Customer Engagement
Creating a Customer-Centric Company Culture

Ponderings for Marketers in 2018

Jill Thomas
December 05, 2017

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Jill Thomas, CMO of Innisfree Hotels

Jill Thomas, CMO of Innisfree Hotels

The agency team I lead will be thinking about some of these things in 2018.

Building Duck-and-Weave Marketing Teams

Marketing roles are changing faster than in any other business department. The pace is fast, and the flux is constant.

To keep up, we will be continuously redefining workflows to find efficiencies, and staying flexible and nimble. We will hire adaptive people, and foster speed and tolerance for no knowing. You’ll often hear us say we “fail forward,” because we’re experimenting and learning all the time. We’ll work hard to eliminate organizational red tape so we can act fast on good ideas.

Customer Experience

Digital communication continues to empower consumers, and innovation is accelerating their expectations. Customers are less tolerant of frustrating experiences, both online and off. Customers want every experience to be useful, seamless, even joyful. They want immediate responses, all the time.

Fantastic customer experience is how we will set ourselves apart from the competition. Because every department affects the customer experience, we will invest in collaborative workflows and design thinking. We’ll also allocate time to learning about our customers, so we can better understand their needs and empower them to create their own stories.

Of course, this is not easy, because building a cross-team approach is difficult to achieve. We expect that at times we will experience a gulf between understanding and implementation.

May We Have Your Attention, Please?

The media landscape is fragmenting. Every minute is contested, and our customers’ attention is our most valuable currency. Demand for attention far outpaces supply.

Consumer attention is expensive, and costs continue to skyrocket. At the same time, it’s being diverted away from traditional information to new digital platforms.

Consider this…

  • A video streaming platform called Twitch is the fourth-largest source of Internet traffic in the U.S., behind Netflix, Google, and Apple. Twitch has more than 1.5 broadcasters who are viewed by more than 100 million visitors each month.
  • A YouTube video creator called PewDiePie has 57 million subscribers and earns $7.5 million per year in commissions from ad sales.
  • YouTube star Hola Soy German has a broader audience than the NBA Finals and the World Series.

These platforms share some commonalities. They support self-expression, and content is provided by the community.

It is important to highlight that the behavior of the young is predictive of the future. Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, Tumblr, Snapchat, Reddit, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Vine were first utilized by teens, later spreading to older users. So when we are thinking about what companies to bet on, we are going to follow the attention of teenyboppers.

Storytelling as a Business Competency

Competition for attention is making storytelling a necessary business competency. We want to engage emotionally with our customers, using our story to capture their attention.

We are going to continue to build our in-house team and improve our storytelling capabilities. The customer experience and the content to support it continue to be our top priority in 2018.

The War for Talent

The most significant challenge we’ll face in reaching our goals is finding the right people for the job. We are competing with major tech companies and other agencies to recruit and retain top digital and creative talent.

We will increase the time we spend on training so our team can hone skills in critical subjects like content marketing, analytics, mobile, social marketing, location targeting, Search Engine Optimization and more.

We will keep recruiting young people for our team. An innovative, fun work culture will attract bright, young minds. We also know that young talent is purpose-driven and interested in how businesses connect to the community.

Authenticity, Breaking Taboos + Norms

In a quest to stand out, marketers are increasingly using content that challenges old rules and breaks taboos. Brands are challenging their audiences with unexpected language. They are exposing cracks and imperfections to tell the real story. They’re also jumping into controversial political issues like never before. The focus has shifted to the unfiltered, the genuine and the raw.

Our goal will be to represent ourselves honestly and transparently. Those that have embraced authenticity and transparency, like Dove and Airbnb, have found that consumers will do the marketing for them. Those that have fought it continue to struggle to regain their footing with an audience that is watching their every move.

Virtual Tribes

We will focus on targeting communities as well as individuals. We know our prospective customers are likely to learn about us from their peers (not our ads). We see this “virtual tribe” is enabled and empowered by social media. To succeed, we must hone our skills at getting our customers to advocate for us.

