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 CMO.com 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.
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