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“What is old is new again” May Be the Most Surprising Trend in Marketing in 2019

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Believe it or not, we have once again come full circle on another year. Marketing prognosticators are polishing their crystal balls of future things to come and declaring how technology will revolutionize our channels of communication with consumers in 2019.  Last year’s predicted trends are being measured against reality, and the process is becoming akin to scoring a competitive game of sport.

As with so many games in life the results of our collective efforts to predict the future of marketing tactics and activities are never completely aligned with perfection. Shifting consumer expectations and the response to accepting new communication technologies make the playing field difficult to read and an unsuited environment for calling a perfect game. All we can really do is take stock of what is working, evaluate why some predictions failed, make necessary adjustments to the strategy for 2019 and move forward. The most successful predictions of marketing in 2018 appeared to be offered by those who envisioned a broader and less specific set of outcomes.

“While some industries have embraced the paradigm shift in how they reach, engage, and mobilize new customers, I predict that we will see even more attention and focus being placed on getting the marketing mix correct,” predicted Julie Gareleck, CEO & Managing Partner, Junction Creative Solutions. The year’s performance appears to have been another example that absolutes and inevitabilities rarely pan out. So what appears likely to work best in 2019?

Video Marketing’s performance will continue to align with the previously predicted game plan. A Cisco forecast indicates that video will make up 85% of Internet traffic by 2020. While posts with digital images and content continue to capture a significant audience, video is generating 135% more organic reach for marketers. Once seen as an opportunity for only the most well-healed, larger players, video is becoming more economical for those smaller marketers who can benefit from projecting an emotional and appealing story. According to The Wall Street Journal, “the usage of online video has increased by 10 times between 2011 and 2016. Over the next two years, the trend has only intensified and is unlikely to slow down.”

Automating the marketing process to work more efficiently and smarter will continue to pay dividends of better understanding customers.  Scott Brinker, Founder of Chief MarTec, said, “As much amazing marketing software as there is today, there is still an opportunity for new ideas. Marketing should be — and can be — better.”  Automation will be seen as another set of marketing tools that enhances the acquisition of new customers.

Smart marketers will continue to develop an expanded inbound approach to connecting with their market segments. Content marketing, automation, social media and multichannel marketing can be coordinated to create a brand reputation that is authentic and valuable to customers. Consumers are more often placing trust in those they know. Quality, reputable content will prevail over stock ads in the coming year. If one were to bet on an absolute, a continuing utilization of inbound marketing tactics is a wise wager for 2019.

Once predicted to be rendered obsolete; direct mail, print advertising and brick and mortar sellers are showing some unexpected resilience in the digital age. Not unlike wax LP’s return to popularity among a niche market of music lovers in a world of digital recordings, old school marketing tactics are finding success with consumers who are tired of the incessant barrage of digital media noise and those who long to revisit a traditional physical shopping experience. Players on the field of brick and mortar will need to focus on creating entertaining events and an enticing experience for their target markets.

Who would have thought it: consumers like getting mail, even if it was once thought to be junk? Print advertising is not dead. While a small and much diminished portion of overall marketing spend, print is finding its rightful place in the digital world. In the field of marketing where a fast, bang, digital technology appears to arise every minute, the most surprising trend in marketing for 2019 may just be “what is old is new again.”

Prepare Your eCommerce Website for a Happy Holiday Selling Season

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Would a winning team come to the plate in the World Series expecting to win without their best equipment? The answer from most sports enthusiasts and players alike would be, “certainly not!” But retailers and sellers across the industry spectrum may be coming to the plate in the biggest game of the year woefully unprepared for a big win. The holiday season is marketers’ most important opportunity to win big or go home, yet many players are failing to adequately coordinate ecommerce outlets for victory.

This year, online sales have risen by 46% and with more than 60 percent of retailers showing inventory on their website, it is critical to be ready for all the increased holiday shopping ahead. For a website to be most effective it must be aesthetically relevant, be at the peak of its performance and timely in its content. The worst time to realize that your marketing hardware isn’t loaded properly is when you have competition within your sight. Now is the time to focus on improving the performance of your website’s existing functionality.

First and foremost, your website must be prepared to handle and respond to the increased amount of traffic that is experienced around the holiday season. With their busy schedules consumers are impatient with websites that are slow to function and deliver accurately on their commands. Studies have revealed that websites that fail to load in just three seconds produce increased bounce rates. It is time to test your server’s ability to respond to your customers’ expectations and take measures to improve the site’s performance.

