Thanks to smarter marketing, better technology and consumers speaking out, 2013 just might be the year we see a genuine shift in how close customers and companies can really get.
We know the deal—people are spending, and continuing to spend, more and more online. Every year, Cyber Monday beats out the previous one. Mobile and tablet revenues continue to increase. And brick-and-mortar retailers scramble to keep pace with a digitally driven world.
The truth is, consumers are demanding optimized and personalized sites to offer them a richer, more relevant online experience. It’s no longer an option for marketers—it’s a must-have. In 2013, expect to see these 10 predictions come to fruition:
1. Testing (Finally) Becomes a Must-Have: Companies big and small have dabbled in testing for a decade. But now, everyone has to get serious about it. Companies that don’t test won’t get anywhere near providing the best online experiences for their audience.
2. True, Real-Time Personalization for Everyone: Now that this complex technology is made easily available to the masses, we’re going to see major industries like finance, travel and media lead the charge—but also expect businesses in other industries, such as gaming and charity, to take advantage of personalization solutions to offer more customized experiences.
3. Consumers Get Over the Privacy Debate: Because consumers are climbing on board with personalization, they should expect to see more of the general information they share online used by companies. Everything from age, geography and life stage, incorporating social profiles (e.g., married versus single) is predicted to play a part in offering a more relevant, more valuable e-commerce experience.
4. Retailers Start to Love Loyalty Programs: Loyalty programs are not just for frequent fliers anymore. Now businesses across industries (retail, finance, etc.) are launching loyalty programs—and integrating data into comprehensive customer profiles—to offer the next level of personalization and service.
5. Mobile Gets Personal, Too: As consumers adapt to living their lives from their mobile phones and tablets, they’ll expect platform-specific offerings that offer a better shopping experience, geo-specific content, special offers and other elements that complement and enhance life on the go.
6. Responsive Design as the Rule: A site that’s designed for optimal viewing, no matter which mobile or tablet device is being used, is the new norm. Gone are the days of resizing, scrolling and otherwise struggling to view a site depending on the size of one’s computer or device screen.
7. The Rise of Cross-Channel Experiences: Consumers don’t think in channels. Rather, they think in brands. So a completely seamless e-commerce experience no matter where they are—at their desktops, on their smartphones and tablets, or on social pages and sites—is a must-have.
8. Companies Get a Handle on Big Data: Most businesses have an abundance of useful data; however, very few are using this data to provide targeted individual experiences at the right time to respond to savvy consumers’ needs. In the coming year, expect to see more brands getting a handle on big data to deliver to customers more targeted offers across all channels in real time.
9. Social Media Grows Up: For far too long, marketers have treated social media as an island from the rest of their strategy—and, in turn, have not reaped any benefits of it being a useful sales tool. Going forward, we’ll see more brands using social data to personalize experiences on their websites, as well as applying testing and personalization to their own Facebook pages.
10. B-to-B Catches Up to B-to-C: When it comes to testing and personalization, consumer-facing businesses aren’t the only ones catching on. B-to-B companies—and their customers—crave a great online experience too. More and more B-to-B sites are likely to use testing and personalization to create well-optimized and targeted sites based on user behaviors.
As a consumer and a marketer, I’m looking forward to getting online in 2013.
Paul Dunay is an award-winning B2B marketing expert with more than 20 years’ success in generating demand and creating buzz for leading technology, consumer products, financial services and professional services organizations. He is the Global Vice President of Marketing for Maxymiser, a leader in web optimization and analytics, and author of five “Dummies” books:Facebook Marketing for Dummies, Social Media and the Contact Center for Dummies, Facebook Advertising for Dummies, Facebook Marketing for Dummies 2nd Edition and Facebook Marketing for Dummies 3rd Edition .
Follow Paul @PaulDunay