The end of the year is a time for looking back and reflecting on the successes and lessons of we learned. But, that is also pretty boring, so we asked our team of digital marketing experts to gaze into their crystal balls and predict the course of 2015. Take a look at the trends we see for the next year, and feel free to add your own predictions in the comments.
Our Marketing Gurus
Burton: 2015 is going to be an interesting year for social media strategies and a lucrative year for the networks themselves. With reports that Facebook’s organic reach is around 2% and dropping, marketers of all sizes are going to need to start putting money into their social strategies. Other platforms are following Facebook route and giving brands more ways to advertise. Currently Instagram, SnapChat and Google+ are open to select companies to show ads. Pinterest has a waitlist to join their ad program and Twitter continues to offer more paid options. In 2015 I would expect more companies being able to advertise on these platforms.
Obviously the growth of paid social posts isn’t exactly new, but I think that more brands, especially smaller businesses, will spend more on social. Apart from spending more money this also opens the door for brands to exploring other avenues and networks. However, with the increased spending I think there will be an exploration into smaller, free options. I expect to see an increase in activity from brands on other networks like Medium, Backplane, Reddit and others. Overall I think that 2015 will continue to be a very social year for brands.
Mike: Like Burton said, brands will continue to be social, but I think it will be viewed as less of a stand-alone marketing channel and more of an integrated marketing function. Given the spat of “How to Find Social ROI” blog posts that were published in 2014 (read ours!) and the lack of measurement in social, I think marketers will focus heavily on social channels that provide solid reporting and meaningful analytics.
Jennifer: The main thing I think will happen is we’ll see more strategic social marketing strategies. I think some best practices will be better solidified and there will be more of a focus on better understanding what kinds of content resonant on which platforms. There will be a much stronger emphasis on deeply analyzing social channels and trying to determine which actually help drive the bottom line, which will likely lead to some new tools with which to do this digging. I also think there will start to be more evaluation of whether social really helps businesses the way businesses think it will. Is it powerful enough to warrant the time/resource spend that some companies are spending?
Kevin: Snapchat has become a popular messaging and image/video sharing platform for millennials, and it has continued to grow since its release in 2011. Recent milestones, such as its first in-app advertisement in October of this year, and the launch of Snapcash last month – a product for quickly sending money to your friends, built in partnership with Square – point to the growth Snapchat is striving for. Snapchat will become a valuable vehicle for brands trying to reach a young and engaged audience, and I think we’ll see new, more conversational and story-like ads specifically developed for this platform.
Damion: Youth-targeted companies will abandon Facebook. You have to go where your audience is and, for companies targeting teens, that is no longer Facebook. When moms and dads and aunts and grandpas start commenting on your wall, teens know it’s time to move out. For many teens, the move has been to Instagram. Expect youth-targeted businesses to invest substantial time and resources on the platform in 2015.
Robert: Pinterest will become the first true Social eCommerce platform. It feels long overdue for them to make their network able to sell goods directly through it, rather than having to be an intermediary.
Robert: Brands are going to see even less return on digital media buys, so more dollars will be shifted from Display & Rich Media and put into Native and Sponsored Content. I’m going to go ahead and throw a percentage out there: 7%. Yea, that feels right.
Mike: I think SlideShare is going to have a huge year. It is already the quiet titan of content marketing, and one of the top 120 sites in the world. Its biggest drawback for marketers was the lack of quality (free) analytics, but it axed its freemium model and opened analytics to everyone. Owned by LinkedIn, SlideShare is tightly integrated into the professional network. Any brand that produces professional content should be looking at SlideShare.
Mike: Brands are going to discover podcasts as a means of branded storytelling. Podcasts have been around for years, but they’ve primarily been education or discussion tools; the incredible success of Serial, with its millions of global listeners, has shown that the right stories will find an audience, no matter what form it is in. It’s unlikely that any brand will be able to grab attention like Serial, at least not in 2015, but we’ll see more brands exploring podcasts as a means of brand journalism and storytelling.
