The year 2012 is only a week old, but we can see already that this is the year when the innovations from recent years become the game-changers that marketers have been waiting for, no matter which channel you rely on to communicate.
The marketing landscape will evolve in five significant ways this year, and not because marketers are leaping onto the newest bandwagon.
Instead, marketers will execute practical and effective ways to leverage emerging technologies and drive better results for their businesses by increasing relevancy and engagement with their customers.
1. Integration of social data will drive marketing personalization. Marketers will be able to pull in social graph data to get activity and behavioral information they can use for segmenting and targeting.
By leveraging this type of data, marketers can develop content segmented by network activity, product, and activity interest. Even personalized with pictures of friends will appear with marketing messages.
Through smart applications, marketers will be able to identify and interact with people on social networks who have a high propensity to advocate for a certain brand.
Here are some ways marketers are using this data:
Identify users that have "liked" a specific pair of pants on their websites and leverage that information to make email campaigns more relevant. For example, the email could feature those pants or include a special offer on pants.
Create exclusive content and offers for users who have high influencer scores. Users who have large and active networks can be sent exclusive content that they can share with their friends.
2. Display advertising will shift from an acquisition channel to a relationship-marketing channel. According to Forrester Research, display advertising spend will represent 36 percent of overall interactive marketing spend by 2016. As an acquisition channel, however, traditional display advertising faces several challenges:
Display is relatively anonymous.
Ads don't trigger based on buyer intent or past behavior.
Display is in a silo apart from other interactive channels.
In 2012, marketers will start to target and personalize ads based on the individual user's profile data.
Using display advertising in this way will open a whole new set of opportunities for brands to accelerate revenue and customer engagement outside of the inbox.
Here are some ways marketers are evolving display advertising:
Immediately target new customers with banner ads that feature affinity products based on the original transaction. Or, target users with personalized "you might also like" recommendations.
Include banner advertising as part of current, multi-wave automated programs. For example, target inactive or lapsed email recipients with a personalized banner ad that includes exclusive offers and/or personalized content.
3. Mobile marketing will become easier to read and even more targeted. More brands will engage SMS subscribers to determine their preferences and apply that data to future targeting and personalization.
For example, a brand texts users this question: "What's your favorite thing to do in the kitchen?" Users who respond "Bake" will receive campaigns targeted toward baking items, plus information such as recipes and tips.
Marketers will become more sophisticated about optimization for rendering on mobile devices, such as the need for icons or hyperlinked items to be a certain distance apart for people to easily navigate with their fingers on a small touch screen.
Creative templates will be redesigned to recognize the operating system and device that render the open. The design focus will shift from creating multiple mobile versions to optimizing email design and coding to ensure accurate rendering from all devices.
4. New filtering functionality at all the major ISPs will cause open rates to drop. Web-based email clients are evolving inboxes to filter and categorize based on macro and micro data. It isn't just about junk box versus inbox.
The major ISPs are referring to individual user engagement data to determine where an email shows up in the inbox. Most ISPs are creating general folders for promotional campaigns and enabling quick removal of old emails and enabling one-click unsubscribes.
This means it's no longer enough to track inbox deliverability. An email could go to the inbox, but there is no way to track whether it is immediately visible or redirected to a less prominent folder within the inbox.
Marketers must continue to focus on driving individual user engagement with email to avoid being filtered into other folders within the inbox.
5. Geolocation data will be used across channels. Brands are increasingly using geolocation data (captured via a mobile device) to target consumers across a number of channels, such as email and social networks.
When a smartphone user downloads an app from a major retailer, such as Kohl's, Kohl's can access that user's location data to email special offers or information relevant to the user's nearest store, if the app's terms and conditions provide for it.
Using geolocation data enables marketers to send highly targeted messages that consumers will care about or use. It's also an example of how the digital channels are continuing to converge and overlap.
How do you think my predictions will fare in 2012? I would love to hear your comments on these and on your own expectations for digital marketing this year.