Top 10 Internet Marketing Trends for 2012

I remember hearing from Larry Ellison that in 1999, business had not figured out how to use the Internet.  At first, I rejected the thought, but within a few minutes realized that we had a long way to go and I agreed with him at the time.  I often wonder if we’re figuring it out yet, and in 2011, and looking into 2012, I see a lot of innovations that make it a great time to be growing the e-business unit of most companies.

So let’s take a look at what 2012 has in store for us.

1. Content consumption, video and e-commerce surge on mobile devices. 

Mobile computing is changing the way we consume content.  This was the year I started watching all the seasons of Mad Men, but I watched them on my iPad through my NetFlix app.  I check the New York Times in the morning while I’m waking up.  I use an app that automatically starts the daily podcast “The Wall Street Journal This Morning” with Gordan Diehl as my alarm clock in the mornings.  I subscribed to my first magazine this year on my iTunes account.  And I bought more via online apps than I did via the internet.   Any good marketer knows that their behavior is a data point of one, but as I think about my changes in how I get my content and my goods, I see that the change is going on all around me.  Perhaps that’s why Google just bought a CHECK FACTS Motorola so that they can compete with the world’s largest Media company, (and this might surprise you), Apple.

2. Predictive Analytics is the NEXT BIG THING

And it’s here to stay!  Online experiences are going to deploy a lot more recommendations engines that integrate with wider and deeper data sets.  So if you like features on Amazon like “People Who Bought This Also Bought That”, then think of how digital marketers can deploy other hueristics behind the scenes.  For every one that you see, there are hundreds operating underneath the website that are helping to provide the “Minority Report” like experience around advertising.  Do you remember the scene where Tom Cruise enters the mall and he hears a  calm but robotic female voice that says “John Anderton, you could use a Guinness right now!”  These personalized advertisements might sound annoying, and spooky and perhaps they are, but they also work according to our experience so far.  A useful example would be YouTube’s showing you the “Most Popular Videos”, but what it is really showing is something closer to this: Most Popular Videos of Men in their 30’s from New York City, who have subscribed to YouTube videos similar to your subscription list and playlist”.  Oh, if you have a profile in Google+, then expect YouTube to use all of the information therein, including your High School, college, the type of dog you have, and words indicating that you hate a particular airline which they pulled from that Google+ app you connected to your Twitter account.   

3. Facebook apps and non-facebook controlled user experiences (luster lost for Facebook)

Now that we’ve had time to see how Facebook users begin to use it, we can clearly see that there are phases folks go through: They observe facebook a little, they join it, they go through a massive addiction stage collecting their friends from all of their networks, and then they move into a maintenance mode.  Facebook is over 800 million users now, and the network should hit over 1 billion in 2012.  The Network is the value behind Facebook, and they need to continue to allow other experiences to take advantage of the consolidated experience through Facebook apps.  But Facebook’s security for these apps is terrible and I for one don’t trust them.  If they can strengthen this perception, and get more developers to create experiences ranging from dating and matchmaking services to market research focus groups to finding volunteers that care about a cause, then I think we’ll see straighline use of Facebook from those users that are in Maintenance Mode.  

4. Internet Boycotts, Hacking as Activism is here to stay

Anonymous might be a group of programmers who wish to remain unknown, but their movement is anything but.  We saw the hackings of major ecommerce, email marketing providers, banks, government, and non-profits this year.   That list was just the list hacked for the purposes of Activism.  The amount of hacking now has reached a point where America’s four star general responsible for cyber-security has declared the SIPRNET (the secure internet used by the US Government) “Indefensible”.    I think we’ll see a backlash with enterprises going back to client server models in many industries.  The IT Security industry has niches for cloud computing that will boom.   Internet Marketers need to work closely with IT to ensure that their networks can withstand a Denial of Service Attack.

UPDATE:  As of the 2nd of February, we’ve already seen the largest Brazilian banks taken down by Anonymous as well as devious hacks into VeriSign. 

