More than in any other year, a customer-centric strategy will be the biggest driver of a successful marketing program in 2015.
With mobile now the first screen in consumers lives — and a primary channel for brands to connect with consumers — marketers must closely examine their 2015 programs through the lens of the consumer to ensure the consumer, not the product or brand, is the center of focus.
With the proliferation of mobile, consumers have taken the reins when it comes to brand interactions, dictating how, when, and where they want to be approached. And they have a diminishing tolerance for brands that act on their own terms.
So how does this affect how you shape your marketing initiatives? Here are six predictions of what we’ll see in 2015:
1. Beacons expand rapidly, but many programs will fail: Beacons will swiftly break out of retail and sports arenas and into hotels, real estate listings, restaurants, auto dealerships, and more as marketers aim to revolutionize the on-premises experience. However, beacons will quickly be abused, firing off messages and offers to everyone who happens to pass, regardless of how relevant those offers are to them. Instead of driving engagement, poor beacon strategy will drive consumers out of the store and into the arms of another brand. In 2015, a few brands (likely 1 out of 4) will deploy the right beacon strategy: integrating beacons into an omnichannel approach, ensuring every interaction is personalized and contextual, moving beyond simple offers to rich content and media that provide entertainment or a utility, and being transparent in terms of how customer data is used. As marketers rush to roll out beacons without the proper strategy to beat the next guy, the majority of beacon programs will flop.
2. Disenchantment with location marketing: As more budgets shift to mobile, many marketers will continue to obsess over location-based marketing, leading to a reality where consumers are targeted at every street corner. Consumers will tune out this irrelevant interruption (No, I don’t want to come in for lunch. I just ate…), marketers will be forced to realize that location alone shouldn’t be trigger an experience and will start anticipating a person’s intent and tapping into weather, news and events, traffic and transit, and other third-party data streams to drive true relevance.
3. Cross-channel data integration and artificial intelligence: As consumer touchpoints continue to multiply, brands will realize that the customer data they have been collecting results in incoherent experiences for customers (i.e., I am treated as a VIP online, but in-store the sales associates have no idea how loyal I am or my preferences). Brands will start to integrate their various silos (email, digital marketing, finance, social, mobile, CRM, etc.) to create a single view of their customers in order to provide a cohesive experience. Since this will be the first time marketers will have an orchestrated view into cross-channel data, they will start exploring and leveraging artificial intelligence to drive the consumer experience forward.
4. The Uber-ification of everything: Despite Uber’s recent executive’s PR fiasco and “God View” revelations, it is one of the hottest company success stories as it has completely disrupted its market for one simple reason: It has revolutionized its customers’ journey by removing friction in the process of getting from point A to point B.
In 2015, marketers will be inspired to look at the journeys that their customers are on to identify areas that can be streamlined, automated, and modernized. Perhaps the most top-of-mind way to eliminate friction is through contactless payments. The introduction of Apple Pay in October undeniably sparked reinvigorated interest and accelerated trial and adoption of mobile payments. Brands must not only work to streamline payments, but also to take a close look at the entire consumer purchasing process — loyalty programs, offers, social advocacy, CRM, etc.
5. Marketing through the Internet of things: The Internet of things market will continue to heat up, with new inventions hitting the market. While many larger smart appliances and home automation systems will still be too expensive for the average consumer, we will see continued adoption of some items, like the Nest thermostat, and an increasing desire for connected cars. As more attention is paid to design (i.e., Tory Burch for Fitbit line), the wearable market will continue on its growth path with the Apple Watch emerging as a favorite among consumers. Brands will start experimenting with marketing through these emerging screens, and unique partnerships will be formed between brands (i.e., a restaurant partnering with an activity tracker wearable that sends a message to a person that it’s okay to splurge on dessert following an intense workout).
6. Data breaches continue to haunt big brands: Following a few high-profile data breaches this year, there is a high chance for this devastating security trend to continue for payments data as well as personal customer data. Brands that have started collecting consumer data without putting the right checks and balances in place will be held hostage by hackers as we saw with Target, Home Depot, and others this year.
Many brands and agencies that I have spoken with this year have had a defeatist attitude when it comes to mobile or are comfortable staying with the “status quo,” but these mindsets are starting to shift as they recognize mobile’s role in building relationships. We’re starting to see a few brands break out as the marketing stars in our mobile-first world, and in 2015, we will all be pleasantly surprised by the innovative initiatives that marketers undertake to create some of the most powerful connections between brands and consumers ever.