2014 was the year our approach to digital communications came of age. We got comfortable with the channels and tools available to us and became more sophisticated in the way we used data and audience feedback to shape our marketing strategies.
In 2015, we will turn our attention outwards. We know and understand how to create content that serves our purposes, now it is time to put the same amount of energy into creating content that serves audience’s needs and desires.
That is why 2015 will be the year of choice. We already offer our audience a variety of channels to engage with us, but over the course of the year this will expand into offering them a choice in the types of content they consume.
Knowing and responding to your audience is the central theme that underpins every trend we expect to see develop this year, ranging from the explosive growth of ‘cards’ – short snippets of information on a topic of interest – as the media’s digital tool of choice, to long discussions about how to safeguard and make use of user data.
We’ll see a lot of discussion on the ways digital will change in 2015. But at the heart of every discussion will be one of the five themes.
Choose your own content
Communications professionals are obsessed with words. That’s no bad thing. But we have to recognise that our audience is not necessarily wired in the same way. Smart companies will offer their audience a choice in the way they consume content. For some, this will be downloading a podcast. Others will prefer a video. Some may choose to continue engaging with written content.
The important thing is to acknowledge that all of these types of content are equally valid. The success of the podcast series Serial, and on a smaller scale The Economist’s essay at the end of 2014 on the future of the book, showed the popularity of audio.
Unified digital experiences
Pick your favourite brand and look at its website, first on your laptop, then on your phone. Finally, open its mobile app. Did you feel like you were being given equivalent experiences? And more importantly, did they feel like they all reflected the same brand?
Some of you may have got lucky. For most of us, we are getting tired of wildly different experiences. This isn’t just about the big stuff. Too many companies are not consistent in their application of their brand. You may like both Helvetica and Arial, but using one for your main site and one for your app looks sloppy.
If we are going to keep our audience happy, our web experience needs to become more straightforward. Give them a consistent experience – if they can do what they want, when they need to, they will come back. If they can’t, they won’t.
Multiple methods, multiple screens, one story
We all own many devices. And by and large, we are going to keep buying them. That is a huge challenge for us. How can we create content that works for people, regardless of the device they are using?
The answer is simple – we will see more and more publishers, and then other website owners, take advantage of the wonderful flexibility of cards.
Twitter and Google Now show us the potential that cards have as a building block for device agnostic web content. More and more web services will jump on cards as the best way to structure and deliver their content to end users. Why? Because they are scalable. Viewers of your card on a smartwatch may see only the headline or a brief quote. View the same card on a laptop and they will see the full article, together with an embedded video.
Advertising becomes routine
Knowing people’s habits is powerful information. If you know the days they are most likely to buy a coffee or splurge on an impulse buy, you know the best time to advertise to them. In 2015, we will learn to track and make use of that data, allowing us to serve the right advert, to the right person, at the right time.
Maligned location based services such as Foursquare will become relevant for advertisers again, as they know more about our daily routines and habits than anyone else. They are also the easiest way to serve shoppers with vouchers and incentives.
When we do this, be specific. It is no good serving a voucher to a shopper who is a mile away and walking in the other direction. Set up a geolocation fence and use this to determine when to serve the advert. Microsoft did this to great effect with the launch of its physical stores last year and was rewarded with an 89% increase in footfall.
Data is the currency of the internet
Whether or not you acknowledge it, you are paying for every service on the internet. If you are not paying for something with hard cash, you’re probably paying with your data. The publishers we are buying advertising space from are basing all their insights on the data they gather from free customers.
We can gather this data from the sites we run to better understand our audience, their likes, dislikes and habits. To quote Google, the challenge here is “don’t be evil”.
The spate of hacks and data leaks in 2014 made consumers aware of the perils of their data falling into the wrong hands.
So, don’t be those wrong hands. Use the data to make your content more relevant to your audience’s needs and desires, not as an excuse to initiate the hard sell.
Simple in theory, hard in practice
Giving the user choice and basing strategies on the choices they make, both in life and in engaging with content, is a wonderfully simple idea. Executing on it, however, is a different story.
Get it right and you will be lord of your domain. Get it wrong and your audience will drift away with no explanation as to why.
Download the full report at: www.digitaltrendsreport.com.