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Top Trends for 2016

Sociomantic Leaders Weigh In

After a fond review of our highlights of 2015, now it’s time to look ahead. To get a clearer view of what we can expect for 2016, we’ve asked Sociomantic’s top leadership from around the world—including C-levels, the head of our Global Advisory team and our managing and commercial directors from more than twenty markets—to weigh in on the trends that they expect to be most important this year.

We asked each leader to vote for and elaborate on their top three. In the discussions that followed the vote, two important points emerged. First, it became clear that as varied as the trends are, most if not all of them are somehow intertwined—a tweak in the strength of one trend might easily impact the success in another. Second, and perhaps more importantly, is the role of cross-industry collaboration in bringing all of these trends to rightful fruition. While 2015 might have been hailed as the Year of the Customer, it seems clear that 2016 is the year that all industry players—publishers, advertisers and ad tech vendors—must work together to eliminate bad practices and players from the industry. By doing so, they will help to guarantee the delivery of safe, relevant and beautiful ads that add delight—not disruption or frustration—to the lives of the people that see them.

Below you find their thoughts on these trends, starting with those that received the most votes.


Top of our list: Personalization and 1:1 Marketing

53 percent of our leaders voted for this topic, and it also came up in the discussions of many of our trends, especially CRM and loyalty.

“The need to obtain the best performance from investments and to be perceived as relevant by consumers is, now more than ever, a tough reality for brands. Personalization, as an operative concept, will help brands to satisfy these two needs,” writes Miguel Ochoa, MD Spain.

JB Brokaw, Sociomantic’s president of North American operations, was quick to define one-to-one (1:1) marketing as much more than just serving an ad to a single individual. “1:1 means understanding the full context of an individual customer and using every means at your disposal to be thoughtful about how you communicate with your customer at that specific moment in time. Advertisers who still communicate with existing customers like they are prospects are completely missing the boat,” he writes. Likewise, Andrei Filatov, MD Russia, insisted that personalization must be extended to “all 5 P’s of marketing”: product, place, promotion, price, and profit.

For Greta Barsanti, MD Italy, 1:1 marketing and personalization will be key components to helping reduce consumers’ reliance on adblockers—relevant, personalized ads powered by smart data should eliminate the need for disruptive ad formats like pop-overs or in-your-face, auto-play rich media formats that leave people frustrated with advertisers and publishers alike.

“In order to respectfully and thoughtfully cut through the noise, it is more important than ever before to reach individuals with highly targeted messages,” says Mariusz Pawełczyk, MD Central & Eastern Europe.

Full-Funnel Approach

It seems likely that this trend that started in 2015 will take a leading role in the year ahead.

Yori Klaassen Bos, MD Benelux, explains the concept well: “Where many advertisers are still separating their upper funnel activities (marketing) and their performance campaigns (e-commerce), I believe a majority of the market will move to using a synchronized approach through one platform in the year ahead.” (Want to know more of what we mean by full-funnel? This infographic explains in more detail.)

Bas Drogtrop, MD Northern & Southern Europe, credits the shift in part to organizational and operational restructuring on the advertiser side. “Budgets and learnings are being centralized more within the different client departments,” he writes, “with advertisers starting to understand that you need to look and learn from all campaigns in the funnel to get the best results, rather than looking at individual campaigns and vendors in isolation.”

Critically, most responses related to the full-funnel trend emphasized the importance of leveraging the right combination of technology and smart data to master this unified approach. Many pointed to the AllSaints case study as a shining example of how this approach can benefit advertisers and shoppers alike.

Transparency

“Creative, direct deals, and many of the other trends are connected to transparency,” writes Frederic Saigne, MD Nordics. “Advertisers and agencies want to know more about how the campaigns work, where we can target users, which formats and types of media perform best to deliver the best results. They are are looking for deep insights.”

This is due in part to the maturing of the market: advertisers with a few years of programmatic experience under their belts are now looking to push each strategy and vendor to its fullest potential. According to Chief Revenue Officer Gavin Wilson, “advertisers want less, not more, partners on their digital plans, and therefore want to feel a sense of understanding and learning from their vendors. This transparency can come in various guises, but fundamentally can start with granular insight surrounding strategy and trend developments campaign-to-campaign.”

Naturally, this trend extends across the industry, and in 2016 we expect to see more initiatives that help to promote transparency and ethics on the supply-side, too. “I think our industry will continue to be challenged on transparency, and innovations like SQX will help build the momentum the channel needs to continue to develop as an open and accountable form of advertising,” says Greg Endean, Client Services Director UK.

