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12 Marketing Predictions for 2012

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In 2011, Microsoft acquired Skype; Facebook's and Twitter's advertising platforms gained momentum; Google joined the social networking party with Google+; social became a mainstream component within search-engine results pages (SERPs); and Congress called for increased disclosure by companies providing location-based services.

As 2012 follows on the heels of such events, what digital changes and trends should forward-thinking marketers anticipate? Here are Optify's Top 12 predictions for the year ahead.

1. Marketing automation 2.0 will arrive, ushering in mature software and increasing enterprise adoption

Historically, marketing automation has consisted primarily of email and email nurturing. In 2011, however, we witnessed the expansion of social customer relationship management (CRM). Marketing automation is now one of the fastest growing segments of the CRM industry.

In 2012, it will evolve from being an early-adopter tool into a mainstream solution for organizations that want to connect marketing operations, from the very top of the funnel, to online search, and down through sales and customer management.


Industry players like Aprimo, Eloqua, Marketo, and Optify (our company) will continue to shape the marketing automation 2.0 revolution.

2. Customers and employees will become an extended part of companies' marketing teams

As social networks are used ever-more frequently for aggregating and sharing interests, expect opinions, positive or 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 move the needle forward, scaling 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 its chatter feature, which allows businesses to share information and files with their customers via a hosted network, is early evidence of this trend.

3. SoPo (social personalization) will be on the rise

"Keeping up with the Joneses" has never been so transparent. The power of referrals and recommendations will be fine-tuned and harnessed to encourage and persuade others to follow their friends' leads.

With an ever-increasing social network footprint, and the explosion of data fueling it, expect networked recommendations to become more ubiquitous (e.g., your friend's friend likes this product).

Content recommendations on Facebook stores and participating e-commerce sites will be increasingly powered and filtered by friends' preferences (see "Likes" and "Social TV" below). Social sign-on, group sharing, and universal wish lists will even make personalization on smaller sites possible, and collaborative filtering will create connections between people in unanticipated and creative ways.

4. "Likes" will intersect with multimedia

"Likes" will begin to influence more than just online text content. Digital video content providers will assume friends share "Like" preferences for video content. In turn, they will tailor and filter programming to you based on the "Likes" you and your friends provide.

By anticipating what you'll be most inclined to watch, digital providers will help you cut through the growing expanse of online multimedia content. It's highly probable that Facebook, either via acquisition or via a partnership with companies like BuddyTV or Hulu, will explore or invest in "Social TV."

5. Location-based marketing will grow, and certain customer use cases will shift predominantly to mobile

In specific markets, such as travel, shopping, and dining, customer engagement and purchases will happen more frequently via mobile device. A recent study found that one-third of all American adults use smartphones, and that percentage will continue to rise.

Travel-related click-through-rates are already higher on mobile devices than on PCs, and location-based marketing—fueled by the likes of Foursquare—will continue to soar.

This holiday season, we'll see the majority of last-minute gift and store searches happen via mobile device. And with 50% of last-minute shopping projected to be done via mobile device in 2015, marketers in 2012 will have to consider mobile in their usage mix as adoption of the mobile smart device becomes increasingly universal.

6. The discount economy will grow even larger

Considering the flagging economy and consumers' income woes, offers from companies such as Groupon, Living Social, and niche players like One Kings Lane and Zulily, will have an even greater uptick in 2012. Those companies will grow more than many have previously forecast.

Even Amazon.com has gotten into the local deals mix, recognizing the value of even deeper discounts for customers. At the same time, daily-deal offerings will become increasingly hyper-local. Players intelligent about using the mobile market and geo-based offers will be category winners.

7. Social media ads will become a significant part of the advertising mix

At the end of 2010, Twitter had 150 customers using its paid advertising program. In Q2 of 2011, it had increased its advertising customer base to 600, with an 80% rate of renewal. Moreover, in 2011, Facebook's brand advertising revenue rose 104% from Q1 to Q2.

But even in light of those tremendous gains, Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks have only begun to scratch the surface of potential advertising revenue streams.

In 2012, marketers across the board, from big and small companies, will include social networks as a line item in their online paid advertising budgets because those networks will make access to their hundreds of millions of users more accessible.

8. Social networks will become a more significant source of organic search traffic and a greater influencer of SERPs

As social networks become an increased source of paid traffic, they will also become an increased referral source of organic search traffic. In 2011, small and medium businesses, typically technology followers, began using social media more frequently, perceiving it to be an effective marketing medium.

In 2012, we can expect that trend to rise, especially as social media buzz becomes a mainstream component of SERPs. For companies that wish to preserve or improve their rankings, social marketing activities will no longer be optional; in 2012, they will be a necessary element of traffic-driving success.

