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Top Online Trends to Be Aware of in 2016

The digital marketing landscape is constantly evolving and will likely see the emergence and change of a number of different tactics. In this post we’ll explore six  online trend’s that are predicted to make an impact in 2016, and offer insights for you to consider in order to stay ahead of the competition. Let’s take a look!

1. Video Ads Will Dominate

While video advertising is necessarily new, this method of advertising will definitely be gaining popularity 2016. Search engine results pages (SERPs), like Google, will soon begin to include video advertisements, which will validate and reinforce this marketing trend. Social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, already offer thumbnail videos as users scroll through their newsfeeds.

Consumers also rely heavily on videos to view peer reviews prior to making purchases and for product and service explanations. In fact, 96% of shoppers find videos helpful when shopping online and 1 in 4 shoppers use YouTube while in-store, to search for videos related to a product they desire. Video will soon dominate the internet, with industry experts predicting that it will represent 79% of all traffic by 2018 — globally!

2.  Mobile Use Will Overtake Desktop Use

Mobile use officially dominated desktop use for Google searches in 2015. More people are relying on mobile devices for emails, interacting with websites, and consuming content. For 2015, internet usage on mobile devices accounted for 51% of time spent each day with digital media. More Google searches also occur on mobile devices than desktops in 10 countries, including the U.S. and Japan.

The importance of this trend is clearly illustrated by Google’s latest algorithm update which actively penalizes websites that aren’t optimized for mobile with a lower search ranking. For businesses, the rule of thumb should be to think mobile first when creating content and developing advertising. This means testing your creative on a number of different screen sizes and utilizing responsive design on your website and landing pages. Don’t get left behind! Check if your site is mobile-friendly today.

3.  Digital Assistants Will Change SEO

2016 will see a rise in the use of digital assistants for internet searches. With the advent of digital assistants, such as Siri and Cortana, the SEO landscape is responding to accommodate more conversational search language. Consumers are now able to use sentences that resemble everyday language when using digital assistants for search queries. And, with tightly-packed schedules and increasing mobility, people prefer the convenience of being able to speak directly to a device with simple commands and questions. Consider including the following into your SEO strategy and PPC campaign:

  • Make use of conversational search terms. Use long-tail keywords, colloquial phrases, and long form questions. Your site is more likely to show in search results when your content matches the conversational queries of consumers when using digital assistants.
  • Stop focusing on basic information. Digital assistants thrive on retrieving basic information for consumers and don’t need your site to provide that. Focus on complex, niche content for successful SEO.
  • Incorporate more videos and photos. Digital assistants can’t do this on their own like they do with basic information. They need your site’s visual content to satisfy search queries. Adding more visual content will help optimize your site to accommodate the rise in digital assistant searches.

4.  The Rise of Social Media Platforms

Social media cannot be denied as a tool for marketers. Marketing campaigns aim to connect with and bring value to consumers in real-time. You won’t see Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn disappear anytime soon but the new year will see the increasing popularity of Snapchat, Instagram, Vine, and Periscope as advertising platforms. Snapchat — the increasingly popular photos and video sharing app — is proving to be an excellent source for quick advertising in real-time. This is becoming clear by the growth of their brand-focused Discover feed where companies like Buzzfeed, Daily Mail, and National Geographic maintain channels of content that expire and are refreshed every 24 hours.

5.  Content Remains King

Consumers are savvy, well-informed, and continue to crave information, therefore, your content should provide useful information that educates and encourages consumers to purchase from you. Recent data shows that 81% of consumers review products online and 61% read reviews before making a purchase.

Customers utilize social media, YouTube videos, peer reviews, and other content to make informed decisions. Continue to focus on developing content that answers commonly asked questions and addresses specific needs for potential customers. Be the answer your customers are seeking! This will ultimately help position you as a leader in your industry.

6.  Further Adoption of Marketing Automation

Automation tools allows marketers to trigger specific tasks based on actions that users have taken. This ensures more effective delivery of quality content that targets specific audiences and increases the ability to nurture leads. The automation process helps shorten the sales cycle and increases leads, sales, and cost savings. Let’s look at some automation trends you’re likely to see in 2016:

  • Mobile: With increased reliance on mobile devices, marketing automation will be used to send push-notifications and in-app messaging to reach consumers.
  • Personalization: Personalized messages, such as a contact’s name in the subject line of an email, get more responses and click rates. Automated marketing will become more personalized by using consumers’ search histories and items left in a virtual cart before checkout.
  • Lead Nurturing Programs: Using a series of emails and content to move customers from cold to warm leads will become the norm for marketers.
  • Choosing Your Own Path: The convergence of personalization with nurturing programs allows contacts to have a personalized path of content. Each contact  may receive similar content in the beginning of their journey but then, based on their response, they are put into different content categories to optimize the chances of becoming a customer.
  • Utilization of Experts: Agencies can manage multiple clients at once, therefore, more and more businesses will be relying on the help of experts to manage their marketing automation.

