Marketers can learn a lot from President Barack Obama's first year in office. While setting an ambitious agenda he's discovered that governing is more difficult than getting elected. For online marketers, the lesson learned is that developing an ongoing strategy to achieve profitable revenues in a maturing marketplace is harder than in a dynamic, growing one.
Three Important Characteristics of the Maturing Online Market
Since buyers are at the core of every marketing strategy, it's important to understand how the maturing online marketplace affects your prospects and customers. Here are three critical traits to consider:
Consumer segments have evolved online at different rates and in different ways. For example, while text messaging is the dominant way that teens communicate, it's not too popular with seniors. Further, customers have multidimensional needs that change over time. For example, not all mommy bloggers need diapers.
Consumers are device indifferent. They expect to be able to access and use the Internet, their communications, and their information regardless of where they are, what tool they're using, and/or what function they're performing. Among these devices are computers, netbooks, Kindles/e-readers, smartphones, BlackBerries, iPhones, game consoles, and GPS systems. Smartphones were 25 percent of Q3 2009 U.S. mobile devices sold according to Nielsen. In 2009, 21 percent of U.S. households only had cellphones, but no landline based on Nielsen tracking. This means consumers must be able to read your content and complete transactions on their device of choice.
Consumers are more security and privacy conscious. With increased public concern following the underpants bomber and the healthcare debate, Americans are more focused on personal security and protecting their privacy. This will translate to challenges for behavioral tracking and targeting used by publishers, advertisers, and retailers.
Seven Online Marketing Trends for 2010
In 2010, the following seven trends will be at the core of online marketing. These trends show an evolution from the past few years (see 2009 trends here) as businesses face a more competitive online marketplace and a more diverse set of communication channels.
Improved lifecycle marketing provides customers with appropriate information. Customers will get this information at each step of the purchase process. With tighter budgets, marketers will maximize their retention marketing efforts to increase the profitability of their current customers. Providing post-purchase support will become more important to ensure that customers continue to use their products. To leverage these efforts, think about how you can add value to your offering and create related products that can be sold post-purchase.
Segmentation becomes essential to delivering relevant communications. Especially in appropriate formats to diverse groups at various points in the purchase process. This translates into understanding and offering individual prospects and customers different communications options, allowing them to modify their choices and incorporating past activity to personalize communications. This implies the need for more sophisticated database operations.
Social media marketing strategies mature. As the market continues to evolve, companies move away from a knee jerk, "We need a Facebook page" reaction to making an ongoing investment in staff, marketing, and related systems for listening, tracking, and participating to ensure you're in tune with the members of the appropriate communities. Developing advocates and enhancing their reach to attract new prospects are the areas where companies should focus their efforts. The recent FTC endorsement guidelines hopefully will translate into greater transparency as brands increase their efforts to socialize across platforms. What's certain is that there will continue to be new social media offerings and current players will change.
Content becomes more shareable. This will leverage social distribution networks and increase the earned media the unpaid exposure companies get when consumers share information about them. This translates into continued focus on content creation to meet a wide range of information needs across formats. Utilize a variety of means to distribute content including your website, social media, third-party sites, widgets, iPhone apps and offline collateral, and media. Use "Add This" and provide incentives for consumers to engage with you and build relationships.
Search marketing continues to evolve and expand. Consumers use search to discover information and they expect search to work effectively across interactive offerings. Due to limited supply, paid search for broad key terms, especially terms used earlier in the purchase process, will increase. While including a broader offering of formats, real-time search will continue to evolve. Use of other forms of search will increase including YouTube, the second largest search engine, and social media, used for peers' recommendations. Additionally, driven by smartphone usage and other GPS-oriented devices, location-specific search, which tends to be more action-oriented, will increase.
Metrics continue to become more sophisticated. They will support evolving and more diverse online marketing channels. As you add new online marketing tactics, ensure that you can effectively track your results. Continually test different aspects of your marketing mix.
Offline marketing continues to expand its reach online. This will, in turn, increase the integration of different distribution channels from continued online engagement of offline media to enhanced in-store servicing of online merchandising, including pickup and returns of merchandise purchased online.
As President Obama has shown us, while the future will always present unexpected events, it's critical to stay focused on your main goals. To this end, listen to your customers and react proactively and quickly to unforeseen developments.
Heidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies, an interactive marketing consultancy. She has over 20 years' experience helping clients increase profitability by developing innovative marketing programs to acquire and retain customers based on solid analytics. Clients include New York Times Digital, AccuWeather.com, CheapTickets, and the UJA. Additionally, Riverside Marketing Strategies has worked with numerous other online content/media companies and e-tailers.
Prior to starting Riverside Marketing Strategies, Heidi held a number of senior-level marketing positions at The Economist, the Bookspan/Doubleday Direct division of Bertelsmann, and Citibank.