How to Stay Ahead of the Digital Curve in 2015

by Jessica Ramesh Code Computerlove

Tony Foggett, CEO of Code Computerlove, shares five key digital marketing predictions that will be important for brands this year

The beginning of the year is the most popular time for businesses to take a long-term view of their marketing strategies, and set plans and budgets for the year ahead and beyond. It’s also when clients typically ask, “Are there current and emerging trends that we need to respond to this year?”

Digital never stops evolving. Connected devices are continually driving new consumer behaviours. While exciting, the pace at which change happens has the ability to catapult businesses into unchartered territory and sometimes chaos. There tend to be many new trends in digital marketing and so extra pressure in terms of knowing which ones to invest in.

This year, you can’t miss the buzz around wearables, connected homes and the growth of physical digital. With so much hype about new trends, it’s not always easy to know which ones will stand the test of time and be successful in mainstream markets. With digital skills now so fundamental to the success of a business, digital trends can be game-changers when acted upon in the right way.

Code helps businesses to understand how they can adopt trends to get ahead of the competition, and how they can use innovation to impact on the bottom line. Here are my highlights for what I think will be the stand-out opportunities and possible game-changers of this year.
1. The CMS is Dead, Long Live Experience Platforms

While this statement may seem a tad extreme, some major advances are happening with regards to customer experience management. These are driven by the continued diversification of devices and the hyper-connected consumer. Moreover, digital increasingly permeates business operations, capabilities and structures, making long-standing business models instantly out of date.

Disjointed or fragmented marketing tools are being superseded by the trend for platform-agnostic hubs that enable more personalised content and a much more interactive consumer experience, delivering levels of sophistication and intuition that are now expected (even by those who once considered themselves technophobes).

To this end, we’re witnessing heightened demand from businesses to re-engineer their platforms and digital infrastructures, bringing customer experience management to a single point of control across the whole business. In 2015, this will go beyond CMS.

This trend may even herald organisations’ last big website build. Digital is no longer about a single website. By investing in an enterprise marketing platform that manages all digital properties under one umbrella, businesses have something that they can build on for continual improvement. This means evolution, not revolution, as standard. It future-proofs the business for consumer behaviours, new devices and trends.

Having already delivered a number of Sitecore platforms, I’m particularly excited about this year’s major Sitecore 8 upgrade, which will be a key advancement and will open up a raft of new possibilities to clients.

But let’s not have all the gear and no idea. A cautionary note here for brands embracing this trend: it’s still about what you do with a more sophisticated experience platform. Although the CMS will allow brands to deliver more personalised and contextual information, marketers still need to work with partners who can deliver creativity, strategy and insight.

2. Evolution Not Transformation

Transformation was undoubtedly one of the buzzwords of 2014, but the industry is starting to see anti-transformational messages.

In 2015, I predict an awakening. The answer isn’t digital transformation, which involves painful, costly and forced change (confirmation that the brand has previously got it wrong.) Evolution will supersede transformation, and brands and businesses will be enlightened to work with partners who will help them continually evolve, not just deliver quick fixes. Moreover, brands who’ve invested in the right platform won’t need to re-platform again but can successfully evolve using their technologies.

A second part of this trend is that we will see a significant shift in the role of the agency. They will not only have to deliver strategy, ideas and solutions, but also support internal digital teams’ capabilities to ensure continued adoption, adaptation and growth. This is already something Code has embraced through our talent division, where we train internal teams in areas in which it makes sense for them to be self-sufficient. This allows for a new phase of growth and evolution, where we lead and focus on added value and innovation, on top of what internal teams can do.

3. Winning The Content Battle

Some trends aren’t always new, they just become more significant. A ‘content first’ approach is one of these. If everyone adopts new technologies to deliver content, this can create an even playing field in the end. Starting with tech before coming up with content isn’t the way to go.

