Developing flexibility and agility in digital marketing: Five trends to explore

Sean Cotton is the president and co-founder of Coegi, an all-in-one premium marketing partner for media professionals seeking a streamlined way to leverage programmatic and social solutions. Coegi enables marketers to become digital heroes among co-workers and clients by empowering them with best-in-class strategies, technologies, and expertise through simplified partnerships. Sean is a veteran digital marketing practitioner, industry thought leader, and 2017 winner of iMedia’s Industry Luminary award. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of Missouri, where he teaches interactive and programmatic techniques to the next generation of marketers.

Recent headlines have shown how necessary dexterity and flexibility can be to dealing with business uncertainty. That lesson is incredibly relevant for professionals handling digital marketing efforts. After all, a campaign devised only a few months ago can come off as insensitive or in poor taste depending on the current environment. At the same time, having processes in place to change campaigns as necessary (whether you need to adjust tone, budget, or flighting) is of the utmost importance.

Current digital marketing trends are designed to deal with this flux and leave the necessary room for change. However, since it’s not a matter of if we’ll face more uncertainty in the future, but when, they’re likely to become mainstays. Here are five digital marketing trends that should play a role in how your brand approaches its marketing strategy well into the future:

Find alternatives to third-party cookies

At the present moment, cookie-based targeting is still possible — but not for long. Google plans to stop the use of third-party cookies on Chrome come 2022. If this is your modus operandi for tracking consumer behaviour, building personas, targeting shoppers, and so on, you need to prioritise finding alternatives to third-party cookies.

First-party data is always the best option. The same has been said for purchase intent and unique identifiers — both of which are dependent on that first-party data. Reevaluate your CRM to guarantee all information is correct and current. However, ensure whatever solution you choose adheres to consumer privacy regulations: The GDPR, CCPA, and CPRA are just the beginning of larger statutes that strengthen consumer privacy rights regarding personal data across the globe.

Explore automated content recognition

As far as digital marketing trends go, automated content recognition (or ACR) is perhaps the one with the most potential. ACR technology allows for more novel forms of targeting by tracking media consumption on smart TVs.

As consumers watch television, this tactic captures data on media delivery (e.g., linear, DVR, VOD, OTT), viewed content, ad exposure, and IP addresses — immediately offering insights into behaviours on other devices. Not only does this provide advertisers second-by-second feedback on ad performance, but it also opens up the opportunity for dynamic ad insertion on TVs and serves complementary content to viewers on a second device.

Adapt strategies for continued eCommerce growth

With the wave of online shopping continuing to grow, one thing’s for certain: Digital should be more than a marketing strategy for e-commerce sites. Instead, retailers need to invest in the channel to expand reach, build awareness, and drive interest in their brand.

Focus first on the customer experience by reducing friction and leveraging personalisation. Shoppers want content, recommendations, and offers, so look for ways to personalise the experience based on demographics, past purchases, browsing behaviours, and site activities.

As that experience comes together, explore a tried-and-true marketing strategy for e-commerce sites and traditional retailers alike: paid advertising, be it PPC, PPI, or display. Even if online ad shopping accounts for only a small percentage of sales, it’s become a necessity for remaining competitive. If you’re advertising on social media, up your game with shoppable offers while sponsoring products on Amazon and using in-app mobile advertising at the same time.

Dig deeper into data to inform channel selection

It always pays off to note the importance of data in choosing which channels and tactics drive sales. So instead of using vanity metrics (like social media followers or page views), opt for more advanced measurement strategies (think multitouch attribution, matched market, and incremental lift, among others).

Then, optimise your findings by leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning. By combining AI and digital marketing, brands can test everything from messaging and audiences to channels and touchpoints at scale. Machine learning, on the other hand, can help you learn and adapt success signals to tailor content, engage consumers, and enhance the customer experience.

Master marketing agility

Like I mentioned earlier, emphasising dexterity and flexibility will ensure you’re ready to pivot your strategies no matter what the world throws your way. Even when it comes to the most well-thought-out campaign, digital affords you the luxury of making rapid data-driven decisions on how to adapt engagement efforts and source promising opportunities — often in real time.

Simply consider the lightning speed at which big brands began implementing user-generated content across social channels last year. Faced with a lack of options for marketing content creation early on in the pandemic, savvy companies turned toward the next best option: consumer-generated media. Publishing this content exposed products to new audiences, all while building greater trust.

With this in mind, employ a nimble approach to digital to make messaging timelier: Leverage short-form video content to influence purchase behaviours, another one of the many emerging digital marketing trends emphasising flexibility and agility. Focus on authenticity. Listen to what your audience has to say and adapt accordingly.

If one thing is certain today, it’s that brands will be navigating uncharted waters for many years. There’s a lot of uncertainty around what tomorrow will bring, but aligning your brand with emerging digital marketing and advertising trends — and more specifically, ones that emphasise flexibility and will likely become long-time fixtures — can put your products or services in a much better position to attract the right attention, influence purchase decisions, and strengthen customer loyalty going forward.

Photo by kike vega on Unsplash

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