Image credit: Econsultancy
A new report out by Econsultancy and Adobe has found that content marketing and social media were the “most exciting” opportunities last year when it came to which techniques and technologies presented the biggest opportunity to companies.
The report, which stated that 2015 is to be a year which will present a huge amount of opportunities for marketers, surveyed 6000 marketing, digital and ecommerce professionals from around the globe. It was found that social media in particular was found to represent the most opportunity last year and this was something of a surprise, given that social is often dismissed as a ‘has been’ by many.
It was also found that when looking to 2015, marketers will be concentrating their efforts in a few key areas. These included video marketing, customer experience, content, social, mobile and personalisation, with the latter being one of the most central. However, when asked to choose one singular most exciting opportunity for the coming year, customer experience came out on top.
Customer Experience and Modern Marketing
Great customer experience, or CX as it’s come to be known, isn’t something that’s particularly easy to achieve these days. It’s not enough to have a website now with a contact form, email address and phone number, modern consumers expect to be able to reach companies from whatever platform they happen to be using at the time. Companies are expected to be able to respond to questions or complaints almost in real time thanks largely to social media and mobile. Customers expect to be able to contact a company and have any manner of things addressed through social, mobile, IM, email and telephone and all of these communications are also expected to be centralised so that a more personal service can be given.
For example, a customer calls a company as their order hasn’t arrived. They’re told that they can track delivery online, so armed with a tracking number, off they go to the necessary area of the site. Once there they find that the parcel should be with them as it states it’s been delivered. They call again only to find they’re talking to a different operator who puts them through to another department. After a while waiting in a queue, the customer hangs up and decides to contact the company on social media. Hours later and nobody has replied, the now frustrated customer calls back, only to speak to another operator who once again puts her in a queue.
This is exactly the kind of situation in which a customer becomes increasingly frustrated and often, it leads to angry complaints being plastered all over the company’s social media. However, there’s absolutely no need for it to happen as we have the technology to ensure that communications can be unified. For large companies, unified communications are invaluable and do a lot to smooth the customer service process and ensure that the customer receives a more personal service in which all service reps know exactly what communications have been received, answered and resolved.
For large organisations, this means investment, sound planning and strategizing and to some extent, a change in company culture that centralises the customer over business goals. For smaller businesses, it’s about leveraging technology, data and business intelligence in order to more fully serve the customer and provide an experience that makes them want to come back.
Either way, it’s a reasonably complex project, looking at how to pull everything together in order to provide a seamless experience and one that we’ll see more companies attempt in 2015.
Personalisation Goes Mainstream
According to the report, the use of personalisation increases sales by as much as 14% so unsurprisingly this year is going to see much more use made of it. This is of course part and parcel of customer experience too and for those companies which are aiming to improve the CX, targeting and personalisation is a big part of it and emerged as the top priority for improving CX in the year ahead, followed by content optimisation.
Other priorities included social media engagement, that Holy Grail of modern marketing, viral marketing and multichannel campaign management. Interestingly, SEO doesn’t appear high on the list this year and that could be due to numerous factors. Digital marketing now really requires professional marketers to look at the whole picture, rather than just employ techniques that enable better search results. Of course, that doesn’t mean that SEO is dying, as many will no doubt put forward, there will always be a need for good SEO professionals to take care of technical SEO and link building, for example.
I think that last year saw a lot of people leave the SEO space when Google decided to ban guest posting for SEO. As this was a primary tactic employed by many agencies when it came to link building, once the ability was taken away many either went out of business or scaled right back. However, there’s much more to the discipline and in some respects this means that the wheat has been sorted from the chaff, leaving the industry with more true professionals and less charlatans that peddle out the tired old idea that they can get you to the top of the SERPs.
Think Mobile First
Mobile too is central to the idea of both CX and personalisation and can be said to have been the main driver for the latter so far. As the report points out, “it’s important to realise that mobile’s relevance has actually increased, even if the excitement around it has dipped.” Mobile offers multiple opportunities in that it can be used in conjunction with other technologies such as the up and coming geo-targeting.
Mobile, the report says, “should be seen as business as usual, rather than an optional capability” as smartphones have become such a fundamental part of the lives of consumers. This means that marketers should make every attempt to reach customers on mobile or risk being perceived as a company that doesn’t really care about its customers.
The coming year should be an exciting one for marketers working in businesses of all sizes. Central to success is providing a good, cross-channel customer experience, using digital technologies to achieve this and placing the customer first. Those that get it right can look forward to improved sales, brand recognition and customer loyalty. However, it’s not an easy thing to achieve, so will take time, investment and to some extent, changing the company culture in order to position the customer centrally.