Seven Top Online Marketing Trends for 2009

Barack Obama changed the political rule book: his 2008 presidential campaign leveraged the Internet’s strength to engage disenchanted voters and register new voters. Future political campaigns won’t be able to utilize these strategies with the same impact since they won’t be as novel and the identified constituencies will now be an established part of the electoral process.

Going forward, online marketers will face challenges similar to those of their political counterparts. The online market’s accelerated maturation due to recent economic turmoil means that growth will no longer come as easily. Growth now will have to come at the expense of other channels or competitors, rather than from new users.

Three Online Marketing Goals for 2009 and Related Metrics

Because both marketers and consumers will have limited budgets, we’ll see longer sales cycles, lengthier prepurchase dialogues with consumers, and less brand advertising. As a result, companies will focus on the following three goals and the related analytic indicators to track them:

  • Increased ROI (define) from better resource utilization. Firms will also explore the potential for new revenue streams. In addition to tracking sales and expenses, companies will spend more time assessing tradeoffs.

  • Improved targeting based on a better understanding of the behaviors that drive profitable revenues. This translates into better data mining across functions to find areas of opportunity as well as the use of third-party behavioral targeting functionality.
  • Enhanced customer focus to determine what’s being said about your organization and to respond quickly to resolve customer issues. This includes assessing your contact strategy, monitoring ratings and reviews, and participating in relevant online communities.

Seven Online Marketing Trends for 2009

In 2009, the following seven trends will dominate online marketing. While most are similar to the trends I outlined for 2008, they show an evolution to a more competitive, multichannel marketplace. Also, these trends consider the impact of working within an expense-constrained environment.

  • Increase customer retention efforts, because market share often will be at the cost of other channels and/or competitors. Additionally, marketing to your existing customer base is cheaper and more effective because you know who they are and understand their behavior.

  • Create more attractive content because it cost-effectively engages consumers at many touch points during the purchase cycle, leverages internal resources, and aids search optimization. While attractive content will take on a variety of formats, a growing proportion of it will be video.
  • Develop more targeted and relevant communications to be disseminated across a variety of devices, including advertising, e-mail, smartphones, text messages, and instant messages. While consumers may opt in to text message for time-delayed communications and cost reasons, businesses may limit text messages in enterprise-owned phones to reduce costs. Good database functionality is required to track and analyze customer activity to drive effective communications. For some marketers, this may mean the use of third-party behavioral targeting. Further, in the current economic environment, creating pertinent messages is critical.
  • Better leverage communities. While social communities expanded and new niche sites evolved in 2008, companies must think more broadly about their prospects, customers, and other influencers this year. This means evolving beyond the engagement phase of dealing with customers to show them the love. As a result, the community organizer role in companies will be become more prevalent.
  • Increase analytic sophistication to drive business decisions in a resource-constrained environment. Contribution to return will determine resource allocation, including money and people. Since this will have an impact on every phase of the business, not just transactions and financials, companies will improve their database utilization. As a result, firms may be forced to reassess their database functionality and create workarounds to compete effectively. On a related note, privacy issues may gather strength under the new Democratic administration.
  • Enhance search marketing advertising despite increased cost, because search engines are still the first place online users turn to find information. This translates into more expensive keyword buys due to the growing demand for the limited supply of high-yielding keywords. Additionally, it means an expanded approach to search optimization to include social media, mobile, and local search.
  • Continue to integrate distribution channels despite the internal corporate challenges and higher costs. Multichannel merchants will face increased complexity and thinner margins unless they become more efficient.

For online marketers, 2009 will be an exciting and challenging year. They’ll need to build the basis for future expansion, including enhancing their brand with limited resources. The reality is that companies can’t just stop marketing when times are tough because they risk hurting their long-term market share and bottom line. For many firms this will translate into clever workarounds to leverage existing resources to achieve short-term goals.

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