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Ways to stay ahead in digital marketing

Digital marketing is a forever-changing industry, forcing brands and agencies to stay on their toes, rather than rely on the same old tried-and-tested practices. There is a constant need to find innovative ways to catch the attention of increasingly savvy potential customers or clients. Staying ahead in the industry is currently centred on the customer’s experience of the brand. Here is a look at some ways to stay a cut above the rest in digital marketing

i. Content: Quality over quantity

Content tops the list of what to focus on. The quality of the content created will determine whether the audience pauses and perhaps even engages.

Consumers want to consume relatable content, written in a conversational manner that speaks to them rather than at them. This can create resonance with the consumer which leads to increased trustworthiness in the brand. Involving consumers in the content generation process is one way to increase the overall trustworthiness of digital content.

In the past, content used to be the domain of web-writers and bloggers. That is no longer the case. Christopher Wellard, Wunderman SA’s head of creative highlights, “When video didn’t kill the radio, it moved to the net and rebranded itself as content. It became snackable, short form, long form, user-generated, branded, unbranded (did you notice my product in this close-up?); the list of content types grew.”

Content is now everywhere, and the world can't get enough. Three hundred hours of content are uploaded to YouTube every hour (Donchev, 2018). What this means for brands is that their 30–90 second piece of content is competing with 17 998.5 minutes of content. On top of that, they are competing with content that features real, relevant, authentic life and not cookie cutter creations. Some are getting it right. Most are not.

If brands and agencies want to even stay in the game, let alone be leaders, quality content is non-negotiable. “The best brand content in my experience answers to a broader theme or long idea, giving it a reason to exist,” says Wellard.

ii. A switch up in influencer marketing

Although social media messaging via brand-owned channels can be effective in reaching a relevant audience via shared reach, it is vital that social media be incorporated into a strategy that considers third-party social media channels for reaching additional audience segments.

This is where influencer marketing becomes crucial, allowing brands to credibly reach their target audience via authentic earned reach. To achieve this authenticity, the use of micro-influencers (influencers with smaller, more niche, focussed audiences) is taking precedence. This is because they can be utilised to share content that is highly relatable to an engaged and trusting following.

Brands should also consider long-term relationships and exchanges with influencers, instead of short-term, campaign-focussed influencer engagements. “Brands should also take into account that relationships with influencers don’t always need to be based around monetary agreements. A variety of other incentive types exist that can be very attractive to micro-influencers, which include brand association, trade exchanges, access to new audiences and so forth. Brands that have been able to nurture long-term, mutually beneficial influencer relationships are those that have taken the time and energy to understand what matters most to each individual influencer that they approach,” says Dr Ewoudt Cloete, head of social media at Wunderman SA.

iii. Try new things with voice

The use of voice as a marketing channel and its integration is not new, but it is blowing up. Used well, voice technology can put an interesting spin on things, making brand experience more relevant to the modern consumer.

Voice search through conversational interfaces is all the rage right now and has marketers amped. Consumers are equally as excited about voice-powered digital assistants, i.e. transactional voice, because this could mean the end of standing in queues or having to face moody tellers. “Voice technology is exciting because it makes it simpler for the consumer,” says Esther McGeer, head of data and analytics at Wunderman SA.

“Analytics on conversation and searches will award the opportunity to collate data for consumer insight, to empower marketers to be better at connecting with what consumers really want. This comes back full circle to simplifying things for the consumer. We know as marketers simplifying processes for the consumer is gold!” McGeer adds.

Voice hasn’t quite reached its peak, but once this tech becomes more developed, the possibilities of what can be achieved are limitless.

iv. Sales and service frontlines to be ‘manned’ by chatbots

“Simpler for the consumer means simpler conversion,” says McGeer. As a result, chatbots are taking over sales and service frontlines. Chatbots answering questions in real time promise great efficiency in customer service and even sales conversion from chatbots answering questions in real time. Not only that, consumers love the convenience. Chatbots, like social media and digital advertising, are a highly functional channel in a primarily personal medium.

But be attentive: chatbots can be a double-edged sword. Christian Mouton, chief digital officer at Wunderman SA, says, “Marketers need to tread carefully: while technology can unlock a lot of value for brands, one should resist the temptation to throw every possible feature and trick at your customers without thought.” With consumers increasingly resorting to digital channels, chatbots are the first contact even in times of crises, a time when things tend to escalate quicker than usual. As such, ensuring these virtual assistants ‘know’ when to hand over to a human is imperative. Mouton adds, “Even if technology allows you to automate natural language interactions with customers, the intention should never be to deceive them, but rather to make your service and their experience more efficient and enjoyable.”

Going forward, being good is not good enough anymore. You must be great. You ought to ask what consumers are asking: what makes you stand out as a company? As marketers, it is up to us to understand who our customers are, what they want and how to speak to them. The task that lies ahead is to rise above the rest; all the while, the environment continues becoming more complex and competitive.

References
Donchev, D. 2018. ‘37 mind blowing YouTube facts, figures and statistics – 2018’. Fortunelords. [Online] Available: https://fortunelords.com/youtube-statistics/ (Accessed: 6 February 2018).