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2011 digital marketing trends

My predictions on 11 marketing trends for 2011

I'm was early in reviewing marketing trends for 2011 since I presented my predictions on the latest developments at the IDM/DMA North Annual Conference in October 2010. You can view my presentation at the end of this post.

2011 update - predictions in key areas of Internet marketing

Since this post has been popular and we've been learning from what others have been saying as we enter 2011, we've also created a series of posts giving our recommendations on strategies you could consider for your 2011 marketing. To make them more useful we give links through to other recommendations and where you can get started. We have top tactics for 2011 for:

I also updated the presentation embedded at the end of the post for a talk I gave at Manchester Metropolitan University.

11 trends in Internet marketing for 2011 from Dave Chaffey

In my review, I"€™ll focus on the trends that matter based on a roundup of some of the major developments in 2010 and some ideas on how best to respond to these in 2011.

Trends 1 through 6 are relatively new opportunities for companies to exploit approaches in digital marketing which have only been exploited well by the few. Trends 7 to 11 are challenges and headaches for marketers which must be managed to be successful. They're in rough order of importance for the average organisation (if there is such a thing) in my opinion.

As always, I'm interested to hear what you think. What I've missed or where the emphasis is wrong?

Trend 1 Content / engagement strategy

We all know that "Content is King" was the mantra through the 1990s and then "Context was Queen". Today we realise that exceptional content is the key to acquiring customers through search engine optimisation and social media as part of inbound marketing. It's also essential to keep customers engaged with a brand via different touchpoints like the website, "social outposts", email marketing and apps.

And of course, it's not just text content, video content, podcasts, apps all to match all preferences. It's been good to see increased attention on content strategy in 2010 with several new books on the topic. Since I believe it's so important to success online, that's why it's Number 1.

Takeaway: Develop and refine your content strategy to compete effectively in your category.

Trend 2 Digital Marketing Optimisation

In the beginning there was search engine optimisation, then conversion rate optimisation and social media optimisation (hate that term). The analytical tools available to digital marketers enable analysis and optimisation of performance as provided by many agencies in these fields. Integration of toolsets through APIs and XML feeds has supported the growth of a rich set of free and paid tools. See the Google Analytics Application Gallery for the wealth of tools available.

Takeway: Put in place processes and resources to support optimisation. Harness the free and paid tools to support analysis and automation.

Trend 3 Right Touching

Our prospects and customers increasingly use multiple channels when selecting products and services switching between digital media and traditional media. So it's important to understand their preferences and facilitate switching from print to online and vice versa.

Since outbound contacts are still vital in selecting the right print or email message frequency and message according to position in the lifecycle helps repeat sales. Smart companies have developed an automated email lifecycle with the right business rules to maximise engagement and sale.

Takeaway: Refine and automate your contact strategies to support right touching requires investment in integrated contact strategies project upfront which is why many haven't implemented yet.

Trend 4 Social media marketing

You may have heard of this... People don't go online to "surf the web" today, they "Facebook". Every company needs a Facebook strategy and the right resources to manage it unless their brand is so badly perceived it will do more harm than good. Nestle? For other companies, B2B? Twitter may be more important. We'll look at some examples that show that success in an individual social media is achieved by understanding what you want to achieve from each channel, a clear idea of the value proposition and then resourcing it to deliver. But it's underpinned by having the right content and touch strategies to integrate with other channels.

Takewaway: Decide on the priorities for your different social presences, for example using our digital marketing radar and again resource and review to make effective

Trend 5 The resurgence of display advertising

Resurgence may be overstating it but many companies have found the newer remarketing and retargeting options available through established ad networks and Google's new Adwords Remarketing feature effective. Using weighted attribution studies can also help establish the value of the display advertising halo effect.

Takeaway: Review this recent Comscore whitepaper showing the most effective forms of display advertising.

Trend 6 Mobile Strategy

The growth in use of Apple App store has been phenomenal, increasing by several billions of downloads in 2010. Meanwhile other handset manufacturers are achieving success with apps, although Apple still has over two thirds of the market by download. See my post about mobile app strategy which summarises the growth and the options of app strategy.

