2015 is poised to be an exciting year for business. There are so many changes on the horizon, and if you heed my predictions, you can gain an advantage over your competition. (For those who would like proof of past punditry, you can reference my 2014 digital trends here.)
Here are my 10 business predictions for 2015:
Prediction #1 – Selfie-Amplification. While the “selfie” has been caricaturized and come to stand as a symbol of self-indulgent behavior, it is really telling of something much greater. We are a society where depending on one’s self has become paramount to succeeding in what are tumultuous times. In 2015, this trend of greater self-reliance will continue.
While most companies and analysts agree that big data is the future, most are looking at it from the perspective of “what data can we glean about our customers?” It is a perspective that sees the consumer as a bystander – not as a participant. An important facet that is missing here is the data that is available to consumers about themselves, which they can then choose to share to better customize their own experience. Watch for 2015 to be the year where we stop simply seeing data as a byproduct, and start exercising more ownership over our own personal data.
Imagine if a customer knew that due to a specific project at work, for a few weeks, they would be getting only four hours of sleep every Thursday night. Now, imagine that they chose to share this particular insight with their local Starbucks. Automate two shots of expresso on Friday mornings? Check.
Prediction #2 – The year of the Digical. The analysts at Bain Consulting have coined a new term to describe merging of the physical with the digital: Digical. And, 2015 is the year where digical is poised to grow. For the longest time, there have been two camps of people. One camp which has insisted that the physical experience of products and services is the only way to do business and another camp which has been certain that e-Commerce would do away with retail entirely. Now, both camps (hopefully) are realizing that there is a fine middle group and a blending of both realities.
For example, while you may need to physically see a doctor when you are sick, with a service like ZocDoc, you can look at physician reviews, book an appointment, and even fill out the patient intake forms online. On the other end of the spectrum, you have Bonobos, an e-retailer, which found it imperative to create physical outposts to let customers try on clothes. The meshing of this digital and physical will continue to be a huge trend in 2015. Smart companies on both ends of the digital divide will look to maximize “digical” opportunities.
Prediction #3 – Online video will continue to take center field. For those who have heard me speak, you know that I am a huge evangelist for online video. And, rightly so. According to data from Syndacast, 74% of all internet traffic in 2017 will be video. Twitter is certainly savvy to this trend, and will be the social network to watch in 2015. Within weeks, they will be releasing a feature which will let users shoot, edit, and post videos directly through their app. Facebook’s algorithm already seems to favor updates with videos. Yet, most companies have not fully embraced online video.
To companies which want to take advantage of this trend but don’t feel confident in their on-camera capabilities, I would advise teaming up with an influencer who can create content on your behalf. L’Oreal did exactly this with YouTube make-up star, Michelle Phan. This is a strategy which works regardless of the industry you’re in. The key is to find the right fit. In 2015, I personally plan on producing many more videos and exploring strategic partnerships with brands to create a win-win situation. I’ll continue to share my experiences and lessons here.
Prediction #4 – SEO will get harder. Online marketing in general has gotten more demanding in the last few years, and 2015 will be no exception. In an ecosystem where competition and content have both gone up, it will take twice the effort to achieve a fraction of the results you did a few years ago. Anyone who has done paid advertising can attest to this fact.
Driving organic traffic will continue to be a challenge. Google will release new algorithmic changes which will punish sites looking for shortcuts in place of effort. That doesn’t mean SEO or online marketing isn’t worth it. On the contrary, it will require a bigger investment of time, money, and expertise. Done correctly, the ROI will still be considerably stronger than other venues of marketing and advertising.
Prediction #5 – UX will be king. UX or User Experience will be crucial to business success in 2015. Design can no longer be an afterthought. It has been woven into the very fabric of every customer touch point. This holds especially true as we continue to value and prefer mobile access.
According to Millward Brown, Americans now spend 151 minutes per day on smartphones, more than on TVs or laptops. As attracting traffic becomes more challenging, ensuring visitor retention and conversion will become even more crucial. Look for a rise in the demand for conversion specialists and UX gods.
Prediction #6 – A rise in social advertising. 2014 was the year we all (hopefully) finally learned that there is no such thing as a free lunch – or free social media. As organic reach on social platforms continues to diminish, you can expect that organizations will increase their spend on social advertising.
Luckily, well thought out organic content plus effective advertising on social networks still spells success. The cost of social advertising is still a fraction of other platforms – including pay per click on search engines.
Prediction #7– More professionals will realize that personal branding is no longer optional. The question is no longer IF you have a personal brand, but if you choose to mold and cultivate that brand versus allowing it to be defined by default. More and more professionals in 2015 will realize the importance of claiming and refining a personal brand. Here are 7 things you can do to build an awesome personal brand.
Prediction #8– Consumers will continue to have high expectations. And, producers (read: you and I) will have to discover ways to meet those expectations. Here is a micro example of this macro trend. According to Google, searches for “same day delivery” shopping doubled this past February compared to Feb 2010.
Also from Google: “Consumers expect to get what they want in the moment they want it. Think about what this means for your business—24/7 customer support? On-demand delivery? A more comprehensive keyword strategy? Make interactions as fast, simple, and easy as possible and make sure they are useful in all the moments that matter.”
Prediction #9– Brands will continue to push the envelope with jaw dropping hi-jinx. Celebs won’t be the only ones causing dropped jaws in 2015. “Can you believe THEY did THAT?” will become a common phrase overheard at water coolers around companies. As brands continue to want to make a big splash in a noisy pool, more and more will do so with outrageous stunts. Some will be epic fails, drawing criticism from customers and the media alike, but others may actually succeed in drawing positive attention. Either way, it will give us much to learn from and discuss.
Prediction #10– ROI will be a direct result of integration. My team will tell you that I get an obsessive look in my eye when I talk about ROI. I believe it is the single more important thing in marketing and in business. Siloed departments working on their own separate agendas will spell disaster for many companies in 2015. The most effective way to drive results and ROI this year will be to make sure that all your marketing and sales staff are working together under one unified strategy. If content never talks to social, and the team handling your SEO has never met your PR firm, you could be leaving serious money on the table. Don’t be that company. For more, see why your marketing isn’t producing an ROI and the one thing which will guarantee you marketing results.
If you anticipate and act on even a few of these predictions this year, I can guarantee that you will have a very happy new year indeed.
Shama Hyder is Founder & CEO of The Marketing Zen Group, a best-selling author and an internationally renowned keynote speaker. Connect with Shama on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
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