Digital strategy is an ever-changing area of digital marketing. We’ve certainly come a long way from the days when having a digital strategy simply meant building a website. With the proliferation of new technologies, platforms and media, this is an exciting time to be working in the digital realm.
What will digital strategy look like in 2016? Here are five of our big, bold predictions:
1. “Growth hacking” is the new black
This term, widely attributed to entrepreneur Sean Ellis in 2010, is one of those love-it-or-hate-it marketing buzzwords that’s become tough to ignore. Strategic planning has always been about growth. But “growth hacking” is a particular approach that seeks to bring the innovative, creative thinking of a start-up to larger organizations, focusing on growth and building plans from the perspective of what is needed to deliver results, rather than simply spending an existing fixed budget. In 2016, we fully expect that more businesses will look to agencies to build strategic plans that are lean, mean and growth-oriented.
2. Silos will break down
One trend we’re seeing a lot of lately is that of agency consolidation. For several years, companies were seeking out specialized partners in areas like creative, media, branding, SEO and content, and bringing a dozen different agencies to the table. However, this led to a lot of overlap and inefficiency, and this trend is finally starting to reverse as companies look to consolidate agency services with fewer partners. Many areas are converging: I’m convinced that within a couple of years, we’ll no longer talk about SEO, Content Marketing and Social Media as though they were three different things. Strategy will take a front seat as agencies seek to integrate all these silos together and ensure that they complement one another to deliver performance.
3. Strategy will get more tactical
This may seem like a contradiction in terms. But it’s really not. In the past, many agencies would deliver very high-level strategic documents that spoke in lofty, ambitious terms about brand experience without getting down to the nitty-gritty of how to execute. However, the fast pace of digital marketing is forcing companies to get more pragmatic about their spends: Lofty academics are well and nice, but, to quote Jerry Maguire, show me the money! We expect companies to become more demanding about the outcome of their dollars invested in strategy, demanding highly tactical roadmaps that can be put into market in an iterative fashion, allowing for real-time analytics, testing and optimization on the fly. The five-year plan will be replaced by short-term planning: by the month, week or even day. Big, clunky and slow just doesn’t cut it in 2016: Strategies will need to be more tactical, agile and measurable.
4. B2B will join the party in a big way
Business-to-consumer marketers were among the first to jump on the digital strategy bandwagon, investing resources and budgets into integrating their content, media and consumer experiences. Big brands such as Starbucks, Nike, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s led the way. But business-to-business marketers were a bit later to the party, with relatively lower investment in strategy and more of a reliance on a traditional sales approach. However, this is slowly changing, as B2B marketers realize how much influence digital marketing has on the purchase cycle. We expect 2016 to be the year when B2B marketers come on board in a serious way, investing heavily in digital strategy to integrate sales, marketing, media, CRM and service and support. After all, the decision-makers for B2B products and services are people, too.
5. Multi-device will grow beyond mobile
These past few years were all about creating cross-device experiences for mobile and tablet. In 2016, we’ll see this trend continue beyond this, to include wearable devices such as smart watches and fitness trackers, as well as connected Internet of Things devices such as cars, coffee makers and home management systems. All of these will provide additional screens to deliver content, advertising and consumer engagement, and savvy marketers who can look beyond the desktop will be able to reap the benefits.
2016 promises to be a pivot year for digital strategy. Are you ready?
By Sari Stein and Christy Del Savio