Trend 7 Googlization

In many countries, including the UK Google still drives the majority of traffic or it should if you get your SEO and PPC right. It's increasingly important for generating awareness and display through the new Googled Display (formerly content) network too which in 2010 saw remarketing added. Google is so important for most pureplays that you could say you need a specific "Google Strategy". A Google strategy requires an intimate understanding of your online marketplace or ecosystem. Oftentimes partnering, PR and contextual advertising can help you by thinking beyond your own SERPs position.

There is even a book on Googlization out in 2011.

Trend 8 Online channel integration

With growth of importance of social media channels it has been suggested that email marketing is dead or less relevant. My belief is the two work best in an integrated way. To get ideas on the best strategies to achieve this I recommend signing up to Social Email Marketing.

Trend 9 Touchpoint attribution

Since online conversion to sale may occur over several site visits, it's important to analyse and attribute sale to all of the channels that contributed, not just the last click. Online marketers have been grappling with this for a long time, but in 2010 these cases show that more companies got on top of this.

Takeaway: See this attribution case study for an idea of what's required.

Trend 10 Privacy wars

Many of the keys to success online have a dirty secret - they rely on cookies. From Google Analytics to Remarketing to on-site personalisation, persistent cookies are needed to track and target behaviour.

But the media are intent on scaring consumers about threats to their privacy so unless marketers take action we're going to lose some of the greatest benefits of online medias which will negatively effect marketers.

Trend 11 Digital marketing = Marketing?

We can no longer call digital media new now. With an increasing amount of media consumption and media spend migrating online, some are suggesting we don't need a separate discipline of digital marketing, we don't need separate digital strategies, but integration is the name of the game. What do you think?

Share your thoughts

  • Enjoyed reading each one of yours comments and conversation..
    Guess thats where the REAL startegy LIES..We all have got ENGAGED in this convo…
    The CONTENT(11 strategy + the title FOR 2011) bit has really worked and so much so that
    we all have gotten into the beautiful TRAP of DAVE…Cheers…
    This was FUN to read and to comment as well…

    • Thanks for the comment Nimit, I’m not sure whether you were happy to be trapped or not?! But hopefully a powerful headline which fits with what folks are searching for is OK if the content is useful which it seems to be for you and judging by the RTs.

  • And a Very Happy New Year to you Gregg,

    It’s interesting to hear your tale of woe – I’m sure that’s accurate. It’s a shame since I think many relatively low-cost/free tactics can work well for B2B if the marketers get it. These include:
    * SEO
    * Linked In Groups
    * Twitter

    For many of these to work though, they do need investment of time by an owner/ manager who gets it to use these channels and very often they will be working on other must-do activities to run the business so these new digital initiatives will fall by the wayside.

    It’s a shame there aren’t so many outside agencies they can turn to – as you say many basic web designs are still brochureware still don’t provide a good basis for integrated marketing – companies would be better off with a blog I think.

    Thanks again for your thoughts Gregg

    • Gregg Houlden commented on January 3, 2011

      It I hoped wasn’t a tale of woe rather than an enforcement of a mission.

  • Gregg Houlden commented on January 3, 2011

    Happy New Year Dave and the Team,

    I think the original insights were very well received. However, although I think Hollie is ahead of the game many organisations fail to really engage with the digital market or the tools Smart Insights are renowned for. B2B SME’s are perhaps the worst offenders getting the marketing mix so confused. Hardly any are fully up to speed with penetration advances and tend to feel B2B isn’t suited for digital marketing or social media as that’s for B2C.

    At recent network events in Thames Valley I was regaled by the horror stories of organisations who tried marketing but it never worked. When you investigate it seems that Telemarketing or Direct Email was tried yet when I asked if they had an overall plan or targeted integrated plan where objectives were defined….. Lo there was much shaking of heads and errr we are too small for that.

    The next shocking revelation was their websites were usually done by a guy in the Town. Optimised? errr it’s nice and colourful. I know Thames Valley tends to be a little quaint yet, the trend needs to be that the huge SME market will be engaged at a level they can relate too. Then viciously dragged kicking and moaning into the Digital/Direct Marketing age before they are rendered obsolete as they fail to compete in the new arena.

