2014 was an exciting and influential year from a digital marketing perspective: consumers craved more from brands, and some marketers stepped up and delivered with the kind of integrated and immersive experiences we could only dream about before. As a marketer and a consumer, I was wowed by brands like Geico, Walmart, and Coca Cola, to name a few.
And marketing in 2015 is positioned to be more robust and revolutionary than in 2014. Here are the trends and techniques that are fast-emerging for next year:
1. Micro-targeting moving beyond retail
In 2015, micro-targeting technology — specifically iBeacons — will be an even more integrated piece of the customer conversion experience, in retail and beyond. This technology was heavily used at the Super Bowl and many Major League Baseball stadiums in 2014, and by the end of 2015, every major U.S. stadium and venue will become “beacon-aware” as brands push to increase real-time engagement with the scores of smartphone users who pass through their gates week after week.
But it’s not just about stadiums and shopping malls. There’s plenty already in the works for banks and financial service providers, travel and tourism giants, entertainment companies, restaurants and much more. Because of this mass, industry-agnostic rollout, the micro-targeting wave has implications for virtually everyone.
2. The marriage of online and offline consumer experiences
In 2015, even more retailers will start turning their physical locations into experience-driven platforms for information and engagement. The need is clear: Consumers expect stores and employees to be digitally linked, connecting them to products, discounts, and services that aren’t on the shelves. Brands must blur the lines between the two platforms — think mobile, micro-targeting, tablet-wielding associates, augmented reality touch points — to stay in-step with consumer demands. Only then will marketers be able to create the kind of relevant, meaningful, and compelling consumer journeys that lead right to the register.
3. Renaissance of email marketing with dynamic content
Email will go through a renaissance in 2015. Pushing offers and discount codes will still have a place, but consumers have become de-sensitized by these too-typical messages and will be on the lookout for something more interesting and attention-grabbing. Smart, conversion-focused marketers will up-level their email messages with context management, which takes consumer-specific situations and maps the right messages at the right time, delivering real-time messaging that’s personalized based on preferences, location, time, and context.
4. The lonesome death of organic reach
With near-constant tweaks to Facebook’s algorithm, the biggest name in social is effectively dismantling the concept of organic reach on the platform. On average, users see just 100 of the 1,500+ daily items shared with them, leaving most brands out in the cold. 2015 will signal the end of organic search, and it’s going to be a lonesome death for this once-darling of the digital marketing space. With Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and the like solidly focused on generating revenue, what’s a brand to do? The answer is as tragic as it is simple: You’re going to have to pay to play.
5. Marketing automation driven by “smarter” machines
Starting next year, more and more high-level analytical capabilities are going to be embedded in applications and core business processes, which, in turn, will be increasingly automated. These tools can leverage data, rules, and algorithms to automate laborious processes and improve the return on marketing spend. I’m already seeing examples of this shift when I look at programmatic ad buying, lead nurturing, remarketing, and behavioral targeting, and next year this transformation will start trickling into other unexpected marketing areas, fueled by further enhancements in machine learning, predictive analytics, and other programmatic- or rules-based approaches.
I can’t help but spend these next few weeks reflecting on the year that was, from a digital marketing perspective. It was a great year, plain and simple. But 2015 is already shaping up to be even more prolific, in more ways than I can even count. I’m ready to close the chapter on 2014 and raise a glass to hyper-relevance and everything that ensues in 2015. Here’s to the best, most relevant, most high-converting year yet.