Promotional Products Market Faces New Challenges

Many of AccuList’s promotional products marketing clients have been able to ride corporate buyers’ profits to an average 1.3% annual growth rate in the last five years through 2019, reaching $17 billion in U.S. revenues this year, per IBISWorld market research. But a number of challenges, requiring innovative solutions, lie ahead.

Tariffs, Amazon, Economy May Challenge Growth

Continuation of the tariffs imposed in the U.S.-China trade war are likely to have a direct impact on the promotional products market, where the vast majority of products come from China, creating rising product prices and uncertainty, even though most suppliers and distributors have continued to post sales gains this year. One of the options that some companies are already taking is a shift to sourcing from countries outside of China, such as Vietnam, per the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI). Meanwhile, the promotional products market is facing competitive challenges from the entry of big online competitors such as behemoth Amazon. Market execs have told ASI that they believe the entry of the e-commerce power threatens to potentially cut out suppliers and distributors by positioning itself as the lowest-cost provider from a product and freight perspective. Their worries include Amazon opting to partner with only select suppliers and distributors; selling direct through its platform; and/or using its search presence for rankings that create winners and losers, and force up advertising expenses for all. Web-based distributors and large online stores are on the front lines, but all promo products firms fear competing with the e-commerce giant’s buyer expectations and immediate delivery and return services. Finally, the potential of an economic slowdown or even recession has some nervous, too. To prep for that possibility, promo product pros say they are putting more stress on prospecting and networking, distributor-supplier partnering to reduce costs, and lower-ticket items with good repeat business.

E-commerce and Technology Will Be Key Drivers

ASI recently interviewed 10 leading suppliers and distributors in the promotional products market for their visions on handling such challenges over the next 5-10 years. The good news is that all foresaw continued growth, albeit with increasing consolidation and online dominance. For example, Mark Simon, president/CEO of distributor HALO Branded Solutions, forecast: “Technology will drive every aspect of the industry in the next 10 years. Buyers will require more robust and more diverse methods to select and purchase products, and follow their orders throughout the order life cycle… Our industry must keep pace with the enhanced buying experience other channels are providing to stay relevant.” E-commerce will be the standard, benefiting big players but leaving room for niche firms as Mark Freed, President/CEO of distributor Genumark, predicts: “I see continuous growth from the large online players that provide a fast, painless, accessible solution for clients looking for simple, inexpensive drop-shipping. I also see continuous growth and consolidation for multifaceted large distributors providing a suite of features that meet a variety of complex requirements for sophisticated clients, which could be related to logistics and fulfillment, quality and compliance, off-the-charts creativity and relentless customer service. There will still be a place for smaller, boutique-size distributors, but they better have a niche like specialized knowledge of the client’s industry or unbelievably innovative ideas.”

Bigger Roles for Data Analytics, Personalized Service, and Creative Marketing

Meanwhile, in the expanded digital environment, data management will loom large; Sharon Eyal, CEO/owner of supplier ETS Express, asserts that “in the next five years, a reliance on data will be more important than ever… We look at how many orders we have in production, which materials are being used, which items are being ordered, which types of decoration, etc. and then we expand and contract in departments as needed.” Up against Amazon, personalized customer experience will be key, too; Jana Schmidt, CEO of distributor Harland Clarke, stresses the “need to provide a personalized, frictionless experience to businesses as clients seek to promote their brands. There’s separation between having an e-commerce presence and truly building the online buying experience.” And creativity will count for even more; Debbie Abergel, chief strategic officer of Jack Nadel International, says, “There will also be a growth of creative promotional agencies – the rise and marriage of creativity and custom. Think about corporate clients that invest in giving their clients and employees a true brand product experience; not price-focused, but looking to build their brand name.” She cites the interest in reusable straws as an example. Read more predictions for the promotional products industry.

New Survey: Online Marketing Pumps Offline B2B Sales

AccuList’s many business-to-business marketers—including business/industrial supply catalogs, business periodicals, trade shows, and recognition/incentive products—should be investing in a 2019 omnichannel marketing plan to maximize the online impact on offline buying, at least according to the latest research from Boston Consulting Group and Google. An optimal, best-practices mix of digital engagement channels—such as search, display, video, social media, e-mail and websites—with traditional print catalogs/mail, sales calls and brick-and-mortar stores can increase the marketing contribution to sales by 3% to 8%, BCG has found.