5. SaaS platforms go to the Enterprise

IT Budgets are constrained and are viewed as cost centers.  Marketing budgets are easily cut as well, but the CFO knows that if he reduces the CMO’s budget, that it will impact revenues in the months ahead.  So CMO’s have an opportunity to bring in SaaS relationships that support the Marketing function.  In the first generation of this trend we say Chief Marketing Officers signing for investments such as cloud based Customer Relationship Management solutions such as NetSuite and Salesforce.  In the 2nd generation, we saw the emergence of point solutions such as Spyfu for keyword research, or Brightedge or Conductor for SEO, or Exact Target, or Responsys or even for small businesses Constant Contact for Email Service Providers.  Now we have platforms from IBM and Adobe that integrate all of the data needed for a digital marketer.  Many of these platforms integrate with an ecosystem of other providers, so it’s possible to implement the Adobe offering and using the Genesis integration feature bolt on Responsys, Conductor and Salesforce within a few hours to extend the complete closed-loop view of the customer, from pre-click, to post-click to post-conversion experiences.

6. Look for more acquisitions of Software as a Service (SaaS) tools by the  Platforms from Email marketing, web analytics and pay per click leaders. 

WebTrends will finally get bought this year by an established player such as IBM, SAP or Oracle.  SEO tools such as Conductor and Bright Edge will begin preparing for an acquisition from IBM and Coremetrics.  Tools that link phone calls with web experiences, such as Mongoose Metrics will explode this year and are another category to watch.   The specialty players in digital marketing that are on the cloud are about to get consolidated by the big boys.

7.  The emergence of niche networks that actually are useful.

Facebook will be hacked in a bad way.   Imagine going to the Coca-Cola Facebook page only to see a hacked page calling for the end of Abortion.  We’re going to see Privacy Concerns and security breaches on company pages threaten the large social networks this year in response to an eventual and certain breach.   Many groups, organizations, alumni associations, and other networks that use Facebook will call for more diversified and more tailored features and switch platforms to gain added functionality and not be included in the largest social networking databases, which are the highly prized targets that hackers aspire to penetrate.  What may be interesting twist on this trend, is that many of these networks may very well use a single – sign token from Facebook.

8. Re-targeted ad networks continue to be acquired and rolled into larger solutions.  

We’re going to see a flurry of acquisitions made by large ad networks, email service providers, and PPC bid management tools to bolster their offering.  Look for Marin, Exact Target and Adobe to add this capability to their offering the way Responsys did in 2011.

9. SAP and Oracle decide to get on the dancefloor with online marketing platforms based on web analytics data.

Adobe and IBM welcome a third rival with SAP or Oracle making an effort to add web analytics to their portfolios through an acquisition of WebTrends.  If not WebTrends, SAP and Oracle will retaliate with their sales organizations to find offerings that allow them to compete with IBM’s Unica product and Adobe’s Insight product, both of which take advantage of BIG DATA.  BIG DATA becomes a strategic asset that merits funding.  Multi-channel marketing solutions with POS, TV advertising, call center making an effort to connect enterprise systems with analytics system.

10.   Your “Like” button becomes your competitors secret weapon. 

Facebook became the largest banner network and is here to stay.  But they did so because of their ability to segment user profiles and present the right ad to the right segment based on profile data.  But companies are figuring out that any corporate following they attain on facebook, the easier it is for any other company to market to them.  For example, if I did the online marketing for Comcast on Facebook, I would market special promotions to switch providers exclusively to anyone who has “Liked” Verizon on Facebook. 

Bonus trend:  The United States Presidential election of Barack Obama’s team will set new records for how a politician uses digital marketing.  Notwithstanding your politics, if you are a digital marketer, you need to subscribe to each candidate’s campaigns to see how they are using the internet to attract and retain their following.  It’s going to be a memorable circus!

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