1. The Year of Pragmatism – just do it

My overall feeling for 2011 is that there isn’t anything ‘brand new’ on the immediate horizon that is going to create a fundamental shift, like search once did, or Web 2.0, or social media etc.

2011 will be somewhat less about talk and more about action. We should know by now *what* we need to be doing, the challenge is about execution. And that’s about good old fashioned things like people, process and technology.

2. Joined up marketing – still the holy grail

We ran our first JUMP event in 2010 and will do so again at JUMP 2011. It is all about how to join up online and offline marketing more intelligently. This isn’t a particularly new idea but the reality is that very few organisations are anywhere close to the nirvana of fully integrated marcoms across all customer touchpoints (including Econsultancy).

So this trend isn’t going away anytime soon and will continue to be an important focus for all marketers in 2011 and beyond.

Interestingly, if anything, 2010 was most interesting to me not for the (obvious and continued) rise of digital as a medium, but for the renaissance of ‘old media’. When I talk to the most sophisticated and advanced marketers, and the most progressive digital companies, the excitement is mostly about offline marketing. TV advertising was ‘(re)discovered’ in 2010 by many. We at Econsultancy are all excited this year by our print magazine, direct mail and telesales plans…

3. Digital for branding – and measurement be damned

I think 2011 might finally see significantly increased spend for “brand” reasons rather than direct response / sales and other ‘hard’ metrics. But I don’t think it will necessarily be the usual brand advertiser suspects leading the charge (FMCG, Automotive etc.) though they will show some increases. Nor will it be in display advertising or paid search, though those will no doubt grow.

I believe the spend will come under headings such as ‘engagement’, ‘experiential marketing’, even ‘customer service’. The spend will be focused increasingly on content, apps, social media and service rather than on bought media like display advertising or paid search. And it will come from small companies as well as large ones, across all sectors, notably B2B. But essentially it will be about building a brand presence online that people can engage with, relate to, and, ultimately, trust.

And, despite my love of data and analytics, I think the endless demands for super-granular ROI analyses of such activities will actually fade a little in 2011. It will become more accepted that these are things you just do. That doesn’t mean they won’t be measured but I think there will be less scrutiny. In the same way that people have rediscovered the power of TV advertising because of the hard-to-measure emotive power and halo effects on other channels, “digital branding” will be considered more of a ‘no-brainer’ because it’s obvious it drives purchase intent across all channels, even if that’s hard to measure (or not cost effective to do so).

4. Business models – continued innovation and disruption

There are a lot of interesting things happening around business models, driven largely by the impact of digital, that I’m looking forward to tracking over the year. Among those:

  • Business models which radically disrupt existing value chains, typically by involving customers much more directly in the business model itself. For example Naked Wines (wine retailing) or Made.com (furniture retailing). This is not ‘social media’, it is ‘(social) business’.
  • “Pubtailing”. This is the blend of publishing and retailing. Many publishers need to sell stuff to fix their broken business models, whether subscriptions, apps, content, affiliate revenues etc. and so need retailing skills. At the same time retailers need to have skills in content, community and social media which publishers are typically better at. Also, many e-commerce sites (and stores) increasingly need to look at advertising (i.e. a publisher skillset) revenue streams to continue to grow, or make up for the fact that the likes of Amazon, Google or Apple might be hijacking their sales (largely via m-commerce in store). My post on The “unbundling” of the shopping experience across channels: implications for retailers talks more about this.
  • Virtual currencies and “gamification” – obviously coupons are currently hot but the whole area of gaming, virtual goods and currencies, should make for some interesting business models this year. More on gamification in point 11 below.

5. Organisational structures, teams and infrastructure – not sexy, but vital

We can talk all we want but, as I said in point 1, in the end we have to execute. And that requires the right talent supported with the right processes and technology infrastructure. Following a few things I’ll be expecting this year:

  • No let up in the war for (digital) talent. If our digital marketing jobs board is anything to go by, 2010 saw a BIG increase in recruitment (and salaries) for digital specialists. I don’t see this changing in 2011 almost irrespective of what happens macro-economically.
  • Many more agencies, and corporations, will move to a more ‘connected / networked’ model with a greater use of freelance specialists on demand. This is obviously made more possible by remote working and globalisation. It also allows for more flexibility and greater cost control.
  • There will be an ongoing dissolution of organisational silos as ‘digital marketing’ becomes just ‘marketing’ but this will take time and there is still a need for digital specialists. And there is a need for increased speed and agility. Along with the ‘connected/networked’ organisational model, expect to hear more about “hub and spoke” or “matrix” organisational models.
  • Social becomes part of the job description not the job title” – our blog got there before I could… although I also think that large organisations will probably have people in their (digital) marketing teams who have ‘Facebook’ in their job title.
  • A rise in recruitment of editorial / content resources (see point 6 below)
  • (Web….) Engineers / Techies / Developers will not only become more valued but they will increasingly be headhunted, and employed by, ‘creative’ organisations e.g. ad agencies. This is principally because these businesses are increasingly about understanding and manipulating data (think ad exchanges, demand side platforms etc.).
  • Cloud computing is clearly the big one in terms of IT infrastructure both internally and anything customer facing. SalesForce’s database.com is a fascinating play and shows just how big we might think in terms of the transformation of “IT”.

6. Content strategy / Content marketing – the King is back

The rise of ‘content marketing’ is well documented and for all sorts of reasonably obvious reasons: sometimes driven by a desire for greater ‘engagement’, sometimes as a form of linkbuilding for SEO, sometimes to save customer service costs, sometimes just to drive traffic, sometimes as part of a move away from ‘bought media’ to ‘earned (or owned) media’, sometimes because of a more fundamental change in business model (see ‘pubtailing’ in point 4 above).

Many have also realised that it’s difficult to fuel the flames of “social media”, or “engagement”, without content in the broadest sense – including apps, video etc. And, of course, it’s not just about content *creation* but content *curation*.

I predict a rise in “online customer publishing” (most people call it ‘contract publishing’… except those who work in that industry), and a rise in content licensing and syndication, and a rise in the “internationalisation” of content (including translation), and a rise in internal online publishing or content/asset management teams (even at banks, retailers, travel companies etc.), and a big demand for lowish-cost short-form video content for online use.

Specifically, I think the kind of content most in demand will be a) ‘smart’ in as much as it can be re-used and repackaged in as many ways as possible (think metadata, formats etc.) to extract the greatest value from it and b) ‘evergreen’ in as much as it won’t be short-lasting ‘advertising campaign’ type content but content with a longer shelf life e.g. guides, practical information, tools etc. (also good for linkbuilding and thereby SEO).

This should be good news for those journalists and TV folk who may be looking for work, having seen their former employers’ business models failing. And it is better news for publishers and content owners generally, as well as related providers like translation services.

7.Data is the new oil – let’s work on refining it

The buzz phrase from our 2010 Future of Digital Marketing conference was ‘data is the new oil’. I get nerdily excited by data and love a good API as much as the next man. Where to start with what’s interesting with data in 2011? A few things I’m excited by:

  • Attribution modelling – OK, we’ve talked about it long enough now. Let’s see more examples of us actually doing it well rather than talking about it.
  • “Social CRM” – broadly speaking how we can take “social data” and apply and use it intelligently across the whole business online and offline. For example, the Facebook ‘Like’ as a new customer profile data attribute – how might we use that in our DM campaigns? How do we take Open Graph data, or similar data sources, and use it not just online but offline?
  • Joining up online and offline data – all sorts happening in this area e.g. the Yahoo/Nectar Consumer Connect project, the recent Starcom Mediavest and DirecTV deal, the whole world of coupons generally (where offline redemption of an online coupon, increasingly via mobile devices, gives all sorts of interesting cross-channel measurement opportunities) etc. etc.
  • Retargeting – privacy issues notwithstanding, I expect we’ll see more retargeting in online marketing and, indeed, it will extend into other areas e.g. myThings focus on retargeting but for the affiliate sector. I also expect to see the greatest relative growth in the use of retargeting data to come from ‘owned’ media rather than bought media i.e. not so much retargeting for offsite advertising but retargeting of users on your site, or via email, or social media etc.
  • Sentiment – accurate and useful sentiment analysis has been a hard nut to crack for all the various sentiment analysis solutions out there. But it isn’t going away. And, indeed, it seems highly likely that sentiment will become an increasingly important factor in search engine optimisation which in turns means sentiment as a data point could suddenly become very valuable indeed.
  • “Lead nurturing” – some of the B2B guys are actually starting to do some pretty clever stuff in this space. Maybe B2C online can learn from B2B online for a change.
  • APIs, semantic stuff, Web 3.0… – just too much to write about it to cover here but some really interesting stuff starting to happen, from governments starting to open up rich data sources to organisations making intelligent commercial uses of web services to open up new business models and/or markets.