Decorating brick and mortar stores for the busiest selling season is a holiday tradition. Retailers spend millions of dollars each year in an attempt to set a festive mood in hopes of encouraging shoppers to spend with them. A website should be no different. Decorating your site with the sounds and sights of the season will generate consumer interest and appeal. Offer something dynamic and unique with your content and modify it often to accommodate special events and promote shopping incentives. Utilize plug-ins that automate the processes of timely scheduling and initiating content modification. Focus on intently delivering on your promises. A gift received the day after Christmas is a memory rarely forgotten.

“In today’s world, if you’re not on mobile, you don’t exist.” More consumers look to mobile devices to research products and services before making a purchasing decision.  By 2021, it has been estimated that consumers will spend $152 billion directly on mobile phones, and over the next few years mobile phones will influence $1.4 trillion in offline sales. A strategy to align your online presence across all mobile devices is critical.

Secure your website! Loyal customers may forgive an occasional mistake or inconvenience caused by unforeseen and uncontrollable calamity, but mess up a financial transaction or mishandle consumer data and you may be forever unforgiven. The holiday selling season brings out the best in many people, but it also brings out bad actors in greater numbers who are willing to victimize your customers and your business to advance their personal gain. Ensure that all your software, plug-ins, connections and passwords are up to date, and invest in the latest versions of anti-malware as a first line of defense.

Prepare your eCommerce platform now for a happy holiday selling season!

Adaptive Risk Advisors Reveals New Online Presence

When Adaptive Risk Advisors (ARA) was formed earlier this year, co-founder Miles Parker’s goal was to create a full service company focused on providing customized insurance solutions for high net worth business owners and individuals. Specializing in Commercial Property and Casualty, Workers’ Compensation, Fleet Vehicle, Liquor Liability, Cyber, and Luxury Home and Auto insurance coverage, ARA is a full service, independent agency focused on serving clients who desire a value-added relationship, competitive insurance rates and the best policies for unsurpassed price, coverage, and service. Based in Raleigh, North Carolina, Adaptive Risk Advisors is strategically located to provide services to Wake, Durham, Chatham, and surrounding counties.

“We believe personal contact and service will become the cornerstone of our success,” says Parker. “Our focus is on establishing client relationships rather than on client transactions. ARA’s success will be measured by our clients choosing us because of their belief in our ability to meet or exceed their expectations of price, service, and expertise.”

Junction Creative Solutions (Junction), an award-winning hybrid agency, was selected to design and develop an online experience to support the growing business.

“At Junction we share the belief that forming mutually beneficial relationships with clients is essential to business success and that honesty and trust are foundational to a company’s continued growth,” says Julie Gareleck, Junction’s Founder and CEO. “We appreciate the opportunity to be selected to work with Adaptive Risk Advisors on the launch of their website. We look forward to following their success!”

Adaptive Risk Advisors is ready to provide customized and affordable insurance solutions. Their knowledgeable, friendly staff can empathize with clients and their needs and create policies that meet or exceed their expectations. Call 984-212-8000 or visit https://adaptiveriskadvisors.com/ to learn more about Adaptive Risk Advisors.

A Happy Holiday Sales Season to Come

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The season for gift giving is fast approaching, and retailers from hometown America to online retailers way out in cyber space are looking for the gift of increased sales and black ink bottom lines. The 2017 holiday selling season was the biggest and best since 2011. Sales in the U.S. grew 5.5% in brick and mortar sellers over previous years and eCommerce tallied a 17.8% increase in online sales. Last year’s record performance has prognosticators either cautiously optimistic or pie-in-the-sky giddy over the coming 2018 holiday season.

Due to very good economic news, record low unemployment and strong consumer confidence, retailers are in line to receive a favorable uptick in sales in 2018.   Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (Deloitte), a leading global consulting agency, says this year’s retail November to December sales could top $1.10 trillion, an increase over 2017’s $1.05 trillion performance. “We think most retailers will have a good holiday season if they have a distinctive value proposition,” says Rod Sides, vice chairman of Deloitte’s U.S. retail and distribution practice. “We think off-price will continue to do well, and there will be a rebound in luxury.” eCommerce sales are expected to rise as much as 22 percent through the holidays, according to Deloitte.

