New Technologies and Consumer Behaviors to Consider.

Part 2 of 3 in 2017 Digital Marketing Series

Marketing has become much more complex.

Today’s world is rapidly and dramatically delivering impactful new realities — in demographics, technologies, behavioral trends, communication, competition, and capabilities. The speed and scale of changes are breathtaking and often seem intimidating. This new era of digital and technology automation is being called “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” and is literally changing how we think, act and live.

The good news is these are very exciting times of great opportunities. The bad news is these are challenging times that require adapting to change much more rapidly or being at risk.

This article presents what we believe are current – not distant future — trends that you need to understand and adapt into your 2017 digital marketing plans and budgets, so you can take action now to have the most impact in the next three years. These suggestions are not tailored for Fortune 100 global brands (some of whom we have marketed) or for small community local merchants (many of whom were fundamental to our early careers), but to the vast majority of businesses and organizations working to deliver their products and services to consumers and other businesses.

Our company, USDM (Universal Standards for Digital Marketing, LLC), is a digital consultancy and marketing services company. Since 1993, our principals have developed highly effective digital strategies in the public sector in travel and economic development, and in private sector for retail, luxury lifestyle, consumer electronics, consumer products and travel. Before the dawning of the internet age, we were a successful ad agency. As digital technologies delivered innovations, we sensed the seismic shifts to come and jumped on board. Our success is founded on future-focused thinking and impactful, measurable results for our clients. As technology continues to bring change, we keep adapting to excel. Here is what we think you need to know and consider in 2017.

Change is accelerating. Technology is changing everything. Consumers are more empowered than ever. Who the consumer is has changed. What they think, feel, do, and want is still changing. And, perhaps most importantly we think, the consumer is evolving faster than the businesses and marketers that seek them.

We must catch up to the consumer and technology changes or risk obsolescence.

Current Digital Trends to Embrace

• Majority of your marketing dollars should be online – if you are still spending the majority of your marketing dollars in offline media (broadcast and print), you are missing a LOT. First, online is where the consumers are, constantly. Plus digital marketing provides vital measurability, targeting, cost efficiencies, and insights that traditional media cannot match. For decades, the most advertising dollars were spent on television, but in 2016, digital advertising expenditures took the lead.

• Omni-Channel Digital Marketing is the New Norm. The old norm for 150 years was traditional marketing, where you created a print, TV, radio, or outdoor ad hoping to reach your audience. Creative was King. Reach and measurement was estimated, cost was somewhat fixed, change orders were slow, two-way communication was virtually non-existent, and insights required expensive additional costs. Many businesses could afford to do only a fair job in one or two media channels. Everyone had their favorites. Today’s Omni-channel digital marketing is how and where you can attract, engage, communicate with, receive feedback from, keep track of, and re-contact across a wide variety of digital channels (web, email, social media, search engines, etc.) and different devices (desktop, laptop, smartphone, tablet) as well as offline (phone, in-person). Omni-channel marketing enables you to reach, engage and reconnect with your prospect to further engage them as their move through the consideration-to-purchase process, across the multiple devices they use.

• Millennials are the New Majority. In 2016, Millennials, the generation born between 1977 and 1994 and now ages 23-40, overtook Baby Boomers, now ages 53-71, as the largest demographic is the United States and the world. As any employer of Millennials knows, they are different.

Millennial Traits. Know them. Embrace them.
– Millennials are free-thinkers; 50 percent are politically independent and 30 percent are unaffiliated with any organized religion.
– They are less judgmental of gender, race, nationality, religion, or sexual orientation, (but do exhibit some ageism).
– They are less rushed to reach milestones of adulthood, such as marriage, children, home ownership, and now even car ownership.
– They are very digitally savvy and quick to adopt new technologies.
– They prefer texting to phone calls or emails.
– Millennials define themselves by their social media use and are eager to share content, so long as it’s relevant. They love sharing their experiences live as they happen (travel, entertainment, dining, shopping, etc.)
– A job they like is more important than the pay, and they most want flexibility in when, where, and how they work.
– They are averse to commitment, growing up and mass production. Ex: home mortgages, two year phone contracts, marriage, chain hotels and restaurants, average fashions.
– They prefer unique goods rather than mass produced
– According to a Harris study, 78% of surveyed millennials would rather spend money on an experience or event than on tangible products. The preference for experiential wealth over possessions.
– Millennials respond to authenticity and a sense of shared community
– Millennials appreciate sincere customer appreciation gestures. Taylor Swift, a master of Millennial marketing, garners great loyalty by showing her fans special appreciation by inviting some to special pre-listening and feedback sessions, or offering pre-release album sales bonuses like autographed photos and personalized messages.
– Millennials have tremendous travel spending potential and higher tendencies to travel. They seek “experiences” and like to post these online to their friends as they happen.
– They show a Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) on specialized or personalized offerings.
– Millennials are our future

• The Digital Marketing “Holy Trinity” Still Rules (content & search, email, social media)
These digital marketing basics of maintaining multi-device compliant web content, with SEO and SEM (Google), email database and marketing capabilities, and social media presence (Facebook, Linked-in, etc.) are still the predominate fundamentals of digital marketing. Do these well before you try to venture to new areas. While email marketing has become more automated through technology, content marketing, search and social are still quite sophisticated and labor intensive. Some companies have whole teams of in-house experts in these areas. Others outsource to such specialists. Social media marketing has grown in importance and impact as the growth of the millennial market increases. These fundamental digital tactics are table stakes for marketing yourself online and require adequate budgets, resources and staff to do execute well. The next “big thing” to add to this mix will be, in our opinion, data analytics software and services.