As the New Year approaches, consider how you can get a leg up on the competition by embracing these marketing trends. Be visible! Invest in your online presence and offer valuable and diverse content on multiple platforms to engage prospects and keep them thinking about your brand.

 

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Houston Online Marketing Trends to Plan for in 2016

When it comes to digital marketing, it’s not enough to follow the herd. Amidst fierce competition, brands, now more than ever, must really stay on the cutting edge of marketing techniques in order to maintain relevance with their audiences. In this post we’ll take a look at some online marketing trends to plan for in 2016 to help your business’ marketing soar into the new year.

More and More Focus on Mobile!

Mobile devices have been an important target to marketers and that trend shows no sign of slowing down in 2016. At present, 64% of all adults in the US own a smartphone, and by 2016, worldwide smartphone ownership is expected to exceed two billion people. That’s over a quarter of everyone on earth! Can your marketing afford to lose such a massive audience?

In addition to smartphones continuing to dominate in 2016, expect to see increased ownership of other mobile devices. By the end of next year, 1 in 10 people in the US will be tablet owners, and wearable tech ownership — like smart watches — will have tripled. Brands that want to thrive would be well served to capitalize on the popularity of these devices by tailoring their marketing campaigns to accommodate a variety of mobile screens and platforms.

Focus on New and Niche Social Platforms

Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn may have the market cornered when it comes to social media, but as a marketer you ultimately need to be where your audience is. With these “old-guard” networking sites mostly saturated — over a quarter of teens have recently left Facebook, for example — 2016 is the time for brands to broaden their social horizons by reaching out to their audiences on sites like Instagram, Snapchat, and Periscope.

While Instagram is owned by Facebook, and Periscope by Twitter, these sites boast an entirely different experience than their parent sites. Fresh and fun, sites like Instagram and Periscope offer instant, real-time connections. And their emphasis on photos and videos makes them great for brands too! Just take a look at how users are engaging with brands through Snapchat’s new, innovative “Discover” section.

Predictive Analytics

Think of predictive analytics like market segmentation on steroids. Predictive analytics looks at the past behavior of consumers and analyzes it for patterns that can predict future actions. Not only can it let marketers nurture their audience with personalized messages, it can help to predict the outcomes of proposed marketing campaigns, letting brands minimize risks and maximize ROI.

Video Ads Will Dominate

Whether it’s pre-roll, post-roll, or native, advertising in digital video will continue to grow this year,  doubling in ad spends compared to three years ago ($2.8 billion in 2013 vs. $5 billion in 2016). While impressive, these numbers are hardly surprising, given how popular streaming video is for consumers and what a powerfully engaging medium it is for marketers.

App Indexing Will Lead to an Explosion of Apps

Recent moves by Google to enable better indexing of Android apps in its Play store is as important for businesses looking to get their apps noticed as SEO is for content marketers. Rather than apps being organized very generally (games, utilities, etc.) new indexing algorithms let users search for just the right app to suit their needs, in much the same way they would a website.

If your business has an app, or is considering releasing one, it’s easy to get it indexed, and doing so can provide a helpful push in getting your app noticed.

Digital Assistants Will Lead to a New Kind of Optimization

Digital assistants such as Apple’s Siri, or Microsoft’s Cortana have changed the way users interact with the web. Businesses need to optimize their web presence in order make their information easily accessible to digital assistants so that when a user says something like “Siri, show me hardware stores in Houston,” your store comes up.

When predicting trends, it’s hard not to feel like some of them are more science fiction than reality. But while things like wearable tech, and complex algorithms might seem “far-out” right now, it’s important to remember how far technology has advanced in the past decade. As tech advances, it’s important for digital marketers to keep up. In the vastness of the world wide web, failing to do so is the quickest route to obsolescence.

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Five Houston Topics that Might Affect Your Business

Houston, Texas is a great place for any business these days. A diverse economy, growing population and favorable tax rates are just a few reasons that are contributing to the success of both small and large companies in the greater Houston area.

With that being said, there are unique traits and trends in Houston that affect your business. You need to be aware of these external factors specific to Houston in order to give your company the best chance to grow and prosper.

