After having this browser tab open for weeks on my desktop, I finally made time to dig into tech strategist, Michael Wolf’s presentation to the WSJDLive, the Wall Street Journal’s Global Tech Conference. What a great presentation this was and after making it through all 177 slides, it’s almost impossible to pick just a few topics to discuss, but I managed to do it anyway. Here are the things I think you need to be paying close attention to.
Renew Your Commitment to Social
Mailing it in on social will no longer cut it. Digital discovery exerts a powerful force along the user journey to purchase and consumption. To be seen you must learn how to navigate these changing waters. Social has overtaken search as the primary source of internet traffic and you will need to consider paying for visibility. A well-developed strategy is a must for placement on social platforms to ensure your spending is not wasted.
Accept the fact that people get their news from social and search. If it’s not there, they don’t see it. Search is still a significant news source but social has rapidly risen to dominance. Effective paid social must be a part of your marketing plan.
Get Over Any Thoughts About Building an App
Unless your product is itself an app (for example, Uber), apps are only one more thing you need to market because people don’t WANT to use yours.
Even when users download new apps, they rarely use them after an initial try out, if at all. Ninety days after downloading an app, user retention rate is close to zero. Notice the emphasis there—close to zero. So while building your app may be easy, and there are plenty of developers or agencies who want to sell you an app, getting traction, and users, for that thing is likely to be a whole lot like rolling a really big boulder uphill. Bottom line, unless there’s a reason that users would want to open and use your app every single day, and it would deliver great value to them as a result, mobile apps a poor investment of marketing dollars.
There are brand-owned alternatives to apps, however, for speaking to users. Building, marketing, and sustaining legitimate fan or targeted interest communities is one way to try to get around the monopoly on attention the monster sites like Facebook have. This works well in some circumstances, but not in all. For instance, if you’ve got a customer base or user base that is centered around something technical, and your community is a place for users to share knowledge, tips, resources, etc., it’s likely to work. If you’re trying to build a community for the sake of building a community, but there’s not a bona fide reason for users to hang out in yet another place online, getting users to come, stay, and return is not going to be easy—and like a mobile app, let one more thing you need to market.
Prepare for Bot Battles and Messaging Wars
The messaging wars, and battle of the bots has only just begun. This is a play for consumer loyalty and attention—and keeping customers inside your walls for everything they want or need.
Why does this matter? What’s at stake? Messaging and using AI to answer simple questions may not seem like a lot, but once you think about the major search, social, and ecommerce platforms, their core revenue streams, and the impact the growth of bots and messaging platforms might have, there’s much potential disruption (and loss of revenue) at stake.
First-party bots—think voice-activated assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Cortana—can potentially have a big impact on search. The major players in this space are passionate about Google not dominating the next wave of search—and the revenue that comes as a result. Note their reliance instead on Bing for voice-search results. Also, note that marketers will have to change everything they know about search engine optimization as voice search becomes more prevalent.
Adoption of ecommerce and mobile payments through messaging platforms has been slow in the U.S. Will we ever catch up to Asia in that regard? Time will tell. For example, WeChat dominates mobile usage in China with 93 percent of city dwellers on the social platform. Messaging functions initially captured consumer attention and loyalty, leading to widespread use of WeChat as a mobile wallet. Bots are on the rise within WeChat, and parent company, Tencent seeks to restrict their use to customer service offerings from brands.
There are cultural differences, such as the practice of gifting red envelopes and adoption of platform-branded currency for smaller payments rather than credit cards, that mean adoption of these tools may never reach ubiquity the way they have in Asia. However, given the investment and commitment major mobile players are making to developing messaging and bots for search, discovery, and selling, marketers should not ignore these channels.
Look for Opportunities with Original Content on Video Streaming Services
Pay TV is here to stay but streaming services are like crack cocaine for consumers. So much so that adoption of at least one streaming service is approaching household saturation and growth is decelerating. Netflix will continue to be must-have, and what other players are discovering is that new users come for licensed content, but they stay because of original content. Revenue and growth opportunities will be driven by consumers purchasing multiple streaming service subscriptions. That’s why you’ll see a lot more content produced by brands like Amazon and others. Compelling original content is a loyalty magnet.