Global consulting firm AlixPartners is being a bit more measured in its sales predictions for this year, calling for retail sales growth of just 3.1 to 4.1 percent this holiday season. “The health of retail is still very strong, but 2017 will be a tough year to follow,” said Roshan Varma, a director in AlixPartner’s retail practice. “Last year was a bit of an anomaly, and we are expecting more of a typical holiday season this year.” Meanwhile, The National Retail Federation (NRF) is positioning its predictions more centered in the bell shaped statistical curve.

The NRF is forecasting an increase in retail sales of 4.3 to 4.8 percent over last year, resulting in as much as $720.89 billion dollars in holiday sales. “Our forecast reflects the overall strength of the industry,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Thanks to a healthy economy and strong consumer confidence, we believe that this holiday season will continue to reflect the growth we’ve seen over the past year. While there is concern about the impacts of an escalating trade war, we are optimistic that the pace of economic activity will continue to increase through the end of the year.” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said, “Last year’s strong results were thanks to growing wages, stronger employment and higher confidence, complemented by anticipation of tax cuts that led consumers to spend more than expected. With this year’s forecast, we continue to see strong momentum from consumers as they do the heavy lifting in supporting our economy. The combination of increased job creation, improved wages, tamed inflation and an increase in net worth all provide the capacity and the confidence to spend.”

Regardless of which numbers prevail, consumers are tiring of the shopping experience and will be looking for convenience when it comes to browsing. They will be rewarding retailers who provide improved checkout times when making their purchases; whether in store or online. Early shopping (Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday week) will garner 37 percent of total U.S. holiday retail sales. Consumer sales made through mobile devices will account for more than $35.9 billion in the United States, with voice command technology accounting for 3.3 percent of total gift-giving purchases.

Happy holiday sales to all!

A Responsive Web Design Can Determine the Effectiveness of Your Website

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Internet access from mobile devices now represents 63 percent of all traffic in the United States. Mobile now has more total page views than desktop. If your company has not adequately modified your website to function consistently across multiple sized device screens, the time to do so is now.  In 2019, mobile advertising will represent 72 percent of all U.S. advertising spending, and with 83 percent of mobile device users indicating that a seamless website experience across all devices is important, it is imperative that a marketer’s web-presence is optimized for mobile.  A poor mobile presence can make an organization appear unprofessional and out of sync with a web savvy consumer.

Responsive Web Design (RWD), an approach to creating a website that allows it to work on any device; whether it’s a mobile phone, tablet, TV or a laptop, is mostly credited to Ethan Marcotte, an independent web designer and author who in 2010 said, “Rather than tailoring disconnected designs to each of an ever-increasing number of web devices, we can treat them as facets of the same experience. We can [make our] designs […] more adaptive to the media that renders them.”  Today, a responsive web design can determine the effectiveness of a website. A recent study by Tyton Media, found that 94 percent of people cited web design as the reason they mistrusted or rejected a website. A responsive website design increases the chances that users will stay longer and engage more with a web experience.

Three fundamental aspects of a responsive web design are fluid layouts, responsive images and media queries. Fluid layouts allow a website to automatically adjust fixed widths to expand and contract to display consistently on all screen sizes. This eliminates visual distortions and jumbled text and promotes a smooth and seamless presentation regardless of the device. Responsive websites have also been shown to have a greater likelihood of ranking higher in search engine results pages.

Making images adaptive and responsive is a very important step in creating a responsive web design because it can affect both a website’s speed and its search engine friendliness. The ability for images to grow and shrink with a user’s browser to fit the web page will result in shorter page loading times, particularly when accessed on devices with 3G or slower connections. Media queries tailor a web page’s representation to devices with screens of any size and allow for specific rules for hiding, growing, moving or showing content, resulting in a better user experience.

With more consumers spending a majority of time on the internet, it is critical that web designers create excellent, workable and responsive websites that focus on design, usability and accessibility across all devices. A well designed and responsive website will increase consumers’ trust and generate customer traffic and increased conversion rates.

For more information on how Junction Creative Solutions’ (Junction) developers and designers can help make your website more responsive, call 678-686-1125 today.

