2016 Figaro Digital Marketing Conference – The Future of Digital

On 30th November, a heady mix of marketers, influencers and the like gathered at the Royal College of Physicians to discuss the year’s trends and hear about new technologies and strategic trends shaping the future of digital marketing.

The 2016 Figaro Digital Marketing Conference was a huge success, bringing together an esteemed panel of speakers across a range of sectors to discuss their insights and predictions for how everything from content marketing, social media strategies, AI and big data will influence digital marketing in the New Year.

It was a packed itinerary, so we decided to pull together some of the top insights and takeaways from the day:

Think about your customer

A marketing strategy focused on customers problems, motivations and needs may seem like a no-brainer, but this will play a huge roll in how we look at marketing for 2017. Truly understanding customer needs feeds into all areas of marketing from product development, UX and consumer engagement – all leading to increased sales and a greater digital brand presence if done right.

Robert Crook from Travelex advises to ‘pick apart your customer problems into their most granular parts to find out what motivates people’.

Authentic, transparent marketing is important now more than ever says Anna Whitehouse, creator of Mother Pukka, who reminds us that consumers are savvy to inauthentic marketing, so it’s imperative that your marketing strategy stays true to brand proposition, creating content that will genuinely engage with customers.

UX has never been more important

In the same way that customer-centric marketing focuses on the needs of your consumer, providing clear, accessible and optimised user experiences for consumers is a key if you want to stay ahead of the competition, retain users and engage with new ones.

Not only will it help to enhance your brand proposition, communicate your message more effectively and serve your customers more efficiently, but certain elements to UX like opt-in forms, privacy notices and the infamous cookies law will become the law of the digital land, according to the GDPR.

Steve Henderson at Communicator talks about the responsibility we now have to think about how we can give our customers a genuine choice, providing information that clear and accessible when it comes to their privacy and online experience.

To respond to that need, brands like Communicator and Curated Digital are developing ways that brands can re-imagine these engagement elements of the online experience (like these surveys) in order to promote engagement for data gathering tools that are often ignored or found to be an irritating element of customer’s UX.

Content is the present – and future – of marketing

Traditional marketing is becoming less and less effective by the minute; as a forward-thinking marketer, you know there has to be a better way.

You guessed it – that buzzword you’ve been hearing all year – content marketing. Simply put, content marketing, which includes social media and distribution, is there to help your customers find the information they need.

While many were sceptical around how content marketing could really take over traditional marketing, brands like Schneider Electric and Shazam stand behind this method, discussing how a strong content marketing strategy can help increase sales, save in cost and resources and encourage engagement with better customers resulting in brand loyalty.

Giuseppe Caltabiano with Schneider Electric emphasised that when developing content, more isn’t always better. Learn how to re-purpose and re-promote your content to save you time and resources. He recommends a Big Rock approach, which is essentially ‘a substantial piece of content based on the idea of becoming the definitive guide to a conversation that you want to own’.

Big data is just a pile of nonsense unless you know what to do with it

Having mountains of data isn’t the sole end goal anymore. Sure, it’s a start, but as Elizabeth De Freitas at Hitwise displayed in her presentation ‘5 Ways To Know Your Competitor’s Audience Better Than They Do’, making sense of all that data can be used to unlock incredible marketing opportunities, campaign strategies and hidden competitive advantages.

She recommends learning from your most successful competition, comparing your results with the wider industry, unlocking incredible hidden market opportunities. From there, you can understand what kinds of content your customers consume and when, which will help to feed into your content marketing strategy.

Richard Summers at Crowdcat melds creativity with big data in order to understand the brain to solve real world problems. With only 1 in 4 million of our thoughts actually making it to consciousness, understanding how people consume ads will help to shape a strategy that can help change the buying outcome and deliver consistent, measurable performance.

AI might be more human than humans

AI may be a source of stress or excitement depending on how you look at it. One thing’s for sure, understanding the capabilities of AI will help your business to determine if its right for you.

It definitely was for Havas. Executive Digital Director Lisa De Bonis shared their experiences with EagleAi, and how AI and big data were able to predict the 2016 Presidential Elections, now known as the night AI predicted human behaviour better than the humans.

One thing is certain. It’s not a matter of one or the other, as both Lisa and Phrasee’s CEO Parry Malm confirmed. At this point (at least) AI should be seen as a complimentary use of technology to be embraced in order to learn what it can do for us and marketing strategies moving forward.

Parry Malm of Phrasee recommends working within a limited data set when using AI for email marketing. He’s utilised artificial intelligence to generate and optimise response to your emails through marketing language science in his entertaining presentation, ‘Marketers, Watch Your Back: Here’s AI That Can Write Better Email Subject Lines Than You…’

The big takeaway?

We live in a world where it can be argued that technology changes faster than our capacity to learn it. Rather than jumping on every technological bandwagon, agility should sit at the heart of your business strategy.

What we mean by agility can be broken down into three steps:

  1. Understanding what options are available in the current market, how they’re being used, by who and who of those are doing it well (and possibly more importantly, who’s not doing it well)
  2. Assess which channels or tools will best serve your business strategy to produce the best insight and value for your business
  3. Implement those channels and tools with a simple process that ensures compliance and business success

Follow those steps 1-3, leaving room for changes and adjustments as needed. Because if this year’s taught us anything, it’s that we must be agile in order to successfully respond to the transient nature of today’s market.

To that end, if we took away anything from the conference, it’s to be open (yet critical) to what’s new, to be agile in understanding how to incorporate that into your marketing strategies and to be relieved that bots aren’t going to take over our jobs – at least yet anyway.

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