Last week seemed to be the week of the breakfast meeting. If you get to go somewhere trendy for a media meeting, ok. Arrive at work early to ultimately make your week run more smoothly? I can settle for that too. Get to the Institute for Contemporary Art to talk digital trends in 2014? Well, with that and a pastry in hand, you can kind of forgive the early start…
Over the last year, we have seen an explosion in technological and – more specifically – mobile innovation. There are apps and social networks being released left right and centre, and they’re not simply to help you navigate, connect or organise your life – they provide hours of entertainment (try playing ‘Heads Up’: the digitised version of charades). But there are so many things vying for our attention these days that only the very best get through to us, let alone stick around.
Peter Sigrist, MD of 33 Digital, claimed that 2014 would be the year of ‘Digital Maturity’. How long have we waited to hear that put so eloquently?! The big ‘social’ players are sticking around. OK, they have competition when it comes to niche audiences, but with new, smaller – but not insignificant – players on the scene, this is the year to look at what we’ve got, and to work with it…
So what can we expect from 2014? I’ll pick out the major themes that we thought worth a mention…
UNDERSTANDING YOUR AUDIENCE
Talk about state the obvious, but there are precious few that really get this down to a T. This is where the small companies/sites/apps excel. Get yourself a niche audience and you’ll already be pretty up to speed with what works and what doesn’t. For the all-singing all-dancing brands? Well, data continues to be crucial to knowing your audience and what they expect, let alone want. We try endlessly to get a grasp on a site’s users through the wonders of Google analytics and the added value of our SEO partners.
In the same vein, whilst you may not always know what your audience is doing, it’s likely your browser does – or soon will. Based on no more than a mathematical hunch, the likes of FourSquare can already make recommendations based on where you are – and Google Now has taken that and run with it pretty quickly… Imagine the opportunities. Start to build your customer data and the possibilities to better understand your audience and provide them with effective, relevant services, are endless.
The attention to craftsmanship was an interesting point raised during the discussions; something that luxury brands has latched onto in the last few years. This is not only filtering down to individual brand sites and strategy, but into retail more generally, with sites like Etsy ‘humanising’ e-commerce. The internet has given craftsmen a route to market, and there is more and more room for a ‘behind the scenes’ narrative to come to the fore.
Beyond the likes of TripAdvisor in the travel market, the best sites should provide a space for third party endorsements that speak for themselves but with a space to engage with the product. This is no longer reduced to social media. As Peter said: “this is the year of the beautifully crafted message”. Amen to that. And we, of course, hold true to the fact that a beautifully crafted site: one that is well organised, well structured, and well designed will pay dividends across the board.
FROM CUSTOMERS TO COMMUNITY
A few years ago, we started hearing the term ‘Community Manager’. Brands (alas, not all of them) have cottoned on to the power of these channels for content curation and for customer service. One has answers that the other might not, but both are managed in one place. This ‘place’ becomes a point for your customer becoming part of your community, part of a group of people with a voice, a profile, and who become a prime source of advocacy for your brand. When used wisely, we know how instrumental these communities can be to changing the profile of a brand. Generally speaking, customers don’t interact whereas a community makes cross-recommendations, useful suggestions, forms a bond that goes beyond a single shared interest. It becomes useful. And beneficial. Communities are on the rise.
THE RETURN OF ‘BIG MEDIA’
We could go on and on about social, but the last few years have seen a fundamental change in content publishing. Rare is the day when BuzzFeed (the example par excellence) does not feature in mass content sharing across social networks. Content now inspires sharing based on an emotional connection; be it video or otherwise, content is becoming increasingly immersive, and digital is now perceived as key to enhancing a story. Every company now needs to be a media company.
“Fluency in measurement is no longer optional”. There’s not much more we need add to this one. With budgets stretched, there is rarely investment without concrete and guaranteed ROI. A blanket digital strategy will not do. Not all channels work for everyone. But everyone should be able to measure performance against their overarching goals. If one route is not working for you, there may be obvious reasons for this hidden in your analytics or your platform demographics. Immerse yourself in them and you will learn a lot.
Download the Hotwire Digital Trends report here.