Companies that succeed this year will focus on the digital channels – email, mobile, social, display, and the web – to forge lasting, individual relationships with their prospects and customers. 

Why? Consumers are opting-in their personal information for a reason. They want to be contacted with the right information, at the right time, and on their preferred channel.  

Digital marketers must adapt to drive increased engagement, retention and revenue. As we head into the “relationship era,” here are five trends to keep top of mind.                             

Relationship marketing gets more budget love

Today a relationship is the prerequisite for doing business. So why do so many marketers still pour most of their budget into anonymous mass marketing programs, hoping to convert people they simply don’t know? 

Marketers will increasingly focus their efforts on first building a relationship with a consumer and then starting to think about how to drive conversions.

By shifting the focus away from mass marketing, campaigns will not only be more relevant, they’ll also provide more opportunity to engage again and again.

Digital gets corner-office attention

Marketers like to reference the Gartner stat that CMOs will soon eclipse CIOs when it comes to technology spend. While these two roles will continue to work more closely together, the emerging stakeholder for digital marketers is the CEO. 

Why? Happy, engaged, repeat customers are the lifeblood of most companies – whether B2C or B2B.

As digital marketing becomes increasingly integral to maintaining long term customer relationships – and can provide the metrics to prove success – we’ll see the CEO become more involved in a company’s digital marketing investment and strategy.

Display becomes the new relationship channel

Display used to be all about acquisition. Buy a bunch of impressions and hope that someone you know nothing about clicks through. 

It doesn’t have to be that way anymore. New technology allows marketers to start thinking about display in a way similar to email or mobile messaging:  a tool to send highly individualized messages timed with key customer lifecycle events.

Marketers have a huge opportunity to start using customer data such as purchase history, browsing history, or category interests to target customers on third-party sites with display messages targeted especially for them, like customized discounts or special offers.

The risk-to-reward ratio for mobile marketing increases

Mobile phone are incredibly personal devices, so while the opportunities for mobile marketing are immense, it’s critical for marketers to take the time and effort to design and build great permission-based mobile experiences for their customers and prospects. 

Many marketers may think that mobile is an incredibly risky channel. It doesn’t have to be – if you take a relationship-based approach. Doing mobile marketing right requires a deep understanding of customer needs and interests, as well as the ability to deliver relevant messaging throughout the purchase process.

Size doesn’t matter when it comes to big data

Big data promises to offer a unified view of data patterns that will translate into actionable insights. 

That’s a big promise. Companies today are still drowning in data and, as a result, are missing the opportunity to make smarter, data-driven marketing decisions that boost engagement and ROI. Marketers need to stop obsessing over big data and start being strategic about leveraging the right data. 

And most of the time that data is a rather small subset, relative to the amount that’s being stored, staged, and left unused. Leveraging the right data has a big role for marketers who want to drive value from more personal, one-to-one relationships with their customers and best prospects.