For marketers, staying ahead of the trends and evolution in the industry is a primary objective. Keeping a finger on the pulse of what’s happening now—and what’s coming down the pike—is crucial to staying relevant, keeping your audiences engaged and wowing your boss with smart, successful strategies.
To help you stay on top of what’s happening in digital marketing, we sat down with PowerInbox CEO Jeff Kupietzky to see where he sees the industry heading this year, and next.
What are some of the biggest challenges digital marketers have faced so far this year?
Simply getting marketing messages through to audiences has become so much more competitive. There’s so much clutter and competition for attention that it’s getting tougher to get your message heard above the noise. At the same time, many marketers are being forced to do more with less—fewer personnel, resources and a smaller budget. And, because there’s so much pressure to be successful, there’s a lot of fear—fear of not staying relevant, not staying ahead of your competitors and not meeting your company’s goals. There are a lot of factors that are outside of a marketer’s control, which only adds to the tremendous amount of pressure most are already facing.
How have audiences changed?
Audiences are much more fragmented, to the point that almost any campaign must practically be designed for a niche audience, which means the mass distribution, spray-and-pray approach will not work. At the same time, audience expectations have changed—they expect you to know more about them and they expect everything to be personalized specifically for their needs, wants, desires and interests, even email. If it’s not, you’ll quickly lose their interest. Personalization isn’t just a way to impress audiences. It’s now mandatory.
What trends do you see coming down the pike in digital marketing? Email marketing in particular?
Big Data analytics will drive the industry, helping us learn more about the customer and personalize messages across every channel and every device. We’ll see more marketers start gathering more insight about their audiences through the digital footprints they leave behind and leveraging that data. Most people think of this in terms of tracking cookies now, but that only scratches the surface—cookies don’t work on mobile browsers, for example, and more users are engaging on mobile instead of a conventional browser every day. Not to mention browser cookies don’t distinguish between the various users on a shared computer. And, of course, there is a tremendous amount of information in social media data.
Discovering and combining data like behavior tracking, click history, social media activities, purchase history, age and other demographic data will become critical to building a complete user profile based on unique identifying characteristics and then track all behavior to one unique identifier. An email address is the perfect unique identifier to build that profile around. Email addresses are most often only used by one person (not shared), and they’re persistent—most people don’t change their email address, using the same one for the majority of their digital lifetime.
How should digital marketers react? What would you recommend?
In addition to building a complete profile around each unique email address, marketers should also start using email more to gather critical information about their customers to fill in gaps in their profile. For example, targeting messages based on gender gives you a better chance of talking to the audience in the right voice with the right message. But, we see many clients who don’t track gender at all. Why not use a quick email survey to ask your audience for their gender? Once you know this seemingly small piece of information, it becomes very powerful when combined with behavioral and other data gleaned from their online activities. Age is another critical piece of data that could easily be gathered from an email questionnaire that can help to better target future messages.
On the other side of the coin, when it comes to placing digital ads, I think it’s important that marketers look beyond typical banner ads, inline ads, social and other conventional browser-based placements. Placing ads in email gives you a direct avenue into a very captive audience. Not only have they willingly opted-in to the publisher’s distribution list, but anything contained within that message will be perceived by the audience as having been vetted by the publisher. For an advertiser, that increases the level of trust in their content, implies a level of endorsement by the publisher and greatly improves the likelihood of click-thru.
What types of content should marketers be planning to deliver? What’s the hot trend in content format?
Video is huge, and the fact that recording and delivering high-quality video has become so much simpler and less expensive should be a strong incentive for marketers to start using video to capture audiences’ attention. Numerous studies show that video is more engaging, more successful and more memorable than just about any other type of content. If you’re not using video now, you should be.
Marketers should also be combining various types of content to maximize impact—like social media and email, for example. We know that social media is high impact, but generally low volume, whereas email is high volume but low impact. Why not combine the two and get the best of both worlds? By embedding that high-engagement content from your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds directly into your email distributions, you can leverage content across both channels, maximizing your impact, time and investment on both fronts.
Delivering contextually aware content in email should also be an important feature in your campaigns, especially since mobile is becoming the leading platform on which most people read their emails. This allows you to deliver content specifically for the users’ geographic location, weather, etc. For example, one major cosmetics and personal care brand is using our DynamicMail to change the content in their emails based on weather conditions to market their hair products. So, users in hot and humid areas see products geared for those needs, while those encountering cold and dry weather see different products, and this all happens automatically. We detect the users’ location and weather and deliver the right content.
How will new developments in social media impact email marketing?
A lot of publishers are finding out that relying on social media for their traffic is becoming a bit risky because social platforms control the traffic, not you – the publisher. For example, where publishers once used Facebook to drive traffic to their page to consume content, Facebook’s new Instant Articles is designed to keep users on the Facebook platform.
This is an opportunity for email to be a tremendous help in gaining—and keeping—control over your traffic and content. By distributing content via your own newsletters, using your own database, you can control the distribution, the content and the traffic. And, by using something like our RevenueStripe product to add advertisements, you can actually even monetize it, letting your email campaigns pay for themselves. Again, you get the best of both worlds: more control over traffic, content and revenue.