Decision-Making Starts Online, Even for Offline Buys

On average, two-thirds of B2B buyers of industrial machinery, industrial supplies, and packing and shipping products and services indicated in a new BCG survey that their purchase decisions had been significantly influenced by digital, even though the majority of buying journeys end with an offline purchase. The survey revealed that some 58% of industrial-machinery purchases were significantly influenced by online activity, even though 100% of the purchases were made offline. For industrial supplies, 88% of buyers performed some form of online research prior to purchase, while 69% then purchased online and 31% purchased offline. Packing and shipping buyers were more evenly divided in online-offline buying preferences, with 54% digitally influenced, 42% purchasing online and 58% buying offline. But it is the differences underneath the online influence data that reveal the opportunities for boosting sales. For example, spending to boost online branding ads/engagement can pay off when 75% of online industrial machinery researchers said that they consider two or more brands at the start of their buying journeys, compared with 55% of those who engage in offline research only. At the same time, 58% of industrial-machinery buyers said that they begin their online search with a product, rather than a brand, in mind. For these researchers, the manufacturers’ websites become primary points of influence.

Nurtured Online Researchers Make More Follow-up Purchases

One of the more encouraging findings in the BCG study was that online business researchers make more follow-up purchases, especially if there is engagement post-sale. When manufacturers of industrial machinery engage their customers digitally after an initial sale, those customers are three times as likely to research supplementary products, twice as likely to purchase them, and three times as likely to repurchase the product. Buyers of industrial supplies engaged digitally post-sale are eight times as likely to purchase a supplementary product of the same brand and twice as likely to repurchase the same product. Effective after-sales digital marketing activities include promoting online account sign-ups, encouraging app downloads, maintaining regular contact through e-mail or “nurture” communications, and ensuring a positive overall customer experience with the product or service.

Measurement Is Key for an Optimal Online-Offline Mix

For the best marketing return on investment, B2B marketers need to measure impacts and influences across the entire buying journey to connect digital marketing expenditures and tactics to offline sales. BCG found that measurement innovators use a variety of techniques—such as customer research, marketing-mix modeling, multi-touch attribution modeling, matched-market testing, and direct match-back approaches. For example, multi-touch attribution (MTA) is a modeling approach that attributes sales to the marketing activities that contributed most directly to revenues, using predictive models and artificial intelligence to derive statistics-driven attribution weights.  Direct match-back uses unique identifiers to tie a sale directly to the marketing activities that generated it at the individual or transaction level. Unique identifiers include credit card information, mobile tracking, in-store beacons, cookies, e-mail addresses or phone numbers.

Read more of the BCG study for survey details and success examples. And ask the AccuList team how we can help via our range of digital marketing services and Digital2Direct program, which combines targeted direct mail with social media ads or e-mail.

For 2019 Edge, Event Pros Shouldn’t Overlook Direct Mail, SEO, Experiential Marketing

Per the latest industry surveys, AccuList USA’s trade show and conference marketing clients can look forward to solid event industry growth in 2019–along with potential marketing strategy shifts in an increasingly competitive landscape.

Businesses Are Bullish on Event Marketing

Event software firm Bizzabo’s survey of over 1,000 mid- to senior-level marketers at major companies in 2018 found good news for the event industry: Most respondents (41%) consider live events to be the most critical marketing channel in achieving business outcomes (out of 9 possible channels), a 32% increase from 2017. Business execs are also doubling down on live events. Between 2017 to 2018, the number of companies organizing 20 or more events per year increased by 17%. Additionally, the vast majority of respondents (95%) believe in-person events provide attendees with a valuable opportunity to form connections in an increasingly digital world. This reflects a 12% increase compared to 2017.

E-mail & Social Media Remain Favored Promotion Channels

Meanwhile, Eventbrite, an online event management and ticketing firm, surveyed 1,200 event professionals last year to see how marketers are likely to spend in 2019. Word of mouth, an effective tactic for 63% of event marketers, is bolstered by investments in social media marketing, which 49% of event creators placed among the top three most effective drivers of ticket sales. They cited Facebook and Instagram as the top social platforms for reaching event-goers. E-mail rounded out the top marketing channels per those surveyed, with 38% of event professionals relying on it.

