2015 may be only a couple of weeks old, but staying ahead of the curve is of utmost importance in the marketing world. Here are three strategies to make sure you’re ready for the challenges of 2016 ahead of time.
1. Content Remains King
Developing quality content should be seen as a priority for any company, regardless of industry. A form of inbound marketing, content marketing aims to provide information to current customers and potential prospects in order to build trust, develop the brand, and ensure your brand is seen as an expert in the subject matter.
Not a new trend by any means, this year the Content Marketing Institute has released survey figures illustrating 86% of B2B organizations have a strategic content marketing strategy. (6) This staggering number should be an incentive to any business that is lacking a content marketing strategy to invest in their marketing budget and start developing engaging and insightful content, or risk being left behind.
An added benefit to stepping up quality content generation is a boost in search engine ranking, but the real power of content lies in the effect it has on perception of your brand. In order to illustrate this, have a look at these eye-popping statistics:
2. Agile SEO
By prioritizing visual content on your website, you’re also achieving the added benefit of building your SEO ranking. Recent algorithm updates from Google have placed a premium on quality content over keyword optimization. Search engines use SERP (search engine results page) rankings to judge how valuable the information is on a webpage, how long users stay on a page (aka “Dwell Time”), and how much of the rest of the site they click through.
Pictures, infographics, and video are much more arresting than plain text and therefore, much more likely to contain information a user will feel is relevant to their search. While “pictures are worth 1,000 words,” it’s been estimated that a video can be “worth 1.8 million words” in a Forrester study by Dr. James McQuivey. (5)
Along with engaging visuals that boost the chances users will “dwell” on your pages longer, supplementing with optimized meta descriptions, alt tags, and targeted keywording is imperative to round out an effective SEO strategy. An important note however, is that SEO best practices change with technology. Users are becoming more accustomed to entering lengthy, more complex search queries instead of just a few key words (perhaps due in part to improving speech recognition software in smartphones), and therefore, a greater importance is placed on the quality and relevancy of the content on a webpage, rather than traditional keyword density. This is great news for marketers as it means they can keep generating relevant and useful content without have to keep an SEO guru on staff.
The beauty of having all your SEO “I’s dotted and T’s crossed” is that it will provide you with one of the highest ROI’s of any advertising campaign. Unlike most marketing efforts, SEO improves your inbound marketing strategy. Instead of disrupting a user’s schedule or activity, you’re paving the road for them to easily find you when they’re ready to buy what you’re selling. Instead of having to convince them to buy a product or service, you’re establishing in advance that you are the best option to buy it from.
3. Optimize for Mobile
What was once considered something “nice to have,” optimizing your company’s website for mobile devices has become a necessity and a valuable investment for the future. The main efforts of digital marketing are aimed at appealing to the Millennial generation, and hoping to persuade them to be customers for life. However, without an optimized digital presence on mobile devices, your overall marketing efforts will never reach their true potential.
We’re all becoming increasingly tethered to our mobile devices and Millennials especially are rarely seen without a mobile phone or tablet. 87% of this digital generation admits to never being without their phone. With mobile devices becoming such an integral part of their daily routines, Millennials are expecting more from brands and 86% are of the opinion that there are still a lot of websites without good mobile functionality. Even more worrying for brands that don’t have a strong mobile presence is that 14% wouldn't do business with a company that doesn't have a mobile site or app. (12)
More and more, shoppers are turning to using mobile devices like smartphones and tablets to research a product, comparing deals online, finding a retail outlet, and most importantly, making the purchase. Decreasing pain points in the user interface of a mobile optimized webpage or app has been shown to increase conversions by 160%. (13) Be sure to not lose out on these sales by making sure your mobile shopping experience is user-friendly.
While it’s important to be ready for the future, you can’t neglect the strategies that are bringing in results today. These next three strategies have become a must for successful digital marketing in today’s high tech world.
4. No Excuses for an Outdated Website
No matter the size of your businesses, the importance of a modern, aesthetically pleasing, and easy to use website is crucial for your brand’s image. According to research conducted by Google (1), the first impression of a webpage happens in the blink of an eye (50 milliseconds to be exact). Even more surprising, is that design, rather than content, shapes the perception of the website and therefore the brand associated to it. In an eye-opening study conducted about the trustworthiness of health websites, of all the factors that were mentioned for rejecting or mistrusting a website, 94% were design related; only 6% were content related. (2)
Comparing the webpages of your competitors and industry to your own is more important than ever in order to not fall behind the curve. Tools like pre-made templates for WordPress or Joomla and online storefronts like Shopify or Squarespace have allowed the creation of modern websites with little to no coding knowledge in the space of hours rather than weeks. Not having the time or budget to design and maintain a modern website can no longer be used as an excuse for neglecting your web presence.
