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Customer Engagement Marketing Trends for 2016

Customer Engagement Marketing Trends For 2016

Remember when you were hit with your first targeted digital ad? One day you were reading an online review of your favorite band’s latest concert and then the next time you checked Facebook you had an ad next to your Newsfeed for that band’s upcoming show at a local venue. And you probably thought it was super creepy. But how do you feel about it now? As consumers, we barely have to work at all to know what to wear, where to eat or who to see next in concert. The customer experience is dramatically changing and, for the most part, benefitting the informed consumer. We sat down with Peter Krasilovsky, advisor and chief analyst for Greenlight VR, to discuss his predictions for customer engagement marketing trends in 2016.

  1. For the past several years, we always talk about (X) year being “the year of mobile.”  And there has been tremendous movement towards a mobile centric environment for consumer information and services. But 2016 will represent a tipping point for mobile as people will increasingly use their mobile devices for commerce oriented features.   Ewallets, mobile coupons, QR code info and card linked loyalty will become increasingly integrated into shopping activity. In 2016, there will also be something entirely new: The ability to pay all or part of purchases with loyalty points from different programs. We’ll see how that flies with merchants who don’t want to participate in such “coalition” marketing.“  I suspect it will take some time to really take off.
  2. There will be more social-oriented marketing, less “advertising.”  SMBs are taking a social centric point of view in marketing. In many cases, they are beginning with a free Facebook account rather than a Yellow Pages ad or a Google AdWords campaign.  Many go on to buy advertising on Facebook, or work with other social media or traditional media. But their real focus is on mastering social marketing. They are more likely to work with a marketing service that helps them get there.
  3. More easy ordering and fast delivery options.  Many local merchants have never really put much thought into easy ordering and delivery, whether they are restaurants, home services or speciality retail.  But in many categories, national players are increasingly offering free or cheap delivery. It will be important for local merchants to match their efforts. The cost of delivery can be offset by more impulse buys, more upsells and customer loyalty.

There’s been a lot of discussion surrounding beacon technology and its impact on the customer experience. Will this technology be exclusive to the big brands or more accessible to the small business owner in 2016?

Beacons are one way to determine who is in the store and to target users with special offers based on their browsing and purchase behavior. The technology is relatively inexpensive, but managing it and acting on it takes some resources, so SMBs are less likely to use them. The exception: SMBs that buy into loyalty and CRM programs that include beacons as part of the subscription.

How crucial are brand evangelists for a business’s success? How can a small business go about building this base of loyal customers?

Brand evangelists who help SMBs with social media and commerce are increasingly important, not only for acquiring new customers, but for engaging existing customers. Getting existing customers back in the store and buying more is mission # 1 for many SMBs.

Loyalty programs that include cash back, points flexibility and special perks;  Opt in Messaging from favorite merchants that feature offers.

Individualized Messaging

Not yet. Most programs don’t really have the volume of merchants or knowledge about their customer to offer truly individualized messaging.  Most messaging will continue to be targeted on the general basis of locality and gender. In 2016, we might see more messaging based around recent purchases.

Powerful Storytelling

Better and better. Storytelling is getting increasingly powerful, especially as more merchants add video, which remains the media channel with the highest engagement.  We’ll look for more “organic” testimonials via reviews in 2016.

Reputation Monitoring

Continues to Grow, but shifting. Reputation monitoring via social media tracking continues to grow in importance, but is increasingly integrated with presence management (web site hosting, listings updates etc.).  It is all a major part of the new marketing.   

Trackable Customer Acquisition / Lead Attribution

Critical. Attributing the right lead to the right marketing channel is a key part of the new presence management environment.  With the average SMB now using 7 or 8 channels, and also reconsidering their marketing budget, attribution should shape up as being a top priority for 2016.  We also look to see attribution increasingly linked to close the loop marketing, as SMBs do a better job tracking marketing efforts to actual sales, and then re-engaging these with loyalty efforts, new offers etc.

Customer Retention

Critical. More SMBs are planning to engage loyalty programs in 2016; and many existing loyalty program users are upgrading them from paper-based programs. From the consumer side, however, there are a glut of loyalty programs and they don’t often use them on an ongoing basis. The challenge in 2016 is to keep consumers interested and engaged.

Peter Krasilovsky (@LocalOnliner) is a new media researcher known for his pioneering work in hyperlocal content, vertical media, loyalty and promotion services and broadband services. He speaks regularly about digital trends, and publishes the Local Onliner blog. He served from 2006-2015 as Chief Analyst and Vice President at BIA/Kelsey, a local media research firm.

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