Understand Why Consumers Want to Talk to Their Technology
Smart speakers are to today’s youth what the iPod was to the previous generation 15 years ago. My kids don’t look through their phones for music anymore, now they ask Alexa to play what they want for them. The shift of music consumption from downloads to streaming is helping drive adoption of personal assistant Artificial Intelligence (AI) and smart speaker technology. The first-year sales pace of Amazon’s Echo smart speaker device was on par with first year sales of the iPhone. With Google Home now in the marketplace and Apple poised to enter, it is very possible that smart speakers will shape at-home consumer behavior in the same way smart phones reshaped out-of-home behavior.
Wireless is everything. People complained like crazy when Apple ditched the earphone plug in the newest models, but they aren’t thinking this through. Everything is wireless, or it’s going to be, and once you go wireless, you’re not going back. Doubt me? Let’s talk about this again in a year or two. Consumer preference to listening to streaming music wirelessly, both in home and on the go, is fueling the growth of wireless technology. In fact, wireless headphones could become the mobile version of the home’s smart speaker.
Learn Why Consumers Love Podcasting
Podcasting should be an important part of your content strategy. People are busy. When you can give them the option of being informed or entertained while they’re doing something else—working out, driving in a car, commuting, walking the dog—you name it, they’ll take it. Even though tens of millions of people listen to several hours of podcasts weekly, podcasting advertising remains fragmented and non-scaling. That helps explain why podcasting is mainstream, but advertisers aren’t there yet. But if you want to give your customers and prospects what they want, savvy marketers will include audio content into the mix.
Meet the New America(ns)
What we look like has changed—dramatically. There’s really no such thing as a “traditional household” any longer. Less than half the households in the United States are what used to be considered traditional, i.e., two parents with more than one child. Now, 28 percent of households are a single person. And multi-person homes have a variety of configurations such as married couples without children, and single parent households.
Many factors are influencing that, resulting in what’s called a “Complex Household” and the “Post Household” (both of which I happen to be living, and I’m sure many of you are as well. Today “households” can be groupings of people, related or not, living under the same roof or connected through technology rather than physically. Tech and media companies especially need to look at their offerings and recraft them to appeal to a changing customer base, and to accommodate these preferences and consumer groups.
What consumer groups present the biggest opportunities for tech and media? And how do we serve them? Wolf identified four key post-household groups: Virtual families, Boomers and Seniors, Millennials, and Multicultural. These four groups offer sizeable opportunities for creative tech and marketing companies.
Meeting the needs of virtual families is more complex than for traditional families. However, that also means there are many untapped marketing opportunities, such as making it easier for multiple users to make account payments, or providing flexible options to increase customer acquisition and transition account sharers to account holders.
Boomers and Seniors are a large and wealthy group whose needs are not well met. Marketers will find opportunities by understanding that while these consumers are late tech adopters, they are heavy media consumers. By finding ways to adjust technology experiences to appeal to Boomers and Seniors, companies will find a group of loyal users who are willing and able to pay for products and services tailored for them.
Millennials are experiencing adult life quite differently than previous generations. They are reaching milestones and establishing independence at later ages. They are far more likely to live with parents into their twenties and thirties. As a result, they are also more likely to open accounts for services at an older age. Marketing to this group will therefore require creative approaches.
Marketing to Hispanic consumers is not a new phenomenon in the U.S., however there continue to be opportunities to serve both Spanish-speaking consumers, as well as reaching this group with English language content. Additionally, there are millions of people who speak a primary language other than English or Spanish at home. This market is highly fragmented, but since it is so overlooked, opportunities to reach them abound.
There’s a lot more interesting insights shared by Wolf. I highly encourage you to review the presentation yourself and really dive into some of the data that he and his team compiled. It’s fascinating, and sure to help as you craft your marketing strategies moving forward.
This article was originally published on V3B.
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