Trends Encourage Growth of SEO & Direct Mail Use

However, with 89% of attendees using search for purchase decisions, Eventbrite foresees a necessary expansion of SEO efforts. There’s definitely room for growth, with almost half (46%) of event professionals saying they aren’t using SEO. And, while e-mail is cited among the favored marketing channels, direct mail continues to turn in higher response for the 41% of event pros who use it. Eventbrite thinks the 50% who cite competition as their biggest challenge will want to reconsider the edge offered by adding mail to their arsenal, urging the hesitant to take a trial run by segmenting mailing lists and sending flyers or save-the-date cards to a test portion.

Experiential Marketing Is 2019’s Hot Buzzword

Experiential marketing is a hot new trend for trade show exhibit providers, brand marketers and event planners. It is a strategy that engages attendees by using branded experiences at an event, as part of an event, or in a pop-up activation not tied to any event. It’s all about immersing people in memorable live experiences to create more lasting and positive brand impressions. Yet Eventbrite found that close to 60% of event creators are not using experiential marketing. Acknowledging an intimidation factor, Eventbrite urges starting small, for example by promoting a pop-up shop (temporary retail space) grand opening at an event, by offering a smaller experiential activation like an on-site art installation, or by using a partner on-site sponsorship to enhance the event experience.

Download the Bizzabo report “2019 Event Marketing Benchmarks and Trends” for more details on event industry trends.

Digital Options Lead 2019 Insurance Marketing Trends

Digital marketing trends dominate professional advice for AccuList USA’s insurance marketing clients this year, from e-mail to social media to online search.

Trends Favor Personalized, Client-Focused Campaigns

Whether insurance marketing via digital or traditional channels such as direct mail, there are some general trends affecting success in 2019, per the American Agents Alliance. First comes the continued value of cultivating brand advocates with testimonials, referrals and word of mouth. Quoting Forbes magazine, “the top four most-trusted sources of advertising are people you know, branded sites, editorial sites, and reviews.” A myopic focus on impersonal advertising will miss these important lead drivers. The personal touch needs to extend into offering targeted, personalized digital and print content that is useful and engaging, as well as client interaction that is real and humanized, not generic and automated. Plus, marketers should take a longer view of prospecting and retention by continuing conversations via remarketing, the AAA advises. And finally, insurance marketers need to really listen during conversations with clients and prospects to understand pain points and how people shop online with search and voice queries in order to develop effective creative content and include key phrases for paid and organic search.

Tweak E-mail & Search to Retain Their Digital Clout

Insurance agency/broker marketing agencies like EaseCentral and OutboundEngine offer some advice on where to focus digital marketing energies more specifically in 2019. Start by revisiting e-mail strategy. With an average $32 return per $1 spent in 2018, e-mail remains an attractive direct marketing option not only because it is inexpensive, highly targeted, and an ROI leader, but because it also offers opportunities for the forwarding, social sharing, and referral business in line with the general trends noted above. However, be sure to check e-mail creative to make sure it is personalized and shares valued content, focusing less on promotion and more on audience needs. Another tried-and-true digital driver, paid and organic search engine ranking, still matters, but search strategy needs an important tweak this year to cater to the growth of voice searches. EaseCentral points out that ComScore forecasts close to 50% of all searches will be made through voice search by 2020. Plus, due to the increasing use of voice search, Google and other search engines are beginning to factor it into their algorithms. Mobile optimization will play a big role in effective leveraging of voice search since these searches occur mainly on mobile devices.

Leverage the Power of Social Media Marketing

Making the most of social media will be a challenge in 2019 as organic reach shrinks and promotional pricing rises, but social platforms offer some unique advantages for insurance marketers looking for a way to humanize and personalize services. For example, EaseCentral suggests using social media to implement a more personalized customer service, with client accessibility on Facebook and LinkedIn. OutboundEngine meanwhile urges more direct marketing via promoted posts and social ads, taking advantage of social media platforms’ increasing ability to target zip codes, professions and other demographics to hone response. In the social media sphere, blogs are the king of content creation, reminds EaseCentral, allowing an insurance marketer to prove expertise and build trust. But remember that a blog’s content-marketing success will require avoiding sales pitches in favor of engaging information of value to the audience.