9. Google antitrust will continue to be a thorny issue

Heading into 2012, Google is being investigated globally as an antitrust offender. Google's overwhelming market dominance puts it squarely under the worldwide legal microscope for any anticompetitive actions.

With 80% of Yelp traffic, for example, derived from Google, and 30% of Google searches resulting in traffic to the largest e-commerce sites on the Internet, Google's power is indisputable. As a result, Google's business practices will continue to endure intense scrutiny and encounter legal challenges.

10. Focus on social media ROI will be top of mind

As businesses move from initial adoption of social media marketing toward the next stage of reflection and refinement, they'll be seeking data that clearly indicates the cost-effectiveness of social media campaigns.

With another year of experimentation and trial under their belt, marketers will be more sophisticated and adept at navigating the social media channel. In turn, they will be more demanding of tools that effectively enable tracking, measuring, and improving ROI.

11. Virtual teams will become more common

The globalization of the workforce will continue to mushroom with low-cost access services becoming more prevalent.

As more effective video-conference, document-share, shared schedules, and various other online project-management and workflow technologies are introduced to the market, the ability to communicate and work with virtual teams will become ever-more efficient.

We've witnessed a growing trend of employees working in distant states, countries, or continents who are considered integral parts of core business operations. Remote employees are being woven into the fabric of our companies, working virtually side-by-side with locally based employees to create and deliver winning products.

12. Facebook will advance social commerce and give Amazon a run for its money

It's undeniable that Amazon and Facebook are the market dominators of their markets: online shopping and social networking, respectively. But to date, those two markets have experienced very little crossover. That's odd, considering the tremendous opportunity to marry those markets. After all, isn't it an enjoyable pastime for friends to shop together?

Facebook will make it easier for friends to do just that by providing an environment and online-shopping experience that are entirely different from the way we shop on Amazon.

It is only a matter of time before shoppers trade in a trip to the mall in exchange for an online buying spree with virtual friends via shared screens, video chats, and group-buying discounts.

(Image courtesy of Bigstock, Seeing The Future.)


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Brian Goffman is CEO and co-founder of Optify, a leading provider of marketing software and services for the real-time Web.

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  • by Shelly Lucas, Senior Marketing Manager, Hoover's Mon Nov 14, 2011 via web

    Great post, Brian! In my mind, you’ve hit on key trends marketers should be thinking about as we head into a new year. The one that strikes me the most is the idea of customers becoming an extended part of companies' marketing teams. I absolutely agree that we need to think about customers in this way; getting them to embrace/commit to this role is yet another issue. As Klint Finley of ReadWrite Enterprise wrote earlier this year: “How often do you want to ‘engage’ with your toilet paper brand?... If you’re like me, if you want to be ‘engaged’ at all you want to initiate that engagement when you have a question or problem, and then you want that engagement to end once the problem has been solved.” http://ow.ly/7tdnn I’m not sure there’s an efficient way to find the breed of customers that want to be co-creators vs. daily deal friends. We have indicators, of course, like Net Promoter scores; we also have customer advisory boards. But it seems to me that these frameworks many not be the best engagement vehicles/litmus tests for finding, recruiting (which also raises the question of retaining) co-marketers…certainly not when we’re drinking from a firehose of social media. How can we be more discerning about who we incentivize?

  • by bola Mon Nov 14, 2011 via web

    My thinking is that #12 will not come to pass. Other than folks working in social media, few companies have been successful with monetizing social media.

  • by Alexandra best Tue Nov 15, 2011 via mobile

    Great post - nice to turn our minds to 2012.

    Regarding prediction 2, I couldn't agree more. In fact, our company, rewardstream (www.rewardstream.com) has been hard pressed to keep up with demand and interest in solutions to engage customers whether to fuel acquisition efforts, spread brand messages, or simply learn more about their customers and their referral and recommendation activity and its impact. It is worthwhile to step back and focus less on "engaging advocates" or "influencers" and more on simply learning who does what on your behalf. Approaching an initiative such as this for the first time means trying things and learning from doing. Like any relationship what makes it tick is constantly in flux. Companies should take a test and learn approach and set aside fear of the unknown. After all, marketing is a little bit science and a "lot-a-bit" art.

  • by Seth Greene Wed Nov 16, 2011 via mobile

    I agree with all the social media predictions! Does our social media presence have automated lead capture and follow up in multiple forms of media? 716-908-3164

  • by Al Sefati Wed Nov 16, 2011 via web

    No one will touch Google! It is one of the few technology companies that is expanding in US, hiring, and paying its taxes without cooking the books, and its the only company that actually cares about small business marketing (of course for a selfish reason but it works for small business benefits)

  • by Diane Danielson Thu Nov 17, 2011 via web

    Looking at your predictions, which appear to be spot on, it underscores the feeling I've had that the online marketing/social media window where small businesses could compete is closing (yet, ironically, these are the businesses that are employing people). Pile the attack on Net Neutrality on top of this and the future online for small businesses, especially ones who have yet to even comprehend how to use social media, could be bleak. Anyone have any thoughts on that?

