10 Online Marketing Predictions to Inform Your Strategy in 2014
A guide to the most important aspects you'll want to focus on with your marketing efforts in the year ahead.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Business marketing last year was like a roller coaster ride. We saw new platforms, new channels, new roles and new tools pop up all over the place. It's as though innovation and growth is speeding up all around us and we are surrounded by opportunities to reach new customers and delight them.
It's been an exciting year for sure. But what's next?
I thought it would be fun and informative to put together a top 10 list of marketing trends to keep an eye on. Combined, these trends should make for huge marketing advantages for our companies, and a chance to grow ourselves, as marketers.
1. Omni-channel advantage. This past year we saw huge developments in mobile analytics and mobile marketing, which combines in 2014, enabling us to take advantage of omni-channel marketing.
This year, entrepreneurs and marketers need to go beyond just responsive web design and creating supplementary mobile apps to ask ourselves: how are our companies meeting the mobile challenge?
We need to be cross-device compatible and raise the bar on mobile customer experience. Are you taking advantage of the feedback opportunities? Are you capturing the data and leveraging it for personalization? This year it's all about the omni-channel marketing advantage.
2. Smart objects take over. By now, you've likely heard about the Internet of Things but are you participating as a consumer or a marketer? As business managers, we should keep an eye on how these smart objects change the consumer's expectations around user experience and engagement.
As new gadgets and technologies emerge this year, there will be new ways to leverage these smart objects in our marketing campaigns and more effectively reach our audiences.
Related: Content Strategy: 4 Questions You Need to Ask
3. Content marketing continues to explode. We spent the last year getting our company onboard with inbound marketing and content creation as the way to grow our businesses. From that we saw new tools built, new communities created and new resources emerge to help us make our case.
This next year will bring the solidification of this new arena through things like better content analytics and measurement, new job titles such as chief content officer, and new forms of content grow in popularity. I, for one, am most excited to see content marketing bring beautiful, original, inspiring stories to the masses.
4. Paid organic social amplification. This sounds like jargon, I know. But, finally, paid and organic marketing meet, fall in love, and have the most beautiful little baby: paid organic social amplification.
This year, marketers will turn their efforts and budgets toward paid marketing on social platforms. Twitter advertising, Facebook advertising, LinkedIn advertising are prime with readership and opportunity for us to meet our next customers. Newer platforms such as Pinterest. Google+ and Instagram will continue to open new ways for us to amplify our content in less intrusive ways to meet customer needs.
It's like peanut butter and jelly. It just works. If you aren't testing this out yet, jump on in there.
Related: How to Get Influencers to Help You
5. Influencer marketing is now part of your job. Rarely do I see a new channel sweep in, go mainstream, and become part of every marketer's job. I would say these past few years we've seen the rise of social media, and then the mainstream adoption of it and now from that we are left with a huge opportunity to leverage influencer marketing. This year will bring teams dedicated to social outreach, outlandish influencer campaigns and -- dare I say it -- a turn toward offline. (Gasp!)
Marketers are now returning back to "thank you" gifts, hand written notes and tangibles to catch an influencers eye and build a relationship. We will see more of that in the coming year.
6. Visual web domination continues. I mentioned this in my prediction last year but beautiful design continues to flourish. Today's consumer expects delightful and stunning experiences. Marketers need to raise the bar on their site experiences, product packaging, branding and user experience. No longer will functional design get a passing grade, now we must be functional, innovative and memorable.
How can you message your story visually? We must jump on to photo and video marketing and embrace the power it has to persuade and impress our communities. Design thinking is no longer optional -- it's a market advantage.
7. Loyalty marketing takes center stage. In one calendar year we've seen the biggest brands in the world announce their key focus is customer loyalty, we've seen loyalty teams pop up and marketers have scrambled to understand customer loyalty. We've seen a new type of loyalty arise, called reciprocal loyalty, in which not only are customers loyal to a brand through advocacy and brand support, but the brand is also investing back into the customer through rewards, personalized experiences and customer service.
In 2014 we will see this trend take center stage. A genuine investment in the customers that keep you in business? Sign me up.
Related: The Top Visual Design Trends for 2014 (Infographic)
8. Big data personalization. In three short years big data took over. Now that we understand its importance and have tools like Tableau available to us to democratize big data, marketers will begin leveraging these insights for hyper-targeting and personalization.
Things like cohort marketing (the ability to break your audience into like-minded segments), behavioral targeting (targeting based on customer actions) and sequencing (the ordering of campaigns to have the biggest impact) will be critical to your marketing campaign success. No more spray and pray marketing -- big data has brought us the insights we needed to reach the right person at the right time with the right message. Marketing euphoria, unlocked.
9. Snippet storytelling. This year marketers will be challenged to take image and video marketing and tell beautiful stories in snippet form. Concise messaging, consistent branding and emotional content will be laced in everything we do. We will be expected to share a story faster and make that story digestible in emotion-provoking ways.
The copywriters, brand leads, and video ninja on your team will become your best friends. What will come of it? A flood of brilliant stories told in new mediums.
10. Rise of growth teams focused on innovation. This is the trend I'm looking forward to most. The biggest brands have growth teams and the rest of us are following suit. These teams are dedicated to innovation, rethinking protocol and growing new areas of the business. They are cross-departmental and given the resources to make a huge impact in a short amount of time. Marketers will be the nucleus of these teams, if not the leaders, given our performance-driven and creative experiences. Companies will continue to break the traditional marketing team structure and empower growth marketers to think big and, ultimately, win big.
Related: How to Make the Most of Your Brand's Social Media Content