So whether you own an established business or are new to the area, here are five trends in Houston that you should definitely take into account in the upcoming year that will likely affect your company (whether you like it or not):

1. Shifting Demographics

Houston is now considered to be one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse cities in America. You might be thinking “that’s a wide variety of consumers, how can I appeal to different groups?” It’s important to note that Houston is one of the least integrated cities in the States, according to several sources. So if you expect to capture customers from the Hispanic demographic, for example, do your homework and make sure you have brand visibility where it reaches that specific audience. Demographic factors in Houston aren’t just limited to ethnicity, but to age as well. Houston is quickly becoming a “Millennial Magnet”, due to it’s well paying job market and reasonable cost of living. Houston is now among the top 10 cities in America with the fastest-growing Millennial population (ages 18-34), with a 25% increase in Millennials from 2000-2013. Some of the key areas for businesses seeking to tap into the Millennial market are mobile technology, social media and an individualized marketing approach. The Millennial explosion is is expected to continue and you should consider how to use this fact to benefit your business.

2. Changes in Weather

The climate in Houston can be classified as “humid subtropical,” making the weather very unpredictable at times. This can make planning for seasonal trends in Houston particularly challenging. Businesses need to be aware that Houston is prone to severe, potentially disastrous weather that includes tornadoes, tropical storms and even hurricanes. Hurricane season usually begins around the first of June and can last for months. Hurricane Ike had a lingering negative effect on the Houston-area economy after it hit in September, 2008. A particularly rainy season adversely affected outdoor-related businesses this spring. Having a contingency plans for adverse weather is recommended.

3. Football Season

The state of Texas is synonymous with football, and the city of Houston is no exception. Houston is home to the National Football League’s Houston Texans. The Texans attracted the 10th most fans in attendance for 2015, despite below average team performance. In addition, local fans avidly follow their college teams, including the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M, University of Houston, Baylor, Texas Christian, Rice and many more throughout the region. And Friday nights are traditionally high school football’s domain in the state. Over 54,000 fans attended the 2014 Texas 6A Championship, more than most of the college football bowls attracted during the same period.

Football season in Houston provides a great opportunity for businesses in terms of marketing. Some of the ways that businesses can leverage football season to their advantage are embracing a football theme for your space, offering Game Day discounts and engaging with fans that might be potential customers on social media.

4. The Local Livestock Show & Rodeo

You might not realize it, but rodeo season is one of the major trends in Houston that affect your business. The Houston Livestock and Rodeo Show is the largest rodeo in America. In 2010, the most recent for which the numbers are available, the HLS&R added approximately $320 million in economic output and $475 million in net sales for local businesses. It also generated the equivalent of 7,000 full time jobs during the three week period, making it an event that businesses in Houston shouldn’t ignore. Plan ahead and think of potential ways to use Houstonian’s rodeo experience to best benefit your business. Building a relationship with HLS&R, or smaller, more strategically located events and festivals around the area, could be a boon to your business.

5. The Super Bowl and NCAA Championships

Houston has become an epicenter for major professional and college sporting events. The city is set to host the NCAA men’s basketball championship in April of 2016, along with the NFL Super Bowl in February of 2017. In fact, Verizon has spent upwards of $173 million on a new and improved cell phone infrastructure in anticipation of the increased tourism these events are expected to bring. City officials and major corporations are extremely eager to showcase Houston during these events. What better time for local businesses to take advantage of the increased foot traffic and visibility? Major sporting events like these are expected to be one of the increasing trends in Houston, so make sure to have special marketing campaigns and promotions during these events to maximize your sales and brand exposure.

So there you have it, some of the major trends in Houston that will affect your business both in the near and longer term. By being aware of Houston’s shifting demographics, seasonal climate trends and major local events, you’ll know how best to position your business for success in one of the most beautiful, dynamic cities in the US.

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Why Fall Doesn’t Mean a Fall in Purchases – Tapping Into Seasonal Changes

We can learn a lot from the aspen tree. Unlike other trees, aspen leaves have flat stems which allow them to bend and not break. They also change with the seasons, going from a bright green in the summer, to yellowish-amber during the fall and when all the leaves have fallen, the bark of the aspen carries out photosynthesis which gives it energy in the cold winters, a process usually reserved for leaves. Being able to adapt with the seasons gives the aspen longevity; a lesson many businesses could learn from.

While fall is known for being that in-between time when consumer money spends more time in their pockets than purchasing your goods and services, many smart marketers have learned to tap into seasonal changes to offer deals and promotions in order to ensure fall doesn’t mean a fall in purchases. In this post we’ll discuss a few quick tips to get your customers spending with you this season.

