Without a doubt, 2013 will be even more challenging for search marketers to break through the noise and engage with their audience. The amount of information and the fragmentation of online consumer channels will continue to grow exponentially and people will exert more power over how they express their intentions and where.
At the same time, the search ecosystem will continue to change rapidly – a new search solution from Facebook, changing guidelines and algorithms from Google, further consolidation of product search by Amazon, or more meaningful market penetration from Bing.
Search and marketers will have more complexity and change to address.
1. The Majority of Consumer Purchasing Decisions Will Involve a Mobile Device
Smartphone penetration is now higher than 50 percent in the U.S., and with falling device prices and broader availability, that penetration rate will expand further in 2013. Meanwhile, 60 percent of consumers already consult their smartphone en route to or inside of a brick and mortar store according to Deloitte Digital.
Rising use of mobile devices in stores and increasing usage for direct, search and email traffic will mean the majority of consumer purchasing decisions will involve a mobile device, rising from almost nothing two years ago.
2. Mobile Experiences Will be Reinvented With Mobile Specific Technologies & Optimizations
Purpose-built mobile sites will increase dramatically this year, and there will more ways to engage consumers and spur demand – either on device, on web or in store – based on new technologies on the market.
Location, time, screen size, and consumer intent will drive more interactive and responsive experiences. And search marketers will need to address the inherent issues with mobile to interpret intent.
3. Web Analytics Will Move From Page Orientation to Customer Orientation
Businesses will need to understand their customers’ behavior across channels. This is going to require organizational alignment around the customer and concurrent technological innovation to identify and analyze the customer across devices and interactions.
The current model of segmented analytics systems for different types of interactions and devices (web analytics focused on pages, mobile analytics focused on application interaction, social analytics focused on likes/tweets/retweet) won't generate a holistic view of the customer. Applications that incorporate data from all digital sources will become a strategic necessity.
4. Publicly Available Data Will Grow Dramatically
Search marketers can expect to process a tsunami of information. The rate of data creation is accelerating as it becomes simpler for businesses and consumers to create, publish, curate, and share data. Mary Meeker expects that the amount of content and data on the Internet will double by 2014.
This is going to create unprecedented stress on web leaders who will need to invest in people, technology, and training to capture, analyze, and act on this high volume of data across devices and platforms. The [BDO] survey revealed that the vast majority of people are already swimming in data, with a majority saying they find it a challenge to integrate and manage all of their data, and almost half describing it as "very challenging."
To win the battle of the brands, smart marketers will turn to new big data applications - to beat content chaos, make sense of data, and take action. Those who don’t harness this new data-driven opportunity will lose.
5. Social Won't Displace Search in Channel Importance
Few would argue that social provides important opportunities for marketers. But the days of hearing social hyped at the expense of other channels (as if it's a zero sum game) are over.
Although Forrester states "47 percent of online shoppers agree that social media posts from friends are helpful for discovering new brands, trends and retailers", advertisers still struggle to connect their social efforts to their bottom line. Gilt chairman Susan Lyne summed up the challenge well when she said, "selling things on Facebook is like selling things in a bar."
When it comes time to research and buy, nearly half of all online shoppers turn to search engines or Amazon. Consumers are there and ad spend follows. Even during the social hype of last year, Google's year over year ad revenue grew by 29 percent. While advertisers will invest to experiment with social media advertising formats (see Walmart’s Facebook Gambit - for Walmart using social media to drive in store sales), it will remain experimental and supplemental in 2013.
6. The Beginning of the End for Last-Click Attribution
Consumers engage across multiple marketing channels, not just the last click, before they purchase. The increase in usage of multiple devices, smartphones, tablets, work computers and home computes, and of marketing channels that measure effectiveness based on view-through's not clicks will only exacerbate this trend.
In 2013, essentially everyone will agree that they should move away from last-click attribution. Not everyone will be able to move away from last click, but everyone will want to. Marketers who leverage robust attribution frameworks will have more successful and efficient marketing allocations and better results and return on investment.
The career of the search marketer and analyst is now at a tipping point. There is simply too much data and too many changes to capture all the possible opportunity in search marketing solely through professional expertise.
Today’s marketers need big data applications that leverage the search marketer’s knowledge, expertise and judgment while giving that search marketer scale and agility.
In 2013, search marketers can seize their opportunity as the channel closest to consumer centered marketing. The world is becoming customer centric and search marketers who are savvy are on the cutting edge of this trend. By using key technologies, they will transform their roles, moving from a more tactical to strategic leader – maybe even customer demand gurus.