Predictions: 17 digital marketing trends for 2017

What does 2017 hold for digital marketers? We ask a raft of industry experts from the marketing technology and industry community

4. Automation is married with authenticity

As marketing automation becomes part of every marketer’s DNA, there is a danger of neglecting the need for the customer’s experience and interactions to not only be personalised, but authentic.

“In this respect, technology such as advanced analytics to improve not only marketing effectiveness and generate more revenue per digital dollar spent, but to personalise messaging to individual prospects and customers based on a series of behaviours captured, is not just for big companies anymore,” Wong says.

“Every marketer should be well versed with advanced analytics as a key component in their toolbox as the rewards of advanced analytics are undeniable. Those who get it right are often reluctant to talk about their successes because it generates a competitive advantage they want to protect.”

In line with marrying automation with authenticity, digital marketers should focus on segmenting customers, predicting churn and retention, and forecasting the life-time value of the customer, Wong continues.

“Advanced analytics to derive customer profiling models are effective at revealing analogous groups of customers with like preferences and behaviours. By identifying patterns in the data generated by customers who churned in the past, machine learning forecasting can accurately predict which current customers are at a high risk to abandon.”

Promapp CMO, Sarah Berkowski, is putting the emphasis on automation as a crucial way to match customers with the appropriate content.

“For B2B marketers, mastering the evolving marketing automation capabilities and synchronising these efforts effectively with their sales teams will be key,” she says. “When managed effectively, the right content will be delivered to the right buyers at the right time, and marketing teams will deliver qualified leads who are ready to engage with a sales person.”

Related: 3 brands using marketing automation for more than just email

Related: How HBF rolled out marketing automation in eight months

5. Contextual marketing grabs the headlines

Experts will tell you that when you have context around your relationship with a contact, you're able to provide more personalised and relevant marketing content that's targeted at their needs. It’s for this reason that Sitecore’s Anderson believes 2017 will be the year of contextual marketing.

“While marketers cleverly define so many of the trends that we also pursue, 2017 will bring about a trend defined not by us, but by the consumers, themselves – context,” he says. “As consumers continually evolve how they use technology to manage every aspect of their lives, their needs are becoming clearer and clearer. With past year’s leaps in mobile, big data, and e-commerce – consumers increasingly want the brands they do business with to deliver what’s needed, when it’s needed, wherever is convenient for the consumer.

“Consumers want speed, convenience, and they want marketers to know who they are. That’s context and we’re going to see consumers demand it from us in 2017.”

6. Marketing technology stacks finally get integrated

Equally, 2017 will also be the year where we’ll finally see integrated marketing platforms.

“Core marketing tech platform elements will truly converge in 2017 bringing together the best of content management, marketing automation, analytics and more into integrated solutions,” Anderson predicts. “While businesses have to stitch together the components of their martech stacks today, native solutions are on the horizon which can eliminate technology headaches.

“Consumers will accelerate the shift. As consumers expectations for immediacy and personalisation are surpassing experiences delivered by traditional tech models the pressure for businesses to pivot upward will mount. 2017 will see the shift from data-driven marketing to marketing-driven data.”

Next Gen’s Savage expects further developments on the marketing platform front as vendors look to extend their overall service offering and reduce the need for cross-platform applications.

“With Salesforce’s investment in AI and recent purchase of Krux as examples, the race will be to extend single platform capability and I think we’ll see further penetration in platform take-up, particularly at the corporate level,” he says. “Snapchat’s potential IPO will be interesting in relation to its current paper valuation, which if realised could put other social platforms into play, particularly Twitter and LinkedIn and the potential value of their data.”

Related: Adobe debuts Advertising Cloud, Experience Cloud

Related: 7 steps Retail Food Group’s digital chief is taking to transform marketing

7. Digital transformation becomes a top priority - really

No doubt, with the advance of new technologies, more and more people are using online platforms to grow their business. Accenture’s O’Neill says 2017 will finally see compelling digital content becoming a global organisational priority as digital media allows consumers anytime and anywhere to take more control of their relationships with brands.

Consumers want speed, convenience, and they want marketers to know who they are. That’s context and we’re going to see consumers demand it from us in 2017

Sitecore's Scott Anderson

“Viewing the creation, production and distribution of content will become a key activity in itself, in need of not only creativity but discipline, instead of just an afterthought, is a first step to optimising its value,” he says.

ADMA’s Sangster said digital truly started to take off in 2016, and she expects more action in 2017.

“2016 saw a lot of investment in digital and digital transformation, understanding that you need to be truly effective in digital required investment in technology, which led to change in business structure and change in focus from the business and top-down buy-in in digital transformation,” she says. “I think many companies will start to see the fruits from the investment being made in 2017.”

Next Gen’s Savage urges marketers to think of the ‘big picture’ in terms of improving digital marketing prowess in 2017.

“Extend digital marketing capabilities across more business functions that touch the entire customer lifecycle. This will rely upon greater integration of marketing with other core areas, particularly digital, but also sales and general operations,” he advises. “Also know how to further leverage and consolidate known data to create a single customer view and then effectively use that to engage customers through one-to-one touchpoints.”

