We’ve had a great year in the digital space, with some great megatrends. The internet successfully took over as the globally favoured tool for businesses, and we saw customer experience being firmly established as the foundation of digital marketing. Technology is evolving at break-neck speed, so it is interesting and critical to identify areas of interest, changing needs, trends and most importantly, to evolve and adapt to the ever-changing tech ecosystem.
So let’s look back at the year that was and the insights we gleaned from the past 12 months.
Omni-channel marketing is all-important:
To my mind, omni-channel Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is perhaps the most crucial trend, and one that will be at the centerpiece of all digital marketing. With customers able to engage brands across a multitude of channels both online and offline, it is critical that retailers provide these channels. Some excel at customer service, while others boast of a great mobile app. However, the end goal is to deliver a seamless customer experience across channels, and I believe Social, phone calls and email are still by far the three biggest pipelines of contact. We offer Digital CRM to one of India’s top broadcasting conglomerates, and in just under 12 months, we have had one million interactions across all three. You can imagine the kind of benefits that gives the broadcaster – and can similarly give to whichever other mass brand adopts it across sectors. But that is best left for another detailed piece.
According to Asia 500, 12 Indian companies transacted $1.31 billion and grew 75.6% in 2015, making it the fastest-growing market in Asia Pacific. By 2018, the Indian retail sector is likely to grow at a CAGR of 13% to reach US$ 950 billion.
Account Based Marketing:
This is a hot topic as it has the potential to open up entirely new revenue channels. It is a strategic approach, coordinating personalized marketing and sales efforts across an organisation. 92% of B2B marketers worldwide consider ABM extremely or very important to their overall marketing efforts. Vendors, market research firms and bloggers are popularizing this marketing method, making it easier for companies to find potential clients. ABM will definitely be one of the three big things in digital marketing, along with Digital CRM in the next year. The sooner brands take to both, the deeper their connect will be with their target groups and the faster they will grow.
Virtual Reality takes the throne as tech of the year:
This year, the biggest tech companies chose to focus on virtual experiences and I foresee it impacting Digital Marketing in a big manner, through virtual shopping, tours, demos, advertising and more, providing and enhancing the digitaly palpable experience for target groups.
In India, VR investment rose by 85% in the first half of 2016. Google’s accessible VR Cardboard saw a huge surge in VR apps. Sony launched its VR headset and Samsung increased sales by packaging their Gear VR free with their high-end devices. TATA Motors launched a new car with VR. Glenfiddich and Maybelline are other major brands using VR. The IPL ‘Pune Supergiants’ shot their practice session using VR. Globally, companies like Mind Maze took VR into the health sector, offering VR for stroke patients.
Augmented Reality makes its way into gaming:
Pokémon Go hysteria was big in 2016, although it was not the first game to foray into the AR realm, with Ingress and Geocaching already successfully servicing this niche community. Pokémon Go, downloaded over 500 million times globally, and making an estimated $600 million in just three months of its launch, was without doubt the biggest phenomenon of 2016.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) drove innovation and development:
2016 saw AI and ML being used widely in several industries related to Customer Service, eCommerce and Finance. IBM Watson opened up Bluemix and with a bunch of ready-to-use API’s from Watson, Cognitive Learning became popular. The democratisation of ML helped create many start-ups, which are now changing consumer experience, healthcare and analytics. In fact, Gartner says that by 2000, around 85% of customer interactions will bemanaged without a human. That portends badly for jobs at the lower end of the BPO pyramid, but India is known for great talent quality in the middle and higher rungs, so the service providers will have to upgrade skills across their work force to ward off the growing challenges from China and Thailand and other APAC countries.
Self-serve and chat bots join the DIY race:
As internet penetration increases, AI fronts the digital race, helping businesses serve their customers better online - especially where cost-to-serve initiatives have taken precedence. 2016 saw the advent of chat bots and AI-based self-serve tools, which were used with Facebook’s Messenger, Slack, and Google’s Allo, to name a few.
Programmatic Advertising gets bigger and better:
Programmatic media buying has embraced automated tech, enhancing the future of online advertising and is a trend which is steadily catching up in India. Programmatic ad spending is expected to take 63% of the digital display market by the end of 2016. But it must be got right, as this is a double-edged sword with massive ad fraud at the other edge – by 2025, click fraud will cross 50 billion dollars according to the wfa.
The rise of FinTech (financial-technology) in the Indian landscape:
FinTech is a new chapter in the IFS sector. Pioneers in India already saw impressive numbers with Paytm crossing a user-base of 122 million in 2016. Recently, demonetization sent FinTech rocketing, resulting in a five-fold increase in overall traffic for Paytm. MobiKwik too witnessed more than 40% increase in app downloads in less than 18 hours of demonetization.
Content Marketing continues to be as relevant as ever:
A few content marketing trends this year include an increased demand for interactive content and the decline of social media organic reach. For example, Facebook downsizing organic visibility unless brands pay for advertising.
In the US elections, consistent messaging and content relevancy allegedly tilted the vote bank towards Donald Trump, as the audience resonated with a simple slogan, “Make America Great Again.” The current trend of “fake news” that challenged thinking and trends, and allegedly tipped the election’s scales is a double-edged sword for social media giants; it needs to be handled in a sensitive manner that doesn’t lead to censorship.
And a special mention to Snapchat – From vanishing messages to a lasting impression:
Snapchat has evolved and today boasts massive brands like McDonalds, Coca Cola, mega-celebrities and even the White House. At present, it has a user base of 150 million daily active users. The 2016 election proved to be beneficial with both US candidates buying Snapchat ads in six-figures.
These trends reigned supreme and shaped the industry. It’s imperative to keep ahead of the curve as these will continue to evolve the megatrends of tomorrow.
(The author is Business head, Hinduja Global Solutions Interactive)
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com