It is February 2014, and after the hustle and bustle of the beginning of the year, everybody must now be wondering about what all they should look forward to in the digital marketing space during the course of this year. Among the many initiatives and developments that took shape in 2013, most are expected to continue at a faster pace.
Here are the top 10 trends that we should pay attention to in this year:
Well, this is a biggie. Mobile device sales continue to soar while desktop sales figures have remained almost stagnant. This is the juncture where there will be more mobile devices in the market than desktops. A study by Morgan Stanley states that, with the advent of smartphones, internet users on mobile devices will overtake the internet users on the desktop in 2014.
This is a clear sign as to why businesses should address the needs of this segment of users and why they should optimize their targeting strategies. More studies reveal that searches on mobiles tend to be around 60% more locally oriented than on desktop. Having dedicated mobile sites and responsive designs are the areas to address these opportunities for better engagement with the users. Almost all business sites will strive to become responsive in 2014.
Mobile apps too will be an integral part of this phenomenon. On a personal note, over the last year, I actively used apps for banking, booking tickets and shopping, apart from gaming. The two major app markets, App Store and Android PlayStore, both have surpassed the count of over a million apps since this year began. Likewise, app downloads are likely to reach 150 billion by the end of 2014, such that it will complement the mobile devices’ growth. It is the time all businesses start coming up with their apps if there is none yet or consider upgrading the existing one if their current app’s reviews and reputation are poor.
A survey by AdAge on B2B marketers estimates that 80% of them plan to increase their marketing budget in 2014. According to a survey by StrongView, 46% of businesses were willing to increase their marketing budgets, while 47% indicated to maintain the existing spend levels in 2014. Upon segregating the spend plans by channels, it was found that budgets for online media are going to increase at the cost of the traditional media.
Many alternate marketing platforms and mediums have emerged out from the traditional marketing methods. Nevertheless, traditional media still occupies and brings a good share of the diverse market. Perhaps, that justifies why I predict that marketing budgets will continue to be high, this year as well.
Content will continue to be the king. As per AdAge, 75% of the B2B respondents highlighted that their budget set for content marketing is going to be on the rise in 2014. Google tends to rank original content which is of high quality up in the search results, thus making it important to invest more on content marketing.
Agencies and marketers will give special focus to content creation and marketing it in innovative ways. As consumers are going multi-screen, interests and intent will go a long way, which will require content to be more focused than generic. Marketing is about reaching, and with 2014 seeing different ways to reach consumers, companies will have to strengthen their hold on their consumers through efficient spending on content marketing. Even the recent forms of marketing such as Social Media Marketing rely heavily on content. But now, companies will be able to clearly identify the importance of content itself. So, budgets will be ramped-up for content marketing to build stronger relationships through useful information.
Email marketing is still performing well, even when there are newer marketing channels. If there is one channel that marketers can bet for sustenance; email could easily be the top contestant. A report released by ExactTarget revealed that 58% of its 2,500 marketers were going for increased spending on email channel. The report also claims that 88% of respondents believe that email spend will produce ROI ‘eventually’.
On another note about email campaigns; it would be interesting to see the impact of Google enabling images on Gmail for all its webmail users. These images were earlier blocked by default in Gmail due to security issues. But with new technology advancements, Gmail has finally allowed images to be loaded by default. How does this impact the marketer? It is expected that open rates of the email campaigns will get higher since email open tracking is based on images embedded into the mails. The open rates would start showing a boost in the upcoming campaigns.
Over the past few years, privacy issues have hogged the limelight internationally with the focus being especially on the third-party cookies. This has impacted online advertising entities too.
Large internet institutions like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook are researching technologies to replace the traditional cookie-based visitor tracking mechanism. AdID is one of the tracking products under development by Google. It is believed to work on the concept that gives users easier control of the setting they want to choose while advertisers would have to meet the minimum guidelines. Facebook too is working on a similar technology around the Facebook user ID. Though it is still early to talk specifics about their usage, it remains to be seen how these large internet companies step-up to standardizing the issue at hand, which would be beneficial for both the users and the advertisers. By the middle of this year, we could get to see alpha and beta stages of this new technology development that are likely to change the way digital footprints are tracked.
