We’re officially into 2014 and we are looking forward to the potential that the online environment provides to the business community. 2012 and 2013 were a serious learning period for many large and small companies. We have seen the rise of online giants, the fall of some who once were giants (never mistake the power of being inappropriate or having a lack of cerebral interaction in posting a tweet) and, finally, acceptance of the impact digital can have on a company and its bottom line.
Further to this for me is the integral understanding that many corporate businesses and agencies have come to grips with. Online marketing does not mirror more traditional means nor does it exclude them all together. Rather online can be used really well with a holistic marketing plan that includes awareness generating activities across TV, print, Adwords, social and may other touch points and follows through with engagement and interaction such as banking giant FNB’s new level of online banking leveraged by a series of somewhat annoying “Steve” ads (please take this only as a high level example)..
Reviewing some of the statistics for online in an emerging market country like South Africa can give us all a little appreciation of this:
- 9.6 million Facebook users
- 7.4 million Mxit users
- 5.5 million Twitter users
- 4.7 million YouTube users
- 2.7 million Linkedin users
- 930 000 Pinterest users
- 460 000 Google+ users
(Check out this infographic for some 2014 online marketing stats that will drive 2014)
The experience is greater than the sum of its parts
More than just the marketing, sales, interaction and engagement are the new experiences and opportunities that digital is providing to a market much wider than previously possible. Above and beyond the FNB ads was the creation of a better user experience and more channels of communication in tandem with the launch of new product lines and offerings. This allowed FNB to:
- Reach a wider audience
- Gather and maintain interest
- Create feedback channels from which data could be used to optimise their activities
Another example is iFit (or counterpart FitBit) which incorporates a physical product (health monitor) with a digital environment to create an optimal experience for the user. With this integration the user can continuously monitor their progress and receive a plethora of additional value added information through apps and online portals.
The key here is not that the product is better, it’s the experience and perceived value that are better. I believe we will see more and more of this style of integration between physical products and digital experiences as we move forward. At some point “online” and “offline” will not exist independently from one another in thought and fact. The integration of experiences is happening now and technologies will continue to support this process moving forward.
One of the great lessons from the previous two years for many companies was learning that digital requires thought, planning and management to make a positive influence to the organisation. Many smaller (and some not so small) businesses found themselves in deeper water than they had thought when they asked the company intern to run the Twitter account or got the advertising agency to do keyword research for an Adwords campaign. Any lesson you can walk away with however is insight well-worth the effort if it is ultimately applied to optimise the experience your product or service offers. With that said, many companies have started to engage with “digital professionals” (name them as you will) to achieve just that and get the most out of their online activities.
It’s going to be big! Oh…wait…it already is
A great process for the SME market to actively engage in is the use of ‘Big Data’.
The volume of data available today is unsurpassed and continues to grow. Companies can learn a fortune from their data if they:
- Have set up their resources appropriately
- Have individuals/partners who can accurately interpret that data
- Are able to implement learnings
Businesses can follow their clients’ preferences, style personalised messaging and interaction scenarios, understand their markets perception of them and how to change it, see problems coming before they become out of control and so much more. The best thing here is you don’t need a data scientist to get some good information from your data sets, so says James Fisher of SAP in his interview with TechRadar. With the use of appropriate tools (E.g. Brandseye, UberVu, Moz, SaidWot) a business can gather and interpret data through user-friendly interfaces. The big thing here is to know what you are tracking and why you want to track it – planning is essential.
In conclusion 2014 should be a very interesting year as companies shed their mortal fear of the digital environment and begin to get to know their customers on a personal level. Should be interesting!