Instagram Can be a Powerful Tool in Your Marketing Arsenal

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Launched in 2010, Instagram continues to grow at a remarkable pace. Just a little more than 7 years of age, the visual social media platform has surpassed 800 million monthly users and is not only attracting individual social conversations but is proving its worthiness to marketers looking to grow their brand’s awareness and showcase its products. With 51 percent of users indicating that they visit the site daily and 70 percent using the platform to search brands, Instagram has become a friendly, authentic method to connect with potential consumers. With ninety percent visual content, standing out in the crowd of 800 million users can be a daunting task for marketing professionals accustomed to relying on wordsmithing skills to get their message across. But the mostly wordless approach is becoming one of the most effective social media networks.

Generating increased brand awareness and building customer loyalty to drive increased sales requires a defined strategy based on consumer demographics, behaviors and identifying key motivations to purchase. “Logic persuades but feelings motivate, influencing a customer’s intention to purchase over anything else. According to a study, purely emotional campaigns were twice as likely to generate profit gains then those with a rational approach.”

It shouldn’t be a surprise that great content is at the core of a great social media campaign. With Instagram, building a great message is all about building a visual narrative where limited prose reflects and validates the image. While it is tempting to fall back on the tried and true adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, it is also true that most marketers struggle to communicate in a visual medium. Success with Instagram is derived from generating engaging content. The process begins with learning as much as possible about the medium, how customers are using the platform and understanding how the competition is succeeding in the space.

Create an expansive collection of unique content around a common theme and your desired persona. Be prepared to make adjustments, but be consistent with the message. Be creative but focused and invest in visual editing tools and experienced professional skill-sets when necessary. Engage socially with users and influencers who have already built a trusting relationship with their followers to better understand what is driving them to be interested in your brand. Use memorable and engaging hashtags and be sure to include a link to your website. Invite fellow users to share your content. Don’t miss an opportunity to call for action. Establish a set of reliable metrics to measure and frequently test your efforts’ performance.

Instagram can be a powerful tool in your marketing arsenal, but with all the potential benefits comes some risks. In a hyper-sensitive, socially correct landscape, creativity can often lead to misinterpretation. As with all social website platforms, care should be taken to avoid turning a positive message into a plethora of negative responses.

According to Instagram, 75% of users who see a business post take action. It is a medium that promises to continue to grow in size and effectiveness. Be prepared to adapt to changing trends.  Take advantage of new tools and features that create opportunities to interface with an ever expanding Instagram community, and resolve not to fall behind your competition.

The Importance of Design in Developing an Effective Website

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As with many aspects of marketing, effective website development is a combination of technology and creative design. Conversion, the point where a user becomes a paying customer, requires attention to not only the technology but also a combination of creative design attributes that guide a user to making a purchasing decision. Human behavioral studies have revealed that 75 percent of website users will make a value judgement about a brand’s credibility based on design, and 94 percent of first impressions about a marketer are made based on design-related factors.

To convert shoppers into paying customers, it is critical to invest wisely in website designers who are experienced in developing an effective design. An effective design will make consumers feel welcome and comfortable, motivate them to take action and present important information concisely.

Color can play a major role in establishing a site’s personality and increase click-through rates when call-to-action buttons are red or green. The use of video can increase conversion rates significantly, and keeping all things simple and easy to find outperforms complex and overly creative. A brand’s value proposition should be front and center. Forms and templates are best when short rather than long, and requests-for-information are most successful when less rather than more is requested. Less clutter and more white space results in less consumer stress. Quality content wins out over quantity.

A recent study conducted by The Harvard Review found that trustworthiness is the biggest motivator for customers to make a purchase. Users want to feel safe, comfortable and at ease. Straightforward and easy-to-navigate signs result in users having a more positive experience, making them more likely to complete a purchase.

Goran Paunovic of Community Voice and a Forbes Agency Council member says, “In my experience, uncovering the ideal design strategy for a company begins by understanding the deeper roots of a business — its founding vision, core beliefs, user personas, differentiating factors, company goals and problems solved, to name just a few.  Designers, marketers and strategists working together can make these experiences seamless by considering the context of use and what differentiates the brand from its competition.”

“As the marketing landscape changes and consumer expectations evolve, it’s critical to remain ahead of design trends,” says Julie Gareleck, founder and CEO of Junction Creative Solutions (Junction). “Our team of experienced website professionals has designed for some of the most trusted and recognizable brands, delivering comprehensive sets of solutions to support our clients’ sales and marketing efforts. Junction has amassed a team of designers recognized as some of the top creative talent in the industry.”

To learn more about how Junction’s implementation team is as adept in building small digital projects as it is in fully-executed, customizable platforms, call 678.686.1125.