Embrace Video As the New Must-Have Tool

Video is now a proven response driver in digital marketing for almost all industries, and with online video projected to account for 80% of all web traffic in 2019 per Cisco research, it is a must-have tool in insurance, too. It works for consumer and business prospecting; OutboundEngine cites a recent Forbes finding that an average of 40% of decision-makers call a vendor after watching a video. How to capitalize on the video wave? OutboundEngine suggests the following ideas for website and social media insurance-branding videos: Live stream (with permission) part of an event or fundraiser attended; record a 30-second clip once a week answering a frequently asked question; or post an Instagram story about volunteering in your local community.

Today’s Zoo Marketing Embraces Conservation, Digital

AccuList USA helps a number of museums and zoos with marketing to members, donors and visitors. A 2017 report on the U.S. market for museums, historical sites, zoos and parks, worth $14.5 billion annually, noted that some of the most significant changes are occurring in the zoo market. Consumers’ rising concerns about conservation and ethical treatment of animals have been a driving force. As the public loses its appetite for viewing animals in cages, zoos are initiating a new stress on realistic exhibits and conservation–and their marketing is reflecting that shift.

Zoo Marketing Wins by Stressing Conservation and Natural Habitats

A recent Platform Magazine article on the new wave in zoo marketing, noted to its PR-pro readers that the winning zoo marketing strategy seems to lie in finding the middle ground between promoting conservation and creating entertainment. Many zoos do this by creating exhibits that mimic animals’ natural habitats. For example, the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington, promotes exhibits for jaguars, penguins and grizzly bears, which have won exhibit design awards. Meanwhile, the Houston Zoo not only advertises the fact that it shares part of the money from each ticket with conservation programs but plans to build a new exhibit to showcase the Texas Wetlands, which have a large variety of animal and plant life.  The Platform article also cites Zoo Atlanta’s strategy for merging consumer experiences and conservation by promoting its contributions to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP) with new animals’ births that help “maintain healthy, genetically diverse and self-sustaining animal populations within North American zoos.”

Zoos Use Digital Marketing to Stretch Budgets

However, one marketing challenge for nonprofit zoos like Zoo Atlanta is stretching “our limited advertising budget,” Vice President of Marketing and Membership Tracy Lott acknowledges. And digital media investments are one way her zoo stretches those marketing resources. For zoos following Zoo Atlanta’s lead by starting or expanding a digital marketing strategy, Search Influence, a digital marketing agency, suggests five key steps to success.  Efforts need to begin with planning, with an emphasis on defining member/donor/visitor profiles for targeting. Then local prospects, loyal members and tourists can be sent the different messaging that will resonate and drive response. Next comes a polished website to showcase attention-getting content and provide a platform for sales and donations, supported by a traffic-building investment in search optimization and paid search. Third, zoos need a curated content-marketing strategy for website, social media and paid digital advertising to promote unique draws, from exhibits and events to conservation and education. Leveraging that great content then requires a targeted digital advertising strategy. Since 90% of time online is spent outside of search, mainly on Facebook, Instagram and other social platforms, one focus should be social media ads with enticing video, graphics and messaging. These ads can be targeted by interests, location, family status, buying behavior and more to boost response. These also can be tied into a multi-channel strategy that includes direct mail; for example, our Digital2Direct program serves Facebook ads to selected “matched” postal records.  Finally, to maximize ROI, marketers need analytics with defined KPIs per platform, including use of Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager to track multiple e-commerce platforms and websites.

 

 

Industrial Marketers Bet More on 2018 Direct & Digital

AccuList USA has a long track record of helping warehouse, industrial and back-office product marketers via data brokerage, predictive analytics and multi-channel direct marketing, and we’ve learned some important lessons along the way.

Industrial & Tech Marketing Budgets Expand in 2018

The good news is that many industrial marketers were inspired to expand investment in 2018. According to the “2018 Budget Trends in Industrial & Technology Marketing” report published by engineering.com, industrial marketing budgets in 2018 are expected to hit “the highest levels of growth (45%) and the lowest reported levels of shrinking budgets (4%), of any of the last five years.” More than half (54%) of manufacturing marketers expect their budget to be larger in 2018.