In the bid to go beyond the traditional cookie-based ‘visit’ tracking mechanism, Universal Analytics is the new version of Google Analytics, launched earlier last year. To expand the scope, Universal Analytics employs a concept of Visitor ID which is a step forward from ‘visit’ tracking to ‘visitor’ tracking. With its enhanced features such as server side tracking capabilities, custom dimensions/metrics, dimension widening, etc., Google just brought out an enterprise-class digital analytics platform. And all this comes for free unless one wants higher capabilities and greater features which are made available in the premium version. With such capabilities, users have already been tempted by auto migration.
However, there are several existing users, still confused over how these new features will be useful for their business. With over 60% of tracked websites using Google Analytics, this year we could see nearly all businesses migrate to this new version. In 2014, small to large businesses will have their own platform for an omnichannel integration and analysis, thanks to Universal Analytics. 2014 will get universal with a lot more detailed data about the business for in-depth segmentation and analysis.
Multitudes of our B2B clients have shown interest in incorporating videos and demos to tell their story. Clear, short, relevant video content is a perfect alternative to long text that tries to explain about the business/product. The new-age users are impatient and videos are perfect for them. The emergence of tools around short videos such as Vine and Instagram (user base of 13 million and 130 million respectively) allows the videos to be distributed for direct marketing too.
As per eMarketer research, revenues earned by Ads on YouTube grew by around 50% in 2013; clearly showing that marketing using videos is being adopted quickly. This appetite for marketing through videos is sure to grow significantly this year too.
A lot of buzzes is being heard around native ads. These are ads which disguise themselves within the news/content feed. Marketers have experimented quite a lot in 2013 with this new format. It is estimated to grow further in 2014. As per a J.P. Morgan report, native ads have become the preferable format of ads in the mobile space. Native ads are highly used in the Mobile space offering higher conversions for advertisers due to its personalized nature. Over this year, the same personalization techniques are expected to be incorporated into desktop and content-based format.
Online players have been looking for real-time analytics for a long time now. Though there were smaller low-cost solutions available, they were not scalable and never detailed. Alternatively, there were large solutions as well but were prohibitively expensive. Now real-time analytics is slowly becoming a part of widely-used enterprise analytics solutions.
A right decision made at the very moment of an opportunity makes a large impact on the business than learning about it later in future. It is about such similar opportunities that might or might not happen. A lot of effort will be made in analyzing the marketing data in real-time and making quick decisions based on it. This would require higher integration, from different departments which monitor data, merchandise, content, strategy, competitors, etc., which still remains a concern. We already see Big Data being adopted at a steady pace and real-time data can be a big boon to this sector for making a quick and reliable analysis. 2014 will see more inroads made in this sector.
Finally, 2014 is believed to be the year when technologies meant to be worn will reach the masses. Smart watches and digital wristbands have already been launched in the market. The much-awaited Google Glass too is speculated to be launched during the year. Over this year, these product designers will concentrate on making users get comfortable to this whole new idea of using the product. Wearable technology means more personalized data. As the market for these products grows, marketers will start thinking of how the digital data through these smart devices can allow them to target personalized advertisements to the users.
While these technologies are taking baby steps in the industry, this year would also see smarter ways to address the concerns of the breach of privacy. This would also mean that too much data will go into the hands of large multinational companies and eventually to the government. So, it is very likely that 2014 will see more concrete privacy guidelines being set in this sector.
It would be interesting to see how these predictions in the digital sector unfold by the end of the year. While there are many other interesting trends, globally as well as regionally, I believe these 10 are the ones which would have the maximum impact. Let’s keep our eyes and ears open.