Who’s Spending During Fall?

Most establishments experience some ebb and flow in business, and in many cases these fluctuations correspond with the seasons. Depending on your industry, you may notice that consumer spending peaks during certain seasons. For a lawncare or landscaping company that may be the spring or summer, or maybe as a small boutique, your busy season is around the holidays as people start to buy presents for loved ones.

Now that the warmer weather is starting to dissipate, you may assume that consumer spending is following suit. Summer is over, the kids are back in school, and vacation memories have already been made. It’s time to amp up your Q4 marketing strategies for a new season. Many people claim fall is their favorite season and with the anticipation of the holidays a few months away, consumers are in high spirits, and looking to get gifts crossed off their Christmas lists. 

The first day of fall, 2015 landed on September 23, and it ends December 21. This nearly three-month season is marked by cooler temperatures and shorter daylight hours. And contrary to what you may think, according to a 2014 Gallup poll, during the fall months, average daily consumer spending is up. The poll asked more than 14,000 U.S. adults about their discretionary spending, polling them on the amount they spent “yesterday” in stores, restaurants, gas stations or online — not counting home and vehicle purchases, or normal monthly bills.

What they found is daily discretionary spending averaged $95 in November, up from $91 in 2013, and well above the averages found in 2009-2012. Moreover, the October-to-November increase of $6 is the largest in six years. In previous years, spending has remained stable from October to November. Before 2014, consumer spending had increased by $3 or more — between these two months — only twice, in 2010 and 2013, since Gallup began this daily tracking in 2008. However, spending typically increases in December, with an average increase over the past six December’s of $6. 

What this shows us is that consumers are getting over the slump of the recession and starting to spend more money on discretionary things like restaurants and novelty items. It’s simple to forget that fall is really the “holiday season.” Winter doesn’t start until December 22, and by then, most consumers will already have all of Santa’s gifts purchased. In fact, while Christmas  and Kwanzaa are technically in winter, Hanukkah, a holiday celebrated by 5.5 million Americans, is in fall this year (Dec. 6-14).

It’s also important to note, partaking in Black Friday isn’t for every business. In fact, a study found that early holiday promotions are actually eating away at Black Friday sales. Many big box stores like Target, WalMart and Macy’s have extended their Black Friday sales to start earlier. “Their purpose is to make sure they get their share of the wallet before the competition,” said founder of ShopperTrak, Bill Martin. The research company expects sales to rise 3.8% this season. “It’s becoming a bigger part of how retailers do business,” he said. Furthermore, based on a ShopperTrak chart, 7 of the 10 Top Traffic Days and Top Sales Days land in the fall.

So consider reaching all those proactive holiday shoppers by starting your holiday marketing early. Brands have already begun lining up promotions in store, online, via newsletters, and for some, their mobile apps, meaning there will be deals aplenty for shoppers this season.

Focus on Savings and Keywords

No matter your industry, positioning your marketing with seasonal weather trends in mind can help throughout the slower season. Life is expensive; and people are always on the lookout for promotions, ways to save, and exclusive offers for the upcoming holiday. This is where tying fall activities into the mix comes into play.

Use buzzworthy keywords to reach the right audience. Knowing your demographic is half the battle. Once you know what your customer wants and is looking for, tie that into your promotions. For example, wouldn’t it be clever if a local coffee shop offered a complimentary cup of coffee for customers every time the Dallas Cowboys won? Now you’re tying in consumers’ love of football, with their desire for a warm beverage on a cool fall day. And once you’ve got them in your store, they’ll end up getting a donut to dip into that coffee, or hang out for a while, grab another drink and maybe even lunch?! And all it cost you was a small cup o’ joe.

Promotions like that not only create goodwill in your community, they bring in new business. Sharing your #CoffeeForCowboys promotion via social media channels will also encourage customers to engage with your brand, posting a picture of their lovely latte and scone, checking into your shop, and sharing their positive experience with their friends and family on social media.

Embrace Fall Holidays and Activities

Think Halloween festivities, the comeback of football season, and everyone’s favorite time to break their diets — Thanksgiving. These major fall events can be tied into promotions. For example, during the Thanksgiving season try sending out thank you cards or emails offering your customers savings in gratitude.