Privacy will be a big topic for 2011 and beyond. Cookies, digital fingerprinting, the FTC, Ofcom, the EU, tracking, behavioural targeting, Facebook… however, it’s hard to make specific predictions in this area and I’ll leave that to those who cover this area best, like the industry bodies and trade associations.

9.User experience – getting all touchy feely

All sorts of interesting developments likely during 2011. Among them I’d pick out the following:

  • The “Humanisation” of the user experience online. Broadly speaking I’m expecting the online user experience to become more and more ‘human’. Whether that’s through the use of live chat, virtual environments, co-browsing, streaming of live events, virtual sales characters, much improved personalisation etc. As part of the integration of online and offline we need to bring more of the human/emotive/experiential power of offline to online. The iPhone, and now iPad, have brought a whole new human sense (touch) to interactive design. I expect to see more of this human/emotional/sensual connection embedded into interactive experiences with gestural interfaces being the most obvious.
  • The rise and rise of video. I’m particularly interested in the use of video for commerce (read Why online retailers need product videos for more), including the embedding of commerce links (e.g. French Connection’s Youtique) and also new tools and platforms emerging to allow marketers to manipulate and distribute video much more easily (e.g. buto.tv). This promises to bring the “world of TV” to SMEs in the same way that paid search has enabled SMEs to become advertisers on a level-ish playing field with bigger companies.
  • Evolution of search look and feel. In 2010 we had things like Google Instant but there are all sorts of further developments and experiments I’m looking forward to in 2011 as the search giants battle it out. Read our Expert opinion: What’s ahead for paid search in 2011? for more details.
  • Plenty of new ad formats and technology in the pipeline… not just from the likes of AOL (see Project Devil) and Apple but all sorts of niches. Read Three content-based ad units to watch in 2011 for further ideas. I’m sure Google are limbering up for further big announcements in this space too.
  • HTML5. It’s early days for HTML5 so noticeable changes may take until 2012 to come through but there is huge potential here to noticeably improve the interactive experience and make it richer, more immersive, more intuitive, more fun, responsive and engaging.
  • Fonts. I expect to see more creative use of fonts in web design over 2011 thanks to the likes of Google Font Directory, Typekit, Fontdeck etc.
  • Mobile… it feels like the early days of interactive design at the moment for mobile, including mobile web and mobile apps. Loads of change and learnings in the mobile user experience to come this year as this medium continues to grow and change. Our Mobile E-commerce Best Practice Guide looks at various aspects of the mobile commerce user experience.

10.Social media – becomes social business

This is another broad topic, but below a few highlights for what I expect in 2011:

  • “Social media” will increasingly become less just about sales or marketing but will touch all parts of the business. All businesses will become ‘social’ over time. I’m still predicting ‘social media’ will go the way of ‘web 2.0’ as a term in the coming years – see my post Death to ‘social media’ and seven other crazy ideas for more on this.
  • Co-creation and crowdsourcing will become more prevalent, especially for product development and customer service.
  • Customer service will become a lot more ‘social’ for a lot more companies – actually doing it rather than talking about it.
  • Crisis management (the world of PR) will become much more of a social media exercise than it currently it is – read Q&A: Edelman’s Monte Lutz on why PR firms are “owning” social for more on this.
  • Facebook (and possibly others like LinkedIn and Twitter) become their own “channels”. Some of these properties / platforms are big enough and complex enough that I predict we’ll have specialist job titles, teams, agencies, technologies and services which work solely on them. There are already specialist Facebook research services (e.g. Socialbakers), specialist Facebook ad management technologies (e.g. ONE media manager, Papaya etc.), Facebook enterprise platform management services (e.g. Buddy Media) etc.
  • I think location + social media will be bigger in 2011. It started in 2010 and Facebook Places will no doubt help accelerate things. But it’s clear how live events (location) and social media can combine very powerfully, just as it’s clear how coupons, group buying and location can combine. Google may have failed in many of its social media attempts (Orkut, Buzz etc.) and in its recent bid for Groupon, but I predict big attempts by Google to dominate location (primarily via mobile) and embed ‘social’ in this.
  • People resources will continue to be the biggest challenge in social media (see eMarketer’s Resources Are Now a Big Issue for Social Media Marketers which references our own Social Media and Online PR Report)

11.Gamification – we wanna have fun

Gaming, social gaming, game theory, badges, reward mechanisms, game mechanics… it’s fast hotting up as a new-ish realm for marketers of all types to look at.

