Predictions for a New Year of Digital Marketing

Mobile will continue to attract solutions that can stitch together customer interactions whenever and wherever they occur.

It's been another fast-moving year in digital marketing and as 2014 draws to a close, I thought I'd share my thoughts on key themes to have in mind for 2015.

In 2014, we saw a number of trends in our industry, with some playing out more robustly than others. For example, the growing focus on inbound marketing strategies became evident as marketing budgets shifted away from traditional media and toward digital.

At the same time, a study by Forrester Research found that many companies are struggling to achieve business results via next-generation marketing strategies with only 14 percent of businesses reporting that their content marketing strategies were proving to be effective.

In terms of mobile, there was a clear disconnect between what marketers "know" about the importance of mobile and what marketers are doing to implement changes and keep mobile strategically in place. In fact, according to ExactTarget's 2014 State of Marketing report, 42 percent of respondents noted that they "rarely or never" use mobile responsive design for their business emails.

With these themes in mind, here are some trends I'm expecting for digital marketing in 2015.

  • New dollars for digital. Digital marketing will continue to grow in importance, shifting dollars away from traditional marketing assets. Expect to see digital marketing budgets trend up over the next three to five years with even more focus on the customer experience, product development, and ideation.
  • Mobile will cease being a standalone "channel." We'll see the lines of consumer communications continue to blur. Brands will stop measuring mobile as an individual channel for targeting and lead generation. They will market to customers based on their profiles across all touch points as they continue to recognize that the consumer journey is multichannel and dynamic - every device is now part of the customer fabric.
  • There won't be a "year of mobile." Building off my previous bullet, we've gotten to the point now where every year is mobile, but the interesting part is that the impact is very much dependent on the need for mobile and subsequent adoption within specific industries. For instance, retail and travel adopted mobile early on due to consumer needs, wants and desires. Industries like healthcare and banking, to some extent, are not as far along in the adoption of mobile, but look to be making a move now. The good news is we can all learn from the best practices of the early adopters.
  • Smaller marketing technology companies that didn't get scooped up through mergers and acquisitions will become more specialized. In 2014, we saw big players acquiring niche companies to round out their portfolio and suite of products. As the market continues to mature, a natural next step for those not acquired will be the specialization of solutions through acquisitions that uniquely solve vertical market needs.
  • Brands will invest in training for data-focused roles. Marketing technology has evolved faster than people can adopt it, and companies will need to invest in marketing employees to improve their data-focused skills. Getting the most out of the technology will only happen as marketers become better skilled at bringing the art and science of marketing together to create more compelling customer experiences.

When reflecting on 2014, the industry showed us the importance of implementing a data strategy built with solutions that can stitch together customer interactions whenever and wherever they occur, between visits and regardless of channel. We'll continue to see more of this in 2015.