Digital marketing is a fast-paced and exciting industry, and firms wishing to stay relevant and competitive in their respective fields need to stay on top of advances in the former. Even better, they should anticipate rather than react to developments in digital marketing.

As the CEO of an award-winning digital marketing agency, Mike Saunders is well positioned to both predict and advise on changes in the industry. In looking to the future, Mike suspects that the following four marketing trends are going to come to the fore in a big way over the course of the year:

Personalisation

The potential returns offered by new technologies and online data mean that organisations and brands are going to increasingly move away from blanket marketing towards personalisation. In other words, they’re going to switch from mass consumerism to mass personalisation.

We’re not talking about customisation here, says Mike, which is tailoring products to individual client requests, but rather customising specific products to specific clusters of clients.

Customers want individual value and individual assurance. “When they get this then we’re going to start seeing some really great marketing taking place,” states Mike. “With the technologies that are in place now, we can actually start to create this personalised service, both in content delivery and service delivery and in a variety of different other factors.”

Actionable analytics

Until quite recently all online data took time to analyse; statisticians had to turn data into graphs so they could then be consumed and actioned upon by organisations. Now, however, with the invention of real-time analytics as well as crunching and visualisation tools businesses can understand data far better, far quicker.

This innovation translates into companies being empowered to move more quickly in the marketing space – they can make informed, opportune decisions and create responsive marketing strategies. They can also react speedily if something goes wrong in a campaign.

A focus on customer journey

Marketers operating on the cutting edge are those that recognise that our physical and digital lives are continuing to merge in ever more complex and inextricable ways. They therefore look for ways to create marketing opportunities via both physical and traditional avenues and digital ones.

The astute marketers of 2015 will therefore be those who are less concerned with single channel conversion but rather concern themselves with the entire customer journey, which nowadays often involves people interacting across all channels on the road to conversion.

“The focus is moving away from conversion measurement towards understanding the customer journey,” says Mike. “If we can understand the customer journey then we can really start to look both at the digital and physical realms to be able to work out how people are buying and experiencing our brands.

“For example, people don’t go onto Facebook to make a purchase, but a Facebook post could be the influencing factor towards a purchase two or three interactions down the line. So focus on the customer journey is going to become more important than the focus on conversion optimisation of a particular channel.”

A seamless customer experience

One of the major pain points for consumers engaging with companies that operate both online and offline is disjointed and unsatisfactory customer experiences. This year will see brands creating more unified customer-facing services.

Such a change requires a coming together of previously separate divisions as well as heightened internal collaboration. A primary insight for firms and brands is realising that customers see them as a single unit, so if different branches of the business operate differently from one another or in isolation, customers will certainly experience complications, inefficient service, frustrations, and more.

Businesses need to adopt what Mike calls a ‘single customer view’, which is about understanding how consumers interact with the brand as a whole. Only by approaching your operations with a holistic understanding of your customers’ omnichannel engagements with your brand will you understand the importance of providing a seamless customer experience and so action it.