Games are engaging, games can drive loyalty, games can make money directly or indirectly, games work well on mobile as well as web as well as TV etc, games are already BIG business (witness the likes of Zynga and American Express’ deal with them, EA’s acquisition of Playfish, Disney’s acquisition of Playdom and so on). What’s not to like?

Get inspired about gaming and the impact it will have on marketing, especially digital, with the following:

12.Biddable media – everything’s up for sale, right now

Broadly speaking I believe all media will move over time to exist in a biddable form. This will be made possible by all media becoming digital (including TV, ‘print’, radio, billboards etc.), and by platform players (primarily Google at the moment) enabling the marketplace via exchanges and tools/services with a broad range of creative, targeting and payment options.

Most exciting for me is the way this will open up all media to organisations of all sizes in a way that has not yet existed.

Specifically, for 2011, I believe we’ll see this most in evidence with online display advertising becoming more like PPC in the way it is bought, measured, serviced.

For more on all this read What does 2011 hold for display and demand side marketing? and also our recent Online Media Report.

13.Real time – comin’ atcha

Real time is obviously a good one to follow biddable media. But it’s not just real time in display advertising, it’s about the speed of everything getting… erm, faster.

Specifically, I expect 2011 to see the need for speed evident in the following:

  • Publishing and content generally. If you look at your analytics, you look at how social media works, you look at content distribution and sharing patterns, you look at SEO and the way links accrue… it is clear (at least, to me) that if Content is King, then Speed-to-publish is Queen.
  • Crisis management, reputation, PR. Shit happens very quickly online. You need to act fast, even if it is only to say you are working on an answer. Corporations and their agencies need to act (even) faster in this area.
  • Customer service. Companies need to respond *much quicker* to inbound customer enquiries online. Not just the ‘social media’ ones but, in particular, email enquiries where response times are typically still woefully bad.
  • ‘Search’. It’s in apostrophes because it’s not user-initiated search but ‘pushed’ search, so not search as we traditionally know it. Read up more about how Google intends to get pushy and how this could evolve the search experience in a real time way.

14. Mobile – mobile web overtakes apps

Obviously mobile is experiencing huge growth but I’m strangely less excited about it than most – perhaps, because like social media, I hear so much about it but see relatively little really good stuff happening.

I think in-app payments will become much bigger in 2011; there are some big possible things afoot in NFC (near-field communications) wallets. However I think we’ll probably have to endure much gnashing of teeth around the challenges of mobile measurement (reminiscent of ‘measuring the ROI of social media’ from 2010).

For me the really interesting thing about mobile isn’t mobile as a ‘channel’, or indeed apps (which will continue to service specific needs), but the ‘mobile web’. Or just the web as I like to call it, which is obviously mobile as well as PC as well as iPad, TV and so on. I believe when HTML5 starts to gain momentum that much more focus will be on the ‘mobile web’ than apps and we’ll get much better at delivering the right experience (which for mobiles will be very app-like) at the right time for the right person tailored for the device.

For 2011 I expect to see this starting to happen mostly in the form of the growth in m-commerce and mobile search and companies creating mobile-optimised app-like, but web, experiences. Have a read of Mobile commerce: ten reasons to choose the web over apps and the reviews of the mobile sites of Marks & Spencer,  Rightmove, Autotrader etc.

15. Devices – phones, tablets and e-readers

Obviously there will be all sorts of developments in the mobile device and OS space with Google, Apple, Nokia, Microsoft etc. all fighting it out. And tablet computing will also grow hugely spurred by the iPad but fast joined by Samsung, Dell and everyone else.

2011 is likely to be the year that e-readers finally become much more mainstream after years of somewhat faltering advances. This is of particular importance to the book publishing world, of course.

However, the big battle I’m fascinated to see play out in 2011 in this space is Google vs. Amazon given Google Books – when I do a search, for example, on the aforementioned “Game-based Marketing” book by Gabe zichermann I get Google Books come up as first result with Amazon ranking only third. That’s got to get the folks at Amazon wondering about their no-doubt-enormous PPC spend with Google?

16. Localisation – finds its place in marketing

Again, there is lots to be excited about in localisation for 2011. Foursquare, and the concept of ‘checking in’ to a location, made waves in 2010 as did Facebook with the announcement of Facebook Places, Twitter with its location support and so on.

