What I enjoy most about marketing is that it is not a static industry. Technological advancement has opened up new, more personal and customised ways of reaching customers that businesses in days gone by could only dream about. The sector often reminds me of my own personality. Just like me, marketing is restless, can never settle into routine and is always on the lookout for something new to spice up life.
Everything that I studied in university about marketing, advertising, content creation and engaging with customers is of little relevance today. This struck me the other day when I was having a clear-out and found some of my university textbooks. I ended up recycling the textbooks rather than passing them on to someone as the information is so outdated.
If you think about it, even developing countries around the world are technologically advanced these days.
Take Kenya, for example, and its approach to making payments. While here we went from physical forms of payment to settle our bills to doing it online via a computer and then started adopting mobile apps, the African nation skipped the middle stage.
There, customers moved from conducting physical payments straight to phones. Vodafone introduced the M-Pesa payment where customers could make wire transfers, and even pay for services and products using their mobile phone.
So what kind of marketing trends can we expect this year? One thing for sure is that social media will continue to dominate and digital media influence will only increase. During a discussion group last week, it was interesting to hear one member saying that social media would soon lose its influence with people returning to traditional media such as TV, newspapers and radio to source their news. The numbers show otherwise.
Instagram, for instance, is expected to increase in influence as it introduces advertisements similar to those used by Facebook and Twitter.
The average cost of posting an advertisement on Instagram per month is between US$350,000 and $1 million.
Before Instagram introduced this, social media influencers or those with a high following and high engagement certainly leveraged this to promote products. In the GCC, for example, an influencer can charge anything between Dh2,000 to Dh20,000 and even more to upload a photo, promoting a company’s product or service on their account.
The prices increase further if you invite them to attend an event and ask them to post about it. I once approached a social media GCC influencer, who is extremely popular with children, to a charity event we were planning. He asked for Dh20,000 to attend for an hour, and insisted on restricting what he posted on his social media account to one photograph.
When it comes to digital media, Deloitte Global predicts that this year, the number of individuals who use smartphones and tablets to make a purchase will increase by 150 per cent to reach 50 million regular users. That does not sound that high given that an average American spends two-and-a-half hours a day on their mobile phone, more than the time they spend on laptops, compared with only half an hour in 2008.
Another trend for this year is the wide use of 360-degree video, also known as virtual reality. This is expected to be popular in the travel and hospitality industry for hotels, events and airlines. Users have the option to choose which angle to view the video, rather than just be restricted to one.
Just as it has done in Kenya, mobile marketing will continue to increase its influence with the introduction of location-based marketing. This will allow retailers to send targeted messages to mobile devices detected near their outlets. For instance, if a customer enters a shopping mall, they could receive special messages on their mobile device about discounts or recommended places and products to look at while they are there.
Marketing is evolving more than even before. For businesses to survive they also need to evolve. In the past, it was the customers who approached a business. Now it is the other way around, with businesses able to reach their target audience through their devices. While some might consider location-based marketing invasive or say it breaches privacy, others might be grateful for the messages they receive.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and communications consultant based in Abu Dhabi. Follow her on Twitter: @manar_alhinai.
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