Content has become more essential to digital performance. The right content delivered via the best technology or system delivers a rich brand experience, and a more meaningful and rewarding relationship. Brands taking this approach will undoubtedly pull further ahead in the battle for consumers’ attention and loyalty in 2015.

And speaking of battles: as the ‘content first’ approach continues to rise in importance, agencies must compete for the ownership of content strategy.

In my opinion, content requires a classic digital approach. It takes a melding of digital skillsets that I don’t believe we’ve seen yet in PR or SEO agencies.

Digital strategists need to ensure that content strategies are based on insight into the target audiences, and are using copywriters who are experienced in writing across digital platforms. Content strategies require SEO specialists who understand the way in which content can impact on search; digital creatives and production capability that recognises presentation across mobile and desktop; and UX and persuasion specialists to create content that drives consumers to buy, share, or recommend. This combination ensures content is effective when online.

Delivering content that is derived from digital insight, and using platforms with the capability to evolve with the audience over time, will be an important task for brands in 2015. If digital agencies are able to deliver this in a content strategy, they will get ahead.

4. The Penny Will Finally Drop (On What ‘Mobile First’ Really Means)

Each year, significant changes in the screen sizes and capabilities of devices, as well as an increase in cross-device usage, have occurred. These have heavily blurred the boundaries between traditional classifications of desktop, tablet and mobile.

Even with the rise of responsive design, the standard approach to mobile design and development is still to design the full-size desktop site and then to design the tablet and mobile.

‘Mobile first’ has emerged as an approach that addresses these changes, but it does represent a fundamental shift in the web design and development process. Hence why so many still aren’t really getting it. Also, ‘mobile first’ is often misinterpreted and considered as prioritising mobile design above desktop.

‘Mobile first’ is a progressive design approach. It begins with understanding real content priorities for users and designing an experience to present them on a small screen device first, then building on and enhancing that experience to work on more devices with greater capabilities. This is the polar opposite to the traditional approach that would remove functionality and force-fit content into smaller screens on less capable devices.

The approach is designed to be device-agnostic with a focus on a single, seamless experience for end users, designed for their content needs and a business’ priorities. This removes the need to accommodate an uncontrollable number of user devices.

Techniques such as adaptive design and graceful degradation are redundant, as all devices and situations are covered by progressive enhancement.

Using a mobile first approach in 2015 means all current and future devices are covered, including any combination of screen size and technology set, allowing the delivery of seamless cross-device user experiences. It delivers content that is meaningful to every user, on every device, at every moment. 2015 will be the year that the industry wakes up to this and we see more production teams adopting best practice.

5. Watch Out For Wearables

With the imminent launch of the Apple Watch and other new smart devices hitting UK stores, we will undoubtedly see a surge of creativity on these platforms, as brands look to get ahead and deliver innovative solutions to attract, acquire, engage, and retain consumers via these new and exciting devices.

It won’t stop at mainstream wearable devices that include smartwatches, glasses, clothes, wristbands, rings and virtual reality headsets. It will be smart devices in general that we will see more of, particularly things in the home.

I expect brands within the health, sporting and home sectors to continue to be some of the front-runners on these platforms, along with retail brands who will embrace the opportunities for mobile payment, personalised location-based messaging and in-store communication and navigation. Devices are also likely to be used by customer-facing staff, to enhance customer service and merge the physical and digital retail environments.

Success stories of brands embracing this trend will be from those that innovate over the customer journey and form seamless connections between services, devices and places. They will also come from brands who’ve made sure that wearable devices are right for the content they’re serving – not those developing these devices for the sake of it, without a clear content strategy.

Summing Up

So, these are the trends I expect to be the most relevant to brands this year. If I were to sum up the year with one word, it would be evolution.

Working in partnership with clients to evolve their digital capability and commercial success, supporting them on a journey of continual improvement and growth in digital maturity, is at the heart of what we do. We believe that, in a world where audiences, technologies and competition are constantly evolving, the only sustainable route to success is to deliver brilliance and then constantly make it better.