However, there are two main things that interest me in terms of localisation.

One is what I call the ‘internet of things’. This is essentially about IP-enabling physical objects. Suddenly things have a web life. They are on the grid. Have a look at EVRYTHNG for example. I doubt this will be big in 2011 but it will become big and not just for the obvious B2B applications like logistics. Think of the acclaimed Jimmy Choo Trainer Hunt campaign using Foursquare to hunt down a pair of physical trainers and what might be possible with the ‘internet of things’ to come… some fascinating joined up online/offline marketing opportunities here.

But my main feeling about localisation is that this is an area which Google looks set to focus big firepower on and I don’t see anyone else with much hope of competing. I’ve long predicted Google would bring about the demise of directory businesses (like Yell, Thomson etc.), but I’m not sure things look good long term for the likes of Yelp (and other user review sites, even the mighty TripAdvisor), and, dare I say it, Groupon (and other sites offering increasingly localised deals, offers, coupons).

We know that Google is massively investing in mobile and we know that Google know more than anyone about search trends on mobile devices (though they’re not telling us all the juicy detail). A large proportion of mobile search is ‘local’ in nature.

We also know Google is looking at pushing search results to users based on their location (on their phones presumably); we know that Google Places is ramping up considerably; we know Google has also launched Hotpot, a platform where Google users can rate and review local services and these reviews and ratings then feed into Google Places, Google’s business listings that appear on Google Maps.

But what is most interesting is how Google appears to be now using its dominant search position, and the real estate on the search results pages, to skyrocket its dominance in ‘local’. You’ve probably noticed how much space is taken up by local listings at the top of natural search results? You’ve probably also noticed the prominence Google is giving to reviews in its natural search results? You may have noticed how Google Maps’ interface is changing subtly e.g. when you now print off a map the local listings ads are now included at the top of the printed page whether you want them or not?

I think it won’t be long before, for many businesses, particularly ‘local’ smaller ones, their Google Business Listing *will be their website*. They’ll use biddable media of all forms (search, display, maps, pay per call etc.) to drive traffic to their Google Pages where there will also be coupon/offer mechanisms offered by Google, that can of course be sent to, and redeemed on, your (Google / Android) phone.

I think the above will happen much more quickly than people realise, indeed this year. Only a few weeks ago TripAdvisor confirmed that it blocks Google Places from sourcing its hotel reviews, saying it doesn’t think Google Places “benefits users at this time with the experience of selecting the right hotel”. Mmm…. I wonder why.

17. Connected TV – and finally…

Convergence, WebTV, IPTV… it has been talked about for years. Indeed, internet-enabled TV has been around for years. But what is now much interesting is the potential of *web*-enabled TV. Specifically, an era which promises to make the TV device and the fabled ‘living room’ a platform open to all and based on standards. So no longer such an expensive, and controlled, medium, but an “open” channel more like the web.

I predict 2011 will mostly see lots of talk on the subject, and lots of commercial and technical wrangling around standards and agreements, and it won’t be until 2012 that things really start to happen. And no coincidence that 2012 is the year of the Olympics. You can be sure that YouView, in the UK, will want to be absolutely certain that the 2012 Olympics are first the ‘Connected TV’ Olympics and there are plenty of brands who will be just as keen to jump on that bandwagon.

The big complication with connected TV will remain how differently it works across countries, or areas, globally. The UK and much of mainland Europe already appear to have diverged in the standards and technologies they are backing, for example.

While the initial take up and focus of connected TV is likely to be “catch up TV” via an iPlayer-esque interface there are lots of other areas of interest to watch and think about in 2011, for example:

  • T(elevision)-commerce? Tesco have already signalled their commitment to bringing their digital shopping experience to TVs.
  • EPG vs. Search interfaces? The likes of YouView are committed to a way of finding programs via a browseable ‘electronic programming guide (EPG)’ which brings up all sorts of intriguing debates around who should ‘rank’ where (which Sky have been making money out of for years); Google TV, not surprisingly, backs a search-based interface. Which will win out?
  • The technical approval process. YouView promises to be open to anyone. So, for example, we at Econsultancy quite fancy putting videos of our events on TV for delegates, or those who missed the event, to watch. And, indeed, the TV should become a big opportunity for millions of other small companies. But how will the technical approval process work? How painful and onerous and slow might it be given some peoples’ experiences of Apple’s App Store approval process?

That’s more than enough for now! What do you think?

Photo credit: uniquefrequency via Flickr.