Quality, Targeted Data Is Key to B2B Direct Marketing

But expanded multi-channel spending still needs to be smart spending. As data brokers, we can’t overemphasize that successful B2B direct marketing–including direct mail, print catalogs and e-mail campaigns–starts with quality, targeted data. Marketers can boost response by using predictive analytics and buyer profiles to target–and then opt for the rental lists of active product inquirers/buyers that our proprietary list research finds to be top performers in each vertical. Targeting the right message to decision-makers in the buying process is also key; with product and industry factors affecting whether to select a chief engineer, purchasing manager, warehouse manager, human resources chief, or C-suite executive in mailing lists.

A Digital Strategy Is Now Essential for Leads and Sales

While direct mail continues its response leadership, there’s no denying that most B2B buyers are digital shoppers today. Research by Acquity Group finds 94% of B2B buyers say they conduct some form of online research before purchasing a business product, for example. Forrester Research has found that 59% of B2B buyers prefer not to interact with a sales rep, and 74% find buying from a website more convenient. That makes digital catalog sites into essential sales tools, giving customers the option to browse product, pricing, and inventory information in real-time and then self-serve. Of course, online traffic-building requires a good search engine optimization (SEO) strategy given that 73% of global traffic to B2B companies comes from search engine results. But most successful B2B marketers also invest in paid digital efforts. In fact, a 2015 study by Content Marketing Institute, MarketingProfs, and Fathom found that manufacturers ranked search engine marketing highest among paid marketing options in terms of efficacy (52%) and promoted social media posts came in second (39%).  For social media ads, B2B marketers see video as a top response tactic, which is why manufacturers in the study ranked YouTube as the most effective social media site, followed by LinkedIn ads, which AccuList USA supports. Take a deeper dive into the core elements of digital industrial marketing with this post by gorilla76, a B2B consulting firm.

 

 

 

‘Doggie Daycare’ Market Fetches Millennial Demand

Millennials are driving growth for AccuList USA’s clients in pet owner marketing, especially sales in the pet boarding and grooming arena, where spending hit an annual $6.16 billion in 2017 per the American Pet Products Association. For example, this summer the New York Post reported that growing demand from pet owners inspired the American Kennel Club to jump into the high-priced Manhattan real estate market: Its AKC Canine Retreat venture purchased five locations from Spot Canine Club as well as the Running Paws dog-jogging (not walking) service to re-brand under the AKC umbrella. Similarly, “doggie daycare” service Camp Bow Wow, founded in 2000, is busy adding franchises to its existing 144.

A New Generation of ‘Pet Parents’

The Millennial generation’s disposable income coupled with pet-centric attitudes are behind the trend, Camp Bow Wow’s Chief Barketer (also VP of marketing) Julie Turner recently explained to Direct Marketing News. As the Millennial age cohort marries and has children later in life than their parents, “they’re filling the gap with a dog,” she said, treating their dogs as “really a part of the family.” Millennials are not only frequent travelers who need pet boarding, they are working “pet parents” who choose daycare services so their canine companions can go to camp rather than stay home alone. They like to collect a “happy and tired dog” at the end of the day, she noted.

Mobile Marketing & Digital Strategies

Millennials are definitely mobile device addicts, so Camp Bow Wow upped its mobile strategy in 2014 when Turner came aboard, starting with a more mobile-responsive website “in line with other brands millennials support.” Camp Bow Wow introduced a mobile app that allows owners to find locations and make reservations, but its top use is watching live feeds of pets at play. “Pet parents want to talk about [the service] and show pictures of their dog at camp,” Turner explained, something Camp Bow Wow enables by texting photos of dogs having fun to their owners. The digital engagement and sense of community are not only key to retaining customers, digital strategies dominate acquisition via local search engine optimization, e-mail and texting programs, and social media advertising.  Camp Bow Wow actively works with social influencers to drive referrals, for example: “We have a very high net promoter score,” claimed Turner.

Event Promotions & Shelter Partnering

Camp Bow Wow reps also attend community events to promote the brand and acquire new customers. At events, the #GiveAFetch is a popular draw, dispensing tennis balls to happy pups from a what looks like a giant bubblegum machine. Plus, Camp Bow Wow ups its brand reputation by partnering with shelters and providing a temporary “foster home” environment for abandoned dogs to help with socialization.

Read the complete article on Camp Bow Wow’s marketing.

