The past year saw many new developments in online marketing, including evolving organic and paid search landscapes, convergence of social media and search marketing, growth of mobile and local searches and a rapid rise in spending on social media marketing using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. Online marketers have only begun to explore and respond to these new opportunities.
Based on insights from customers, analysts, and partners, here are five predictions for the evolving landscape in 2012.
Mainstream Organizations Adopt Marketing Automation & Social CRM
Marketing automation has traditionally consisted of email and email nurturing. However, 2011 witnessed the expansion of social CRM, enabling another channel to reach and interact with customers and it has become one of the fastest growing segments within the CRM industry.
In the next year, social CRM will evolve from an early adopter strategy into a mainstream solution for organizations wanting to connect marketing operations from the top of the funnel, to online search, down through sales and customer management. Companies that learn how to adopt and implement these solutions will more effectively be able to reach and engage with their customers and have a clearer path to a positive sales and marketing ROI.
Social Media Becomes an Increasing Factor in Search Algorithms
Social media networks are growing. In 2011, Facebook’s social signals were integrated into Bing search and Google+ emerged with native integration into Google search. Companies also started using social media in earnest and began experimenting with ways to influence their rankings using these social factors.
In 2012, this trend will continue with social media becoming more of a key component of search engine algorithms. For companies looking to preserve or improve their rankings, social marketing activities will no longer be optional; they will be a necessary element of traffic driving success.
Customers and Employees Become an Extended Part of Companies’ Marketing Teams
As social networks are used ever more frequently for aggregating and sharing interests, expect opinions, both positive and negative, about products and services to spread with lightening speed. As a result, businesses customer relationships will become increasingly focused on creating and managing perceptions.
In 2010, companies began listening to customers wants and needs via social buzz. In 2011, they focused on responding to digital customer commentary. In 2012, companies will need to proactively scale their marketing efforts by creating and sharing information with employees and influential customer evangelists to help define their brands, products and services from the ground up.
Salesforce.com’s recent extension of their Chatter feature, allowing businesses to share information and files with their customers through a hosted network, is early evidence of this.
Mobile + Social Evolve Together to Create New User Scenarios
Customer interactions and purchases, in specific marketplaces such as travel, shopping, and dining, will occur with increasing frequency on mobile devices.
A recent study found a third of all American adults utilize smartphones and that number is expected to rise in the coming year. Travel related click-through-rates are already higher on mobile devices than on PCs and location-based marketing fueled by companies like Foursquare will continue to soar.
Online purchasing is indisputably moving to mobile. Google estimated that 44 percent of last-minute online shopping searches would come from smartphones and tablets. This holiday, the majority of last minute shopping transactions were expected to take place on mobile devices.
Marketers now have the opportunity to zoom in on specific and unique user scenarios they may not have been able to address using pure traditional online marketing tactics.
Daily Deals Receive Prominence in Search Engine Result Pages
Today if you search for “pedicure” on Google, the search engine results includes images of pedicures, a list of pedicure retail establishments and a map as to where you can get pedicures. With all the deal clutter currently in existence, it’s not a far cry to envision Google helping the end user out by including a “pedicure daily deal” in their search results. If it isn’t already in the works for 2012 (take note Google), it should be.
How would Google decide on a first page search results deal? In keeping with their philosophy of providing a superior customer experience, Google would tweak their ever-evolving algorithm appropriately. In any case, one could easily imagine Google giving prominence to their deal offerings and/or to deals with the most social network buzz.
The successful marketers in 2012 will be those who are quick to embrace and implement integrated online, search and social marketing campaigns. As marketers experiment with multiple mediums, having an integrated solution which measures ROI across the various channels will become ever more essential.