With all this constant innovation, it can feel like a struggle to keep up-to-date on the latest marketing trends and tactics you need to promote your business. There never seem to be enough hours in the day to master the latest technologies and platforms. To help you out, we’ve distilled some of the biggest trends happening right now in digital marketing into actionable implementations—things you can actually do—for local businesses who either have a small marketing team or none at all.
Mobile has been changing the marketing game for quite a while. According to Google, searches on mobile devices in 2015 surpassed desktop in 10 countries, including the U.S. With increasingly more people turning to mobile and staying connected on the go, it’s vital to engage with customers in a way that’s both convenient and timely for them. With all the challenges a mobile strategy brings—including the typical technological barriers to entry—it does also allow for great new opportunities to interact with existing and potential customers.
For this reason, SMS marketing—also called Text Message Marketing—is a great entry point to mobile for local businesses. Since it’s a familiar form of communication for many already, there are fewer issues when it comes to adoption. You can select a service provider to handle the technical logistics, making this option much easier and cheaper than building an application for your business. And you’re connecting with customers using their preferred method of communication, which makes them more likely to interact with your message or business.
SMS marketing leads to huge returns—with average open rates of 98%, compared to 22% for email—and it’s a great way to get your business’s message in front of customers. Not only can you be guaranteed that more people will be reading your messages than with email, but they’re also reading—and hopefully taking action—within moments of receiving the message. This makes great fodder for creative campaigns that reward fast responses.
Just make sure that, if you’re linking to and driving traffic back to your website, it’s optimized for mobile. Having a website that doesn’t render correctly on mobile devices or suffers from slow load times is the absolute best way to derail those potential customers coming to your site. This is doubly true for customers carrying out searches with local intent, which are known to precipitate an action soon after—either phone call or visit.
Video has established itself as the medium of choice across audiences. However, until recently this highly engaging approach was reserved for advertising and on-site efforts, as well as a handful of video sites like YouTube and Vimeo. While built for sharing, neither of these options were ripe for social distribution. With smartphones now capable of taking quality videos, the emergence of video as the centerpiece of social platforms has shot up, making it easier than ever to connect with current and potential customers.
Getting started with video can be intimidating. Keep in mind that it’s not the same as shooting a commercial, and that extent of professional production just isn’t necessary. The three things that matter to your audience are lighting, sound quality, and camera steadiness. As long as they can see and hear you—without a shaky shot making them queasy—they’ll be satisfied. So if you’re thinking about starting a channel on YouTube or any of these social video platforms, there’s no better time than the present!
If you’re a retailer, “unboxings” of highly anticipated products are very popular videos that unwrap and show off elaborate packaging. Use these to showcase your products, or create short and engaging “how-to” tutorials to make sure customers are getting the most out of products or services. 64% of customers state that they’re more likely to purchase a product after watching a video about it. You can also show behind-the-scenes shots of services or different experiences that you offer along with before-and-after tours, if that makes sense for your business. Make sure that you keep the videos short, visually interesting, and to the point.
Last year, Google made the switch from displaying the top 7 local search results to currently showing only the top 3. This means that these coveted ranks have become hot commodities—and any business looking to claim one is in for some steep competition. The best and most actionable advice here is to make sure that your Google My Business page is up to date and has positive reviews.
This speaks to the importance of online reputation management. Reviews and ratings have always factored into search algorithms, but with this distilled approach, many believe these factors influence results more than ever. Even though the full cards will be generated for the top 3 results, many more will still be represented in the map view. With an emphasis on the hyperlocal, the most successful businesses will tailor their approach accordingly.
Make sure that data on your geographical location is included in your keywords, and try targeting longer-tail and specific, differentiating details about your business. Instead of “copying and printing,” try “self-service copying and printing in East Village, NY.” This differentiation will aid in mobile searches—as well as map application search and queries involving virtual assistants like Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana.
Failing to live up to the hype so far, both mobile payments and beacon technology are expected to advance considerably this year. With major brands like Target and Walgreens paving the way, these technologies will improve the customer experience all the way from before they even enter the business to during and after the checkout process. Where previously confusing or intensive opt-in processes and the requirement of a dedicated mobile app were barriers to widespread adoption, larger companies with a broad reach—like Facebook and Yelp—are building out platforms that leverage these technologies and even offer free beacons to business owners.
Wider adoption will pave the way for more sophisticated systems working towards an integrated experience. Starbucks already does a fantastic job of this, letting you store favorite orders for easy reorder, prepaying, and tracking loyalty program progress and rewards—so that the entire experience is streamlined, and customers in a rush can just pop in, avoid the lines, and pick up their already-prepared drink. The challenge is finding a way to use mobile payments that provides value beyond making physical wallets obsolete. In the meantime, both of these technologies are definitely worth keeping an eye on for driving more customers into your physical locations and improving their overall experience while they’re there.
Marketing automation software is a great way to save both time and money without sacrificing results. Despite 98% of small businesses claiming to be in the market for this kind of solution for the first time, there seems to be a lot of discrepancies around what marketing automation actually is. In a recent survey we conducted, we received hundreds of responses on the subject, with very few being somewhat accurate.
About 50% of qualified prospects are not ready to immediately make a purchase. This is where marketing automation comes in: sending out targeted emails and SMS messages automatically at the right time to keep these customers engaged and educated on your business, to drive them towards making a purchasing decision and becoming a frequent repeat customer. For this reason, business owners credit marketing automation software with increasing conversions 77%, according to a recent survey.
Take care to find a solution that best serves the needs and goals of your business. Some might require a more intense implementation in order to maximize results, while others are more hands-off, working to drive outcomes behind the scenes.
With so many emerging technologies and tactics, it’s easy to feel like you’re struggling to keep your head above water. Remember that not every tactic is a good fit for every business, so keep your target consumer in mind and think about what approaches will resonate most with them. Sometimes just focusing on implementing one or two of these trends is enough to breathe new life into your customer communications and engagement. So don’t be discouraged—and continue to test and experiment with different tactics until you reach your targets!