 

These Digital Tactics Can Power Insurance Marketing Lead Gen

Sometimes insurance marketers, used to face-to-face sales and targeted direct mail, struggle to adapt to the highly competitive and noisy digital marketplace for lead generation. Some helpful tips from the Blue Corona web marketing agency should be of interest to AccuList USA’s insurance marketing clients looking to improve their digital lead results.

Fast, Mobile-Friendly Pages Capture More Leads

The natural place to start is the insurance marketer’s website, where the majority of potential policyholders will first interact with the marketing message. Basically, the website must grab attention almost immediately. If consumers don’t connect with what they see within 10 seconds of landing on a web page, they’ll move on, per studies. That means up-front contact information, compelling call-to-action, plugins that localize content, etc. But it also means speedy page loading. Studies show that a website needs to load in under 3 seconds (in fact, 47% of people expect a web page to load in two seconds or less, points out Blue Corona). And that speed needs to happen on a mobile device. Over half of all digital searches for insurance information occur from mobile devices; more specifically, 58.6% of average monthly auto insurance searches and 55.4% of life insurance searches are via mobile, reports Blue Corona. If digital pages and ads aren’t mobile-optimized, they aren’t going to optimize leads.

Invest in SEO, Pay-per-Click Ads to Drive Traffic

How do you get prospects to those fast-loading, compelling, mobile-friendly pages? Search engine optimization is a basic requirement today for driving traffic. Out of the over 200 ranking factors, Blue Corona lists a few top tactics for getting to that coveted first page of a Google search: optimized title tags and meta descriptions on pages; site security (https vs http); mobile-friendly pages; schema markup; quality content; fast page downloading; social media signals; quality backlinks; and optimized images. But all searches are not created equal. Marketers want high-converting leads not shoppers. So Blue Corona suggests buying pay-per-click ads targeting search phrases that indicate high-commercial intent, such as “buy auto insurance” rather than “do I need auto insurance?” The ad content can then target a top consumer trigger. In most cases, that means competitive rates; for example, 70% of consumers say they look for the best deal when renewing an auto policy.

Engage via Blogging, Focused Content

A blog is another way to not only build traffic but also establish authority on insurance topics, build trust and go from policy hawker to insurance resource in the eyes of potential policyholders. If the average person consumes 11.4 pieces of content before making a purchasing decision, per Forrester, then insurance marketing wants to be at the top of that content list in terms of impact and quality. Blue Corona suggests blog topics such as “Factors You Didn’t Know Affect Your [Life/Auto/Liability/Etc.] Insurance Coverage,”  “How Much [Health/Auto/Liability/Etc.] Insurance Do You Need?” and “10 Tips for Keeping Insurance Rates Low.” Whether a blog post or a website page, the goal is to help insurance shoppers deal with an often confusing topic. TransUnion’s 2017 Healthcare Millennial Report found that 57% of millennial consumers identified as having “no understanding” or a “limited understanding” of their insurance benefits, while 50% of Generation X and 42% of Baby Boomers said the same. So don’t give prospects too many choices on website main pages, which can overwhelm and drive them away, and focus instead on the key solutions people need from insurance, advises Blue Corona.

For even more digital marketing suggestions to help retain policyholders and hone competitive edge, see https://www.bluecorona.com/blog/insurance-marketing-ideas-strategies

B2B Sales Trends Boost Mobile-Friendly Online Acquisition

With Forrester Research forecasting steady growth in B2B e-commerce, reaching $1.2 trillion in sales, or 13.1% of all B2B sales, by 2021, smart e-commerce marketing is more essential than ever for AccuList USA’s B2B catalog and e-commerce clients. A recent bigcommerce.com blog post highlighted many important trends for B2B e-commerce, but we’ll focus on three marketing-related takeaways.

Acquisition Is the New Online Focus

The days are gone when B2B online strategy could succeed by putting up a website as a customer service portal, a place for existing account re-orders or a passive catalog display. Online selling is becoming a core part of B2B business and sales strategy, argues bigcommerce.com post author Jillian Hufford, marketing analyst at nChannel, a multi-channel integration provider. B2B marketers should start by profiling customers to better target online and offline promotions to find high-ROI traffic. Note that a robust SEO/SEM strategy, coupled with website search tools, is essential given that 74% of B2B buyers report researching at least part of their work purchases online. Easy, seamless cross-channel ordering is another basic of online customer acquisition now. Plus, an investment in online content marketing, coupled with SEO strategy, can leverage educational and expert content on the website to attract searchers and win Google rank.

