At the end of last year, I wrote a blog post predicting the top marketing trends for 2011. Just like sportscasters who make predictions for the coming week's games and give reasons on Monday why they shouldn’t be held accountable, I’ll revisit my top 10 now (perhaps so I don’t look so foolish at the end of the year when some don’t seem to be panning out).
- Customer engagement is not a passing fad. This one actually seems to be changing and expanding at the same time. The new term that is gaining a foothold is “customer experience,” which is more encompassing than engagement. Forrester Research describes it as a more “outside-in” focus on the customer, where marketers seek the desired customer experience, a deeper understanding of their behaviors and needs, and the development of a customer-centric culture. New touchpoints and data available to marketers are being used to keep customers engaged (and hence the connection between the two terms).
- Data intergration becomes mission critical. No change here. In all the client meetings that I’ve attended this year, no one has said they don’t have enough data. In fact, the cries to integrate data are becoming more frequent. Since the primary reason behind our disparate data sources is “siloed” information, you would think savvy marketers would be finding ways around these barriers and looking for opportunities to integrate online and offline data.
- Marketing analytics are red hot. Even in an economy that seems stuck we’re adding marketing analytics professionals, and I think this is indicative that firms are continuing to pry money out of tight budgets to increase their focus on customer knowledge. However, the use of the analytics is changing. Instead of just changing how firms market, it is being used to drive “strategic intelligence,” which radically changes how firms interact with their customers (i.e the customer experience mentioned in trend #1).
- Social media will mature. Of all my trends, this one has seen the biggest change. I’m not sure if it means that social media is maturing, but a lot is happening. There’s a huge amount of clutter out there that marketers have to deal with as their own best practices emerge. The good news is that social media is becoming part of the marketing strategy and is being considered in the early stages of marketing planning. The bad news is that it’s becoming harder to get true creative differentiation as social media marketing becomes more than just getting someone to click on a “like” button. And, guess what? As more money goes into social media marketing, CEOs are asking “What’s my return on investment?” You can expect social media analytics to be a hot button in the future.
- Technology vendors are blurring the lines between products and services. The frenetic pace of marketing technology acquisitions continues to confuse marketers. IBM, Oracle, Teradata and SAS have made, respectively, acquisitions of Unica, Market2Lead, Aprimo and Assetlink. All of these acquisitions are designed to create so-called “marketing suites.” These packages of product and service offerings make product road maps difficult to comprehend. As a result, marketing professionals are revising their technology strategies and, in some cases, making new bedfellows.
- Segmentation becomes schizophrenic. Customer segmentation continues to fall short. While customer segmentation schemes become more sophisticated, they continue to fall short for several reasons. First, many firms fail to apply the results of segmentation. The segments are created but cannot easily be applied to customers in the database. Second, marketers have found it difficult to prove ROI (return on investment) by segment. This had made it difficult to prove value in the segmentation effort. And, finally, marketers have trouble updating segments over time. As customers and their behavior changes, segments need to evolve to account for the changes.
- “Touchpoint attribution” emerges as the new buzzword for 2011. Almost everyone is talking about attribution and how to do it. Multichannel marketing continues its march forward and with new ways of engaging customers come new requests for tracking success across multiple channels. It’s still mostly talk; attribution projects to date generally provide fragmented views across channels. The move toward customer intelligence hubs (CI Hubs) will make attribution easier as online and offline data become more readily accessible and integrated.
- Mobile marketing explodes. I must confess that this is about the third year that mobile has been predicted to skyrocket. And, so far, 2011 doesn’t appear to be any different than prior years. Why? There is a lot more activity but most of it has been scattershot mobile campaigns. Just like social media marketing, mobile needs to evolve to become more strategic than just one-off campaigns. A couple of ways that mobile can make this transition is to 1) be tested as a supplement to existing campaigns, and 2) be used as a vehicle to drive strategy.
- Privacy wars heat up. Time Magazine ran a cover article entitled “Data Mining: How Companies Now Know Everything About You.” So you can definitely say that the privacy debate is heating up and may even be close to boiling. Legislation has been introduced in Congress to mandate tracking policies for online marketers. Generally, these tools allow individuals the right to opt-out of being tracked as they surf the web. If implemented on a wider scale, these so-called Do Not Track efforts will reduce marketers' ability to serve targeted ads and measure the effectiveness of campaigns.
- “Right touching” makes sense. OK, I may have been a little premature on this one. I originally thought that when multichannel marketing becomes more important, selecting the right channel(s) for the customer would become even more critical. My theory might be right, but not too many people in the marketing world are using the term “right touching.” Oh well, just like the Monday morning analysis by sportscasters, I’ve always got next year’s predictions.
Revisiting these trends was an interesting and somewhat humbling exercise. The big question now is... how many of these trends will carry to 2012?
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