  • by nancyking Thu Nov 17, 2011 via web

    RE: #12 Facebook will advance social media commerce.... I just saw a new service called Trippy.com that lets your Facebook friends help plan your trips. Ties right into this prediction.
    http://youtu.be/8-juD9ftXgg

  • by Steve Richards, Unlimited Brands Thu Nov 17, 2011 via web

    Agree with the focus of your post - I think underlying a lot of these predictions for marketing is the need to be faster & more flexible.

    We're finding that marketing teams struggle with some of their agencies who have slower, overstaffed teams than is needed. They also have too many agencies focusing on a specialism but with teams of support staff (not talent) who duplicate & slow things down further.

    So another trend that may reach tipping point next year will be creating a collaborative team of talent for a specific brand project - from big agencies, from small creative shops & freelancers who choose teams as well as projects. Let senior clients handpick a small, focused, smart collective of talent to create something...who’d say no?

    The final death knell for full service agencies?

  • by Shelly Lucas, Senior Marketing Manager, Hoover's Thu Nov 17, 2011 via web

    Diane,
    You raise a good question: will small businesses be able to break through the noise created by larger enterprises via social media? I'm optimistic about this because of recent studies published by ComScore, CrowdSPRING, Zoomerang and others, which report impressive numbers regarding SMB social media adoption (with proficiency varying, depending on the channel – Facebook appears to be the most popular/effective). According to one study 61% of small businesses are landing news customers through social media activities. Another important insight from this research is that SMBs view their social activities as cost effective (nearly 60% spend less than $100 on social media marketing). Here are links to a couple articles highlighting some relevant research:

    http://www.boston.com/business/specials/small_business_blog/2011/11/a_survey_of_sur.html


  • by Saad Ahmed Shaikh Sun Nov 20, 2011 via web

    That's a set of significant changes that we will witness for sure. I am not pretty sure about the dynamics in the Marketing Automation space changing so soon, but I'm confident that it will pick pace towards the mid 2013.

    As for Social Media, it definitely is going to enter the Ad budgets.

    Brilliant article, Brian! :)

  • by Derek Armson Mon Nov 21, 2011 via web

    Interesting list, particularly number 9! As an online marketing company we have seen businesses (particularly affiliate businesses) destroyed by Google's algorithm changes. And, now they are partly shareholder owned, with the pressure to deliver dividend, the old ideals have gone out of the window.
    SERPS and Adwords are now very heavily weighted in favour of corporate world. Whilst I agree Google does wield too much power on the Internet and I think there will be an increasing anti-trust movement against them...it will takes years (if at all) before we see any change. The issues and the algorithm are so very complex.
    So, don't expect to see change happen soon, instead, if you are a small business, or have been hit by the Panda, be prepared to find alternative ways to rank and drive traffic.

  • by William H. Thompson Mon Nov 21, 2011 via web

    The listed "cutting edge" predictions for marketing are appropriate to acknowledge - and this is a perceptive list - but such predictions must be considered relative to their proven effectiveness and the implications of the coming era in which the predictions will fall. The industry has a tendency to "buzz" when new technology takes the stage, and lose sight of the need to perfect past tools and strategies in favor of grabbing the new ones. Social media, mobile channels, location-based marketing, QR (Quick Response) Codes - all are examples of technologies available now from past developments, but for most, their truly effective use is still in the "crawling" stage. Even email marketing - perhaps among the most refined of modern-day marketing tactics - has a way to go before deliver-ability and open rate issues are solved. With 2012 being an election year and the economy's recovery in serious question, messaging overload and financial anxieties will face B2C and B2B marketers, alike. Adding channels (social, mobile, etc.) simply increases the chance of messaging being lost in the stampede - or worse, making a greater stampede become even more bothersome or rejected. One thing changes little over time for marketers: it's the necessity to reach and influence prospects and customers on behalf of their clients - doing so in the most productive and affordable ways. That takes a keen understanding of each new tool and strategy - combined with an equally astute understanding for each market targeted. While the concept of having a company's customers and employees becoming extensions of the marketing initiatives seems logical, this hardly seems a new concept - nor a sure-fire strategy. Indeed, in 1910 Packard automobiles were using the slogan, "Ask the man who owns one." The point being made here is that while predictions are useful, perfecting a combination of older and the new initiatives is needed to support a marketing firm's clients. After all, if the clients (like Packard) fail to survive - it matters little what bold new marketing innovations are to come.

    Thompson Group Marketing, Walnut Creek, CA

  • by George Frank Carrillo Mon Nov 28, 2011 via mobile

    Excellent article...! Good Predictions.

    Comments were also interesting, expanding on the topics.

    Thank you...!

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