Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

In the aftermath of 2016, agency-client relationships are still feeling the effects of what can only be described as a challenging year. Without the luxury of having the budget to try new things, many clients are willing to do only the bare minimum while battling budget cuts. But Desiree Gullan, ECD at digital marketing agency G&G Digital, points out that South Africans are resilient and solution focused, which means we’ll find a way to pick up and move on into a more promising 2017.

Clients are more focused on return on investment than ever before, and Gullan reports increased interest in marketing automation: intelligent digital software which is set up on clients’ websites, allowing them to analyse user behaviour in granular detail.

“A great deal of strategic work and planning takes place upfront to identify users. From this point, an automated process will prompt users further down the client’s sales funnel, which ultimately helps the client in terms of closing deals, understanding customers’ behaviour, optimising leads and analysing sales performance and traffic on the website,” Gullan explains.

Other growing trends in the digital space include a focus on optimising the interaction between brands and consumers. Rich media formats will build on the popularity they started to enjoy in 2016, says Gullan. She reports that research on SA consumers reveals that they are spending a growing amount of time on YouTube – it is currently the second most active platform after Facebook, with the latter winning by a margin of a mere 1%. WhatsApp comes in third.

“Video is critical to marketing as consumers start to spend more time on YouTube – and not only for entertainment,” says Gullan. “Brands that win are those that put the right content onto the right channel at the right time – content that will add value for consumers and create brand loyalty. Social media platforms are becoming increasingly competitive in terms of the visual content they provide and will do whatever it takes to get attention. This means content must work harder, with a focus on quality over quantity.”

Gullan believes the focus on content optimisation which started last year will continue throughout 2017. “Brands and consumers alike have started to question the amount of content littering social spaces,” says Gullan, referring to the initial response of brands to social media which was about simply getting “content out there”.

Today, brands are investing more in analytics to determine what content has worked best for them, and on which channels. “Using insights based on analytics allows brands to invest more in what has worked for them and to leave behind what hasn’t. Asking questions through polls and consumer feedback is a crucial part of accessing these insights,” she says.

Chatbots continue to trend in the digital space and further highlight the need consumers have for instant gratification and online engagement when they want it. “Chatbots are growing in popularity because people will always trust the opinions of other people over those of brands, and to this end they seek information and feedback from online communities.”

The big take-out: There will be a greater focus on analytics, quality content and conversation this year, as well as on proven methods of showing return on investment, says Desiree Gullan, ECD at digital marketing agency G&G Digital.

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