Welcome to 2011! Well, not yet, but we’re just about there. With the New Year being just around the corner, it’s about time we lay out our predictions for next year’s major marketing trends.
Here’s what I think will both happen and be important for businesses owners and brand marketers.
- Offline Mobile Marketing will Grow
- Social Media will Mature
- Increased Importance of SEO
- More Small Businesses will Invest Online
- Metrics and Measurements will Increase
- Tracking will Become More Difficult
- Publishers will Increase Focus Online, and Struggle
- Brands will Minimize Social Platforms and Invest in Websites
- E-commerce will Become More Intelligent
- Offline and Online Advertising will Merge
- Convergence will be One Step Closer
It’s pretty clear that mobile marketing will be extremely important. Foursquare has been a great indicator of mobile marketing’s power.
Mobile marketing growing is not the trend I’m excited about though. I’m more excited about how it will continue to be integrated with offline marketing.
As much as I dislike it, Facebook Places is in an opportune position with the release of Facebook Points. It won’t be long before we see fully integrated loyalty programs for check-ins that become Facebook Points which consumers can use to buy product or get discounts.
The integration of the mobile world and the offline world (think Coca-Cola in Israel) will be huge. The ability to integrate consumer credits cards, cheap RFID chips, and more dependence on mobile phones will drive this trend.
We say this almost every year, but it’s finally reached a tipping point. Major brands have embraced the value of social media and the online world. Businesses across the board have realized its importance and have pledged significant resources to the new media medium.
Watch for an increased adoption of corporate blogs and dependence on riskier online marketing plans (I say risky in the sense that brands will begin to slowly move away from the tight lipped corporate culture, to a more consumer friendly culture). Social media will drive businesses to re-think their culture and create a shift in how we do business and how we present ourselves.
Maturity does not increase use of social media, simply more effective and intelligent usage. We’ll see less wastage and more businesses asking the question “Why”.
It’s easy to look at major brand websites and see that most have little to no interest in optimizing their sites for search. Many are created in Flash, ignore coding best practices, and are confusing even for humans.
Businesses are beginning to realize the important of optimizing their websites for search engines. There are too many consumers searching for specific products for businesses to ignore them.
Small businesses, especially, gain an advantage by having an optimized website. Online, small businesses and major brands, are on equal footing – a well optimized small business website has the opportunity to perform better than some major brand websites.
I alluded to it before – small businesses have realized the advantage the Internet gives them and are investing in it. The ability to connect with consumers directly without high prices (think cable television ads) is an appealing proposition for many business owners.
Online marketing is no longer a risk; instead it’s becoming a necessity. The ROI can be measured and when done correctly can be phenomenal. Also, year-by-year, business owners have grown to be more and more tech savvy, recognizing the power of the Internet and investing in it.
The trend has continued and 2011 will be no different. We’ll see a continued increase in online investments with small businesses paying closer attention to their website realizing their sites are their online storefronts.
As more people begin giving online marketing their full focus (no longer experimenting), there will be a renewed focus on metrics. The idea that certain things are not measurable will no longer be accepted; instead people will demand metrics and measurable achievements.
Already, in 2010, we noticed a growth in online marketing metrics theory and strategies; in 2011 this trend will continue. We’ve become more sophisticated in our marketing models and are looking at new indicators to track success.
As more monitoring tools appear and more data becomes available, we’ll be able to more clearly track and define what’s working and what isn’t.
Even though I say tracking and measurements will increase, there is a potential obstacle to the trend. Government has shown an interest in reducing the ability for publishers to track and measure consumers online.
Consumers fear a lack of privacy online, an idea that already doesn’t exist, and never will, and government may over-react. Curbing publishers’ ability to track and understand consumers could hurt online marketing as a whole. When it comes to measuring results, we may be pushed away from strict metrics and be forced to use the same guestimates we already do for traditional media.
Not to be left behind we’ll see more traditional publishers begin focusing online, realizing that traditional media is too expensive to be sustainable. Print publications have already moved online, but in 2011 we’ll see a true focus given to the web property – they won’t be portals for subscribing to the print publication.
I say they’ll still struggle because most print publishers fail to realize that moving online is not as simple as re-investing into your website. It’s a culture shift from print to real-time writing.
Publishing on the web is extremely different than publishing in print – two different strategies that take time to learn. 2011 will be the year publishers truly realize this difference and will either evolve or become extinct.
As brands become more mature in the way they interact with consumers online, they’ll also mature where they interact with consumers. Instead of focusing on creating the optimal social media profiles, businesses will begin to strengthen their website’s integrations with social media features.
Businesses will realize that by integrating the features of a social media site, they’re able to connect with consumers without giving up the analytics and control of branding.
Watch for increase integrations with Facebook connect and Twitter @anywhere. These social media API’s help business websites merge seamlessly with social media.
How we buy products online continue to grow more sophisticated. E-commerce site have collected data by letting consumers like and dislike products, leave comments, and even rate the shipping. Using the data, sites are able to create algorithms to recommend products, based on what we looked at previously.
In the next year, expect ecommerce sites to become even more intelligent. Social media sites allow us to compile large amounts of data to find and present products that solve problems for consumers.
Instead of having to search for a wrench on Amazon – the site may be intelligent enough to recognize that I just Googled how to fix my sink and recommend wrenches that would help with my product. Ecommerce that is predictive and targeted is something we’ll see in 2011.
I spoke previously about mobile marketing and offline merging, bridging the gap for marketers. The same holds true for advertisers.
Google has already shown that advertisers will be able to buy billboards through Google’s Adword system. Similarly, we’re seeing the same system for TV ads and soon enough radio ads as well.
The basic trend here is that we’ll be able to easily bid and manage our offline advertising through online systems – introducing new people to advertising they were previously exempt from.
The second trend here is much more subtle. It relates to the actual ad itself. In 2011, we’ll begin to see more and more websites begin to be added to advertisements.
I propose that in 2011, brands will begin integrating their TV ads with customized landing pages. No more will we see a brand homepage, but instead a relevant information page.
The integration of online and offline is something that already happens, to a lesser degree, in 2011 it’ll be done intelligently and effectively – instead of as an after-thought.
Technological convergence states that one-day technology, our multiple devices, will come together. The theory states that in the future we’ll only have one device, to do everything. It’s already prominent, as we see the adoption of tablets increase and processing power becoming more mobile.
The next age of convergence will come from the web converging with our TVs. We already see this phenomenon with Google TV and Apple TV, a trend that will only continue to grow.
It won’t be long before our tablets are our computers, our TV’s, our phones and anything else we may need.
Overall, I think 2011 will be a truly exciting time. There’s a lot happening and so many changes in technology. We’re on the brink of major adoption of social technology, businesses giving renewed attention to technology, and the potential for major break through in tracking and measuring marketing actions.
If you’re an online marketer, brand manager, or even small business owner, 2011 will not be an era where you continue doing what has worked. 2011 will be a year of risks and trying new things. It will force people to rethink how they reach consumers and what they think is important or effective.
That’s what I think, what about you? What are you anticipating in 2011? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment and share!
Samir Balwani is a digital marketing strategist, helping businesses create holistic marketing solutions. His areas of expertise include digital communications, online marketing, and new media pr.