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In the last of our 8for16 trends blog posts we consider how, in an era of instant price comparisons and product reviews, brands must foster direct emotional connections with consumers who expect consideration and customisation at every turn.

Relationship marketing has never been more important and in 2016 art will triumph over science and imagination will matter at least as much as effective data crunching. Given that it’s about five times more expensive to acquire a new customer than keep an existing one and that on average loyal customers make up 20% of a company’s business but 70% of sales, it’s well worth investing in cultivating and keeping them. As it becomes ever easier for shoppers to access multiple providers and switch loyalties on an hourly basis, organisations must show that they are attuned to their needs and willing to give back. In place of personalisation gimmickry will be more meaningful connections with individuals that transcend bespoke packaging options.

At the heart of this will be great customer service – which researchers have shown triggers the same cerebral reactions as feeling loved, sometimes even increasing heart rate.  Millennials are looking for a hybrid experience that combines streamlined user-friendly digital options with empathetic solution-focused human assistance on hand where appropriate. Amazon Fire users need only tap the Mayday button to connect face-to-face with their own personal tech advisor. And all organisations will need to become more proactive –listening to social complaints and checking in with customers and letting them know what to expect rather than waiting to hear from them.

Reward schemes will need to be increasingly relevant and personal to encourage consumers to spend more and keep coming back. Harvey Nichols’ new Rewards app is a fast track pass to exclusive personalized perks and stylish money-can’t-buy privileges.  As well as rewards, each loyalty tier will have its own set of benefits such as gift wrapping, express alterations and at-home styling. Companies will be looking to splice customer spending data with social media intel to deliver hyper-personalized rewards. Global travel rewards currency, Avios launched a hyper-personalized campaign, ‘Do More with Avios’ enlisting the help of customers’ friends and family to use banner ad spaces to nudge collectors to spend their Avios points on doing things together.

We’ll see Emojis pop up everywhere from menus to feedback forms as companies find more direct and intuitive forms of engaging their audiences at every stage of the purchase cycle.

Emojis are no longer just the language of teens – four in five UK adults use emojis on a regular basis and more than 60% of over 35s identify themselves as frequent users, saying they express their feelings better than words. Aloft Hotels TiGi (Text it. Get it.) Emoji Room Service is designed to meet the needs of its guests who simply have to text an emoji of what they want to the hotel’s front desk and within minutes, the delivery is made. Even Goldman Sachs recently launched its report on the spending habits of Millennials with a 22 emoji executive summary on Twitter.

Targeted experiential campaigns are also on the rise with 87% of consumers saying live events reach them more effectively than television advertising, and 98 percent saying a live event motivates them to buy a product, according to EventTrack. Mobile tours, pop-up stores, in-store experiences, entertainment partnerships and sampling events are joined by direct to consumer activities such as Uber bringing kittens in need of a home to meet stressed out workers in need of a cuddle. Gen Y and Z in particular want memorable on-brand experiences that provide them with personal content to share online. This Christmas Burberry is allowing customers to star in and share a personalised version of its Christmas ad alongside celebrities such as Elton John and Naomi Campbell via the “The Burberry Booth” at its flagship Regent Street store.

Ultimately trust – in 2016 more than ever – will be dependent on delivering great brand connections and genuinely personal experiences at all stages of the customer journey.



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People will continue to make the shift from consumer to citizens as they work together to demand transparency, mobilise support and affect change.

Democracy in Motion

New and established civic engagement platforms will connect people and governments, enabling effective participation and driving new levels of transparency and accountability.

Perhaps the best known of these kinds of platforms,, has had nearly 130m people support one or more petitions with almost 15,000 victories across 200 countries.

2015 saw the biggest victory to date in France – more than 200,000 people sign a petition that helped to create a new law requiring all supermarkets to donate their unsold food. This one victory in France has inspired other people all over the world to start petitions asking their own governments to create similar legislation.

We’ll see an increase in both the availability and use of such platforms, as people begin to see them as a utility to hold institutions and governments to account.

POPVOX is an example of the new breed of civic engagement platforms – it meshes real-time legislative data with users’ personal stories and sentiment, delivering public input to government in a format tailored to actionable policy decisions.

In a similar vein, almost 10m people globally have voted on the UN’s ‘Have Your Say’ ballot – with honest and responsive government in the top four for all adult groups, after education, healthcare and jobs.

