I recently completed a new point-of-view for SIGMA which outlines how I think marketing will be changing in the next few years. It’s surprising how many times I’ve revised it in just a month, so my top 10 predictions for next year will probably change just as quickly.
Given that disclaimer, here’s what I see as the big issues facing marketers next year:
- Customer engagement is not a passing fad. In a previous post, I described customer engagement as customers engaging with one another or with a company (which can happen either online or offline). There have been similar terms in the past, such as “customer intimacy,” but engagement won’t be a short-term fad. It’s here to stay because customers now engage directly with one another often before they engage with a company. And this new step in the sales process is here to stay.
- Data integration becomes mission critical. Now that there’s so much more data with the advent of social media, marketers must look beyond their traditional sources of data warehousing. And the process of integrating online and offline data is becoming increasingly complex. To put it in perspective, Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, recently said that “we create as much information in two days now as we did from the dawn of man through 2003.” Wow. Marketers will need to create customer hubs which integrate data from all sources so it can be analyzed and used to make a multitude of business decisions (see Customer Intelligence Trends to Watch in 2011 at www.forrester.com).
- Marketing analytics are red hot. If you think about it, this avalanche of data is also fueling the growth of analytics. After all, the goal is not to collect data, but to develop insights. The social conversations are giving marketers an unending stream of incoming data but marketers need advanced analytical capabilities to identify, analyze and describe patterns amidst all the digital garbage. Unfortunately, people who are skilled at doing this are becoming increasingly difficult to find. Many marketers will look to outsource this function from their database marketing service providers, consulting firms and boutique analytics service providers.
- Social media marketing will mature. 2010 was the year social media exploded onto the marketing scene. In 2011, it will evolve from experimental campaigns to social tactics that are fully integrated into the overall marketing strategy. The social media marketing process will become a never-ending cycle of 1) research, 2) planning, 3) engagement and 4) measurement. Even advanced social strategies like listening platforms will move beyond their primary functions of customer service and brand monitoring when social data becomes connected to other forms of customer data.
- Technology vendors are blurring the distinction between products and services. The technology vendor landscape is transforming quickly. Consolidation by big service companies (e.g., IBM’s purchase of Coremetrics, Netezza and Unica) means they will increasingly offer a smorgasbord of services and products. This is making it very difficult for marketers to determine who does what. Marketers typically prefer best-of-breed solutions, but vendors push for integrated online suites runs. Expect more confusion, not less, in 2011.
- Segmentation becomes schizophrenic. Dave Frankland, in the aforementioned analysis by Forrester, said that “today’s firms are schizophrenic about customer segmentation.” Brand and research teams use cohorts. Customer experience professionals prefer personas, and the analytics staff likes clusters. Expect some change in these approaches as marketers begin to overlay various segments as a first step to creating a more holistic picture of the customer. However, Frankland points out that in order to do this, “the internal political minefield will be equally important.”
- “Touchpoint Attribution” emerges as the new buzzword for 2011. Multichannel marketing was the hot topic in 2009. But if you think about it, multichannel marketing can only be effective if it’s measured. It also means that multichannel marketers have to become a lot more sophisticated by doing more than allocating sales to the most recent customer interaction. Others are calling this “fractional attribution” but the goal is the same, to understand the relative value of different channels and gauge the success of marketing programs accordingly.
- Mobile marketing explodes. A number of things happened in 2010 that set the stage for an explosion of mobile marketing in 2011. Apple’s iPhone, Google’s introduction of Android, and Apple’s launch of the iPad mean that smartphone adoption has escalated. Mobile marketing can now move beyond mobile messaging; mobile email, mobile websites and mobile applications will become viable channels for marketers. The explosion will happen when the new devices, faster networks and new location-based technologies converge.
- Privacy wars heat up. Online marketing relies on a dirty secret – it needs cookies to track and target behavior. But consumers are rising up and demanding change. So much so, that legislation is now looming in Congress. Privacy experts don’t believe it will pass in 2011, but you can expect to see a much stronger emphasis on self-regulation. Facebook and Google are continually adjusting their business models as a result. As marketing becomes more social and mobile, privacy issues won’t be going away anytime soon.
- “Right Touching” makes sense. Multichannel marketing will continue to increase as more channels are in the marketer’s toolbox. Measuring these touches are important (as noted in Trend #7) but selecting the right ones in the first place will get more attention. Another new buzzword, right touching, describes the process of selecting the right online and offline channels that best meet customers’ preferences. To do multichannel marketing with the right touchpoints means that marketers will need to invest in technologies to support this in an automated fashion (for more information, see my blog post “Is Multichannel Marketing Really “Dual-Channel?“).
I’ll be watching these trends closely in 2011. One thing that I can be sure of is they’ll probably change (maybe even before 2011 arrives).
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