4 Changes Successful Brands Will Make in 2017

In a world where technology is breaking down the barriers between businesses and consumers, it is more important than ever for brands to connect with their customers.

Unfortunately, we are seeing time and time again that brands are struggling to adapt to this new way of doing business, and as a result are falling to the wayside.

They need to become much more agile to compete with the huge wave of start-ups churning out value at an incredible pace and technology-driven moves by other established companies. At the same time, brands should begin focusing on four primary business goals to be successful in this new age of interconnectedness and omni-channel consumerism: 1. Improving the customer experience 2. Fully utilizing data and analytics 3. Embracing technology 4. Staying visible in the age of ad-blockers.

“So, Who wins in the year 2020? Arguably, it’s the most forward thinking companies- those that consciously and deliberately work at anticipating the future needs and create and experience that customers’ value”
· Walker Info (Customers 2020)

1. Bettering the Customer Experience

In a recent survey done by Econsultancy, 22% of companies identified customer experience as the most exciting opportunity for 2017. Brands that want to succeed in 2017 are going to need to refocus on not only improving customer experiences online, but in stores as well.

Importance of In-store

As online shopping has become easier and more convenient, and one aspect that many brands have lost sight of is the importance of the in-store experience.

While brands have become fairly adept at driving customers online, they have somewhat lost their edge when it comes to driving them to physical locations. Traditional methods such as TV ads and billboards aren’t as effective as they were in the past. Brands need to focus on new ways of attracting customers. In-store only events and promotions, technological incentives such as smart mirrors or location based mobile promotions can all help to drive in-store engagement.

E-commerce has become a huge point of sale and is still growing, but brick and mortar sales locations are still the backbone of most retail businesses and according to Marketing Dive, will soon surpass digital in terms of customer experience.

Customer Service

Once they’ve been drawn in, the importance of a customer’s in-store experience has been incredibly underestimated. Poor or disinterested customer service can destroy not only a single sale, but the lifetime loyalty that customer then has towards the brand. As loyalty is key for a brand’s success, brands need to focus on training sales associates to deliver the best possible customer service, and therefore the best possible customer experience (Dive deeper into what drives loyalty in customer service interactions).

Omnichannel

As retail shifts increasingly into the online world, brands are losing sight of their customer’s end to end experience, missing crucial touch points and golden opportunities offered by an easy and enjoyable omni-channel experience. In 2017, a seamless customer experience going to become a life or death factor for brands.

2. Using Data to Enhance the Customer Experience

One of a brand’s most under-utilized resources has always been data. Brands in 2017 now have tons of customer data but most don’t really do much with it.

Just over half of companies in the US and Europe say they are routinely generating value from their data (Economist Intelligence Unit). By not utilizing the immense amount of customer insights available, brands are wasting resources just as they would be if it were paper or man-hours.

What customers want has always been the driving question behind industry, with brands having on average less than 5% agreement rate on the key needs of their audience.

Thanks to data and analytics, brands are better positioned than ever to answer this question. By utilizing and understanding their stored customer data via advanced analytics, brands in 2017 should be able to identify trends and patterns that will tell them exactly what their customers are looking for, and how best to get them what they want.

Successful brands including Amazon and General Electric have been using data and analytics for things such as product recommendations for years, but as we continue to push forward into this new age of business it’s going to become less of a competitive advantage, and more of a necessity.

3. Being Visible in the Age of Ad-Blockers

The customer relationship is irrelevant if you don’t have any customers. Brands are going to need to find new ways to remain visible in the age of ad-blockers.

A recent Digital News report found that 47% of online consumers use ad-blockers, and that number is rapidly growing, especially with younger generations who plainly dislike digital ads.

Micro-influencers

Brands need to find a new way to deliver their content to consumers. The most popular and widely explored strategy in the past few years has been influencer marketing.

By having subtle product placement type content hidden inside of an influencer’s social media, brands are able to bypass programs that eliminate advertisements and even have consumers search for their content. Although as younger generations search more and more for relatable influencers and connectedness, micro-influencers are finding themselves in the spotlight.

Native Advertising

Successful brands are also going to increase their focus on native advertising and authentic content marketing. By creating content that isn’t overtly branded and blends into the usual content consumed by the audience, brands are able to disguise their advertisements as well as be seen to understand their customer.

This makes consumers much more likely to interact with and absorb content, according to IPG & Sharethrough, up to 53% more likely. Native advertising and the blending of advertising with regular content is going to be a major trend for successful brands in the coming year.

Formula for Ads

Both native advertising and influencer marketing is going to eventually converge into PISD (Personalized, Immersive, Short-Lived, Dense Content). PISD is the formula for the future of marketing and brands with success in their sights should take note.

As brands become more adept at utilizing their customer data, personalization will continue to move further into the spotlight (as demonstrated by Toyota’s campaign with Watson). This, coupled with shortened consumer attention spans and an increasing interest in short and interactive content (think snapchat) will soon redefine the way brands need to market their products. General and non-interactive ads will be a thing of the past as consumers demand more exciting and engaging content.

4. Embracing New Technology:

While arguably the most obvious, embracing new technology is going to be one of the most important factors for brand success in 2017. Without the effective utilization of current technology, all other areas of focus are almost impossible.

Specifically, brands will need to focus on investing in IoT, AI and Chatbots, and improved mobile and video content.

IoT

IoT is undeniably the way of the future. In a culture that has long emphasized connectedness, IoT is the logical next step, and for businesses and brands this represents huge potential.

Successful companies will use IoT for both every day efficiency purposes, from automating the lights in their office to connecting employees globally, but will also use it to collect data and be more effective in connecting with their customers, making their experiences seamless and instantaneous.

AI & Chatbots

A second field of investment for successful companies will be artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots. Consumers in today’s markets don’t like post sale human-to-human interaction (80% prefer self-service to live-service when it comes to customer service). The more brands are able to automate post sale interactions the better the consumer experience and the higher the likelihood of future sales.

Investing in AI and chatbots will also save brands money in the long run, as a single chatbot has the potential to replace an entire call center.

Mobile & Video

In the realm of marketing, successful brands are going to start investing in mobile and video content. Seamless mobile experiences and ultra-high quality video are going to be not only a desire, but an expectation.

Already, WOW Local Marketing has found that 52% of customers are less likely to engage with a company because of a bad mobile experience.

While all successful brands are going to focus resources on those areas, a select few are going above and beyond. They are exploring ways to incorporate Augmented or Virtual Reality into their video and mobile content, further engaging consumers in ways other brands haven’t.

Conclusion:

In the new world of business brands are going to have to be able to adapt and change on the fly. The static business models legacy companies have enjoyed in the past are no longer going to be able to prevail over adaptive and fast-moving start-ups and technology-driven companies.

Brands are going to have to become much more agile in the way they do business and make some fairly radical changes. Customer experiences, use of data and analytics, integrated advertising, and use of new and advanced technologies are all the key areas of focus to unlock and survive the next level of business and branding.



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