    Unfortunately, a prediction that will be proven is a great many local advertising and marketing companies will fall by the wayside as Digital v.s. marketing stops being a question and truly integrates and delivers to the heartland of UK business. Bottom up growth is a slow burn opportunity which needs enabling for the country’s sake. I know that I will continue to trust, follow and recommend you chaps for all levels of my colleagues who ask “hang on you mean my company can do more with way less.”

    Oh and Dave, I did agree with all the above and well done to Hollie for embracing and indeed spearheading the future.

  • Adrienne commented on November 27, 2010

    Great Article however the one thing that you have not discussed, that is probably online retail specific, is the role marketplaces (eg ebay, amazon, are playing in the future. Many big brand names including the likes or Tesco’s, Argos, Vodafone, as welll as retail clothing stores eg Karen Millen, Bench are widening their audience reach through these marketplaces. If you look at eBay for example they have added a whole new section for outlets, and are also spending a lot of money on offline advertising to promote the same. Amazon has also opened up to manufacturers like unilever. The importance of these marketing channels in my view should not be underestimated.

    • You make a good point Mkwama – the Internet has tranformed this “Place” aspect of the marketing mix also. Companies are missing a massive trick if they haven’t got an effective representation on these sites.

      You mention larger brands, but I find that many smaller retailers gain a significant proportion of their sales through Amazon, eBay also.

      It’s interesting you pick this out as a major trend. I’m not so sure this isn’t an evolution of what has happened over the the past 10 years. Still interesting food-for-thought, so thanks for adding!


  • Great article and is suitable for 2011 on the whole as a representation of the country but for some companies like the one I work for, we have already integrated these strategies and have been executing for the last 12 months at least and we are seeing a real benefit. I would say these methods of communication are somewhat normal for ‘net gen’ born like myself. The reason it is so important is because our customers are becoming younger and younger and they use these methods of communication so we have to keep up or miss out on opportunity.

    • Dave Chaffey commented on October 20, 2010

      Hi Hollie, you seem to be ahead of the game.

      In the presentation I said these weren’t the future, but more a review of what was happening in 2010. Not predicting future trends, but current trends that the digital savvy companies are implementing.

      You’re right to remind us that for digital natives mobile apps and proximity services are the norm, so the companies who are the early adopters can gain a competitive advantage by tapping into that.


  • Good post Dave. Totally agree re trend 11. In the same way that the phrase “new media”, is pretty redundant, any serious marketer will know that digital marketing in almost all cases, will form a fundamental part of any marketing strategy. If we’re both wrong, then clearly we’re operating in our own digital marketing bubble and have little perspective!

    • Dave Chaffey commented on October 13, 2010

      Thanks Jonathan.

      That last point was posed as a question because for digital marketing to truly equal marketing, requires a big change in mindset and resourcing to support that vision.

      In my view this need a specific digital strategy – until digital is ingrained into organisations as part of its DNA. I think it’s scary that many organisations don’t have a digital strategy. In my view a defined digital strategy and roadmap is essential so that organisations can move to the situation that digital is part of business as usual and avoid the still common problems in that post.

      I think many senior managers in organisations who control the digital budgets don’t yet “get” digital, i.e. the basics like what it is, what makes it different from traditional marketing and how it can add value their brand while delivering ROI – all big questions and I’m sure you see similar. Digital marketing is still treated as an afterthought to add onto strategy and campaign plans rather than being at the heart of marketing from the beginning.

      If there isn’t senior management understanding and sponsorship, (I realise that in 2010 many companies have got beyond this) then complacency will mean that digital is just treated as “another channel to market”. It’s the classic alignment vs impact discussion of how technology can help organisations. Most would strive for alignment so that tech supports business strategy, but that’s relatively easy to achieve. The real opportunities arise from using the digital channels to impact the way you do business.

      On Twitter @charliesaidthat thought similar to you:

      “I REALLY agree with 11 – I struggle to agree with 1. Content strategy just seems to be using the assets – as we always have?…

      On the content question, yes, content is ultimately just asset, but the quality of these assets are what gives you your competitive advantage online, whether it’s the awesome Old Spice or Tippex video campaigns or more routine site product, email and blog content which drive engagement and sales. To achieve cut-through and boost conversion you need exceptional content and/or a strong brand which is constantly refined through test, learn, refine. That’s why I flagged this content strategy job description as sign of management commitment.

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