Chelsea: 2015 will be the year of incredible visual storytelling. Content will be optimized and tailored for each marketing channel. The right piece, in the right format, for the right experience. The need for more and more content, with budgets not keeping up will necessitate the repurposing of content on a large scale. Huge content pieces will be made so they can also be broken into dozens of smaller pieces, whether it’s an ebook or a whitepaper or an in-depth video. The same will be true in reverse.
Mike: With any luck, 2014 was the last year of brands posting ghoulishly branded 9/11 remembrances on social media. Eventually, brands will learn to leave well enough alone.
Brian: Brands that still don’t have their houses in order will feel the pinch in 2015. The NFL, for instance, is in for a rough year as everything – player behavior, union rules, long-term health of players, etc. – comes to a head. Too many brands do not have a unified vision, and I think we’ll see those organizations struggle in 2015.
Brittney: I think we’ll continue to see a shift from digital marketing in a vacuum and department silos (like traditional marketing efforts, paid marketing, social, public relations etc.) to more unified teams and strategies as more and more large companies recognize the cross over between these groups and how they can benefit from working in concert.
Marketing Automation and Analytics
Brian: Many businesses still don’t have their websites – and the other marketing assets they 100% control – working for them yet. Social ROI is one point, but many businesses have still not closed the loop on marketing spend to revenue and profit. Marketing automation and analytics will continue to rise as businesses focus on tracking the value of a single customer throughout the buying journey.
Jill: Marketing Automation will continue to grow. In 2015, more companies will deploy Marketing Automation solutions to stay ahead of the curve. Marketing Automation tools like Pardot and Marketo are gaining popularity. These tools are designed to automate marketing processes such as database segmentation, lead nurturing, lead scoring and campaign management to boost response rates and conversions.
Leads are meant to be nurtured.
The spray and pray method of email marketing to untargeted lists is a waste of time and can hurt your brand in the long run. Instead shift your email strategy to one of lead nurturing. Lead nurturing is the process of providing highly relevant content to move prospects through the sales cycle. According to Forrester, companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost.
Long gone are the days of making marketing decisions based solely on gut instincts. We will see a shift in marketers relying on data over gut to make decisions. Marketing Automation tools provide insights into customer behaviors across multiple channels. Modern marketers will leverage the data collected to shape their content, digital and lead generation strategies.
Rain: My prediction for digital marketing in 2015 is the fact that we’re all going to go back to the basics of marketing and really understand our target audience. UX and audience research will be the “buzzwords” that will emerge in the new year. Matching a better UX experience with marketing best practices to provide a true customer experience will be the key to winning the new tech savvy shopper.
Brittney: Digital Marketing will continue to merge with user experience, evolving (at least in part) into User Experience Marketing. Digital Marketing has traditionally focused on data-driven decision making, and while data is still an incredibly valuable for marketers, we are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of more qualitative information to support our ideas. In 2015, I think a healthy combination of quantitative data (like analytics data) and qualitative data (like user testing and behavioral analytics) will be used to to create marketing strategies. Maybe another way to say it would be: I think we’ll be making more data and user influenced decisions in 2015 rather than relying on one more heavily than the the other.
Damion: More brick and mortar shops will develop smartphone apps to help consumers get the most out of real world shopping and dining experiences. Walmart’s new app functionality, Search My Store, allows users to type in the name or category of a product and locate it within the physical store. Taco Bell’s recently launched app allows users to order and pay in advance and then pick their food up at a nearby location.
Robert: Facebook is going to continue to create stand-alone apps that serve one purpose – Instagram really is Facebook Photos app, WhatsApp is Facebook Messenger – look for Facebook Payments, Facebook Professional, Facebook Arcade, Facebook Travel and Facebook Dating. Also, I hope there’s at least one app that brings ‘poking’ back.