From #BlackLivesMatter to rainbow-colored lights on the White House to Jean Julien's "Peace for Paris" sketch, 2015 showed us the power of marketing beyond consumerism.
Top marketing efforts last year alerted us to protests, victories and tragedies. People everywhere were able to join in, making the movements and moments personal.
Traditional marketers can learn from these initiatives. The key is to build personal relationships with customers. Here's how:
1. Differentiate your customer experience.
Customer experience defines brands. Yelp gained fame by providing people with a platform to sound off about their experiences, positive and negative.
To gain even more customer loyalty, Gartner’s 2016 Watch List report says smart brands will have to flip perspectives. Instead of focusing on the goals they set and then seeing how willing customers are to buy into them, successful brands will focus on discovering an individual customer's goals and helping her achieve them.
That discovery will be aided by the exploding supply of personal data. Within five years, there will be 35 billion devices connected to the internet. Many will be wearables tracking users' physical, social, and commercial behavior.
Indeed, over half of all Americans have already interacted with a home electronic device connected to the internet and equipped with data-tracking capabilities. One in four own a fitness tracker, and among those who don’t, 38 percent plan to buy one in the next six months. The Sony PlayStation console, now makes automatic game recommendations based on a user's online social networking and other core behavioral factors picked up by the console itself.
Businesses need to tap into this information and hyper-personalize their marketing messages to generate huge returns.
2. Make it magic with mobile.
It's impossible to overstate the importance of an engaging mobile experience, especially for retailers. During the most recent post-Thanksgiving shopping boom, 39 percent of online sales were conducted over mobile devices.
That's not a surprise. Mobile is now an essential daily experience for most Americans. Today, 70 percent of consumer interactions are mobile and four in five smartphone users check their phone as soon as they wake up.
Yet only one in three companies has a defined mobile strategy. Brands need to develop, define, and differentiate their mobile strategy to gain customer loyalty.
Already, we've started to see brands leveraging mobile technology. For example, some stores use mobile-engagement in-store. If you spot a pair of fun flats on the shopper next to you, you can snap a photo in an app, such as Asap54, that will make a recommendation based on what's available in the store.
Redbox, the movie and video-game rental kiosk company, provides another powerful example of a brand leveraging mobile technology. Customers can simply swipe through its app to reserve content at the nearest pick-up location. In the app's first day, rentals nearly doubled.
Mobile has the capacity to connect the physical and digital worlds. Social networks have already started to dabble with this ability. Snapchat, for example, shares pre-planned stories and videos through a feature called "Discover," and it's "Live" feature highlights what's happening in real time. Twitter's Moments take us to the "biggest stories in the world" every day.
3. Learn to love data.
Tailored data helps create the most appealing marketing campaigns. While privacy and security concerns continue to keep consumers cautious, a December 2015 eMarketer report found that millennials and centennials are more willing to provide personal information to marketers and publishers.
The amount of available data would swamp any single data scientist. To keep data scientists free to hunt for valuable discoveries and insights, everyone in a company will have to learn to love data and self-serve their particular analytical needs.
Data scientists, for their part, will need to become "data storytellers." Indeed, the CEO of digital analytics firm Optimal Ways predicts that the focus of his specialty will shift away from the numbers and to the "management and communication" of data.
Data can tell the story of an individual consumer -- and analysts need to be able to convey that story to marketers so that they can build a unified, progressive profile for each customer relationship.
4. Ditch your traditional email service provider.
On average, people check their email almost 80 times per day. One of the big reasons? To keep from drowning in emails they don't really care about. Consumers have grown weary of mass advertising. In fact, 55 percent of email users relegate emails to spam if a business sends them too many.
To get people to click and care about their emails, marketers have to rethink their email operations. Emails shouldn't bombard the consumer; less is more, and personalization is key. For example, Live Nation emails subscribers with personalized recommendations based on past purchases and location.
5. Prepare for programmatic.
Programmatic, the automated buying and selling of ads, is booming. Programmatic ads simplify workflows, integrate personal data into campaigns, and provide ways to measure key information, such as click-to-purchase.
Advertisers using programmatic to its full potential combine programmatic data with their own valuable data sets, merging advertising and marketing technology. As machines overtake manual media buying, people will be able to develop more creative and pointed campaigns.
Digital marketing success relies on more personalization, more simplicity, and more creativity. Marketers need to resolve to improve their relationships with consumers -- and stick to it.