With the holidays rapidly becoming a distant memory for many, the challenges that the year holds are now front of mind again as we plan our respective brand futures. Here’s some of the marketing trends I believe we need to be acting on or watching in 2014.

Fix your website – make it mobile first, and steal a competitive advantage.

It’s not news that smart devices outsell dumb phones, but what’s surprising is how many websites still aren’t responsive or mobile optimized.

At Twenty we recently switched phone accounts to a new telco supplier. They sent all company phone users a text with a link so they could manage their data usage alerts. Nice idea I thought, so I clicked through. The landing page was a fixed-width standard desktop site. Obviously I accessed it from my mobile, since that’s where I received the text. The result, unsurprisingly, was a failed experience. Hardly the most integrated thinking, and certainly not smart. At best it was just a missed opportunity; especially bearing in mind they have the data to know I am a smartphone user.

With 63% of Kiwi’s 18+ now owning a smartphone (according to estimates by Ericsson ConsumerLab, Sept 2013), and with web browsing as likely to be done on a mobile device as a desktop, this there’s little excuse not to have a mobile-first digital strategy.

Twenty has just completed an audit of NZ business mobile readiness. If you’d like to find out just how big an opportunity exists, drop me a line here.

Extend Your Reach.

Mobile first, and then multi-screen. Single channel then multi-channel. The journey now starts on one screen; and then moves to another. The first screen is likely to be a small, but then that’s only part of the brand journey. It’s how these screens work seamlessly together which will change.

It’s more than just multi-screening (when customers or prospects use their phone or tablet to do something else while watching your ad or even the TV programme that your ad appears in). The challenge that will be answered in 2014 is how to make multi-channel and multi-screen work effectively and how to evaluate your success.

At a recent Digital Marketing event we saw how one brand had created an innovative digital partnership to provide a controlled environment where they could channel content and communications away from competitors.

With multiple social channels, multiple agency partners and multiple screens, the challenge is how to create a consistent brand journey across increasingly fragmented brand touch points and do so in a cost effective manner.

The best will do this well by understanding customer behaviour and the customer journey more clearly, and they will bring the agencies on their roster closer together to achieve this.

Direct mail is working its socks off again. Use it to improve your ROI.

In an increasingly cluttered inbox open rates are under pressure, and our ‘always on’ mentality means that creatives have a more challenging time than ever making email cut through on a small screen.

Conversely in the letterbox, there is more clear space than ever and opportunity for strong brand-centric crafted work to get real cut through. There’s something special about the tactility of decent paper stock and interacting with something tangible. Direct Mail with strong creative that is well executed and carefully targeted is again making a business case for itself.

What’s consistent across both formats is that those businesses using a methodical approach are starting to see better response and conversion rates than ever. We have already experienced this ourselves in 2013, and it’s my prediction that this trend will continue in 2014 for those focused on ROI rather than just cost.

Keep an eye on Predictive Intelligence.

Smartphones have access to fast internet links and location data, and can draw upon personal information, address books, e-mail and calendars. Just as Spotify refines your playlists depending on your feedback, a new breed of personal-assistant software amplifies the learned knowledge and your personal stored data to anticipate what smartphone users want, before they ask for it.

The next generation of assistant software aims to go one step further by pursuing an approach known as “predictive intelligence”. The aim of these new assistants is to anticipate what information users need, based on context and past behaviour, and to provide it before they have even asked for it.

Such an assistant might, for example, spontaneously suggest that you leave early for a meeting, because it has spotted heavy traffic en-route; present directions to your hotel when you arrive in a foreign country; offer to book a taxi or hotel based on analysis of an incoming email or text message; or offer personalised suggestions for dinner in the evening.

The challenge for local businesses is to work out what would give your brand the competitive edge if you were to harness this technology. It has to be a customer-centric reason. As Maslow said, “You don’t know what you don’t know” or we are “Unconsciously Incompetent”. So in order to consider or plan for emerging digital technology you need to take time out to read and find out.

(Source Economist, Technology Quarterly: Q4 2013) 

Google+ is on the rise. Don’t overlook its potential.

We’re Google+ laggards in New Zealand. Circles, Authoring, YouTube, Google Maps, Gmail and of course Google search are all reasons to take a closer look at Google Plus. The ubiquity of Google products including Google’s Android operating system will drive the usage of Google+ in 2014. In fact just last week Google announced an enhancement to Gmail which re-enforces the power of integration of their products; when you’re composing a new email, Gmail will suggest your Google+ connections as recipients, even if you haven’t exchanged email addresses yet.

So, if you still consider Google+ as something not worthwhile, it’s time to reconsider.

About the author:

Anthony MacLean is a Strategic Planner at Twenty. After many years marketing client side he made the jump to the agency 18 months ago. An advocate of data-informed accountable marketing, he’s also more than a bit of a motor enthusiast with a love of cars and motorbikes. It’s no surprise then that his CV includes a wealth of experience marketing some of the world’s leading automotive brands in the UK and in NZ.