When it comes to predictions for 2017, especially within the media and marketing industry, it’s as much a combination of art and superstition as it is a science. While everyone who’s anyone scrabbles to be included in the ‘Top trends or predictions for 2017’ round-ups and voice their opinions on what’s going to change over the next (now slightly less than) 12 months, predicting the future is just that. And more often than not, you’d be better reading the tea leaves or flipping through a Tarot deck to predict the next key trend, as the industry changes faster than ever before. This is something which shone through loud and clear at The Drum’s recent Predictions 2017 breakfast last week, where speakers from all walks of marketing life stood up, said their piece and offered everything from human-based content to robot-based search as the thing which was going to change the face of marketing in 2017.
In this blog, Limelight’s Senior Account Executive, Ryan Dubras, has pulled together his own collaborative ‘Key predictions for 2017’ from the insights shared and gleaned at The #drumbreakfast event, each of which, in their own way and as a whole, will be vital for brands to be aware of as we move into the uncertain waters of the new year and beyond.
In the below, Ryan covers:
- Machines & AI
- Customer Centricity
- and Data
For people who spend their life looking for the key trends and predictions to inform the work we do for our clients, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that actually – despite what the leaders of each siloed discipline might claim (and unsurprisingly so) – there is no longer one key trend that is going to change the world year on year. Unlike the days where the latest camera or newest social platform came in yearly waves, the constant cycle of innovation and change which consumers have come to expect (and demand) from brands today means that the ‘it’ trends now change as quickly as the tides – and it is now a collective of the ‘need to know’ key trends from multiple disciplines used in harmony and with equal focus which will produce the best results for marketers and their brands.
Getting your search on
There’s little to search, right? Have a website; get some social media; choose a name that no one else has; get a map on Google; a few backlinks here and there, and sit back and watch the money role in. Well, while that may have worked back in the days of dial-up internet and Ask Jeeves, search – both as a discipline and an established part of every consumers’ daily lives – is changing. Rapidly and beyond recognition. No longer does your average consumer go on Google looking for that little coffee shop on that corner that they went to once. The mobile-first audience of today aren’t searching for answers, they’re searching for knowledge. They’re asking their devices to book holidays, suggest restaurants, find them the thing they’re looking for in their location, and give them everything they need to know in one easy snapshot. Easily put, people are no longer looking through the first two pages of Google before getting bored and giving up, Siri is searching the geo-data in their location for businesses which offer the knowledge they’re looking for and can easily feedback on. So if your business isn’t geotagged, mobile optimised or even listed correctly on Google Maps – then chances are 2017 is not going to go well for you.
The machines are coming, look busy
This rise of AI which we’ve seen over the past year has, and is, drastically changing the world as we know it. From Siri scouring the web for ‘that place you had a takeaway with Jenny that time and left a review on Yelp about’, ChatBots talking back to Siri to place your order and the introduction of the world’s first social robot Jibo, robots are changing how we interact with brands everywhere. This means that going forward, brands are going to have to learn how to market to robots – from those who are searching the web for the best place to order more beer while its owner watches the Sunday match, to the Dash Buttons simply adding more to the cart upon request – as well as the human consumers making the instore purchases – this means changing not only how we market but also where. If online shopping continues to fall under the purview of the robots, then search rankings, consumer advocacy online and the way we structure our websites all need to change to make sure that our brand is the one they look for when the command comes flying at them across the house. Scary, I know, but they are coming – and those who don’t prepare for this brave new world will be left in the old one.
But don’t forget the people
Yet, however much the robots might be taking over, we’re not living in a post-apocalyptic Matrix world just yet and until we do, the people (your valued and loyal consumer) still need to come first. Words like ‘emotive content’, ‘customer-centricity’ and ‘people-first brand’ get bandied around a lot in this industry but the long and short of it is that as marketers (in whatever form), we are in communications and our job is to connect brands with their people. After all, people hire people they like and it’s the same for consumers buying from brands. So while it might be a stretch to say ‘the year of content’ (purely as content is arguably more a staple than a trend at this point), making sure that you’re producing relevant, value-add and relatable content – whether it be social, video, written or digital –is what is going to help brands get the cut through online and convert the engaged consumer already within their channels into active consumers, and even brand advocates (helping tick a box for the robots too).
Know what’s working and what isn’t
However, whilst generating this engaging content for the latest channels with the most popular hashtag might be all well and good, it’s nothing if it doesn’t resonate with the audience you want. And while more traditional marketing activity might prove harder to adapt and change in real time, the ever improving world of social media analytics is offering brands a greater opportunity to analyse the engagement and consumer data it’s receiving in real-time. Directly feeding it back into the campaign, to ensure as little time – and more importantly, budget – is wasted as possible and ultimately improving the end results. But it’s not just the quantitative data which is proving useful for brands. As technology improves, and those wonderful robots continue to learn our ways and customs, social listening tools are drastically improving too – and are offering real-time insight into what is being said about you, where and by whom across the globe – allowing for qualitative feedback to be consider and included in campaign reporting like never before.
Get your data on point
But whatever else you do this year with all of this social data which is feeding your content to drive your search to sell to robots to keep your consumers happy, make sure your data itself is up to par! You might have your DMP (that’s Data Management Platform to those non-marketers amongst you) sorting your data, your CRM system working it for you, and your analytics tools working out what it all means, but what about your data itself? The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), that little old thing you may have heard of, is coming. No one’s quite sure exactly what it means yet, but Brexit won’t stop it (that’s right folks). And if you do nothing else this year (and take nothing else from my jargon-filled ramblings) it’s key that you find out what it is, whether your company is compliant and how your business needs to change this year to get up to scratch. Ignorance won’t be an excuse – neither will “We’re not part of Europe anymore”, if you hold even one piece of EU data anywhere on your systems – and failure to do so could cost you 4% of your turnover.
So call it the ‘Year of Search’. The ‘Year of Content’…mobile…AI…and whatever other buzzwords you want to throw around. But what is clear is that marketing is changing, and will only keep doing so. From the way we use and store data to how we create and put out content, report back on it, and even who (or what) is looking at that content to make the final decision. So if we have to put a label on it, let’s call it the ‘Year of keeping up with the change’ – and hoping it doesn’t leave us behind.