How the GDPR Implementation is Impacting Marketers’ Relationship with Consumers

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Since its passage in May 2016, the European Union (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has resulted in many companies questioning the need to comply or what the far-reaching regulation would mean to their organizations. Initially many firms failed to understand the global reach of the regulation and that they would be required to respond to the demands of the rule. The GDPR creates strict requirements on how companies who collect, maintain and market consumers’ data must handle the use of that data. The regulation, which comes with severe financial penalties and liabilities when breached, went into effect in May of this year.

Under Article 4 of the GDPR, “any consent to the processing of data must be freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous.” Data subjects need to voluntarily submit data for processing. Consent should be guided by a clear, plain English explanation of what specific processing will be done, why its collection is necessary and who the data is shared with. If there will be multiple processes, consent is required for each. At the outset, many predicted that the sweeping regulations would be the end of marketing as it is generally practiced, particularly digital marketing, but many others believed that the new regulatory environment would simply rid the marketing landscape of poor marketing practices and less-than-honest practitioners.

While migration to the GDPR requirements have been a challenge, progress has been made for companies who recognized the importance of compliance. Now four months into the launch, major changes among marketing professionals have occurred. Previous conduct of buying email lists, pre-ticked consent boxes and convoluted terms and conditions are becoming activities of the past. So how do consumers, or subjects as they are known in the EU, feel about the new data handling regulations?

A survey commissioned by Marketing Week and performed by Toluna, indicates that 57% of people feel
that they better understand how companies are using their data, but merely 27% of respondents feel that the overall experience with brands is better. “Most people (65%) believe GDPR has made no difference at all, while 8% suggest things have actually got worse.” With more than half of the respondents indicating that the GDPR has had no impact on them it may be that many consumers do not even know about the GDPR standards and what benefits the new rules may play in their digital lives.

Perhaps it is too early to effectively measure the impact of GDPR on companies’ marketing tactics or how consumers perceive brands’ handling and use of personal data. With a proliferation of media accounts of how some major organizations have mishandled customer data and trust in the past, well entrenched attitudes prevail. The GDPR is capable of having a positive impact on the consumer/marketer relationship for those organizations that embrace the opportunity. Only time will reveal the effectiveness of the best of intentions to resolve the past bad acts of data management.

The Technology that is Poised to Change the Way Businesses Interact with Consumers

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Chatbots, a computer program or artificial intelligence which can simulate a convincing conversation with humans, are predicted to be the latest technology to revolutionize many aspects of repetitive commercial and business functions. Typically used in dialog systems for various practical purposes, including customer service or information acquisition, Chatbots are poised to impact the customer service functions of just about every business. Artificial intelligence (AI), which continues to improve and become more conversational, is predicted to replace 16 percent of American jobs associated with customer service, sales and product education by the end of the decade.  According to Forrester’s 2018 predictions on the impact of AI on sales and service, more major brands will likely phase out email in favor of real-time, customer-agent communications like Chatbots and chat. But companies are being advised to put off eliminating humans in the call center; at least for now.

Current AI deployments still lack the basic capacity for the natural language comprehension and back-office integration necessary to completely replace those friendly human voices, but rapid improvements to the technology’s performance is on its way, and while millennials find conversing with AI more desirable than humans, other generations of consumers are slow to accept the machined personalities on the other end of the conversation.

“Millennials are accustomed to giving and receiving immediate feedback,” said Imran Tariq, a lead generation expert and the founder of Webmetrix Group. “When they want help or information, they’d much rather interact with Alexa or Google than read a manual or interact with a human being who likely has to search for the information as well. Bots can provide this immediate, human like response that millennials crave.”

Chatbots are achieving more meaningful interactions with people they are helping, becoming more intelligent, taking on more complex tasks and are helping consumers and employees become more efficient. Jordi Torras, CEO and founder of Inbenta Technologies Inc., an AI vendor of natural language processing tools says, “We have seen how chat and messaging is growing even faster than email as it takes over phone calls as a customer service channel.”  Could we be approaching the end of rude and poorly trained customer service representatives?

The future is looking up as the technologies that underpin AI continue to develop. The Chatbot market is growing rapidly and is expected to reach $1.25 billion by 2025. By 2020, Gartner Research indicates that consumers will handle 85% of business interactions without a human being involved, a shocking turn of events for those in commerce who could never have envisioned computers replacing personal relationships and human interactions with consumers.