Read more: Heathrow Airport’s journey towards passenger personalisation

Read more: How Swinburne Uni’s CMO is orchestrating a digital marketing transformation

Read more: 6 ways Mercer’s CMO and CIO are addressing customer-led transformation – together

8. Brands become atomised

Accenture’s O’Neill also advises brands to look towards becoming atomised in the New Year. “Atomised brands take a less rigid approach to their products and services, allowing them to be super distributed across various platforms and third-party services, while still retaining their brand identity,” he explains.

“The most commonplace example is Spotify appearing within the Uber app, so you can stream your favourite music while being driven to your destination. Amazon is leading the way with Amazon Echo and its expandable ‘skills’, and the Amazon Dash Replenishment Service, which allows manufacturers to ensure customers never run out of laundry detergent, dog food or toilet paper.”

In order to create utility, fun and value for customers, O’Neill says brands must continue to build their own services, apps and platforms, but increasingly look outward to branded partnerships with others.

“Marketers are starting to incorporate atomised services into their branded applications, but what are they contributing back? Who will be the first supermarket to offer a shopping list Web service for other brands to consume, or the first bank to provide an API allowing for easy incorporation of banking services into other products?” he asks. “2017 will see some surprising partnerships between brands, combing their services in innovative ways to delight their customers, and win new ones.”

9. Big data actually delivers

For marketing organisations, big data is the fundamental consequence of the new marketing landscape, born from the digital world we now live in. Expedia A/NZ managing director, Michael Pearson, says the sophisticated use of big data, by tapping into seasonality based on the search and booking patterns of many, as well as data points from an individual’s travel preferences, will make more efficient personalisation possible in 2017.

“For us at Expedia, this results in ‘personalised’, relevant travel offers to an individual, at the right time, at scale. This approach does require universe of actions to align perfectly to get this right, and 2017 will be the year we nail it,” he says.

10. IoT and wearables increasingly shape customer experience

The Internet of Things (IoT) is also revolutionising business operations from logistics to marketing. Sitecore’s Anderson says IoT evolved from “an idea to a foundational fabric” in 2016.

“Fitness bands, driverless cars, connected kitchen appliances, and wearable ecosystems are slowly building steam across society – multiplying the number of consumer touch points by orders of magnitude and setting the stage for a coming transformation in digital engagements,” he comments. “While the growth of the mobile phone and tablet markets continues to expand, the types of connected devices beyond them are growing five times faster.

“Wearables alone are expected to grow by 11 times over the next five years and forecasts show 31.8 million connected cars on the road by 2020. Very soon, the interaction between a brand will move far beyond in-person, PC or mobile device. The very nature of the entire service experience will become integrated into the customers’ journey.

“Brands that are not rapidly building the foundation to engage seamlessly with customers across devices and channels in a micro-moment, will be caught flat-footed when all things become touchpoints with their consumers.”

Despite fears over data security and privacy, LogRhythm’s Wong says customers are jumping aboard the Internet of Everything.

“Increasingly, average technology users will come to expect the convenience of connectivity from everyday objects, along with mobile access to those objects and their data. This alone will be a huge driver as end-users make a collective beeline for digital versions of the activities that power everyday life — banking, shopping, health management, entertainment, socialising, education, productivity and many others,” she says.

“Marketers will need to address the skyrocketing demand for online, and particularly mobile, interactions with customers.”

11. Programmatic becomes the norm

Programmatic captured lots of attention in 2016, and Expedia’s Pearson expects the automated media buying approach to move from ‘new’ to ‘norm’ in the New Year.

“Automation is revolutionising the media buying process and challenging legacy processes,” he says, adding attribution is key. “Understand how your channels are working for you is critical to making the right investment decisions. This is even more important with digital media becoming addressable via programmatic marketplaces.”

Digital marketers should also place more emphasis on cross-device reporting and analytics – tracking the full customer journey across look-to-book, as well as creative brand building that strives to deliver both ‘the feels’ and a click, Pearson says.

Indago Digital managing director, Gary Nissim, agrees the rise of programmatic is a big game changer. He points to the movement towards programmatic digital TV buying as a case in point.

“This will transform the purchase of the medium and has the potential to place TV buying into the hands of digital agencies that have pre-existing skillsets,” he claims.

Read more: CMO interview: Why programmatic actually matters to brand marketers

Read more: The 4-point plan needed to address media supply chain chaos

12. Bots bridge the voice-to-digital gap

ADMA’s Sangster encourages marketers to investigate chatbots and voice-to-text technologies in order to create powerful marketing strategies going forward.

“You have technology such as virtual reality and bots all moving very fast, and one that marketers really need to keep their eye on is moving the idea from text-based approach to voice such as Siri. This is going to change the way we communicate with our customers,” she says.

Related: How to use chatbots commercially right now

Related: Why conversational commerce is going to reshape customer engagement

Up next: Our last 5 digital marketing predictions for 2017

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