"From mobile shopping to social media and even phenomena such as virtual reality, new forms of technology will become crucial to the way that brands market their products."
Quite naturally, marketers always want to know the answer to questions like ‘What will the next big trend be?’, ‘What will our clients want next year?’ and ‘How can I ensure I succeed?’ In a world where competition amongst businesses is fiercer than ever, staying ahead of the game is essential to survival and growth. Here is what we think will be popular in 2016:
1) The need for good content will grow
Already so important to brands and their websites, the value of content will continue to grow in 2016. But it’s not just the written word that will dominate in the coming years. More visual content, such as photos and videos, will grow in their importance as brands come up with more creative and innovative ways to attract customers. In the age of the 24-hour news cycle and instant information, the speed at which brands are able to create and upload content to their websites will play a huge part in how successful they are.
It’s a trend that has been growing for some time, but 2016 is the year we’re likely to see user-generated content become more important than ever. Online reviews, blogs, social media posts and tweets; these are all forms of user-generated content that can influence a consumer’s view of a brand. If you’re going to create a positive impression of your company, co-creation of content between brands and consumers will be essential, which leads us smoothly onto our next point.
2) Stronger relationships through customer engagement and retention
Nowadays, in order to construct a positive relationship between a brand and consumer, the latter are now seeking, and almost expecting, more engagement from businesses. They are searching for “genuine” companies who offer real value rather than just speaking meaningless jargon. Businesses that look after their customers will find that they return again and again, because they feel looked after and valued, rather than just another faceless number on a spreadsheet.
These genuine companies aren’t just focused on attracting brand new customers; they also concentrate on retaining those who have visited them in the past, often through a loyalty scheme. However, these schemes are often rushed without thinking about how they will benefit the customer. In response to this, Love Energy Savings conducted two surveys to find out what loyalty scheme users really wanted, simply by asking them. They found that 59% of B2B loyalty scheme users preferred a Spending Programme, where rewards would be given based on the amount spent, whereas 52% of B2C customers preferred a Points Scheme, where rewards were given on points accumulated. Even this basic level of research shows that businesses need to tailor their retention plans to suit their individual customers if they are to succeed in 2016.
3) Less advertising, more creative marketing
The average internet user is exposed to hundreds of advertisements every single day just through browsing the internet. Recently Apple hit the headlines because of an app in its store that could be downloaded to block internet ads on mobile devices and as more people head down this path, advertising will become less and less effective. But, rather than despair at the decline of this particular avenue, brands instead should see it as an opportunity to become more creative.
By forcing brands out of advertising, marketers will have little choice but to think about how to publish engaging content that customers actually want to read. More time, effort and money will be put into creating actual stories that genuinely interest people, rather than interrupting a user’s internet journey with something they may not necessarily want.
4) Technology will continue to take over
From mobile shopping to social media and even phenomena such as virtual reality, new forms of technology will become crucial to the way that brands market their products. Not only does tech such as this allow companies to directly target people in new and exciting ways, it also allows for much more personalisation. Not only could this lead to an increase in sales if people are seeing more of what they would like to buy, it also has a phenomenal impact on the employee-customer relationship. Something that we could see emerge as a marketing tool next year is the Oculus Rift, Facebook’s virtual reality headset. With a consumer release predicted for Q1 of 2016, this emerging form of tech that has never been seen before will bring personalisation to the forefront of marketing and allow companies to produce 360-degree stories and bring them to life. This could be applied to all sectors and industries; for fashion it could allow people to try on outfits without physically putting on the clothes, and for the motor industry it could put people behind the wheel of a car for a test drive without the risk of taking it out on the road. Is it likely that on January 1, 2016 companies everywhere will start having virtual reality headsets in their store? No. Uptake on such a new form of tech is likely to be slow, but it would be surprising if it didn’t have at least some impact on the world of marketing.
Another example is the impact of social media platforms such as Snapchat. We have already seen Facebook and Twitter being utilised by brands to market their products and services, not just in terms of paid advertising, but in helping to create that unique relationship. Snapchat is a unique platform as it allows for messages to be sent and accessed in ‘real-time’, and it also offers up exclusive content that has the potential to expire. That way, it makes its users and those targeted by brands, feel both connected and unique at the exact same time.
These are just four predictions for what lies ahead in the New Year for the world of marketing, but it certainly provides some food for thought. New and exciting trends are just around the corner, and rather than sticking to old practices that may lose their effectiveness, brands should be trying new things to further their own development, and what they can offer their customers.
By Phil Foster, MD of Love Energy Savings