5 Changes to Digital Marketing in 2015 and Making the Most of 2016

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Well, we can say goodbye to 2015 and hello to 2016. So, let’s look at the changes to digital marketing this year and how you must respond to them next.

Before getting into what I see for 2016, let’s take a look back at changes to digital strategy wrought by 2015.

  • Digital marketing analytics
  • Digital marketing versus traditional marketing
  • Local marketing
  • Mobile marketing
  • Marketing integration

Digital marketing analytics

Facing challenges to PROVE the value of digital marketing, marketing analytics became more than a buzzword in 2015. And, marketing analytics went beyond vanity metrics, including Likes, Follows, and Connections. Instead, marketers transferred their focus into assessing the transformation of these Likes into tangible ROI.

customer journey mapAnother critical aspect of digital marketing analytics is the increased emphasis on understanding the customer journey from awareness to post-purchase evaluations such as satisfaction, repeat purchase, and recommendation. Monitoring the movement of consumers through the customer journey is just one aspect of changing digital marketing metrics. More importantly, businesses construct their analytics to provide insights into factors lubricating the customer journey — which is far from the straightforward linear process portrayed in marketing textbooks. Expanding our understanding of the factors impacting the customer journey allows firms more advanced tools such as predictive analytics and tools as decision support systems.

The future of digital marketing analytics

I predict an increased emphasis and sophistication in using digital marketing analytics to aid decision-making.

If you need to update your skillset, I recommend taking some courses from online sources like Coursera or technical training companies like General Assembly. If funds are scarce, you might join a couple of local Meetup groups on analytics. Most members are really thrilled to take interested and dedicated newbies under their wing as long as that newbie puts in the work on their own so they don’t lean too heavily on the expert.

I’d be a little careful which groups you join. In my area, some analytics Meetup groups are composed primarily of PhDs and their meetings are likely too advanced for a newbie.

Digital marketing versus traditional marketing

My top posts for 2015 — both on digital marketing versus traditional marketing — show the increased understanding that digital marketing isn’t just traditional marketing done through a different channel.

Digital marketing is an entirely different animal altogether. My top post, from a few years ago, represents one of the earliest examples showing 16 differences between social media and traditional media.

Here are some major differences between the two:

  • social media involves a conversation with a community, rather than a one-way conversation
  • you must earn attention in social media, you can’t just pay for it
  • fast response is expected, rather than a polished ad or form letter in 3 months
  • active involvement by your community and user-generated content
  • real-time deep analytics not just top of funnel imprecise metrics

Here’s a more recent take on the differences across channels written for Business2Community last year.

The future of social media

First, social media differences require a diverse skill set for marketers — including analytics, basic design and graphics, self-directing, excellent communication, and the ability to multitask without a lot of direct supervision.

Likely success in the future relies on understanding the differences between the two tactics (not just media) and integrating across tactics to optimize your market performance.

Local marketing

Local became really big in 2015 and will likely continue increasing in importance in the coming years. Local is mainly a strategy for small businesses that rely on local customers who increasingly withdraw from other means to reach them. While local marketing doesn’t necessarily imply digital marketing, in this case, it normally does. Here’s what AdAge has to say about local marketing:

Local is a great way to create closer connections across search, social and mobile, in the moments where and when it matters. Local search marketing encompasses a complex ecosystem that spans paid, earned and owned media. It is always on and continually evolving, and that need for fluidity and adaptability is a barrier to entry for even the most digitally savvy marketers.

Google’s become pretty savvy at serving up a local business using the GPS information from your smartphone. Their findings suggest 72% of folks who search for a business on their smartphone visit a shop within 5 miles of their current location. That’s a huge opportunity.

According to AdAge, businesses must ramp up their local marketing strategy to get closer to their customers and drive traffic into local establishments.

Of course, big businesses with a local presence also use local marketing strategies, so it pays to expend some serious effort to build your local marketing.

The future of local marketing

Much of local marketing will revolve around mobile marketing — so there’s a lot of bleed-over between these 2 topics. That’s because so much of local marketing involves consumers on a mobile device searching for an immediate (nearby) solution for their problem. Whether that problem involves being hungry, looking for a product source, searching hours, location, or phone numbers before visiting a local business, or checking menus and movie times.

I’ll save the rest of my comments on the future of local marketing for our next topic:

Mobile marketing

Mobile marketing achieved a huge push when Google announced in 2015 that mobile-friendliness would impact website rankings – BTW, if you haven’t tested your website yet, here’s the link from Google.

In 2015 everyone seemed to jump into app development — maybe in part because of new tools, more app developers, and some discontent with mobile websites. Unfortunately, most apps have fewer than 13 downloads per month.

The future of mobile marketing

The days of web-only websites or mobile-only sites are disappearing. Make yourself (or get your developer to make for you) a mobile-friendly website and forget the apps unless you have a huge customer base and are committed to updating your app frequently.

Think about content customers want when they access your site on a mobile device, especially a smartphone with limited real estate. Primarily, users look for information that’s immediately useful because they’re considering visiting your store soon — things like address, phone number, maps, menus, etc. Make it super easy to find this information with a minimum of clicks.

Also, devices operating on 3 or 4 G face data limits, so bear that in mind when creating your mobile-friendly website. Avoid a lot of data-heavy graphics and provide information without requiring multiple clicks that each involves downloading data.

For the most part, I’d advise against creating an app for your local business. Creating an app for entertainment, education, or engagement to supplement your business is a much better idea if you wish to build customer relationships with an app.

Integrated marketing communications — the future

A big task facing marketers is integrating across marketing channels. IMC was challenging enough when we were only talking about traditional media and atmospherics. Adding digital marketing adds an entire layer of complexity to the challenge of IMC.

First, the organizational structure requires some extensive changes to incorporate digital marketing. Instead of common functional silos such as graphic design, website design, analytics, customer support, etc, you need integrated work-teams and individuals with multiple skill sets to produce content, respond to customer service issues, and monitor performance in real-time. Spending months planning, crafting, perfecting, and approving a campaign is a luxury unavailable in digital marketing, where agile is the name of the game.

Firms also deal with challenges required to balance multiple voices across the organization with tools to ensure posts conform to a set of guidelines. Giving voice to employees is a valuable tool, as long as they don’t accidentally publish something offensive or proprietary.

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