying new channels and technologies, but I think the focus in 2017 should be on the fundamentals. This includes measuring, validating and testing everything; understanding more about the path to purchase, rather than the first or last touch; and where possible, consolidating tech platforms to streamline resource and generate further insights,” he says. “With these fundamentals in place, any opportunity or technology, new or otherwise can be assessed on its merit.”
Asked for his views on game changers for digital marketers in 2017, Andreolas cited the move to bring more functions in-house.
“Many of my industry colleagues who are client-side are bringing certain functions, previously the exclusive realm of agencies, in-house. I believe this trend has gained momentum in recent years and will force agencies to evolve their offerings as clients continue to become more savvy,” he says.
“I also think the demand client-side for those with agency experience, particularly buyers, analysts and tech integration specialists, will increase.”
For Andreolas, the biggest drivers of digital transformation include not only changing consumer behaviour and consolidation of technologies, but competition.
“Five years ago, only the most progressive businesses were retargeting, personalising Web experiences, building mobile-first. Now it seems every mum and dad small business is doing this,” he continues. “The bar has been raised and I think the real shift has been in the participation/saturation of digital within businesses of all levels. For big businesses in hyper-competitive markets, the speed of change can be a challenge and how they adapt their structures and processes to leverage new opportunities will ultimately determine their success or failure.”
Rather than any technical competency, Andreolas says digital managers need to place more emphasis on being more emotionally mature and politically astute than ever in 2017.
“As the gap between the digital haves and have nots widens, access to new technologies and opportunities can come at a high cost and those who are able to influence those both across and above them in their organisation will find success,” he adds.
Expedia: A top five of digital marketing predictions
Expedia A/NZ managing director, Michael Pearson, has five digital marketing predictions for 2017. The first is that programmatic will move from ‘new’ to ‘the norm’.
“For data-driven businesses, programmatic is the norm 2017. Automation is revolutionising the media buying process and challenging legacy processes,” Pearson says.
Pearson’s second prediction is that big data is finally going to deliver. For example, sophisticated use of big data in the travel space, which taps into seasonality based on the search and booking patterns of many, as well as data points from an individual’s travel preferences, is making more efficient personalisation possible.
“For us at Expedia, this allows us to serve personalised, relevant travel offers to an individual, at the right time, at scale,” he says. “This approach does require universe of actions to align perfectly to get this right, and 2017 will be the year we nail it.”
Multiple device marketing, and measurement momentum, is also set to soar in 2017, Pearson says.
“Making digital marketing - and the back-end analytics - seamless remains a challenge. In 2017 we’re overdue for true ‘omni-channel’ approaches delivering a better customer experience, and aligned data and attribution models to kick in,” he comments.
Pearson’s fourth prediction around digital marketing is that test-and-learn processes will increasingly capitalise on data.
“At Expedia, we always ‘follow the data’: its core to the way we operate and the way we make decisions about what’s working, and what’s not, and it’s important because the data is actually informing us about what people read, react to, click on, and book,” he says. “Taking a test-and-learn approach means committing to the scientific method to track results. Test a digital marketing approach, learn from the data, and make decisions about future activity based on the insights gained. Gut feel doesn’t cut it anymore.”
But despite all the technology and data innovation occurring, digital marketing still needs to trigger an emotional feeling, and Pearson says creativity has never been more important than in a data-driven digital world.
“Knowing your target audience well, and attracting their attention with a personalised, relevant message, whether this is achieved through an image, video, copy, or a great travel deal that appeals is at the core of success,” he says.
“We need to make digital innovation fun and interesting. For example, At Expedia, we’re trialling Facebook bots that help us deliver new ways to engage with people, help them find what they need quickly.”