Online and Print Catalogs Work in Tandem

Five years ago, more than two-thirds of B2B sellers thought they would stop mailing paper catalogs. That hasn’t happened, but many B2B merchants are using an integrated multi-channel effort to balance smaller or less frequent print catalogs with more interactive online catalogs. For success with print-plus-online, the online catalog cannot merely mimic the print version. E-commerce means investing in interactive online tools that allow customizing, sharing, distributing, ordering and tracking, all supported by integrated back-end technology.

Mobile-Friendly Means Revenue-Friendly

Ever-expanding B2B mobile use is driving big marketing changes. Google and BCG research data from 2017 shows why: 80% of B2B buyers are using mobile at work; 60% of B2B buyers report that mobile played a significant role in a recent purchase; and 60% of B2B buyers expect to continue to increase their mobile usage. B2B retailers who are dragging their feet on mobile-friendly adaptation risk dragging down their own revenues; BCG research found that brands that are “mobile leaders” earn more traffic, more leads and more revenue than “mobile laggards.”

For more B2B e-commerce trends, and examples of real-life company online successes, see Hufford’s attached blog post.

2018 Digital Marketing Trends: Technology, Targeting, Tactics

Digital marketing continues to experience rapid changes. AccuList USA will be helping clients navigate this year via quality data, data services and other support efforts that take into account 2018 digital marketing trends recently outlined by Forbes magazine’s Forbes Agency Council.

Technology Drivers: AR, Conversational Interfaces, Video

The first of the article’s 15 trend predictions is continued growth in the use of Augmented Reality (AR), per Chris Carter of Rep Interactive, as mobile devices become more powerful, social apps improve AR integration, and, we would add, traditional print, from direct mail to ads to labels, also embraces AR. Meanwhile, the popularity of  conversational interactions will offer new opportunities and challenges, per a couple of council members—such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana, chatbots and more. Now that Google says 20% of its mobile queries are voice searches and usage set to climb further, marketers will need to create content targeting these types of searches and ads for non-traditional venues (such as sponsored smart-fridge recommendations), predicts Brett Farmiloe of Markitors. Video was a big story in 2017 and is now seen as a basic of success for 2018 marketers, per several Forbes council members. It also means that marketers will face a higher bar in terms of quality. As social media platforms jump into live video and add features, “the shaky, holding-a-phone-in-your-hand live video won’t be acceptable anymore,” warns Thomas Brodbeck of Site Strategics.

Targeting Goes Hyper: Personalized & Contextual

Most marketers agree that the days of impersonal e-mail blasts are done. So what’s ahead in 2018? Marketers will be focused on hyper-targeting and personalizing every interaction, forecast several experts. Watch for personalized landing pages connected to each advertising campaign, for example. The need for unbiased targeting, predictive analytics and budgeting at every step of the customer journey also will increase use of application programming interfaces for machine-learning algorithms, natural language processing and artificial intelligence, opines Douglas Karr of DK New Media. And as data protection regulation increases, ad tech vendors will need to go beyond tracking behavior with cookies to contextual targeting strategies based on page content, adds Julien Verdier of Adyoulike.

Some Tactics Keep Their Buzz, and Some Fade

“Influencer marketing” had marketing buzz in 2017, but Craig Greiwe of Rogers & Cowan predicts that 2018 will see a collapse of interest because brands that spent big on influencers haven’t seen measurable results. He expects brands instead to “zero in on a few select individuals who drive results or move to organic grassroots promotion, and away from high-cost, middle-tier influencers who drive awareness but little ROI.” Content marketing, meanwhile, will remain a key part of the marketing tool box—but with some changes. New formats, video, and voice search are ending the focus on blog posts and listicles and pushing marketers toward featured snippets, interactive spoken tutorials and integration with User Interface features, says Kristopher Jones of LSEO.com. In the crowded online grab for engagement, native advertising will retain appeal, too, per Timothy Nichols of ExactDrive, Inc., helping marketers to expand viral sharing and develop a more involved relationship with target markets.

For more trend predictions, see https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2017/12/18/how-digital-marketing-will-change-in-2018-15-top-trends/#464141092d9a