We are the 99%

Facebook’s rainbow filter to support Pride Week was used over 26m times whilst millions more used avatars and hashtags to show support for Paris, after a slew of terrorist acts.

People everywhere will be using these digital platforms to start campaigns and mobilize supporters across borders around causes they care about.

We’ll see an increase in global activism around common issues, such as terrorism, refugees, women’s rights and climate change, with coordinated action by groups and individuals.

This sense of civic duty and connection to the wider world will create new audience segments and needs. The idea of Corporate Social Responsibility will be replaced with a demand for “Brand Compassion” and we’ll see brands and organizations shift their comms and actions to keep pace with this.

An expansion of this behavior and expectation will create a new power dynamic; with the citizen-consumer becoming the main power broker in an interconnected system of consumer-led demands, that will either destroy or develop brands, products and organizations.

Meet Your New Boss

Public campaigns will scrutinise corporations and demand targeted changes in how they do business – from resource management to fair working practices.

Oxfam’s Behind the Brands program was a key stakeholder in getting Kellogg’s to commit to reduce emissions across its supply chain and operations.

The combination of these seemingly disparate demands mean that we are entering into an era of organisational Darwinism, where successful brands, corporations, governments and institutions will be those who are best able to adapt.


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man_holding_tablet466261651As mobile becomes the dominant platform for communications globally and contactless payment figures soar, 2016’s consumers will demand instant gratification and ever more frictionless experiences.

2015 was the year in which Google confirmed that more searches take place on smartphones than on desktops, laptops and tablets combined in at least 10 countries, including the US and Japan. This mobility has fractured the consumer journey into hundreds of real-time, intent-driven micro-moments, which Google characterizes as: ‘I want to know’; ‘I want to go’; ‘I want to do’; ‘I want to buy’.

In these moments, consumers are turning to their smartphones for real time help with information, choices and decisions, providing marketers with an open invitation to engage if they can provide the answers we need at these critical touchpoints. According to Google, 82% of smartphone users say they consult their phones on purchases they’re about to make in a store, and 91% of them turn to their phones for ideas in the middle of a task.

Seizing the Moment

Brands and organisations will need to be there at the moment of interest with timely information, opportunities and interactions as expectations of immediacy and relevance forever change the landscape.

Cosmetics company M·A·C is a great example, meeting popular need-to-know searches with its range of how-to beauty content and a YouTube gadget that allows viewers to shop directly from its “Instant Artistry” video series on its local e-commerce platforms.

Location-based technology and discovery apps will play a critical role in connecting people to relevant facts, advice and offers in real time. Beacons – which allow marketers to push content to mobile devices in specific physical locations – are now being used in everything from retail and transport to events and museums. An estimated 46% of retailers launched beacon programs in 2015 and in 2016 they could drive more than $40bn in sales, according to a Tech Insider report.

Audible discovery app Shazam – used by more than 100 million people a month to find out what song is playing – is starting to partner with retailers and restaurants to recognise a specific piece of music or tone as a user walks past and unlock an appropriate offer without them needing to download a specialised app.

Meanwhile visual browsing app, Blippar is working with companies across all sectors to help them unlock engaging digital experiences from their marketing collateral and events. From the Taj Hotel’s blippable wine labels to the Financial Time’s blippable poster for coverage of the World Economic Forum and the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal newspaper mastheads unlocking video stories and driving on the spot donations, we can expect to see blipping go truly mainstream in the coming year.

Increasingly, consumers will also be buying via Blippar as the ‘Buy Now’ button changes the face of retail on and offline.

Alongside a rise in shoppable billboards, delivery vehicles and windows, social media is fast turning commercial as the major platforms rush to cover their sites with virtual shops and buy buttons. Facebook’s new shopping tab, YouTube’s shopping ads and Pinterest’s 60 million shoppable pins will be vying for attention with the Buy buttons popping up on Google’s search ads and giving dedicated online retail sites a run for their money.

Deep understanding of the target audience and how their wants and needs intersect with search and discovery behaviors will be key to success. So will continuous experimentation and iteration as technology rapidly evolves new opportunities for immediacy.

Ultimately it’s all about giving consumers what they want or need in the most intuitive and frictionless way possible and being there at every stage of the journey where you have a right to play and something worthwhile to offer. Those that fail to deliver instant gratification and to seize interaction and transaction opportunities in the moment will be quickly left behind in 2016.

As mobile becomes the dominant platform for communications globally and contactless payment figures soar, 2016’s consumers will demand instant gratification and ever more frictionless experiences.