2016 - the year of digital for SA business

2016-01-12 09:50

  The digital marketing landscape is one that is constantly changing and evolving in order to adapt to global trends and consumer needs. Each year technologies are transformed, software is updated and attitudes are shifting. While this arguably volatile and fast-paced online setting can seem daunting to South African business owners, both large and small, it offers a goldmine of marketing opportunity. Consumers are now surrounded daily, even hourly, by digital platforms which expose them to exciting new products and services at the click of a button. If harnessed correctly, the potential of digital marketing in 2016 is infinite. Make sure you and your business stay ahead of the competition by checking out the following marketing trends in 2016:

  1. Mobile as ‘first screen’

  2015 was the year that mobile began to overtake desktop. Google recently announced that in ten different countries mobile traffic now accounts for more than half of total internet traffic. Additionally, Facebook reported that just over 75% of their revenue can be accredited to mobile advertising. It doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to figure out that mobile is the way of the future. These days smartphones are able to do almost everything and ‘there’s an app for that’ has become common talk not only globally, but in South Africa too. Ultimately, mobile follows the mantra that ‘less is more’. What this means for the mobile marketer is that content needs to be to the point and calls-to-action strong. It also means that it is of utmost importance to make sure that your website is mobile-friendly. This can be most efficiently achieved by using the likes of something techies like to call ‘Responsive Web Design’. This ensures that when a user switches from laptop to tablet, or tablet to mobile, the website automatically adjusts in order to adapt to changes in resolution, image size and scripting. This allows for a seamless user experience and a fond farewell to the days of dysfunctional mobile sites riddled with incorrectly sized graphics. Still not convinced about the rise of mobile? Google has recently begun to boost the ratings of websites which are mobile compatible – that is if the search was initially made from a mobile device. What this means is that not only are mobile-friendly sites favoured, but those sites not yet compatible to mobile devices are ultimately penalised. Google has clearly embraced the fact that mobile has become the new primary screen of choice – and so should you.

  1. The rise of video ads

  In the quick paced online culture that we live in, time is of the essence. A consumer needs to be engaged and informed in the most efficient and aesthetically pleasing way possible. These shifting needs have allowed video ads to take centre stage. But video ads have been around for awhile you say? You’re right, however 2016 will be drastically different as for the first time ever Google has allowed in-SERP video advertising. This means that when a search is made on Google, the results page won’t only allow textually based advertising, but video ads will also be given some of the spotlight. This is a move that Google would never have made without understanding the ways in which users have begun to engage more acceptingly with video ads. Before you know it, video ads will be popping up in every nook and cranny of the internet. What this means for your 2016 digital marketing campaign – get creative! Video ads that have performed well in the past have done so by keeping both brief and engaging. Adam Lisagor, a video ad guru out of Silicon Valley and founder of Sandwich Video, suggests that video ads be kept between 90 to 120 seconds at most. Lisagor also advises to use clear language and steer away from your industry’s jargon. Finally, a good video ad will allow the consumer to “project him or herself into a mental state of experiencing the product and having a positive reaction”. These characteristics can be seen in YouTube’s most watched ad of 2015, as seen by over 82 million viewers - Clash of the Clans: Revenge

  1. Marketing automation

  Today the majority of online marketers are spending over 50% of their time on content creation. This has created a need for more efficient systems to be put into place which automate the marketing process. These platforms allow one to easily schedule emails, segment contacts, track and automate social media postings and follow the lifecycle of customers. While these automated marketing platforms are the norm in most large businesses in the US and Europe and are said to be worth $20 billion, very few South African companies are using them – yet. This isn’t surprising. As an emerging market, South Africa has typically been a step behind the more technologically developed countries. Not so long ago social media marketing was an unknown in the South African context but it didn’t take long until we caught up. Today social media marketing is a given in South Africa and in 2016 marketing automation should be too. A handful of South African companies are however seeing excellent results since implementing automated marketing systems, such as Window Art and RSVP Agency. Marketing automation could be the game changer that you and your business need in 2016. Check out these two recommended automated marketing platforms and get going today: Agile CRM - Basic tool, suitable for small business Hubspot - Enterprise tool, suitable for corporate business

  1. Real-Time Marketing

  More and more real-time marketing has become popular, as users desire to be a part of the marketing experience and not just passively experiencing it. This trend has allowed social media platforms such as Snapchat to transform into very handy marketing mediums. Snapchat is an app which allows its users to take pictures or videos, add text to them and send them to other contacts or publish them on their Story.  What makes Snapchat unique is that its content expires and users are able to the select the period of time for which recipients can view their ‘snap’. Snapchat can be used to provide consumers with teasers to upcoming products or services and convey a sense of exclusivity which today’s generation of users seem to crave. The app allows you to make your customers feel connected, nurtured and unique while only using a limited amount of their personal time – key in today’s fast-paced context. US fast food giant Taco Bell has effectively harnessed Snapchat as a marketing medium.

