This post is by Jan Gardner, Marketing Director at Jaywing.
Ofcom's eleventh annual Communications Market report investigates how we use various devices, from TVs to smartphones. This year, the report looked more closely at the habits of different generations, identifying a clear generation gap.
However, it is clear the digital revolution continues to change all behaviour. Multi-tasking and second screening was evident, with younger groups far happier to switch seamlessly between devices and leave more traditional media behind.
None of this will come as a huge surprise to most marketers. However, we continue to grapple with what it means. Perhaps our improved economic environment gives us a little more freedom to explore. So where should we turn our attentions?
Mobile is dominating
There was a significant increase in mobile and tablet usage and importance among all groups, with very high ownership and usage noted in younger groups.
So with us all seemingly glued to our smartphones and the fledgling wearable tech market looming large, the micro world we carry about our person is all-important.
Accessing information on the go means that brands must ensure any responsive website is built 'mobile first'. Major user experience errors can be introduced by designing a site then making it smaller, often with significant commercial consequences.
Mobile-first means designing your site initially for a small screen and progressively enhancing the experience as the screen gets bigger, adding in larger or more detailed content. Good user experience is achieved when the site designer hasn't sacrificed content, but prioritised instead.
Beyond access to the internet and websites, mobile devices are widely used to engage on social media platforms.
Social media is a commonly cited as an area of concern for marketers. Brands understand that social media usage continues to rise, that it is an important part of everyday life, and a place that provides an opportunity to be present in consumer's minds.
But how to exploit and monetise this is still often a matter of trial and error. Should you invest in community management, shareable content, video, or native advertising? What works for one brand, isn't necessarily what's right for another and you need an acute understanding of your audience and how they use social media. Our #meetbeyonce campaign worked so well precisely because of that understanding of the youth market.
Wearable tech also causes some consternation. 46% of adults said they'd never heard of smart glasses. 40% were unaware of smartwatches, with a further quarter claiming they'd heard of them but knew little about them. Apple has probably just changed that though.
But before diving into expensive innovation, it's important to step back and ask yourself where you need to be. Mass adoption is likely still a little way off. At the bleeding edge you risk wasting resources on things that fall quickly by the wayside. Of course, too far behind the game is hard to come back from. So the question really is, whether you are watching the trends closely enough and understanding the opportunities for your business.
While there is a clear shift in behaviour and TV hours continue to drop, it is still the most widely used device. Indeed, it may be surprising to learn that almost 80% watch TV without the aid of an additional device. However, age tells more here as the viewing habits differ substantially between generations.
Even though most still watch live, more and more watch on demand and catch up services, prompting the move to take BBC Three online only and Channel 4 to introduce All 4, an all encompassing catch up service that will provide clips and added content that are easily digestible and shareable.
The fact is we as consumers are increasingly of the opinion we can have what we want, when we want it and how we want it, through whichever device or channel we choose. And with new tech, our viewing experiences can be rich and colourful, with myriad content and exciting interactive experiences.
And while it may seem an outmoded concept, 71% of all adults asked by Ofcom said they had sent a personal letter in the mail in the last month. Given the right treatment, a well-judged piece that combines sophisticated print technology with customer data and understanding to create an exacting mail experience, as part of a wider programme, can cut through digital clutter and make a real impact, without being cost prohibitive.
Data, data, everywhere
Of course, one of the by-products of our high-tech lives is the proliferation of data. We've all got tonnes of the stuff, yet many do little with it.
Start small and build from there. Find out what a particular pocket of data tells you and whether it can be useful in directing your communications. Does it point to particular insights and behaviours? Can you use it to predict what someone will do or want? Can you use it to make a more powerful and personal experience? Or is it largely noise?
Data science is a specific art form and much as you need a properly qualified mechanic to service your car, you need proper statisticians to help you interpret and use your data to best effect. Demand the best, your customers will thank you for it and so will your boss when you demonstrate the results you can achieve through smarter marketing. Ask yourself, what am I going to do with my data today?
Dealing with the complexity
So we all know it, channel and device proliferation makes communicating much harder and the pace of change is breathtaking.
You'll need the right personal and corporate attitude and adroitness coupled with commercially positive decisions and a huge dose of pragmatism.
Better performing brands are focusing on integration and customer experience – they're trying to communicate with people as individuals, drive value from big data and introduce greater understanding on both customers and performance. They're investing in digital data infrastructures, CRM and analytics – both in tools and people who can interpret data and construct complex rules – changing their skillsets and organisational structure. With the right platforms, you are limited only by your creativity.
There are few that would disagree with the idea we need joined up and seamless customer experiences to keep even the least fussy consumer happy. But don't forget, there are still only a few achieving it well.
Take it one step at a time and keep moving, because when it does all come together, it isn't half exciting.
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