In times of technology overload and pressure to continuously innovate, it’s often good for us to return to a central question – namely, what is the fundamental role of direct marketing? Here, the answer doesn’t change: we must get people to become customers and then keep them for as long as possible to create maximum value.
Of course, the ways we now go about acquiring these new customers and keeping them loyal has changed fundamentally – and, because of this, the industry we occupy today is infinitely more exciting and rewarding than it has ever been. I believe that how we continue to perform these base tasks will become ever more beneficial to those customers we seek to positively influence. We have to make it more enjoyable and interesting for them; we also need to make it as seamless with their daily lives as possible.
I’d like to think that 2013 is the year that the industry pushes further and faster in making this an ongoing reality and not just isolated cases of "campaign" success or rhetoric.
So, without further ado, here are some predictions:
THE WORLD IS BECOMING 'DIRECT EVERYTHING' – HOW WE HARVEST THIS AND CONNECT IT IS CORE TO OUR FUTURE SUCCESS
Strange as it sounds, direct marketing cannot afford to lose ground in an ever more direct world, and the search to continuously digitise our industry must be tempered with a reason for doing so. Of course, it’s great to do cool stuff and we must continue to do so, but we need to ensure that we do it with a strategic purpose in mind. Connecting multiple engagement points is what we have always sought to do and now we have the technological capability to do just that throughout the journey. But the challenge is not in the "engagement" (I actually think we do that really well), it’s in the "connected". Absolutely, let’s apply Shazam to TV ads, but let’s make sure that the human reward is tangible and it leads to ongoing and meaningful brand connections.
USER EXPERIENCE WILL BE CENTRAL TO EVERYTHING WE DO
Too often, user experience is thought of as a digital marketing task. As we move forward, it needs to be much bigger and transcend channels. Improving user interactions can be applied throughout the brand experience. We need to ensure the journey is consistent, which will lead to more positive customers entering a brand and remaining emotionally loyal to it. Getting all the wires connected is extremely challenging, but the rewards are endless. Think Apple’s seamless web-to-store experience.
THE MOBILE GIANT LEAP
We need to make up for a lost decade. Promises of effective engagement through SMS and mobile sites don’t just need to be fulfilled, they need to be superseded. Creating useful utilities that have a long and relevant shelf life for customers will enable CRM to move to the next level. Imagine a car ownership app that replaces everything from a welcome pack, to a logbook, to a call to arrange the next service, through to seeing your next car being built. Loyalty guaranteed.
SHOPPER MARKETING CAN TAKE DIRECT TO THE NEXT LEVEL
Having always been below-the-line bedfellows, the opportunity to firmly connect shopper with direct via mobile promises to be a more fruitful marriage this time round. Connecting with potential and loyal customers in the home, driving them into store, engaging with them at the all-important point of purchase and then bringing them back home via a new engagement relevant to their purchase and experience that they can then go on to share promises connected engagement in one perfect shopping trip. What an opportunity that is – and one more agencies need to pick up on.
DATA HAS ITS BIGGEST YEAR AHEAD
The organisation, manipulation and application of data needs to be in full innovation mode this year. Data professionals are full of amazing ideas – big data ideas, in fact; it’s just that they need to translate the complex and scary into the understandable and the achievable. We need to be able to quickly apply data-rich thinking into simple platforms and products that can be continuously tested, automated and then, perhaps, quickly discarded for something else. Doing this will break down both budgetary and systemic barriers at the client end and help us integrate and take advantage of this vast opportunity – quickly and more effectively.
FURTHER EDUCATION AND CELEBRATION OF THE NEW DIRECT IS REQUIRED
Direct is amazingly placed to benefit from the ever-ongoing social, cultural and technological shifts but, at times, it is still seen as a relic of the last century. It is time for the industry to reassert itself in a confident manner and position itself at the heart of consumers’ personalised needs, wants and desires. We need to showcase new and relevant technology, which is integrated with strategic long-term customer engagement and underpinned by provocative creativity – both in and out of the home.
Overall, 2013 will bring lots of opportunities to the sector. It will be direct, but just not as you know it.
Martin Nieri is the chief executive of Partners Andrews Aldridge