The rise of digital technology means information is flowing faster than ever, knowledge is growing at an exponential rate, and the importance of one-way marketing messages is diminishing. Old-school “push advertising” will come to represent a blip in communications history as we return to a place where human interaction and word of mouth rule the roost again. But just because this is being enabled by new media, doesn’t mean it’s something new in terms of human behaviour. Paramount to the success of any communications campaign success will remain: delivering the right message, to the right people, at the right time. However, getting this right now requires a slightly different mix of brainpower than ever before and the modern communications professional needs to apply both left and right brain thinking as the realms of creativity meet science, data and technology. With this in mind, here are my top 5 digital trends for the next few years which deliberately don’t include mobile, which has already well and truly arrived!
Further collision of the physical and digital worlds
The biggest change on our horizon that will be led by augmented reality and wearable technology. By the end of next year, wearable technology should be gathering enough steam that we will begin to see some early marketing applications. It will be fascinating to see what the world of communications looks like when the Internet surrounds us like the air that we breathe. But in the meantime, the physical and digital worlds are being fused in the context of retail with e-receipts at point of sale, Wi-Fi in the retail environment, geo-targeted mobile promotions and digital stores and showrooms (like Audi’s City London). And we’ll also see more of the digital becoming physical (like eBay’s click-and-collect deal with Argos ) and lots of progress around delivery and fulfilment (like Amazon Locker, Asda opening collection points at tube stations in London, eBay’s acquisition of Shutl for one-hour deliveries).
Social media advertising will boom
It’s already happening, but 2015 will be the year of paid social amplification. With content marketing reaching near-ubiquity, the success pendulum will swing toward boosting consumption of content. That will put a new focus on testing and optimisation as content production and content distribution become equally important. Native advertising is being embraced by a new wave of publishers like Buzzfeed. The site is currently the 167th most-visited website in the world, according to Alexa.
10,20, 70 will become the new 1,9,90
1, 9, 90 is the social web’s twist on the Pareto Principle, and it says that in an online community one percent of people will create content, another 9 percent will engage with it, and the remainder will simply lurk. However, new, more intuitive and social tools and platforms are emerging all the time meaning that people are better able to create and share content than ever before. Couple this with mass adoption and maturing behaviours and we’ll begin to see the amount of “creators” and “sharers” increase. This means that inspiring creators to create on your behalf and reaching those who are willing to share is going to be even more powerful than before.
With micro-targeting comes the need for micro-tailoring
Every online interaction creates a data record and these grow, so does our ability to understand and target our audience. We must create and tailor different formats of content with customised copy for highly fragmented marketing channels from TV and print to various social media platforms in order to reach their target audience. The major change will come from marketers by going back to basics: it’s about re-evaluating the target audience, determining what works and what doesn’t and then being smart about resource allocation and investment.
And finally, don’t forget internal social media
Whilst most digital speculation focused on external communications, perhaps the biggest shift I see on the horizon is within organisations who are starting to apply social media principles to their internal communications to great effect. For too many people, coming in to work and trying to communicate with one another is like stepping back in time. An ancient intranet and email system is in place and the sharing, connectivity, collaboration and real-time nature of social networks is nowhere to be seen. Organisations serious about innovation and keen to tap in to the collective knowledge of their workforce are putting in systems and changing their culture in order to capitalise on the power of a truly connected and empowered workforce. And those who are succeeding are the ones that recognise the equal importance of a cultural change programme to realise the benefits the technology can bring. Watch this space!