Digital Marketing: A Look Back at 2014 and Look Ahead to 2015


The boundaries for digital marketing are limitless when you consider the explosive growth in consumers’ use of smartphones, tablets, laptops, smart TVs, social media, search engines, online videos, gaming─and the list goes on.

As 2014 draws to a close, I want to take time to reflect on the influences that helped direct the ongoing evolution of the marketplace. At the same time, I would be remiss if I didn’t offer my perspective on what trends lie ahead in 2015 for online marketers.

In looking back at this past year, the three key digital marketing impacts worth noting were:

  • Mobile Moved from Back-Seat to Front-Seat Driver – For the first time, mobile subscribers outnumbered Internet users─by three to one─well positioning mobile devices to be the first screens for reaching consumers. Recognizing this shift, marketers jumped in the driver’s seat and were expected to unleash a fast and furious $18 billion in total mobile advertising spend for 2014.
  • Location-based Marketing Staked Its Place – The rapid proliferation of mobile devices has created a worldwide society of “always-on” consumers, the large majority who keep their devices within arm’s length 24/7. Along with this type of crack-like dependency comes their increased expectations of service and personalization, regardless of where they are. Location-based marketing allows brands to deliver messages, promotions and other relevant content directly to users based on their current location via technologies such as GPS and IP geolocation. With 74 percent of smartphone users taking advantage of location-based services, it’s no wonder location-based mobile advertising will more than likely top $4 billion when all is said and done.
  • Big Data Just Kept Getting Bigger It’s been said that there are nearly as many pieces of digital information as there are stars in the universe. When you consider the statistics around the growth of mobile devices and now factor in the push in wearable technologies, it’s easy to see why Big Data…well…just keeps getting bigger. By using this wealth of data, digital marketers were able to create a more life-like picture of their consumer based on their locations, the channels they were using and contextual assumptions of their likes, dislikes and activities. However, poor quality data continued to plague businesses to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars.     

In looking ahead to the new year, the three trends we expect to influence online marketing:

  • The Pervasive Web Will Lengthen and Strengthen – The rise of the pervasive web has created a community of cross-device-welding consumers who are always connected almost anywhere. But, consumers engage on mobile devices in different ways. Understanding this difference and automatically presenting content that is optimized for the mobile device significantly increases engagement and ecommerce conversions. Variables such as device type, operating environment, browser type, screen size, user location, connection type (wired, mobile and Wi-Fi), and mobile carrier all need to be taken into account to efficiently and correctly present content and advertising. Incorporating mobile contextual data will help deliver relevant content optimized for the device.
  •  Geotexual Data and Proximity Intelligence Will Be Key to Personalized, “Human” Marketing – A person’s location can provide much more insight about who they are based on demographic and other lifestyle contextual assumptions, sometimes referred to as geotextual data or proximity intelligence. Understanding customers’ context around their current location helps in delivering more relevant, timely messages as a result. Location is especially powerful when it’s combined with an awareness of what customers see as important and what information they value receiving at different points in time. The success of online marketing will come for those brands that capitalize on customer engagement in real-time, using a highly context-based targeting approach to deliver information, merchandise and/or promotions that are appealing and valuable to customers in a particular moment. For example, knowing a customer is in a hotel (i.e. traveling) versus in a residence (i.e. at home) would impact what information is relevant to them at a certain point in time.
  •  Agility Will Be Driven by Data and Technology – Digital channels operate 24/7. Brands need to automatically connect with consumers from the first digital interaction in a relevant way, based on point-in-time events such as weather, traffic and breaking news in their area. It means having enough forethought to deliver customized content with messages that answer every customer’s top-of-mind question:  What can this do for me─now?  With brand dialogues taking place in real time, retailers need to be more agile than ever before, relying on new data insights and cross-functional technology to implement timely campaigns and respond to customers on the right device at the right time.

Staying abreast of current trends, implementing the latest technologies, and keeping consumers’ wants and needs top of mind will help your company successfully market in the coming Year of the…Sheep? Well, at least it sounds better than Year of the Goat.

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