Welcome to the Chinese Year of the Snake, symbolizing a time of transformation. In that sssspirit, Siva Ganeshanandan, Director, Digital Marketing Suite, Adobe APAC, shares his predictions for what digital marketers in the Asia-Pacific region--and the world over--can expect.
Big Data remains focused on transactional systems--sales data, booking data, phone usage data, etc. These systems like a high-signal-to-noise ratio, but they are still too slow and inflexible to allow a data query conversation. Then throw in some marketing data, and you are really in trouble.
In reality, however, the combination is where the power is. Think of this example: Based on a loyal customer’s previous travel bookings, he should receive a promotion on flights to London in the lead up to Christmas. This is based on years of behavior shown on his frequent flyer program. But if, before logging in, the customer spent five minutes on my destination guide to Bali and searched for flights to Bali around Christmas time, that is a stronger indicator of intent. Bringing the two sources of data together is critical, and customer insights departments are starting to see the value of behavior data (and of combining it with their data warehouses).
Takeaway: Big data will start to deliver insights that move the marketing needle.
What's the point of having all of these insights if you don’t have a way of effectively delivering a response? In the Year of the Snake, marketers will start deploying systems that can read these insights and deliver content automatically. Once you can do this, you can scale independently of human resource constraints. You still need human oversight around the rules and content creation, but there will be an exponential rise for companies that do dynamic content targeting and in the granularity of content targeting.
Socially speaking, dynamic content requires specific platforms to make it possible. The criteria by which you can target a post on Facebook has already gone up, and granular advertising is now automated through Facebook Exchange.
Takeaway: Content will be assembled based on relevance at the last millisecond.
The ability to deliver dynamic content will show positive results. Conversions will be higher because customers will be getting a much more relevant experience. This, in turn, will put pressure on the content creation process that simply can’t scale the way it works today.
Creative professionals in APAC will turn to the creative cloud. This suddenly makes collaboration between multiple agencies, freelancers, and the brand far more fluid and speeds time to Web and mobile. The timing is just right: Better digital marketing will demand more and more creative and simply won’t be successful without it. Better creative that can jump through hoops faster will drive more relevant customer experiences and better digital marketing.
Takeaway: You will need more creative than ever before–the process for producing it will need to change.
Asian marketers are starting to come to grips with conversion and funnel optimization. This year will see more emphasis on qualification. In many markets and industries, the true conversion is offline. Digital marketing is starting to be accused of too many unqualified leads–this is obvious in B2B, but also applies for telcos, financial services companies, and retail.
Key to this are areas looking at customer lifetime value. If it costs the same to acquire a segment with a higher ARPU (AOV, AUM, etc., depending on your industry) as a lower value, you can focus energies on the ones with higher ARPU.
Takeaway: It’s not just about getting more customers; the same technology can warn off the wrong type of lead/customer.
Snake charmers can attract snakes and, more importantly, charm and keep them contented. Customers who are really happy and willing to promote your brand are giving you clues as to what parts of your customer service you are doing right. Research from last year showed that a return customer (in online retail) was worth five shoppers in terms of revenue. A repeat customer was worth nine shoppers.
A widely accepted measure for customer satisfaction is the Net Promoter Score (NPS). While revenue and margin are still key scores, NPS is taken very seriously at the board level. Next year, marketers will start to tap into this key metric in areas such as a NPS for digital channels. Innovative brands will look to analyze customers who give high scores on the NPS scale, and look for other customers who show similar behavior or fall into similar segments.
Takeaway: Discover who your "charmed" customers are and replicate their experiences.
Snakes famously shed their skin and renew. We have started to see brands shed their skins, with better digital experiences, but also on a level deeper, in the platforms that deliver this content.
Today, the majority of brands still have a system that the digital marketing organization is working around--making things happen despite the system, not enabled by the system. The impact of digital marketing has reached a level now that these pains are no longer acceptable from a business point of view, and we will see a purge of legacy, IT-driven CMSes in favor of modern, marketer-friendly platforms.
Takeaway: This year brands will shed their legacy technology skin and emerge brighter, fresher, and ready for the next phase of growth.
Many of us look at the performance of campaigns after the fact. And we tend to look at the easiest to attribute; so far, in digital, that has largely been the last click. This will have to change in two ways as marketers keep a keen pair of eyes on every campaign: First, track performance in real time and adjust everything from placement and bids to channels and target segments. Second, the attribution is mostly last touch–we all know this, but in the Year of the Snake, snake eyes are watching the spend. And when you watch it, you will improve it. It will probably start with first- and last-touch attribution.
Last year, for example, we saw that when you look at first touch, social’s influence is 80 percent more than when you look only at last touch. That kind of insight can have a significant impact on business; as marketers start doing it, it gets addictive! By the end of the year, we will be looking at attribution incorporating touches like display ad views.
Takeaway: Marketers will be able see more of the picture, in time to be able to do something about it.
Content marketing is all the rage. In the Year of the Snake, content marketing will drive engagement through owned media and social channels. It will power more effective search and SEO. It will be what customers expect from brands, especially on digital channels. Customers will expect media to transfer some value in the form of information, insights, or coolness, and marketers who do this well will be rewarded. Content marketing agencies will start to proliferate, though it won’t be until the end of the year until we will have a really good picture of who is good and who is not so good.
A number of broader ethical questions have been raised around the future of authentic content being squeezed between content marketing and diminishing ad spend–but I don’t think marketers will be concerned about that until well after the Year of the Horse.
Takeaway: Content marketing will mushroom. This year is likely to be more quantity than quality.
Quite frankly, this is the area with the biggest gains. Unfortunately, it's not very easy to do, and a lot of the time we need additional resources or training and skill sets to make it happen. This is about connecting the dots you already have. In the Year of the Snake, we will see more organizations turning their attention away from the coolest new technology for this, or building a great app for that, and focusing on the boring but effective. This involves putting in processes that help operationalize the strategy toward the goals. Examples of what we will start to see include dashboards, documentation, and guidelines that should have been there all along, but we never got to do while we were flying by the seat of our pants.
We also will start making better use of technology that we have already bought, and putting in processes for doing something about the insights we have. It will be about consolidating investment based on what makes sense for the bigger picture, and not just to solve a smaller problem--because the processes will for first time show how they relate to each other.
Takeaway: This year marketers will do more of the things they always knew they needed to do.
Sorry, saved the worst pun for last. Many of the preceding trends will be amplified by scale. Budgets will scale. Teams needed to execute on that budget will scale. We talked about content velocity–that will scale. The amount of data available will scale. While these are positive, making the most of the opportunities will present new challenges that many of us in the region have not been used to. The good news is that there are (in most cases) other markets that we can learn from. In fact, finally, some of those case studies from large brands become relevant.
In many cases, the increase in scale will reach a point where marketers will need to do things differently. This can be going from manual to automated, going from one tier of service to the next. This will require expenditure–but if all the other nine trends are also accurate, this expenditure will be spent more wisely than in any previous year of the Chinese Zodiac.
Takeaway: Gong Xi Fa Cai--wishing you every success in the Year of the Snake.