Digital Trends in 2016

It’s that time of year again when indus­try experts and busi­ness­es tell us where they think the mar­ket­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for 2016 lie. But before we start look­ing at next year’s trends, it would be use­ful to look at what has hap­pened this year.

Undoubt­ed­ly the biggest mar­ket­ing con­ver­sa­tion of the year has revolved around cus­tomer expe­ri­ence and what deliv­er­ing this means to com­pa­nies. In the 2015 trends sur­vey, cus­tomer expe­ri­ence was rat­ed sig­nif­i­cant­ly high­er than any oth­er option as the ‘most excit­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty’. In fact it was total­ly dom­i­nant when the respon­dents were asked about the man­ner in which organ­i­sa­tions are going to dif­fer­en­ti­ate them­selves in the next five years. To many, deliv­er­ing great cus­tomer expe­ri­ence is the core mar­ket­ing objective.

There are a num­ber of clear themes in the CX con­ver­sa­tion that have emerged in 2015. They reveal how com­plex an issue this is for mar­keters in the 21st Cen­tu­ry. Many of the more inter­est­ing con­ver­sa­tions have been about defin­ing what peo­ple mean by ‘cus­tomer expe­ri­ence’ and more impor­tant­ly who is respon­si­ble. UKTV CMO Simon Michaelides per­haps put it best in an inter­view on when he said “any­body who is respon­si­ble for chang­ing or influ­enc­ing a customer’s mind is part of mar­ket­ing and part of deliv­er­ing the cus­tomer experience”.

Deliv­er­ing CX is wide­ly accept­ed to involve cul­ture, tech­nol­o­gy and exe­cu­tion. But it is increas­ing­ly also seen to involve design and the actu­al mechan­ics of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Jon Hunter, Head of Design at TfL, said at the recent Adobe Design Advan­tage Forum: “Every­thing we do has been designed and we use that to insert a sense of cus­tomer care into our prod­ucts and communication”.

Many organ­i­sa­tions that are grap­pling with deliv­er­ing excel­lent CX accept that, ulti­mate­ly, there is a require­ment to approach this holis­ti­cal­ly. This in turn means that they have to ensure that their process­es and tech­nolo­gies are har­monised and linked across the business.

The 2015 sur­vey showed that there is enor­mous opti­mism about how tech­nol­o­gy will change mar­ket­ing. There is a dis­tinct con­trast between those things that are excit­ing now and those that will be excit­ing in five years’ time, with the lat­ter being pre­dom­i­nant­ly those areas that are facil­i­tat­ed by tech­nol­o­gy like per­son­al­i­sa­tion and the use of data. Cus­tomer expe­ri­ence still reigns supreme.

There are two oth­er inter-linked ideas that show how mar­ket­ing issues are creep­ing out into the broad­er busi­ness and have, in some cas­es, come to dom­i­nate dis­cus­sion about busi­ness strat­e­gy itself. This year, both dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion and dis­rup­tion have been high on the agen­das of many mar­ket­ing con­fer­ences and forums.

Like dis­cus­sions about cus­tomer expe­ri­ence, trans­for­ma­tion and dis­rup­tion entail a com­plex set of mov­ing objects. Find­ing appro­pri­ate and speedy respons­es to the chal­lenges posed by each involves an organ­i­sa­tion-wide debate — and an organ­i­sa­tion-wide solu­tion. 2015 saw these con­ver­sa­tions becom­ing main­stream – fol­lowed almost imme­di­ate­ly by a renewed focus on the tech­nol­o­gy that enabled them.

What was also obvi­ous is that these con­ver­sa­tions high­light­ed the chang­ing role of the mar­ket­ing team, and the asso­ci­at­ed dis­cus­sion about its struc­ture. It’s prob­a­bly fair to say that few mar­ket­ing teams have made the entire tran­si­tion, but it did become obvi­ous that the teams of the future would include whole new species of mar­keter, such as the mar­ket­ing sci­en­tist and the mar­ket­ing data ana­lyst. These new team mem­bers are unlike­ly to come from a tra­di­tion­al mar­ket­ing background.

This brings up the third of the big top­ics for 2015. Data is still being talked about. If any­thing it was more of a cen­tre of atten­tion than it had been in any of the pre­vi­ous years. In 2015 the tone of that con­ver­sa­tion changed. Where­as before 2015 ‘data’ was seen as some­thing slight­ly scary and dif­fi­cult, dur­ing the last 12 months the effec­tive use of data has been seen as some­thing essen­tial to under­write the oth­er core mar­ket­ing sub­jects. It’s still seen as dif­fi­cult though!

Those are the key top­ics of this year, but there are a num­ber of oth­ers that war­rant a brief men­tion. The growth of bea­cons and geo-loca­tion has been an inter­est­ing sub-text to the ongo­ing con­ver­sa­tion about mobile. Mobile itself is ubiq­ui­tous, every sta­tis­tic or sur­vey in 2015 showed the rise in usage, impor­tance and impact of mobile platforms.

There is a buzz around the Inter­net of Things – although, inter­est­ing­ly, much of the focus on IoT resides away from IoT as a mar­ket­ing tool. It’s like­ly that the con­ver­sa­tion will expand and cer­tain that at some point we mar­keters will be talk­ing about IoT in the same terms as we now talk about mobile. Pre­dict­ing exact­ly when, will be fun.

So that’s a short review of 2015. What is clear is that the world of mar­ket­ing is becom­ing ever more com­plex and that great mar­ket­ing teams of the next few years will be very dif­fer­ent from their predecessors.

We would love you to tell us your thoughts for the next year. Please take the sur­vey and let us know.