In the race to create the most novel and aesthetically pleasing web pages, companies are relying more heavily on visual representation than ever before. Photos, videos, and illustrations are becoming a cornerstone of modern website design due to the boost in user engagement they bring. Whether you create a video to set a mood through a cinematic experience like this landing page for the movie Gravity (3), or choose to explain your mission and purpose through animation like the company Tectonica (4), video can help keep the consumer from clicking away.
5. Refine your Social Media Strategy
Having been in the main stream for a few years now, it’s hard to find a brand that doesn’t have some form of online social media presence. However, this doesn’t mean that all brands are executing a social media strategy that is helping, rather than hurting their brand. The simplicity and low cost nature of creating and posting to a social media platform like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. seems to have given some brands a false sense of security and confidence. Over time this whimsical approach has resulted in many companies forgetting that social media shouldn’t be used for self-promotion, but rather as a way to engage users and build brand trust and address customer issues.
For an example of a stellar social media presence, have a look at Airbnb. Airbnb, a global community of hosts offering travelers homey and unique accommodations, has grown by leaps and bounds. With over 25 million total guests, Airbnb.com receives bookings quicker than every 2 seconds. Embracing its origins of growth from the word of mouth of passionate travelers, Airbnb has transitioned this discussion to the online world. Through its personal and emotion driven stories of its real hosts, Airbnb has been able to humanize itself and gain the trust of a naturally skeptical audience. Across all of its social media platforms, Airbnb is establishing itself as a trusted resource for everything travel related with helpful travel tips and suggestions for the traveler with a penchant for affordable accommodations.
An equally important facet of social media is addressing customer issues. NM Incite’s “State of Social Customer Service Report” claims that 71% of consumers who experience a quick and effective brand response on social media are more likely to recommend that brand to others. That compares to just 19% of customers who do not receive a quick response. (11)
The size of a company shouldn’t be used as a scapegoat for the poor management of a brand’s social media presence. Nike, a global goliath in the sporting goods industry, has set up a dedicated Twitter handle (@NikeSupport) to respond to online customer service issues. With a response rate of over 70%, and responding to 55% of tweets within 30 minutes, Nike is doing everything it can to ensure customer grievances don’t spiral out of control and become a social media nightmare.
6. Brands Need to Get Personal
Regardless whether you consider yourself shy or outgoing; at our core we are all social creatures. We address friends by their first names, or even nicknames depending on the level of our relationship. Our expectations for online interactions are no different. Just look at how successful the “Mayday” button has been for Amazon’s Kindle Fire. (15)
Social media, new mobile technology, and cutting edge communications apps have led to an explosion of online interaction and a proliferation of our personal information. When it comes to our online identity and how it’s used, we’re a fickle bunch and expect companies to walk a thin line. Facebook is often portrayed negatively in the news regarding their privacy policies and the undisclosed tests performed on their user base. However, according to the Direct Marketing Association, 76% of consumers will share personal information with a brand if they believe it will improve their experience and interaction. (14)
We would be perturbed and offended if we walked into a store and were addressed by the sales staff with the greeting “Welcome generic person!” Things would go from weird to worse if they then started recommending items that clearly weren’t what we needed. While this scenario is clearly far fetched, it’s online equivalent is happening all too frequently and users are becoming fed up. Fostering this belief and trust in a brand is a fundamental first step in personalizing content to a specific individual or consumer type. Earlier this year, Janrain shared that 74% of online customers get frustrated with brands that deliver content that appears to have nothing to do with their interests. (16) Every interaction a brand has with a potential customer, whether it be email or the customer visiting the brand’s website, should be personalized (scope of personalization varies by industry).
By collecting information from past customer purchases, newsletter signups, discount offers, social media, etc., a company is able to build a customer profile in order to offer them targeted content or incentives to purchase. A stand out example can be seen with Sephora’s Beauty Insider program. Boasting a ColorIQ feature that can match individual skin shades to store products, it’s able to improve their users experience both online and in-store by taking out the trial and error approach to finding the perfect shade. Loyalty programs are also a great way to start building your customer profile database for the purpose of addressing individual customer needs. Food store chains like Safeway and Kroger, to clothing retailers are very adept at this by tracking the purchase history and offering personalized discounts and special offers.
Whether you only have the resources to created a personalized email campaign, or have the support to develop web resources that are able to target specific users or customer groups, it’s time to put a face on your customer and treat them as an individual.