Following my talk at the bda Digital Day back in December (seems like a lifetime ago), I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to put some of the topic covered into words and offer a little bit more detail around what is quite a broad subject.
So, I have worked in the industry for 17 years and this has taught me that trying to predict the future of marketing and digital is extremely hard. In fact, the pace of technological advancement continues to gather momentum, and the last decade alone has seen an astonishing rate of change. Changes in the platforms we use, the expectations we have and the way we interact with each other and brands.
To put this is perspective, it was only 11 years ago that a fresh-faced Mark Zuckerburg was sat in his Harvard dormitory developing The Facebook. Now Facebook has over 1.2 billion users. In 2010, as absurd as it may now seem, most marketers didn't have a clear defined content strategy as part of their marketing plan, now it is core to almost every strategy. In 2013 Snapchat had just been launched and was building its user base. Now Snapchat has over 7 billion video views a day... 7 billion video views a day... let that sink in for a minute.
"Where consumer expectation reflex was previously ten days, in the space of a generation it has truncated down to ten minutes."
These are just a few examples of the pace at which platforms and approaches are changing, and in the last two years alone, we've probably seen greater technological advancements than that of the last 30 years. The digital age is constantly evolving. New platforms emerge each month, while existing players develop new features to stay relevant. This constant evolution and innovation births new trends and greater demands when it comes to customer experience. Where consumer expectation reflex was previously ten days, in the space of a generation it has truncated down to ten minutes.
The social media platforms, Friends Reunited & Myspace, that seemingly had it all but very quickly disappeared into the darkness, tell a cautionary tale of this. From a position of strength, having created a strong user base, they seriously stagnated. A failure to add features, to listen to their users and adapt their service led to users dropping off over time, and then falling off completely when Facebook launched. And as with most walks of life or business ventures, stagnation is bad. It not only stops your user base growing or engaging, but it actually means that by the time you do something, it is often more expensive (as it requires a complete overhaul) and it is also often too late. Companies who look to innovate and continuously evolve will reap the rewards through cost effective and considered iterations of their website, or even just specific areas of functionality on their website.
Success starts with an innovation-first culture
So how do we keep our online presence moving forward and better serve our users or our customers? I believe that this has to start with data. By using analytical tools to understand the way your website is used, you can tailor your content, structure, layouts and features to provide a better experience through evolution.
This means that business decisions on content or structure should no longer be made by Bob in IT, Sandra in Sales or Rowan in Marketing in isolation, on a personal preference, gut-feeling or hunch – this is strategically blinkered and arrogant on a digital level. Instead, decisions around your website should be based on real data-driven insight, by actually seeing what your users are viewing, what they are interacting with and painting a picture of what it is that they want. In my time in the industry, this approach has seen the shift from traditional push marketing of ‘making people want your product', to new, more dynamic pull marketing methods, ‘making a product that people want'.
"use insight-driven strategy to bridge the gap between what you want to tell people and what your audiences want to engage with."
It's about researching your industry, listening to your customers and understanding what they want and how they engage with you. It's about adapting your approach, products and services to flex to market trends and shifts in consumer behaviour. It's about realising that your customers are the most valuable insight when it comes to shaping your future.
Ultimately, you need to use insight-driven strategy to bridge the gap between what you want to tell people and what your audiences want to engage with. We all must go further to understand our target audiences, what motivates them and how we can provide real value to their online, and overall brand experience.
So this leads on nicely to my second instalment of this blog, Your website is an evolution, not a revolution: Part 2, where we look at the tools used to analyse your website, areas where we can gleam insight and reasons to instigate change.