No matter what kind of business you run, you need customers to keep growing. Word-of-mouth referrals and repeat clients can certainly help, but most businesses could benefit from a little marketing boost.
While the purpose of marketing hasn't changed, the methods and trends companies follow to achieve results has evolved drastically in recent years. New marketing technologies continue to emerge, and businesses that want to keep up need to look ahead and prepare for the future.
Business News Daily asked experts about five key tech trends that will shape the marketing landscape in 2017 and beyond. [See Related Story: Mastering the Art of Storyteller Marketing]
1. Content-driven commerce is on the rise
The rise of social media quickly gave way to a new breed of content marketing — one driven by links, shares and referrals. Although affiliate shopping links have been around for years, today's companies have started to connect the dots between content and commerce, and assets like sponsored articles and social media posts are continuing to gain popularity.
"Content-driven-commerce is the use of affiliate links within published content," said Oliver Roup, CEO of VigLink, a platform that helps companies create and place affiliate links. "[This] form of content marketing is helping small business bring in incremental revenue without the cost of a typical marketing campaign. A brand can … incentivize publishers to incorporate their products into their content. Once a consumer purchases the product after leaving the publisher's site, brands and publishers cash in."
Roup said this form of marketing is becoming a preferred outlet for many, as traditional advertising (which he notes has been on the decline) can be costly—and isn't always worth the spend.
2. Programmatic advertising will continue to grow
Automation solutions — which, as the name implies, automate a process based on data input — have been growing in popularity, and for good reason: They help businesses make many areas of their operations much more efficient. In the marketing world, programmatic ad platforms fill this need: According to Jeffrey Finch, CPO and co-founder of digital marketing and advertising platform Choozle, these tools "turn everyday workers into advertising experts."
"Programmatic advertising has been taking off for a while now, but it's poised to greatly expand in the coming years," said Finch. "[These platforms] do the hard work of finding ad space for you, while you simply provide them the information about who you would like to target."
3. Mobile development still matters (but niche apps are on the decline)
Remember the days of, "There's an app for that?" John Marcinuk, group director of marketing production at Blue Fountain Media, believes those days are winding down: While brands should absolutely still be focusing on mobile development, he said, it's better to spend time and resources on a great mobile web experience, rather than creating separate apps for everything.
"Asking your customers to download one more app to their phones for an experience that should be available on the mobile web is not only a big ask on their time, but can cost many thousands of dollars for a brand to develop," he added.
Although customers are more and more comfortable making purchases via mobile devices, many still research on mobile and switch back to their desktops later to complete the purchase. Marcinuk said an optimized mobile experience can encourage customers to whip out their credit cards with their mobile phones in hand.
"For marketers hoping to win back users who don't convert, we'll be utilizing technologies that target across devices and properly attribute our advertising success to all touch points along the purchase process," Marcinuk told Business News Daily.
4. Data analytics will become even more crucial for success
Any company with an online presence knows the importance of using customer data to inform business decision. Most brands are beginning to make data analytics a priority, but marketers still have a long way to go, said Curtis Tingle, CMO of intelligent media delivery company Valassis.
Today's data goes well beyond basic demographics, Tingle said. Now brands can access consumers' online and offline media behaviors and preferences, location throughout the day, purchase history, promotion sensitivity, etc. This, he said, allows you to customize messages, images and offers across channels, even to the household level.
"Marketers must learn how to better use the data that they collect," Tingle said. "Customers are constantly feeding personal information to the companies they engage with – from purchase behaviors to favorite products to the best ways to reach them through advertising and marketing efforts. With this data share, customers are looking for some sort of return, whether it be in the form of more personalized advertisements or targeted coupons/deals."
Tingle noted that utilizing a targeted approach to a select audience is much more impactful than a blanketed "spray-and-pray" method of delivering marketing messages.
"Collecting as much data as possible should no longer be the primary goal; leveraging it to reach and activate consumers in unique and meaningful ways must come first," he added.
5. Artificial intelligence (AI) will be a marketer's best friend
Wondering how to analyze all that data you've got? Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning might just be the answer.
John Callan, VP of marketing at Boxever, a customer intelligence cloud platform, said brands are now using AI to better understand how a customer prefers to interact with a brand (email, personalized homepages, mobile, call-center, in-person, etc.), and tailor offers and messages delivered via those preferred channels based on a customer's desires.
"Another example includes being able to 'interrupt' a regular campaign offer or message based on some new contextual information — perhaps due to a real-time service issue or a change in a behavior pattern — to deliver a more relevant and timely offer or message," he added.
To take advantage of AI for your marketing needs, Callan advised finding a tool that will help you connect the dots between channels and provide relevant insights to drive successful marketing campaigns.
"The right type of [AI] platform not only aggregates all of the customer data from multiple sources within a single database to simplify activation across channels, but also has the power to run … tools and techniques in real-time, leading to an improved customer experience and, more importantly, brand loyalty," he said.