Illustration: Sameer Pawar
The past decade has seen a paradigm shift across sectors due to the exponential rate of digital-led growth. The world today has embraced technology as an essential part of everyday activities. As a result of this, the way individuals interact with organisations has undergone a major change. This is most evident in the field of marketing, where communication is key and retention is the goal that every firm chases. Given this scenario, a look into the future of marketing is well warranted for firms to be well-prepared for what lies ahead.
Putting digital first
First, the growth of digital avenues of marketing will continue to influence the way organisations disseminate information and operate within the global market. The world is set to go fully digital in the coming decade and digital marketing firms must adapt their strategies accordingly. The ability to analyse burgeoning data that is constantly being generated will be the primary skill that allows for such strategies to be designed. Digital marketing, hence, will gradually move towards being insight-driven to allow for deep-dives into individual needs and requirements, which can later be used to augment tactics at a macro level.Evolving platforms
But where will all this data come from? From a marketing standpoint, social media is clearly the answer. The rapid growth of Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram as platforms for personal as well as professional content has led to an expansion of opportunities for differentiated marketing. Brands and organisations alike have consolidated on the power of social media and this is only bound to increase in the next decade as newer platforms like TikTok emerge. Such a diversity of platforms has also levelled the playing field, allowing smaller brands to punch above their weight and compete on a scale that they never thought possible.
The key takeaways from the popularity of Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, in particular, are two-fold: The reduction in attention spans leading to the need for short, catchy content and the emergence of visuals, be they static images or videos, as the most successful means of communication. Content in bite-size chunks, hence, will become an important marketing tool as it can be shared across platforms with minimal adjustments. Snapchat exemplifies this trend through its use of short videos that disappear in a day, creating a class of ‘transient marketing’ that hits the sweet spot on the scale of audience attention. This form of marketing, when transferred over to other platforms, allows for a truly omni-channel approach, strengthening brand messages and prolonging retention times.
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In addition to the functioning of marketing channels, audiences too have changed and will continue to change with respect to the ways in which they interact with brands today. The rise in the population of digital natives has led audiences to become much more discerning, a fact that organisations must keep in mind while designing future communication.
Consumption patterns too have shifted; today’s consumers look to purchase experiences rather than merely products, tying quality and relatability with how a brand is perceived. The ability to deliver these experiences in a smooth, engaging manner will be a major factor in determining a brand’s market performance.
Ease of transaction, however, is not the only factor that this new audience cares about. Building trust is set to be the next important challenge that marketing firms must look to address. Unlike in the past, audiences will define their trust in a brand through a blend of their own interactions with the brand and their discussions with others who have interacted with the same brand. These ‘others’ will most likely form a part of a rising section of society known as ‘micro-influencers’, who can be defined as those with a relatively small yet dedicated cohort of followers among whom a relationship (and hence trust) has been built over time. What such a trend showcases is that the human touch will retain its importance, contrary to the notion that technology has made human interaction irrelevant. Audiences today learn from and trust each other when it comes to evaluating brand reputations, making it important for marketing firms to cater to individuals rather than communities. 'The 2010s were a warm up in gig economy': UrbanClap's Varun KhaitanMarketing firms get smarter
In such a scenario where both the modes of communication and the audience for the disseminated messages are constantly changing, it is imperative that marketing firms too revaluate their own functioning. Personalisation will soon become a mandatory part of the strategies they adopt, given the depth of data currently being collated and analysed. This will allow firms to design communication that can be targeted at customers individually.
The relentless pace of technological growth will ensure that such personalised experiences come closer and closer to audience expectations. It may even be possible in the future for audiences to merely think of their needs before marketing firms deliver them instantaneously. This data will involve not only insights drawn from search engine databases but from voice recognition technology as well. This will allow marketing firms to not only learn how to adapt to emerging forms of communication but also optimise interactions with customers to create a seamless experience that will ultimately contribute to better return on investment. In all of this, the ultimate aim for marketing firms is to deliver end-to-end experiences with highly personalised communication.
The evolution of technology and the increase in industry collaboration bode well for the future of every sector today. The next decade is sure to bring greater opportunities for innovation in the marketing space as organisations look to expand their capabilities to cover the cycle of brand creation, promotion and sustenance. It is only by remaining agile that the sector can truly achieve its potential. To read all the Forbes India Vision 2020 essays, Click Here
(This story appears in the 17 January, 2020 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)