Running at some 355 slides long the Mary Meeker report, compiled by its eponymous author, has become something of a go-to Bible when it comes to spotting developing trends. This year it’s no exception. Because 2017 is going to be a decisive point where a number of new trends will disrupt established industries it’s worth looking at six particular issues that the report identifies and their impact on your marketing.
First of all the six major trends
- It’s all about “Hyper”. The spread of mobile devices, the extended time we’re online when we’re on the go and the increasingly porous online/offline divide are now producing returns on the local impact of the global reach of the web. Hyper-local (content, ads and search results delivered via geo-targeting through our devices) is combining with hyper-contextual (a machine-learning driven awareness of the keywords we type and the images we look at) to divine intent and give us better and better accuracy in what we want. When all this works it seems like magic, technology bent to our will and advertisers and online retailers there to serve us. When it doesn’t it feels intrusive and annoying and (as we shall see a little further down in the challenges) this also has an impact that delivers a real challenge.
- Intent recognition is a major driver. Whether we are looking for a piece of information or a product or service we want to access recognizing our intent and best trying to meet it continues to be the Holy Grail of every online service, including search. The machine-learning revolution is leading into breakthroughs in image-recognition which when coupled with the data captured via camera apps allows online marketers to know not just what images we look at and share but also what we are looking at when we photograph things or take selfies. While this may feel intrusive (when thought about a little) it can also help deliver a seamless, targeted and incredibly useful personalized service which makes life feel easier and empowering. Getting that balance right is a delicate game which many online companies have not yet mastered, but the trend will persist for some time to come.
- Social proof delivers results. Finally companies are getting the fact that “trust us because of who we say we are” is no longer enough. With user-generated content and influencer marketing delivering up to seven times better returns becoming authentic, empathetic and socially aware is now a no-brainer when it comes to marketing and gaining market share.
- Voice recognition is changing search. Voice input across devices is affecting search and the way it works as well as the way we use a variety of other services. Voice input is by definition different, it has a strong contextual component and it follows clearer usage patterns than typing. This is taking search further away from the basic keywords approach to semantic linking of content to context (i.e. delivering value at the moment it’s most needed).
- Social media and real-time chat drive sales. While social media marketing is something that is still producing mixed results, using social media and real-time chat to drive branding and close sales is something that’s seeing a huge increase across the board. With consumers expecting a rapid response to queries companies that have poor monitoring of their social media accounts are setting themselves up to fail.
- The delivery revolution continues. Amazon has always been to the online order fulfilment process what Uber has been to transportation. While offline retail sales are experiencing a drop and many brand chains are busy downsizing Amazon continues to experience growth and open offline shops. The key here is trust (a no-brainer) and the experience (something Amazon takes very seriously). The last element has led to a further change in the way consumers deal with entertainment. Once a choice between going to a restaurant or going to the cinema, these days, 4K TVs and online-devices have made the home the ultimate experience in entertainment with a predictable (in hindsight) explosion in food delivery services.
Four Key Changes to Take Into Account
Just as the six trends outlined above from the Mary Meeker Report for 2017 are not entirely unexpected the four challenges they lead to are also not new.
- Data Analytics with everything. The proliferation of devices, apps and social media accounts is accompanied by an equal in magnitude explosion in our means of capturing and analyzing information. Companies of all sizes have the capability to understand their customers and online visitors better and work hard to tailor their marketing and online messages to them through a variety of means that merge online and offline advertising and messaging. The key here, as it always has been, is to ask the right questions in the first instance, understand the data that is mined and be respectful of those who are your audience.
- The Paradox of Advertising. The Meeker Report makes clear that within six months digital ad spending will have outstripped offline advertising with mobile ads taking the lion’s share of this market. At the same time, paradoxically, a Forrester report highlights how consumers are turned off by digital advertising (which is backed by a McKinsey Report) and even within the Meeker Report there is mention of the increased use if ad-blockers on mobile devices. The answer is supplied by another McKinsey article which highlights the need to capture consumer attention and get the willingness of those you target to be targeted.
- Visual delivers results. Google has, for some time now, been intent on understanding images in stills and video and delivering targeted search results. The future of search may well be visual which means that your choice of images used to illustrate your content have to do more than just break up the text for easy reading. And yes, narrative storytelling comes into this as well.
- Social Media is still key. Social media has always wrong-footed companies, particularly when they tried to embrace it as one more mass-media, one-to-many channel of advertising that reduced costs but increased reach. Oversight, transparency and accountability are still something companies do not yet do well. Yet social media is needed if they are to gather the data necessary for a personalized, contextual, hyper-targeted approach to marketing that is based upon relationship-building and driven by a positive experience. Corporate identity and corporate values are still what drives engagement and engagement has been increasing just as the digital channels have been fragmenting.
Your Task Now
If you’re a company owner, entrepreneur, marketer or social media manager your task now is clearer than ever and about ten times as challenging. The list is as short as it is deep:
- Establish authenticity
- Create conversations online and offline
- Have a sense of identity and narrative
- Establish and share your mission and values
- Engage with your audience and help amplify their activity
- Be detail orientated and establish a semantically dense digital footprint
The fact that I have been writing about all this for a few years now means that despite the fresh data of the Meeker Report the need to have a thoughtful, detailed, authentic web presence has not gone away or, indeed, changed any.
Google Semantic Search will give you an overview of what’s important and what you have to do.
SEO Help is there to help you break down everything into manageable, practical steps.
The Social Media Mind is still important on how social media is still changing everything.
For the full Mary Meeker Report 2017 check out the slides below: