Just as you get all your ducks in a row for 2016, online marketing, much like every other year, will reinvent itself for 2017 (thanks, online marketing!).
Do you want rustled feathers in 2017? Nope, didn’t think so.
Here are 6 ways online marketing will change in 2017 and how you can get ready for it.
1. Advertising Competition Will Cost You
Yes, this is not what anybody wants to hear, but as more businesses join the online world, competition is going to raise the price per click and increase the time spent to rank your business highly in the search.
In March 2016, Facebook stated that they now have more than 3 million active businesses that advertise on Facebook.
As consumers turn to the Internet for every action, more and more businesses will turn to online marketing to reach their audience in 2017.
How to plan: Niche your audience down further to ensure you’re only paying for people who are most likely to use your business. Casting a wider net with online ads usually results in low ad scores, increasing costs.
Consider supplementing Google and social media with lesser known display networks and niche blogs. They typically have less advertisers and are cheaper to promote your business. I advise you to do some research when choosing niche blogs and lesser known display networks to ensure they have quality traffic, and not bots or low-quality visits from non-native English-speaking countries.
2. Gift Audiences Will Grow
If a business makes $5 million in 2016 but only $4.9 million in 2017, Board Directors are fired and its stock price plunges by an ungodly amount.
A trend I believe we will see in 2017 is brands targeting gift audiences.
What is a gift audience? It’s someone who isn’t your ideal customer but has a friend, colleague or family member who is a perfect match. For example, my dad wouldn’t by a Fisher Price train set for himself, but he would buy it for his nephew.
Gift audiences will allow brands to target new customer segments, increasing their sales. Facebook already offers advertisers the ability to target users who have friends with upcoming birthdays.
How to plan:
Can your product or service be bought as a gift? Consider targeting working professionals, parents and grandparents to see if gift audiences are a viable channel to increase sales.
Tip: I usually avoid targeting gift audiences for users in college or university as many will be in full-time education and not have the disposable income to buy gifts for others.
3. Everything Is Coming Up Customer Experience (UI / UX / CX)
Yes, the customer experience will start to become more important than what you sell and the price of it.
No, it really will!
A Walker Study concluded that by 2020, businesses believe the experience they offer will be even more important than product and price.
At peak time, Uber can cost as much as 4x more than a regular taxi, but people still use them. Why?
Because the experience is so easy and simple.
You only have to open the application and click ‘find driver’. Your phone’s GPS lists your current location and through the app you’re given details of the taxi picking you up and where they are in real-time.
There is no need to spend minutes on the phone telling the operator where you are, or what you’re wearing while having no idea when the taxi will turn up.
This is one example of a seamless customer experience outweighing the price of a product.
How to plan: Review every interaction point that prospects and customers have with your business. Is every touch-point as fluid as it can be? If not, how can you improve it?
4. Facebook Live Will Become More Popular
The brand innovators are already leveraging Facebook Live to run ads, serve content and turn views into cash. Facebook Live isn’t anything new, and Facebook isn’t the first to come up with live video. Practically since the dawn of Google+, Google has had “On Air” which is now so lovingly referred to as YouTube Live (figures). Live and real-time media will become the forte of every content strategy. Choose your platform and start riding the wave!
With Facebook, a single 10-second view costs several times less than a website click on Facebook (because it doesn’t send a user away from Facebook), making it the perfect medium to reach thousands of targeted users for much less than other ad types.
Facebook Live allows you to interact with fans in real-time, improving customer relations and creating a stronger online community with only a smartphone camera.
How to plan: Consider doing a live question and answer, an office tour, a new product reveal, or record live at a trade show or event your business is hosting.
Note: Of all forms of content marketing, video tends to be the hardest and most time consuming to pull-off, but it’s also the most effective. Please don’t neglect videos in 2017 like you did in 2016 (you know who you are :)).
5. Your Business Structure MUST Change
As a freelancer, I’ve seen a semi-shift in business structure and culture already, but I don’t think it’s quite reached its peak yet.
While this change is not directly related to online marketing, I believe it deserves a mention because it has blossomed due to online marketing.
What do I mean by your business structure must change? Two things:
Company culture – You can’t turn around these days without a new startup being formed that doesn’t conform to the typical business model. This means no 9-5, rigged 40-50-hour weeks and docked pay for coming to work a few minutes past 9am.
Employees (your staff) will have more choice in 2017 to work for brands and businesses that cater to their needs. A PWC study found that employees from all age groups prioritize flexibility in their job roles over competition or a promotion.
Online hiring – For most of you, it’s not scalable to hire experts in each online marketing field as this is what it will cost you:
You may only need help with social media a few hours per week, and it doesn’t make sense to hire a new employee, so you either delegate the task to a current team member who lacks the correct skills, or ignore it altogether.
There are more than 20 million freelancers (and growing) to choose from on Freelancer alone, and even more on Upwork.
You can hire freelancers on a per-hour or per-project basis to work for you for as little, or as long, as you wish.
How to plan: Talk to your employees or ask them to fill in an anonymous survey to find out what they like and dislike about the current company culture, and then work on ways to improve it in 2017.
Do you have tasks that need doing but you’ve been putting them off because you can’t afford another full-time employee? Give outsourcing a try.
6. Customers Will Hold More Power
Well actually, they already hold it according to a Forrester report.
Consumers can search your business and find all your online reviews, blog posts, social media updates, product specs, prices, and feedback left by shoppers in seconds.
They can also find every other business just like yours in a 10km radius and compare them to see which one better suits their needs. Consumers will be even more fickle in 2017 and a bad website design, a lack of social media updates or an unclear pricing plan is all it takes to put them off.
You no longer hold the power, they do.
How to plan: Start serving your customers better. Provide omni-channel support using traditional (telephone) and digital (live-chat) methods to better serve their needs. Give customers more ways to shop at your business, such as adding items to their cart online to checkout in-store.
Major retailer Zappos offer all customers free shipping and free returns. Free returns doesn’t sound like much at first, but it’s estimated that 30% of all online apparel purchases result in a 30% return rate.
In the Age of the Customer, ask not what customers can do for you, but what you can do for your customers
Every year, online marketing becomes more competitive than the year before.
2017 will be no exception.
Give yourself a head start by coming up with plays and strategies to roll with the punches and get ahead for the changes that will happen in 2017.
What do you think the biggest change to online marketing will be in 2017?