What does 2015 have in store for Marketers? – 2015 predictions

Experian's Giles Longhurst

2015 will be an exciting year for digital marketing according to Experian’s Giles Longhurst

With 2015 well and truly here it’s time to take a look ahead and discuss some of the factors which will affect marketers in the coming year. Some are continuations of ongoing trends while some are entirely new.

With each prediction we have included an action section to provide some guidance on how you can make the most of upcoming changes.

1.       Social is now a paid channel

As my colleague Tom Leadbetter discussed in this post the organic reach of business page posts on Facebook has been reduced dramatically over the past year. However, social media effectiveness and accuracy continues to increase – so too does overall spending. 2015 will be the year paid amplification becomes the norm as brands realise that the free organic approach is no longer a valid option. More brands will pay to promote their content on social media – often in line with social media advertising campaigns.

Action

The key is to stop thinking of social media as a free channel. It never was free – all that time and effort was financed from somewhere. Paying for content promotion means a brand’s presence is better focused towards people who are more likely to be interested in what they have to say and sell. This improves content’s effectiveness and the browsers’ experience.  Brands need to invest in consumer insight and figure out who their audience actually are so that they can better tailor content offerings.

2.       Marketing and IT – Marketers will be analysts

If marketers are going to be able to harness the power of content, customer relationship and data driven insights, they need to get tech-savvy very quickly. With marketing being more and more data-driven (see prediction 5) new skills will become important as campaigns will rely more and more on data insight and analytics.

In addition, with the range of technological requirements (CMSs, Tracking Platforms etc.) in play the marketing department’s relationship with the IT department is going to have to get closer. If they aren’t already, SEO and social teams will be fully incorporated into the wider marketing team. These are no longer separate channels and should be approached holistically in 2015.

Action

Brands need to invest in training to ensure they are making the most of insights across departments. Where the talent is should be where the resource is. Likewise if there are shared technology subscriptions closer relationships between IT and Marketing will be required to ensure all aspects of the business have access to the data and insight involved, not just via system requests. Day-to-day usage across the business is required.

Connected customer

Channels will be even more connected in 2015

3.       Channels will be more connectedContent creation, email, advertising and social media channels will become less and less separate and distinct. Optimisation will move beyond tactics and focus more on overall customer experience, across channels. Because of this detailed consumer insight will be ever more crucial to optimising the customer experience.

Action

Understanding the customer is crucial to optimising experience and implementing a fully cross-channel strategy. First party data needs to be clean and reliable – enrich it with third party sources if necessary but a full understanding of the customer is crucial in order to create the Single Customer View necessary to implement cross-channel marketing.

4.       Mobile is only going to get bigger

While mobile isn’t exactly small at the moment it’s safe to say that the device dynamic will shift in 2015. For instance, over the 2014 festive period 40 per cent of all browser-based traffic to retail websites was from mobile devices.* 2015 could be the year we see the balance shift as mobile goes over 50 per cent share. Mobile analytics will be huge this year and the companies that get it right soonest will profit.

Cross-device attribution based on user-generated insight rather than click-based tracking will explode in 2015. How mobile behaviour affects online and offline activity will be the Holy Grail here as brands attempt to join up the whole ‘experience’.

Action

Marketers need to switch from being simply mobile-aware to being mobile-first or mobile-centric. Brands need to have the capacity to deal explicitly with mobile browsers – not just cater for them. The customer experience must be designed with mobile users in mind. Brands have to think in terms of ‘people’ rather than devices and channels and will need to plan for everyone to experience everything everywhere, from emails to websites and social posts.

If a brand isn’t mobile-centric it is going to be a nuisance to mobile customers and will fall behind optimised competitors. Knowing who and how many customers are on mobile devices will be crucial.

5. Marketing will be more data-driven

Data-driven marketing is important now and this will only increase in 2015. Cutting-edge tracking and predictive analysis will drive performance. Marketing technology is really hot at the moment but there’s an awful lot out there and it’s possible to spend an awful lot of money.

Cross-channel marketing

Marketers will have to be more data driven and will have to develop new analytical skill sets

In line with this, the nature of website optimisation will change. Instead of aiming for volume the advancement of online analytics will put the spotlight firmly on the quality of traffic. 500 quality and relevant browsers will be better prized than 5,000 randoms who are unlikely to make a purchase. Because of this (and because of the high-level analytics available) brands will intensify their focus on understanding conversion rates rather than overall traffic and place greater emphasis on analysing the key customer pathways.

Action

Brands need to invest in online analytics and to make sure
they have the data to make the right decisions. The insights these analytics will enable segments to be drawn up and audiences created to better tailor marketing. Spray and pray won’t cut it and there will be no excuse in 2015 for such tactics.

Brands will have to be strategic with marketing investments. There are a lot of ‘hot’ marketing technologies out there and it’s not possible to have all of them. Making sure decisions are based on potential value to business goals will prove a huge challenge in 2015.

6.       Content Will Be More Important Than Ever – but it’s about overall quality and relevancy rather than keywords

As search engines continue to improve the way they connect search queries by relevancy the emphasis will continue to switch to more thorough and high quality content. Hyper targeting of individual pages just doesn’t fit with what the search engines want. Existing pages will be consolidated to cater for whole queries and questions rather than individual keywords.

Making content that is relevant to browsers and answers questions will be key – think topics and themes rather than keyword density. It’s about breadth and relevancy rather than individual keywords.

The boom of content marketing was one of the major stories of 2014 and while this won’t change in 2015, it will get more competitive and difficult. Marketers now have to produce content for more channels (social, websites, newsletters, PR, paid search etc.) and the challenge will be leveraging that content to make the most out of each piece.

Actions

What marketers will need to do in 2015 is be cleverer with their content and how that content is created. Understanding who the audience is will be key as brands need to fully appreciate who their customers are in order to produce content which interests them. Content writers with a passion for writing will be an important addition to marketing team .

How content is leveraged and repurposed will become more important as the competitive environment (and the sheer amount of content that’s out there) will mean it’s important to optimise investment. Choosing content topics based on actual user demand is an obvious win.

In summary

Digital Marketing is a fast-moving and ever evolving world and 2015 is set to be no different. Once again mobile and content are the key topics however now we are seeing actionable strategies and real benefits rather than theory-based predictions.

On a more personal note I am extremely excited about the developments 2015 will bring in the wearable tech space. How consumer usage increases and how brands and companies start incorporating and developing the services they offer and data they gather to tailor their marketing to utterly suit each individual. It will be interesting to see if all the wearable fitness tech purchased over Christmas has lasted past the end of January.

Changes are driven by consumer trends which in turn are driven by technological development and adoption. Brands must remember that the customer comes first – their experience is paramount and getting that right will increase marketing effectiveness.

More of Giles’ thoughts, plus the views of four other industry leaders, can be found in the free download#5for15 – Five views on how marketing will change in 2015.

*data taken from Experian’s Hitwise online intelligence tool.

Experian Marketing Services is a leading global provider of consumer insights, targeting, data quality and cross-channel marketing. We help organisations intelligently interact with today’s empowered and hyper-connected consumers. By helping marketers identify their best customers, find more of them, and then coordinate seamless and intelligent interactions across the most appropriate channels, Experian Marketing Services’ clients can deepen customer loyalty, strengthen brand advocacy and maximise profits.