Attribution

“Although attribution has been a topic on advertisers’ radars for many years, only now are the platforms with the ability to build complex attribution models becoming more widely adopted,” explained Endean about this critical trend. “Why does it matter? Well, simply because last click must die! Everyone knows it and as some of the larger brands start to invest more heavily in attribution modeling, the market will follow. It’s going to be a good year for this.”

“It’s not about a static and universal formula anymore,” says Miguel Ochoa, “but about flexible and evolving models and technologies that allow advertisers to find the best ways and moments to communicate with each consumer individually throughout the customer lifetime.”

And many advertisers are finally making strides to leave the simplified world of last-click behind, according to many of our respondents. “In 2015, we’ve seen that advertisers are gaining abilities to evaluate the impact of upper funnel activities, such as prospecting and promotional programmatic campaigns,” writes Yori Klaassen Bos. “We’ve been working hard to educate our market about the ground rules for how best to measure these marketing spends for new users, including more qualitative indicators such as quality of traffic (bounce and new customer rate) and the effect of each and every impression.”

Loyalty and CRM

“I believe loyalty will be the key to survival for many brands,” writes JB Brokaw. “Understanding what customers are looking for from your brand and being able to deliver the right experience time and again will be the determining factor for many brands out there today.

“Customers have never had more choices, brands have never had more headwinds…it’s an interesting time. In my opinion, all brands need to behave like challenger brands—listen to the customer and be nimble.”

This is good advice for brands in highly competitive and mature markets like the US, UK and France (Thomas Reiss thinks that French marketers will mature from basic “loyalty” strategies to more mature CRM strategies in 2016); it’s also great advice for maturing or economically struggling markets like Brazil. Francisco Morales, MD Latin America, explains the situation there: “Due to our crisis situation in LATAM, which has led to high insecurity in the market without a foreseeable end, investments are often restrained and companies are focusing on rentability to make it through this phase. A focus on loyalty is the most sustainable strategy to get the highest output of existing resources.”

Programmatic Direct

Programmatic direct finally gained prominence in 2015, and we expect it to gain dominance over traditionally sold direct deals in display advertising in 2016.

Why? “The proliferation of programmatic direct will open new possibilities, new competition, and better performance for advertisers, and a new push for the programmatic industry,” explains Andrei Filatov, MD Russia.

Mariusz Pawełczyk of CEE says he sees a similar trend in his region, that they “finally see publishers shifting heavily to programmatic. This is leading the whole digital marketing to a completely new era, where a lot of ad space can be bought based on analysis of the user and delivered with highly targeted messages.”

Mobile Apps

This is a trend that we see growing worldwide, but especially in Asia Pacific and Latin America.

For Ivan Zhou, MD Greater China, “apps will be the most important topic for 2016. We see more and more marketers in China moving budget to app marketing from other channels. In the e-commerce vertical, many Chinese advertisers are in the process of shifting all budgets over to app.”

Diana Loriot, Commercial Director India, sees a similar importance for this market: “Since more brands are foraying into the m-commerce domain, and given the fact that it has become imperative for advertisers to reach out to users on-the-go and across platforms, apps are a critical topic and will continue to be widely discussed across the Indian market over the next year. With six out of India’s top ten online advertisers opting for mobile-first strategies, with recorded 440 percent year-over-year growth in their app download figure (according to research from AppAnnie), mobile app marketing is sure to be huge in this market for 2016.”

From the other side of the globe, Moritz Wolff, Commercial Director LATAM, reports that investment in mobile strategies is paying off for Latin American marketers. “The moment our clients start to truly believe in mobile, they quickly understand of how powerful apps and push notifications can be when used effectively.”

Cross-Device & Omnichannel

Similarly, the topic of cross-device targeting will be central to the development of true omnichannel marketing in 2016.

Diana Loriot has seen the trend progress over the last few years in India’s booming e-commerce market: “As advertisers (even those from traditional brick-and-mortar setups) are looking at enhancing their digital strategies and investments to stay in the game, it has become all the more important for them to have a multichannel approach to sales in order to provide the customer with a seamless shopping experience, wherever they are.”


All in all, it’s clear that each industry player will have their work cut out for them in the year ahead, but it seems equally clear that those that commit to and invest in an integrated, customer-centric and data-driven approach to advertising will be best positioned to succeed in both the short and long term.

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From all of us at Sociomantic, we wish you all a safe, happy and prosperous 2016!