Analysing trends allows us to take a look into a crystal ball and gaze into the future. Although it can be a risky business, planning ahead is critical to business performance. It shocks me how many businesses don’t effectively look into the future, or if they do, then they don’t prioritise the outcome! It’s ludicrous! Take, for example, the ‘mobilisation of the internet’. This has been a trend for a number of years, but many organisations still aren’t running optimised mobile conversion processes and this truly surprises me. With conversion rates so low without proper optimisation, a substantial amount of money is being left on the table by businesses who were warned!
At RedEye, we have compiled the primary trends for eCommerce businesses to focus on in the next 12 months and beyond. Hopefully these insights will help you with your planning and decision making and give you that crucial competitive advantage in the months and years to come.
The Merge of Digital and Traditional
It’s the end of the road for the digital marketer, it really is as stark as that! 2015 saw the beginning of a debate about the relevancy of 'digital marketing' in an Omni-Channel world. Following years of developments aren’t we beyond having to call it ‘digital marketing’, hasn't it all now come back to being just ‘marketing’ again? In the Omni-Channel future having unique, separate teams within organisations seems a touch self-defeating don’t you think?
The graph below showcases research carried out by Smart Insights, which suggests that 7% of organisations have not only integrated all of their marketing capabilities but moved beyond that into an ‘optimisation’ phase. However, this also highlights the fact that 76% of organisations are still struggling to build properly integrated marketing departments.
Supporting this trend is the fact that for the data driven marketer, data needs to become ‘Omni-Channel’. Data driven businesses will no longer be able to accept a silo’d culture or any missing elements of the customer interaction with the brand.
2016 - The Year of the Digital Marketing Hub
Data driven marketers who have Omni-Channel as either their practical or conceptual goal have realised that without a central all-encompassing data set then their goal is simply a mirage. In their ‘Emerging Trends Analysis for 2016’, Gartner describes the concept of a digital marketing hub as, quite simply, “hubs that assemble all the data together to be used across the marketing organisation”. They go on to state that “digital marketing hubs will have an impact on business on par with ERP”, which is a significant claim.
The concept is simple, but the value of a customer is no longer built on databases that collect transactional information from catalogues and call centres. The future value of a customer is increasingly online and modern solutions need to be able to apply transactional data to online behavioural data. However, just combining data is not enough, modern solutions also need to integrate this directly into distribution channels.
DMP’s, such as RedEye’s Customer Data Platform, are not simple databases though. They also directly integrate with the key marketing channels to allow for Multi-Channel campaigns. Ashley Friedlein, founder of Econsultancy, addresses this in his third ‘Megatrend for 2016, Connecting the Dots’ – “We need to join up data, we need to integrate technology systems, we need online and offline to become joined up.”
The Breakthrough of Predictive Analytics
Data IS a competitive advantage. Your database (call it what you want, Single Customer View or DMP) is the platform for driving that competitive advantage.
But data analytics and now predictive analytics (dare I say the offspring of propensity modelling?!), are game changers in terms of helping to evolve your data into actionable knowledge. Predictive analytics takes that understanding from the ‘now’ into the near future.
According to Raab Associates, a US based consultancy, 2015 was the breakthrough year for predictive analytics in marketing and they, amongst many others, predict strong growth for predictive analytics in 2016.
Where predictive analytics differs from data analytics is, in general terms, that the latter has always developed insight and value out of data whereas the former is now determining patterns and predicting future outcomes and trends… I look at this as yet another tool available to customer centric marketers to drive increased conversion. According to Chris Benedetto of Pegasystems, “2016 will be the year...organisations…turn predictive analytics from a theoretical nice-to-have, into something that can drive real…engagement”.
Marketing Automation will Continue to Focus Minds
As reported by Smart Insights, marketing automation is the area that UK eCommerce businesses still see as having the most potential of all the developments in their grasp.
Forbes magazine calls it ‘de rigeur’ and TechCrunch reports on their analysis that “almost 70 percent of marketers are either unhappy or only marginally happy with their marketing automation software”.
2016 will be the year that organisations finally get to grips with marketing automation, only to be faced with new complications… Multi-Channel marketing automation. A key requirement for platform providers, such as RedEye, is to provide updated versions of their campaign management tools built around the ‘ease of use’. Multiple channels of deployment on top of multiple customer touch points, with a wealth of data and content requirements thrown in makes for a complex mix. The platform that provides ‘ease of use’ in these scenarios will most definitely have a significant competitive advantage.
Personalisation, Personalisation, Personalisation
Of course, the issues raised in the previous point over ‘ease of use’ could equally carry the moniker of ‘effective delivery of personalisation’. This is one topic that all commentators are agreed upon, personalisation will continue to be the Holy Grail for the marketer – there will be a continuing focus on achieving greater levels of personalisation and ultimately achieving the improvements in engagement and conversion that personalisation can bring.
This is another ‘hot topic’ that has been hot for some time, so the question is ‘what is stopping people from effectively implementing personalisation?’ Here we return to the data challenge. Personalisation is determined by your knowledge of the individual and your ability to do two things. Firstly, you need to accurately recognise the customer and, with the growth of mobile, you also need cross device tracking at the heart of your solution. Secondly, you need to be able apply this knowledge in marketable formats and ultimately in real time. Your knowledge of that individual is based on your ability to recognise them and their relationship with your brand. Personalisation therefore purely depends on being able to identify that individual and therefore on cross device tracking.
The Scope of Conversion Rate Optimisation will Spread Beyond the Website
I’ve left my final trend to user experience and conversion rate optimisation because this is the area of our business that has seen the greatest change during 2015 and we will see continuing change throughout 2016.
Firstly, more and more brands will be utilising customer journey analysis to help optimise not only websites but increasingly channel marketing as well. Indeed, according to the RedEye CRO Report, customer journey analysis is now considered the most valuable tool within CRO but, importantly, this analysis is also critical to planning marketing automation strategies as well.
The second trend relating to CRO, is that technology is no longer seen as a barrier to testing. It is people, processes and linking data. We, at RedEye, have noticed an increasing desire to embed greater CRO capabilities internally within eCommerce teams, although I also expect that the demand for skills will continue to exceed supply.
And finally, in my ‘top 3 trends everyone agrees on’, 2016 will be the year of web personalisation – but amusingly from our research, this is the 3rd year in a row that the data says that!