6 digital marketing trends to watch out for in 2014

Deepa Krishnan

Gone are the days when ‘digital’ primarily meant ‘email’ and ‘social’ was synonymous with Facebook and Twitter. A marriage of digital and social platforms has created a much more complex virtual world, which is also seeing a plethora of devices that allow consumers to tap into this virtual extravaganza. Advertisers and marketers, and therefore small businesses, are leveraging this evolution to target consumers with greater success.

As the curtain rings down on 2013, small businesses are looking back at what worked for them and what did not. One of the most critical changes in marketing strategy has been in the digital realm over the last few years. Take a look at some of the big trends that will mark 2014, to decide whether it’s worthwhile incorporating them into your marketing plan.

1. Targeted online content will further drive branding

Statistics suggest that 92 per cent companies that blog multiple times a day gain more customers through their blogs. Companies have been increasingly engaging with consumers, gaining their trust and establishing their brands by generating valuable marketing content and disseminating it through various forms of media. This involves relevant industry information provided at regular intervals, and content that is interesting and genuinely useful or informative. This allows the company to build a strong relationship with the consumer and also ensure loyalty to the brand.

Email is still big in India, and email marketing is likely to dominate the online marketing mix. Blogging, newsletters, case studies and educational videos are other very popular tools. On developing consistent, positive content, a company is able to build a steady reputation and perception within the industry. In addition, online content gives a better targeted reach to the marketer compared to TV or radio, which are not only more expensive but also less effective.

2. Mobile marketing on the rise

India has overtaken Japan as the third-largest smart phone market in the world. This indicates the weightage mobile marketing should carry in the marketing mix. Another interesting statistic to consider is that 70 per cent consumers use their smart phone for social networking, and most of users are under the age of 35. With so much information so readily available, it is not only essential but relatively easy to tap the market.
Also, mobile marketing is far more cost-effective for the advertiser than buying television slots or other traditional forms of media. Companies should increasingly make their websites and other content platforms responsive, to enable easy reading on smart phones. Besides, it pays to remember that mobile consumer analytics is not limited to consumers who have high-end smart phones. Today, the majority of regular feature phones have GPS apps that can transmit location data.

3. Increase in geo-targeting and location-based services

Geo-targeting and location-based consumer services will see a rise in digital marketing in 2014. If you’re in the businesss of retail, this is an inexpensive result-oriented option. The simple fact that a user is within a two-mile radius of a business significantly increases click-through rates on mobile banner ads. Geo-targeting is going beyond consumer-facing apps like ‘checking-in’ through Foursquare. Advertisers can now reach a much larger audience, with much more relevant messages. They can use location patterns with existing customer data to deliver prospects custom messages at the right time by serving unique, relevant, time-targeted offers based on shopping patterns, consumer segmentations and travel patterns. Through tools like Google AdWords, the targeting data has become richer, layered and more nuanced. This is especially true in stores, where higher footfalls can be achieved through simple location targeting. Businesses can get actionable insights that help consumers make more informed brand decisions.

4. Image-centric social media sites will dominate

Online content will go beyond Facebook and Twitter, and explore new social media sites like Google+, Pinterest and Instagram. Google+ has nearly 360 million monthly users already, and is the second-largest network after Facebook. There are video services too beyond YouTube, like Vine and Instagram Video that are ideal for short and crisp content and it is also a very inexpensive way of sharing. Images engage better, and with increasing mobile bandwidth. This will aid targeted communication.

5. Data will get bigger, but less is more

The amount of data brands collect from various channels including social media, email and mobile platforms is enormous. And companies can easily lose their way trying to sift through this mind-boggling amount of information and pay enormous sums to interpret the data. Most of the time, they use very little of what is deciphered to study consumer habits. While the debate about privacy invasion rages, the big data is a reality and is here to stay. As it is often said, the devil is in the detail and so sometimes it pays to keep the devil at bay. Use only what you need and disregard the rest. Less is always more.

6. Hashtags will become a leading search tool

Everybody knows what a hashtag is, and it has become a part of contemporary culture. Hashtags are an efficient way to find content relating to specific topics, as well as the people talking about those topics. Just as searches are conducted on platforms other than Google, Bing and Yahoo, search also happens on social platforms. Every day, people search on Pinterest, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, YouTube and other social platforms using words and hashtags with success. As a sign of things to come, Google has increased the visibility of hashtag searches on its search engine as well.

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