2018 marketing predictions

 

 
 

We asked our marketing directors for their 2018 marketing predictions: Here’s what they said…

The beginning of a new year brings with it a slew of articles about the future: What’s next? What’s new? What do I need to know?

In truth, it’s an arbitrary line in the sand: what was big in 2017 is still big news in 2018. There are no huge evolutionary leaps – the fundamental truths of marketing still apply – but what we do see are smaller evolutions of marketing strategy, customer experience or technology becoming more widely adopted by or available to smaller businesses.

Keen to know the thoughts of our marketing directors, we put the question to them: What will define the marketing landscape for small and medium-sized businesses over the next 12 months?

Improving the customer experience

Cal Graham, Marketing Director for London, Home Counties and the Eastern Counties cites the rise of chatbots as one evolutionary leap for businesses to grasp. “Chatbots are becoming smarter, more affordable and more effective. 12 months ago, farming out customer service could be considered a risk, now, the technology is actually really effective.” she explains. “New tech is exciting, but real, effective change only comes when everyone gets something out of it. Chatbots fit that bill. For customers, they’re instantly useful, for businesses they’re cost-effective.”

It’s a sentiment shared by Andrew Scheer who sees chatbots “being deployed across traditional customer service channels and across social media for more proactive engagement.”

Andrew was also one of three Marketing Centre Directors who put personalisation on his 2018 predictions lists this year. Mark Harris from our Home Counties team was another: “A focus on customer experience and relevant personalisation will be paramount for successful marketing strategies,” Mark says. “This personalisation matters across all devices, but especially mobile.”

For small and medium-sized businesses this means clever segmentation of data and targeted content – think emails and blogs for prospects at specific points in the sales funnel.

So far, so digital. But what about the real world? Two of our directors, Rebecca Nicols in the South East team, and Jason Russell from the London team, focus their attention on an ailing high street.

“In 2018 we’ll see some interesting in-store retail concepts with bricks and mortar stores fighting back against the strength of e-commerce/ the online channel. Lots more in store experiments, less focus on selling and more focus on experiencing the brand,” Rebecca says. While Jason “…would like to see more of an adventurous omni channel approach from bricks and mortar companies with serious e-commerce presence.”

Marketing comms

In the world of marketing communications, the biggest change in 2017 came from Google’s announcement of its Mobile First Index. With 55% of all internet traffic now coming from mobile, Google has said it will prioritise sites that perform well on smartphones.

The long and the short? As Cal Graham says: “Businesses need to have a mobile-first strategy. Rather than websites simply being optimised for mobile they actually need to be designed for the thumb.”

And finally, what of content marketing? Well, all agree that an inbound marketing strategy (i.e. blogging, social media, newsletters) has increased in importance post GDPR. Video continues to be an important channel as it becomes more accessible than ever for smaller businesses. As Cal tells us: “YouTube is the world’s second biggest search engine, and video is becoming even more important for SEO” while voice search will steadily increase in popularity with the Amazon Echo and Google Home.

And finally, there is still very much a place for physical marketing materials, says Mark Harris from our Home Counties team. “The shift of programmatic into offline media like direct mail is an important tool for e-commerce businesses. Case studies of abandoned shopping cart owners being sent relevant direct mail offers related to their abandoned carts show just how effective a tool that can be. It’s using digital data to encourage action via direct mail.”

The bottom line

If there’s one key takeaway from all these predictions, it’s ‘put the customer first’. Know what data you have at your disposal, make your marketing materials highly targeted, understand your customer’s experience of your brand from start to finish and make every step of that relationship a delight.

It’s often said that a business’ biggest asset is its employees. At a time where everyone has access to social media and their voices carry, you could argue that your biggest asset is actually your customers. Understand what they want and deliver it, and watch growth accelerate in 2018.

 

Image credit:

By Tokujin yoshioka inc. (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons