2015 is now well and truly behind us, and the world of B2B marketing in 2016 has started with a bang. B2B businesses need to get off to a good start in the New Year, and one of the best ways to do that is to create a holistic marketing strategy that incorporates some newer trends that other businesses aren't willing to take chances on using. 2015 introduced lots of new and surprising trends and possibilities in the world of B2B marketing, and 2016 will mark the year many of these trends start to become a mainstay of marketing campaigns by brands that understand how to execute these new possibilities in order to stand out from the competition and generate the best ROI possible. Here are some facets of digital marketing where change is on the horizon in 2016, change that B2B businesses can use to their advantage when incorporating some of these new trends into their marketing strategies for 2016.
When it comes to personalization, email seems to be the most popular channel referenced and thought of among B2B marketers - but in 2016 there will also be a push towards website personalization for each visitor as well. This includes a different homepage layout based on demographic, presenting products or services that are similar or pair up well with past audience behavior, location-based content, and loyalty rewards. These variations can be determined by what stage of the buying process an individual user is on, and serving more appropriate content or products and services across your website.
Invest in personalization as a part of your brand's online digital experience may seem risky for B2Bs, but your customers unconsciously want and expect you to provide custom-tailored products and services on your site, based on their previous history with your business and will reward you with more sales or conversions when set up properly. An underlying benefit of presenting your online customers with dynamic content is that they will stay on your website longer, visit more often, and engage more with your business. Whether they spend their time reading your blog, exploring the products and services you have to offer, downloading an interest form or whitepaper, or, most importantly, making a purchase, keeping users engaged with your website provides a myriads of advantages. Google will also recognize that your website is giving users what they're searching for based on their engagement and bump your organic search rankings for specific pages. At the end of the day, site personalization is all about appeasing your users with dynamic content that suits their needs and wants, but in doing so, it will also generate more qualified traffic to your website. Netflix, Amazon, and eBay are just a few businesses that have begun to master site personalization, and in 2016 look for more companies in the B2B space to start jump on the bandwagon and offer personalized content on their websites to users.
With the number of email users in the U.S. expected to grow to 239 million in 2016 and with B2B companies ranking email marketing as one of the best channels in terms of return on investment, 2016 will be the year that "innovative" email tactics like personalization will become the industry standard. Recent studies have found that 66% of emails are now opened on mobile devices, and more than ever before the shear amount of different email platforms means that special attention needs to be paid to subject lines and image load times. It's essential to remember what was the last interaction that potential or existing customers had with your brand so that you can send customers tailored emails like:
- A Welcome Series
- General Newsletters
- Form Submission Thank You
- Post Purchase Review
- Loyalty Appreciation
- Order Status
You have to send emails at the right time for each of your customers, but you also have to segment your emails based on demographics such as company vertical and size. Personalization in 2016 will go beyond basic tactics like inserting a customer's name in your email - customers in 2016 will be expecting personalized emails based off their past online purchases and interests.
Companies will start to take the time and effort to create email campaigns that communicate to users that they are aware of their relationship and interactions with their online brand, and users will take notice, appreciate the effort, and reward businesses with better email performance in terms of key performance indicators (KPIs) like conversion rate, lower bounce rate, higher open rate, and higher click through rate.
With the multitude of digital assistants across various platforms, there are a multitude of options that users can use to help them quickly and efficiently find what they're looking for without a single keystroke. More than ever before, digital assistants can understand and execute the requests of users quickly and correctly - making them an easy way to search for things when on the go with a mobile device. As a result, digital assistants will slowly began to change the core of digital marketing by changing how users interact with the internet and how marketers are forced to optimize their digital content for conversational queries on search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
As more people conduct searches on the go in 2016 and digital assistants drastically improve, users will conduct more voice queries and marketers will begin to have to create content that is not only informational, but colloquial as well, both for retail products and B2B services. Voice search is not a temporary fad, and Google, Microsoft, Apple, and even Facebook are constantly making improvements to their digital assistants so that they can better understand the questions and commands of the users interacting with them.
Instagram has really taken off as a social media platform in the past several years, trailing only its parent company, Facebook, as the second largest social network and engaging 400 million active users per month. Instagram has opened up its advertising offerings to everyone this year, and due to high engagement with initial ads, eMarketer has projected that Instagram's ad revenue will jump from $595 million in 2015 to $1.48 billion in 2016. The visual nature of the platform and the advertising features that it has integrated from Facebook will resonate with businesses and users alike, making Instagram and it's advertising options a major player in the social media marketing landscape of 2016. When marketers were asked which social media sites they were interested in allocating their ad budget towards in a February 2015 survey, 72% of them responded with Instagram. Why are marketers so eager to invest in Instagram advertising? Besides the jump in users from 77.6 million in 2015 to 89.4 million in 2016, the platform's engagement rates are quite high when compared to those of Facebook and Twitter.
What makes Instagram so intriguing is that its advertising is not only based off its own behavioral data, but it will also replicate Facebook's targeted advertising capabilities, like Custom Audiences. The image and photo-centric platform not only gives advertisers room to be creative in their ads, but it now will let them specifically go after their ideal user. Compared to ads on other social media networks, Instagram ads are subtle and outside of a small 'sponsored' label in the top right corner and the option for a CTA in the bottom right, they look exactly like any other post someone might upload. Instagram advertising is great for increasing brand engagement, but the next step for marketers is to get their users to act and click on the CTAs provided to them in the sponsored posts. The platform is off to a great start with the creative freedom and unique, specific targeting capabilities it offers. While social media historically hasn't been a huge investment for most B2B marketers, Instagram's platform does offer up some unique opportunities that may be worth taking a risk on when going after businesses that have younger employees. 2016 will be the year that Instagram advertising will join Facebook and Linkedin in the world of social media advertising that adventurous B2Bs add to their marketing strategies.
Advanced Content Marketing
Content has become the standard for any B2B business' digital strategy in the past several years, and for brands to really stand out and capture the attention of their audiences, they will have to do more than just branding, maintaining a blog, and actively engaging users on social with their content. With search engines constantly improving their retargeting and RLSA ads, and social advertising revenue expected to reach $9.7 billion in 2016, businesses will start to use more advanced forms of content marketing like storytelling and micro-targeting to communicate with and reach out to their highly-qualified potential customers.
Content marketing has always been about speaking to the needs of an audience. In 2015 76% of U.S. marketers said they would plan to increase their investment in content marketing and the number of marketers, as well as content occupying the internet, will only grow larger in 2016. So, how will B2B companies stand out from all the content clutter and distinguish themselves with their audience? Focusing on the emotions that connect their brand with their users and communicating their core messaging to that unique audience is a good start. Good B2B companies will start to break down their target audience beyond just a simple demographic such as age group and gender. Niche targeting will focus on a more unique audience that contains more qualified users that are far more interested in their products or services, making the ROI in the long term much higher. In 2016, companies will start to break down their target audience beyond just a simple targeting like age group and gender. Even social media advertising has evolved to include specific targeting like interests, behavior, and lookalike targeting. Smart marketers in the B2B space will not worry about reaching less people with this type of marketing in comparison to traditional advertising where ads were blasted to a large group. Niche targeting will focus on a more unique audience that contains more qualified users that are far more interested in their products or services, making the ROI in the long term much higher.
Location-based marketing has been around for some time now, but in 2016 it will really start to be an instrumental tool for how B2B businesses advertise to consumers on-the-go. Not only does the continued boost in smartphone users year-over-year play a role, but also the arrival of wearable technology, and new developments in location-based marketing itself will start to make geotargeting and beacon technology more popular among marketers. The number of smartphone users in the U.S. is projected to jump from 190.5 million in 2015 to 207.2 million in 2016. Wearable technology grew by almost 60% in 2015, and next year 63.7 million U.S. adults will use wearables. With just the sheer number of mobile and wearable technology users predicted to rise in 2016 and beyond, it's no doubt that location-based marketing will take off to carter to these on-the-go devices.
Digital advertisers have always taken a leap towards innovation in their strategies, and location marketing presents a massive opportunity with a surface that's hardly been scratched. For B2Bs specifically, a huge use-case for more specific location-based marketing is event and conference targeting. While beacons and geofencing allow this to happen in some capacity, narrowing down location further to specific conventional halls and areas of a convention without having to set up a beacon and spend large sums for a booth or exhibition opens up lots of doors for businesses that would be otherwise unable to leverage an event with the kind of ROI to make it worthwhile. The use of smartphones and wearable technology will only increase in the coming years, and with top companies investing in the potential of location based marketing, expect to see a lot more messages and notifications as you visit your favorite stores in 2016.
We see the influence that online video advertisements have had across various digital media platforms, and that momentum will not slow down in 2016. With the number of people consuming digital media increasing, the potential to reach customers through these channels is becoming more effective than investing in traditional advertising methods such as TV commercials or print ads. Marketers in the B2B space are recognizing the opportunities that lie in online video advertising and that an omnichannel video marketing campaign is required to succeed, and there will be more online video ads in 2016 as a result. According to a survey conducted by BrightRoll, 72% of ad agencies believe that online video advertising is as effective, if not more so, than television. Video advertising is growing across channels outside of platforms with established video services like YouTube and Vimeo. Facebook and Twitter in particular, along with other social media platforms, are making strides in their advertising capabilities as individuals consume more and more video content through their mobile devices. Television will be around for some time yet, and with them more traditional commercials and ads will stay an important part of any B2B advertising campaign that utilizes multimedia. However, with the constantly changing digital landscape, we can expect to see a consistent increase in online video ads in 2016.
Programmatic Digital Ad Spending
The process of using software to buy digital advertising instead of the traditional method of having humans buying and selling ads, programmatic advertising has a bright future indeed. Programmatic digital display ad spending is estimated to top out at $15.43 billion in 2015, which will account for 59% of spend on all digital display ad spending. Automated digital ad buying will only grow in 2016 as mobile websites and apps continue to gain a foothold over desktop, and programmatic digital goes beyond just the standard banner ad. Programmatic technology will continue to grow in terms of capability and percentage of overall ad spend as it takes the work out of buying and selling ads. For B2Bs that like to rely on big data this is a godsend, as it assures that budgets are being spent appropriately with a mathematical eye towards the ROI of campaigns. Already, this has also saved time for marketers to focus on more important tasks like creating better advertising campaign creative and concentrating on which target demographic their campaigns will reach.
Furthermore, as online advertising shifts more towards mobile in the coming years, so will programmatic digital advertising. A February 2015 poll had the majority of U.S. marketers respond with mobile as the channel with which they saw the most potential for programmatic advertising. eMarketer backs that up as 69% of programmatic display ad spending in the U.S. is estimated to be from mobile at $14.89 billion. As programmatic grows on mobile and opens up more opportunities for ROI-based algorithms to dictate ad buys, look for more B2Bs to utilize this powerful technology to take the guesswork out of their digital ad spending.
Take Existing B2B Strategies Further in 2016
With the notable exception of Instagram advertising helping to make social media more viable for a B2B marketing plan, most of the new trends that will define B2B marketing in 2016 are continuations of last year's trends that build upon what worked. B2B marketers should look at what generated the best marketing ROI for their business in 2015 and add things like location-based marketing, programmatic ad spend, and content marketing if those are tactics that worked but need new tools to help achieve success again in the new year. At the same time, taking a chance on new trends could pay huge dividends for companies that can afford to experiment with new ways to stand apart from the competition.