Online marketing in 2012 could be summed up in a few words: mobile, big brands and Google updates. As we look back at the events and advancements that shaped last year in online marketing, naturally we should look forward and wonder what 2013 will have in store.
Here are my top predictions for what I believe marketers will be focusing on in the New Year. While the execution of all this might vary wildly, there is no doubt a few areas will capture our attention and be the driving forces behind business decisions over the next 12 months:
1. A surge in 'second screen' value: By second screen I'm referring to mobile. With more than 75 percent of the world having access to mobile devices, today’s marketer can’t ignore the value of offering second screen value for their brands and clients.
Last year we were tasked with making our websites mobile-friendly -- meaning responsive and easy to use on mobile devices -- but this year will be all about offering value in mobile app form. What value can your brand or client offer a mobile device user? It goes beyond ease of use and searching ability. This type of value will be in new information, new formats for consumption and entirely new resources.
Related: No Mobile Website? You're Probably Turning Customers Away
2. The evolution of 'attribution modeling': Last year was one heck of a year for analytics. We saw the rise of analytics packages and solutions, breaking down channel silos and marketers taking a more holistic approach to what's called attribution tracking -- the process of assigning a specific value to a marketing action that results in a conversion.
Marketers have been over valuing the last click. We know now it’s more complicated than that.
This next year, we will see continued evolution in attribution modeling and creative approaches to tracking how channels affect each other. I anticipate the large analytics providers out there will continue to innovate on their current offerings as well as open them up to the rest of us.
3. The rise of gamification: Applying game-design thinking to non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging has been growing steadily, but expect it to reach a tipping point in 2013. Big brands, new startups and every company in-between will be spending more money and resources on "gamifying" their products and services this year. The rise of easy-to-use platforms, such as BigDoor and PunchTab, and the inherent value of an engaged user, have made this a must-consider marketing strategy.
4. An increased focus on 'inbound marketing': With the growth of social marketing, marketers now must invest in adding a new kind of value. Enter "inbound marketing,” a type of marketing in which brands spend resources to create content, conversations and valuable resources that draw customers to their products or websites without paid marketing.
Your budgets this year should include more spend on amazing content, beautiful web design and inbound analytics. Expect to see new software, and upgrades to existing tools, to help you better manage your inbound marketing efforts and prioritize your next steps.
5. Improved data visualizations: I believe there will be a renewed focus on beautiful data visualizations in 2013, which is the way we visualize complex data sets in easy to understand formats that are worth sharing. Last year we saw big data catch fire, but this year we will need to make that data accessible to everyone.
Perhaps more importantly, the marketers you work with or employ will need to question the ways they’ve made their data cases in the past. How can they use new visualization software and techniques to evangelize a data-driven culture, and make your marketing mission a company-wide one?
Related: 5 Ways to Take Customer Loyalty to the Next Level
6. More loyalty marketing: By now, we are all pretty aware that it is more costly to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. Add to that how consumers have never before been so connected and willing to share opinions of purchases and experience. Guess what you get? Marketers brainstorming creative ways to make customers feel appreciated and satisfied. What was once an afterthought should now find its way into the early stages of marketing roadmaps.
7. Brands as social influencers: Thanks to platforms such as Pinterest, Facebook and Foursquare, we've seen brands build followings of unparalleled size, which has left them with legitimate influence over consumers. In 2013 we will see brands continue to grow their communities and the reach of their voice, opinions and products.
Marketers should be asking themselves, “Where are we participating?” and “What value are we offering?” It's ideal for a brand to build an audience of engaged participants around the great content it shares. If you're not sure where to start, go to the sites you know where people are already talking about your brand. Jump in and engage.
8. More analytics: As we see more marketing channels in play and an improved ability to understand how they all touch, I predict marketers will be seeking out new ways to prioritize their many opportunities. Unlike traditional web analytics -- the measurement of how your website is performing -- marketing analytics is the measurement and optimization of your marketing activities.
Businesses will turn their efforts to marketing analytics to steer their product roadmaps, hiring plans and market moves. Rather than invest in the channels that you’ve always invested in, this year the tools should become available to make better decisions.
9. Design is king: Piggybacking the growing importance of inbound marketing and the trend in improved data visualizations comes a rising of the bar around web design. With designer community sites like dribbble and forrst, we’ve seen the design community grow in leaps and bounds. Beautiful design has never been so affordable and in demand. To stand out in 2013, strengthen your in-house resources or contract a team to get your website design up-to-speed.
10. Local marketing goes mainstream: Local companies have never before had so many tools available to understand how to improve local search results, engage with customers and measure their success. Sites like GetListed have made local marketing easy to track and manage, at a price small businesses can afford. This New Year will only bring more, and improvements to those already out there. That is why I believe we will see local marketing demystified for the masses, and more successful small businesses as a result.
Related: A Quick Guide to Making Your Brand's Story More Compelling
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.