Channels + Channels + Channels + Channels

Consumers are shifting between digital platforms (apps + websites) and devices (desktop + mobile + wearables) now more than ever. The average consumer now communicates through five devices and visits twelve platforms before making a purchase decision. (Just seven years ago, it was three devices and two platforms.) This has caused a proliferation of communication channels, and with them, new marketing opportunities and challenges.

We will need to engage customers whenever, wherever, and however they choose. We know that today’s consumer expects to move seamlessly from one device to the next, with content that is tailored to each channel.

Impossible to Tell What Prompts Customers to Buy

We know it’s getting harder to determine what prompts a customer to buy. The path to purchase is longer and more complicated, making it more difficult to attribute what prompted consumer action. Consumers now move through too many channels to correctly assign the sale to any particular one.

For instance, just because the sale didn’t happen on a mobile device, that doesn’t mean mobile didn’t play a role. The user likely used their phone to compare prices, read reviews or map out directions. Also, we know that users typically do not purchase on Facebook, but we also know that Facebook ads have a significant impact on awareness and aspiration. We are finding that even our customers can’t always tell us what touch point caused them to buy.

So we are moving toward measuring the sum of all digital marketing efforts against total profit contribution. We’re talking about Return On Investment and Return On Ad Spend in totality rather than attribution, and focusing on aggregate metrics like engaged website traffic and social media reach, or most importantly revenue going up or down.

Data Amalgamation and Democratization

With more channels come more data. We know that data is the only way we will regain control of this unruly multi-channel landscape. We need amalgamated cross-channel data (from both online and offline sources) to understand what part of the marketing mix is working.

Bringing all data into one dashboard is a business priority (even if it remains an unrealizable dream in the short term). We will watch for new tools and software to fill this gap, and plan to increase the marketing dollars we spend on analytics and data analysis.

Social Media Not Going Anywhere

Consumers are spending more time on social networks and messaging platforms than ever before. Social media user numbers and dwell times continue to grow. Social media platforms are creating more traffic than search engines. The range of functions consumers perform on social is also expanding.

So we will be integrating social media into every marketing campaign. We’ll use it to create brand awareness and brand advocates. We’ll leverage social for customer service and sales. We will pull insights from our social campaigns to improve our websites, email newsletters, digital advertising buys and Search Engine Optimization.

Death to Mobile Browsers & Micro Moments

Eighty-six percent of the time we spend online via our mobile devices is spent in apps. There are more than 2.2 million apps now available in the App Store. We know that we need to find effective and efficient ways of reaching app users.

We also know that consumers reach for their phone the very instant they want to know about something. During these “mobile micro-moments,” we are highly suggestible to advertising and prone to impulse purchases. We will work on identifying the micro-moments of our target audiences and ensure that in these fleeting seconds, the experience we provide is a valuable one.

Native Ads

Native advertising content looks like editorial content but is paid for and promoting a specific product. We know that native advertising is now the most impactful form of digital advertising.

Makes sense, right? Do you enjoy interruptive and irrelevant ads that pop up while you are surfing online? Native ads are non-disruptive and blend into their environment. They don’t annoy users, so click-through rates are much higher (especially on mobile).

Our goal is to put the right information in front of the correct user when they need it. We want to create content that is contextual and enriching, rather than intrusive and annoying. We want our native ads to entertain, engage and inspire our customers.

Get the Message + Speak

Messaging platforms (like Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, WeChat, and Snapchat) are becoming major communication hubs, offering a vast array of services for consumers. They are now delivering services (like an Uber ride or directions to the nearest Starbucks) and enabling users to search for a product and make a purchase without leaving the app.

Audio-driven experiences are also becoming mainstream. We are starting to think about how we are going to adjust our search advertising and content strategies to accommodate consumers chatting in apps and talking to digital assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant on their phones, in their homes, in their cars and via a growing assortment of wearables.

What will your marketing team be pondering for 2018?

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