In today’s fast-changing marketplace it’s easy to become blinded by the glare of the many digital trends demanding your attention. An industry secret: Trends aren’t really the point — opportunities are.
What follows are 10 key digital trends currently gaining traction and shaping consumer attitudes, plus 10 ideas marketers can put into action today to ensure that they are ready for what’s next.
1. Meet the “Prosumer.”
Trend “Prosumer” (professional + consumer) refers to the hundreds of millions of consumers who buy services and tools that help them create or do things better. Think Instagram, which let people improve photo quality — without the learning curve and time barriers associated with using professional design software.
Action Try kicking off your next brainstorming session by asking how your products and services are providing consumers with the instant skills (and corresponding status fix) they demand. Or provide a tool that allows your customers to be informed without requiring extensive research.
2. Stop relying on Google.
Trend Make no mistake about it: Google is the king of search engines and unlikely to be dethroned anytime soon. That being said, the rise of up-and-comers like Duck Duck Go indicates that consumers want alternatives — a choice to not depend on Google if they don’t want to.
Action Marketers should take heed. Google is one basket, but it doesn’t necessarily deserve all your marketing eggs. While search engine optimization is important, a searcher can accomplish his or her goals by other means than Google. Rely less on Google and more on direct forms of interacting with your target market.
3. Up your mobile game.
Trend With smartphones and tablets accounting for about 60% of all web searches, it’s impossible to overstate the ubiquity and importance of mobile search, optimization and conversions. Mobile devices and our collective addiction to them are fixtures of the modern marketing era. Mobile is the method of the masses, and it must be a priority of marketers.
Action The question is no longer, should I build an app? Companies understand that responsive design is now a priority. Think about all of the existing web content you have yet to leverage for mobile, and start there.
4. Be a social butterfly.
Trend It’s no longer a matter of discussion: The power of social networks is real and here to stay. For e-commerce and lead-generation sites, social media provides a growing opportunity to improve conversion rates and gain new conversion channels.
Action Make sure you are engaging in best practices that encourage dialogue on social channels. Ask questions that solicit conversation. Use quick surveys to collect insights. End result: Stop talking to yourself.
5. Don’t dismiss new ways to pay.
Trend The use of new forms of real-time tools and data to help consumers seamlessly share costs — not just for products, but also for services and experiences — is growing. With companies like Starbucks now processing more than seven million mobile phone payments a week in the U.S., the public is in for a new experience in payment methods, and the changes will have a ripple effect for online payments and e-commerce sites.
Action Privacy issues remain a key concern. It’s up to digital marketers to lead the way in reassuring, educating and coaching customers through the transition. Do you have the latest payment security measures in place? Tout them! Your challenge as a marketer: Turn the moment of payment (typically a non-event) into a moment of pleasure for your customers.
6. Dance to the latest algorithm.
Trend For better or worse, search algorithms will continue to evolve — perpetually. It’s not so much a trend as a simple truth. Trying to keep up can be frustrating, but the promise of positive lead generation makes it worth the struggle.
Action While Google’s search algorithm remains the king of search engines — deciding which content ranks highest in search engine results per page (SERPs) — today you will also need to consider Facebook’s algorithm, Bing’s algorithm and even the mash-up of Twitter and Google’s algorithm.
7. Go organic with your paid advertising.
Trend Like it or not, you will still need to pay for advertising spots. It may be true, as many marketers claim, that PPC (pay per click) is dying, but alternative forms of paid advertising are gradually taking its place.
Action “Organic advertising” methods, which involve word-of-mouth promotion through social media channels, are on the rise and are included in many brands’ marketing plans. Still, there’s a cost involved these tactics, which should be executed strategically and integrated with other brand initiatives.
8. Dip into the supersized opportunities of big data.
Trend Companies today are driven to find new ways to slice and dice their markets and hone their competitive edge by identifying and targeting specific segments. There are two compelling reasons to do so: the increasing prevalence of big data, and consumers’ demand for messages and offerings tailored specifically to them.
Action Marketing automation tools that help segment communications are now nearly a requirement for any business that wants to stay on top.
9. Think like a journalist. Act like a newsroom.
Trend Content has often been referred to as “king,” but with everyone in the digital age being able to become a publisher, the demand for content — and good writing — is at an all-time high. Ever since Web 2.0, the writing profession has undergone a dramatic change, with continual requests for bespoke, journalistic pieces backed by a brand. And while individual publishers may be overextending themselves by publishing too much, the need for brands to put their ideas and beliefs into words is something that won’t go away.
Action Boundaries between media and marketing are blurring fast. Brands are turning into publishers, competing for attention not just with other brands but also with other media outlets, so you’ll need to find writers who know your niche cold. The best content-marketing strategies aren’t shy about borrowing from best practices in journalism. However, the single biggest challenge that marketers will need to solve is how to scale content economically.
10. Go without a net into the Internet of Things.
Trend A thing, in the Internet of Things, can be a person with a heart monitor implant, a farm animal with a biochip transponder, an automobile that has built-in sensors to alert the driver when tire pressure is low — or any other natural or man-made object that can be assigned an IP address and provided with the ability to transfer data over a network.
Action While the Internet of Things is still very nebulous today, the biggest tech companies are racing toward it. And with good reason: Connecting everyday objects is going to be big, and everyone wants to get there first.
Go boldly … but thoughtfully.
There’s no way around it: As exciting as the promise of the new digital marketing space may be, it can also be very fickle. However, the trends outlined above deserve thoughtful consideration and spirited experimentation.