• Make “Mobile First” Your Priority. Content is now consumed first and foremost on mobile devices. Just look around in public. Marketers need to make sure their content is compliant across all mobile formats and devices. On Black Friday 2016 (the shopping day after Christmas), more than a billion dollars was purchased via mobile devices, equaling over a third of all online sales. When Donald Trump was sworn into office on January 20, 2017, I saw a man watching the ceremony live on CNN on his iPhone in a grocery store while shopping. Mobile content is convenient, immediate, always available and now expected. It is where people get their news, shop, price compare, read reviews, and often, make that final purchase. Within the next decade mobile/digital payments are predicted to replace physical currency. Amazon now has a physical store where you go in, get what you want, and leave. No check-out lines. No cash. All wireless, digital scanning and paying (probably inventory management too). Mobile lets you be continually engaged with your consumer/customer as they move through the consideration-to-purchase process

• Technology is Vital, more User-Friendly, and now a Major Budget Item.
In our experience, many clients are intimidated, in some measure, by technology and therefore slow to invest in it. That said, two-thirds of the respondents to a 2015 Gartner survey said that social marketing and digital commerce were their leading technology investment priorities. Over 50% of respondents said they prioritized marketing technology for customer experience and advertising operations. While analytics ranked top priority for 61% of marketers surveyed.

In 2015, approximately 2,000 new marketing applications came to market, doubling the number the previous year. This could be a topic for a future article. For now, a Google search of “marketing technology” or “marketing automation software” will lead you to lists of productivity solutions. Caution, the integration of and training to use some of these products warrant some outside consultation to run more smoothly. We help a lot of organizations assess their current digital assets and then integrate new technologies (that we do not sell) appropriate for their goals and budgets to achieve meaningful and measurable improvements.

You read about a lot of exciting new technologies like the Internet of Things connected appliances, Virtual Reality, robots, autonomous cars, and others. Some of these – like Virtual Reality – may have a significant role in your 2017 marketing (for hotels, destinations, vacation packagers, and game companies), but for most, these are premature considerations secondary to more productive technology investments, like marketing work flow automation, data analytics, predictive ad targeting, omni-channel performance analytics, and others. A good marketing technology consultant can guide you through the process of prioritizing your technology investments – perhaps over a few years – to optimize the productivity that best meets your goals and budget.

• Data Analytics is your Next Must-Have. Once quite complicated, data analytics software is now are much easier to use, once integrated. Graphical dashboards show data metrics in easy to understand formats, and multiple reports and tests are easily automated. This is perhaps the most important innovation to marketers in years. Being able to tie together all your data streams and many more external data streams for real-time response and analysis affords you great insight, testing, market development, target refining, media efficiencies and reporting capabilities.

Data-driven marketing is a giant leap forward. You should budget now for internal software and staff additions or for outsourcing to a qualified data analytics marketing company. Solutions are often a suite of products that together automate several processes. You don’t have to be a huge corporation to afford data analytics, but you may consider hiring a qualified digital marketing consultant (that doesn’t sell products) to guide you through the selection and integration process. And, it may be wise to outsource your data management and analytics to a qualified marketing partner that already owns and operates these systems — sort of a “software as a service” offering. Be sure to maintain ownership of all your data.

• Real-Time is the New Expectation. All this 24/7/365 hyper-connectivity to mobile content and commerce has created higher expectations from consumers. Ten years ago, your web page needed to load in 3 seconds or less. Five years ago, your content needed to load quickly on a smartphone or tablet. Today, all your content and interactions better function as close to real-time as possible. All these offerings have bred some impatience in consumers. Be sure you’re not on the delete side.

• The Content and Image Continuum: Photos > Video > Live Streaming > Virtual Reality. Expectations from consumers and search engines on content have also risen. A few years ago, you simply needed well written copy that was optimized for search engines. Then search engines rewarded links to other sites; next, images in your content. Now, social content, reviews, and video up your value. We expect the future brings live streaming and virtual reality links into the value-reward equation. The point is that you can no longer depend on written content alone to satisfy your audience. Images are necessary and video is even better, as evidenced by the fact that Pinterest and YouTube are excellent marketing channels. While video production can be expensive, you can use affordable alternatives for shooting video. Entire television programs have been shot on iPhones and GoPro cameras. Just be sure to capture good audio and be attentive to good lighting.

If you would like some assistance with assessing where your organization is in today’s automated digital marketing environment and what kind of improvements are right for you, contact us at headquarters@usdm.net. We love to dive into this with brands whether they are trying to crawl, walk or run..

In our final article, Part 3 of 3, “Digital Marketing Recommendations for 2017 and Beyond,” we’ll give you some actionable recommendations on trends in technology and consumer behavior that must be addressed in your updated digital marketing plans and budgets going forward to better compete in the fast changing marketplace of 2017 and beyond.

The company has headquarters in Austin, Texas and a Canadian office located in Toronto Ontario. USDM is a subsidiary of  USDM Holdings, Inc., along with Orange142, LLC and 2020 Strategy Group, LLC.