  1. Customer-centric Marketing

  2016 has been projected to be the year of the customer. Successful digital marketers will thus need to ensure that all aspects of their marketing campaign allow for an engaging customer experience. Customers should be analysed, attracted and obsessed over. In doing so one needs to acknowledge that the buying power of Generation-Y, otherwise known as Millennials, is rapidly increasing, as should your affiliations with them. These next generation consumers spend almost 18 hours a day consuming content on a mobile device. They are the generation that don’t knock on doors but text ‘I’m outside – let me in’. Being born with a mobile device or tablet in their hands means that their understanding of technology is far more sophisticated than previous generations and their eye for design and user experience almost flawless. They are who you need to impress and you’d be foolish not take all 62-million of them and their estimated $142 billion in buying power seriously. Your focus in 2016 should be not only to attract the consumer, but to form long-term lasting relationships with them. The days of short-term customer acquisition and sales is over and the age of meaningful customer relations has dawned. This is more important than ever before as these customers, through the use of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, can become a brand ambassador at the click of a button or the share of a photo.

  1. Identity-based pay-per-click marketing

  Google AdWords has made your job as a digital marketer that much easier this year. The introduction of identity-based pay-per-click marketing allows you to target users with specific adverts based on their email address or cellphone number. Content can be easily directed to a specific user based on a need or want. Ultimately you are providing them with a solution to a problem before they are able to even look for it themselves. While this version of paid advertising is changing the future of online marketing, it verges on useless if it directs the user to a feeble landing page. Make sure your website’s design and user-experience is flawless before implementing AdWord strategies or you’ll be wasting valuable time and money. Also remember that your paid advertising can be very easily switched on and off as business requires leads.

  1. Social Media as a search engine

  As you are reading this very article, Facebook is working on its very own in-built search engine and the likes of Twitter will be soon to follow. This will allow for search capabilities within the social media platform itself and ultimately an automatic visibility boost for brands. These platforms, while already vital to any digital marketing campaign, will thus become even more central as online consumers have begun to more readily base their decisions on the ‘crowd’. As people connect with like-minded people, so they share their shopping and consuming experiences. An extraordinary shopping or service experience is likely to be shared, while an ordinary experience is more likely to not be shared. The darker end of the spectrum is that a notably bad experience will more readily be shared as consumers use these online platforms to gain traction on their complaints. As Facebook begins to transform into a search engine, these shares -both positive and negative- will be more accessible to users.

  1. The creation of an all-in-one platform

  2016 will see social media sites take on an e-commerce edge with the addition of buy buttons and integrated payment methods. This means that consumers will be able to not only make purchases on the likes of Twitter and Facebook but will then be able to chat to their friends about what they bought and post proof of their purchases and experiences. Both Google and Facebook are able to excellently pull schema when something is shared online. This means that, if a website is setup correctly, the shared URL link can provide rich image and content to a consumer's personal page within the social media platform. To keep ahead in 2016 be sure to adapt your online marketing efforts to this all-in-one platform. This allows you to make the purchasing process easier for your customers while simultaneously creating a unique and memorable user experience.

  1.  Omni-channel experience

  To put it simply, to ensure your customers have an omni-channel experience means to ensure they are provided with a seamless experience whether they are shopping online from a desktop or mobile phone, by telephone or even in-store. This overall marketing and branding consistency between platforms will ensure a strengthened sense of brand awareness and will give you the upper hand in 2016. Gone are the days where you could get away with updating your website every couple of years, or logging onto your company Facebook page seasonally to upload the latest cheesy holiday cover photo. 2016 will require that both your online and in-store marketing campaigns align and are actively updated and improved across all platforms. To get another step ahead, how about innovating both your product and your marketing to the extent that the two cannot be separated? This technique has been used by several tech startups and has been dubbed ‘growth hacking’. Growth hacking’s claim to fame is that it does not separate product design and product effectiveness from marketing. With a primary focus on constant growth and innovation, these techniques have been adopted by the likes of Groupon, Dropbox and Instagram. Still not sure how growth hacking looks practically? One of the earliest examples was Hotmail’s inclusion of ‘PS I Love You’ which provided a link for others to get free access to online mail services. More recently the likes of Dropbox did well to offer increased storage to users who referred their friends.

  1. Email is still alive

  Despite the hip and happening trends listed above, the good old-fashioned email is by no means redundant. In spite of the increasing popularity of Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp, the e-mail remains the primary tool for business communication. Stewart Butterfield, co-founder of Slack - a real-time chatroom-styled app for businesses, believes that email has survived as “it’s the lowest common denominator for official communications.” For marketers in particular, email remains the most important tool in acquiring both leads and customers. The fact of the matter is that email isn’t going away any time soon and to keep ahead in 2016 you’ll need to harness it to optimize your marketing potential. For example - be sure to use ‘segmentation’. Segmentation ensures that you are talking to the right people at the right time. This means dividing your broader target market of consumers into subsets and contacting them accordingly. These subsets can be based on their geographical location, purchase history or demographic variables such as age, occupation and gender. Segmenting your contacts can prevent you from advertising products or services to customers who have already purchased them, or from marketing the latest retirement village to students. Most simply, you can ensure that you are communicating most efficiently with your consumers - saving time for both you them. In 2016 be sure to optimize and personalise your brand’s email capabilities - after all, consumers will be expecting email with content that is relevant to them. Keep in mind however that emails which are too highly personalised can verge on creepy - and nobody wants to be creepy in 2016.

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