Jacqueline Teo, Chief Digital Officer, HGC Global Communications
In your opinion, how has the Digital Marketing landscape evolved over the years? What are some of the advantages of the current technological evolution?
A lot of “new normal’ discussions to date have been about the workplace. But the “new normal” has also resulted in new social behaviours as well as new forms of leisure and entertainment. As a result, since the start of Covid-19, we’ve witnessed a jump in consumer activity moving online which has fueled the growth in social platforms, short-form video, streaming, and gaming has created multiple new forums for digital marketing and mobile commerce. Specifically, I like two technological evolutions that I think will make a huge difference to digital marketing in the near future are:
Voice and image search
With 5G’s latency and promises of speed, and advances in chipsets and device technology, we can now incorporate data-rich and interactive experiences into the mobile. Also, as more and more devices are connected, marketers have access to more ‘surface area’. And so, there are so many more methods to engage with the customer, such as:
- Consumer 4K video streaming enabling content like real-time live events, unscripted video, outdoor settings
- Augmented reality, interactive, or gamifying ads
- Demo or taster sessions especially for games
- Highly personalized interactions
The power of voice or image search is that a person's query is usually answered specifically without requiring them to scroll through various options available on the screen. With text, we tend to scroll through a series of listings on a search results page (that is, perform a search within a search). With voice and image search, it will no longer be enough to be on the first page of a search result or even be one of the first five listings or use ads to push yourself to the first spot. The top spot will be the most coveted. The implications to SEO (SERP) and SEM are tremendous. The smartest brands will understand where they fit into customers’ lives on social media, and find creative ways of fitting into the conversation (instead of making their customers find you).
Marketers have to think more carefully about how to optimize their marketing efforts, using data. They will need to segment, personalize and create relevant content while taking a holistic view on expertise, authority, and trustworthiness parameters. Marketers (themselves or in collaboration) will have to understand data ontology and taxonomy as it relates to semantic analysis of natural language (NLP or speech to text) and semantic vision.
What according to you are some of the challenges plaguing the Digital Marketing landscape and how can they be effectively mitigated?
In 2020, the most downloaded apps were social apps like TikTok, Facebook, and WhatsApp. And users spent the most money on apps like Tinder, TikTok, and YouTube. The proliferation of social apps, ease, and access to tools to create and publish user generate content, and the increasingly unpredictable habits of consumers have led to enormous brand fragmentation and erosion of trust. In addition, mobile gaming as a form of entertainment also skyrocketed in 2020 and hyper-casual games have been the top choice for digital advertising.
What and how customers consume your content can vary intra-day. They may like short videos and stories while in transit (TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat) but want written content and detailed answers to questions when they have more time (website, Reddit, Quora, and other online forums).
The smartest brands will understand where they fit into customers’ lives on social media, and find creative ways of fitting into the conversation
So understanding your customers buying behaviours and triggers in a landscape where conversations are actively happening in disparate platforms will become harder. In 2020, many companies stepped up their social media and digital presence, creating an unprecedented volume of quality content and ecommerce options. With many companies really stepping up on the digitization of the end-to-end value chain for their customers, it is now far easier to look for product information, compare prices, purchase and pay, have smooth delivery and frictionless returns processes. The competition for the advertising dollar has heated up greatly as marketers face rising cost-per-click (CPC) costs for paid media advertising, lower CTRs, and poorer conversion rates.
In summary, the upcoming challenges for Digital Marketing are:
1. Increasing number of disaggregated social platforms competing for attention. Which enables:
2. Proliferation of user-generated content. Which causes:
3. Brand loyalty erosion and fragmentation. Which results in:
4. Buying decisions based on emotions, rather than traditional marketing parameters (price, product, promotion, physical presence etc.). Which leads to:
5. Poor conversion rates per platform. And causes:
6. Pressure on Return on Investment (ROI) from Digital Marketing ad spending
What this means is your strategies on how to create, publish, update and do close loop monitoring of your engagement with your audience are increasingly complex. It is no longer good enough to have an omni-channel experience. Most buying experiences now happen pre-engagement with your channels. Martech needs to include the use of inference models, journey simulation, and apply AI to shape/respond to the marketing conversations along the journey. Ultimately brands will win but you will have to compete differently for loyalty.
Which are a few technological trends influencing Digital Marketing today? What are some of the best practices businesses should adopt today to steer ahead of competitors?
Some of the trends I am liking today are:
1. Virtual influencers
2. AI-driven campaign management
In 2020, one of the biggest trends has been the rise of virtual influencers. Virtual influencers are pulling ahead of “traditional” social media influencers, with virtual influencers having almost three times the engagement rate of real influencers. Virtual influencers present an interesting opportunity for brands, as they give marketers complete control over their messaging and significantly less risk. Technology is now available to create these AI-generated characters as authentic brand ambassadors for their audiences, tailored to match their specific images and values (minus the risky real-life actions or controversies). These characters have realistic features, personalities, thoughts, and feelings of real humans, but can be controlled entirely–from their physical appearance to the messages they put out–by a brand. Most interestingly, they are capable of interacting in humanlike manners and having conversations with their followers in real-time.
The second trend is in another innovative use of AI in campaign management. What I see is the use of data techniques to gather data on the target audience and profiling this data and creating data insights and/or inference models. Then applying AI to generate several versions of potentially relevant content. Further, creating AI-generated versions of their target customer personas and beta testing campaigns with these virtual versions of their customers. I can see this enabling brands to be more agile, learn faster, tweak campaigns/content as you go, and really being able to create more meaningful moments with their customers.
Do you have any advice for industry veterans or budding entrepreneurs from the Digital Marketing space?
In this new normal, a mobile strategy (not a mobile app) is a must. An average person tends to use about 5 apps once per day (excluding email and social media), but will spend up to 6 hours per day on their mobile device. Why a strategy? Because you need to think about how to get your brand voice and communicate your message using people, process as well as technology.
The second thing is to think about in digital marketing is brand, brand, and brand. Focus on building long-term relationships, cultivating trust, and nurturing your audience. Social algorithms are designed to give users the best experience. They, therefore, give higher preference to content which they deem to be ‘good content’. So work on authenticity and sincerity in your engagement. Otherwise, you may be impacting your reach capability by posting too much hard-sell content. What that takes is for employees to be aligned to your values, be engaged with the brand and company.