Just like any season, one’s profits during the fall can fluctuate. Instead of dreading this time of year, embrace the changes and use the uncertainty to your advantage by offering unique sales. For example, a creative hardware store owner may offer a special promotion revolving around the snow, or lack thereof. As a gimmick to lure buyers, create engagement, and start conversations, the store may offer to refund the entire purchase price of a new snowblower if a certain amount of snow does not fall that winter. If the snow does fall, however, all sales are final, and the shop was able to sell all their snow blowers at full price.

Businesses that offer creative seasonal promotion like this usually do their homework before they make seemingly outlandish offers. So, based on previous data, the hardware store owner might know that only twice in the last 100 years has the designated amount of snow not fallen, and therefore their odds of having to buy back the customers’ snowblowers are extremely small.

Autumn has a lot of other smaller holidays that are sprinkled throughout the season as well.  Columbus Day, Daylight Savings, Veterans Day, First Day of Fall, and Small Business Saturday are a few great ones. These are the perfect opportunities to offer one-day deals or flash sales.

Using seasonal imagery is another great way to grab attention. The changing of the leaves, pumpkins, crafts, the reds, browns and oranges—these are all fall staples.

Final Words on Fall

The imagery associated with the season is recognizable and gives way to fun concepts for themed campaigns on your social media channels, content and website. Sales and promotions should be part of your marketing strategy this season, as there are so many great ways of incorporating fall activities into your offers. This could mean a promotion you announce in your newsletter, a coupon code you post on your website, or a sale graphic you promote via social media. For ten great and simple fall promotions you can steal for your small business, check out this article from webs.

Using a little creativity can go a long way during this festive lead up to winter. We hope these ideas give you some inspiration for your fall marketing efforts that you and your customers can both benefit from. If you’re looking for even more marketing tips and tricks for the change in seasons check out our top ten list of holiday advertising mistakes many Houston businesses make.

 

 

How the Heat Affects Consumer Behavior in Houston

With temperatures soaring and the sun blazing down, there is no escaping the Summer weather in Houston. Most Texans claim that they aren’t fazed by the scorching heat. However, business owners and marketers in the area must understand how the heat affects customers and their purchasing decisions.

The Psychology of Hot Temperatures

Psychologists and market analysts have long asserted that temperature plays a direct role in how a person acts. For example, research from PsychCentral states that higher temperatures reduce depression but raise aggression levels.

Despite this, many businesses only pay attention to the weather and consumer psychology when they are working with the elements or selling seasonal products. The truth is, nearly every business experiences some repercussion from the heat.

Here are four major considerations Houston businesses and advertising leaders should capitalizing with when the temperatures heat up.

1) Location Matters

Summer in Houston is different from anywhere else in America; while 75° in Maine might make for a great day at the beach, it’s downright chilly for a summer’s day in Houston. This means that a one-size-fits-all marketing approach is doomed to fail. As Weather Unlocked explains, how a consumer experiences temperature directly affects their shopping patterns (i.e. visiting brick and mortar stores instead of online shopping).

In Houston, where comfortable summer temperatures are regularly in the upper 90s, advertisers must learn to “speak heat,” Texas-style. Viewers will not react positively, for example, to ads using a ploy such as “escape the heat” when it’s 79°. In other words, knowing your locale’s temperature profile is essential to good marketing.

2) Don’t Underestimate Projection Bias

On a hot day, there is little better than streaming through the Houston streets in a convertible with the top down. However, car dealers rarely can sell convertibles in the hottest months. That’s because shoppers often fall prey to “projection bias.” As Psychology Today explains, “projection bias” occurs when a consumer purposely does not make a purchase because of the weather. The convertible dealer (as well as the pool seller and sunscreen vendor) will have better luck shortly before the weather turns hot, when a consumer’s projection bias has him or her anticipating the hot weather rather than experiencing it.

3) The Optimal Temperature for eCommerce

Another common misconception is that online shopping decreases in the summer as Houston shoppers take to the streets. On the contrary, as one study shows, there was an increase of  46% in consumers searching online stores when temperatures increased from 68° to 77°. This is likely due to the fact that warmer weather ups the mood and makes people feel more at ease with purchasing an item they have no physical connection with.

4) Reduce Your Discounts

Harvard Business Review claims that warm weather also increases a perceived value. Those shopping in a hot room were more likely to buy versus those in a cold room. Just like online purchasing, it is because purchasing heat is connected to emotional warmth. And in return, shoppers will put a higher value on the item. Summer blow out sales, especially with larger products such as furniture, have little impact when consumers would be mentally ready to buy regardless of a hot Houston day.

Creating a Hot Weather Strategy

Research clearly shows a direct correlation between weather and consumer behavior, especially directly related to heat and extreme temperatures. However, just as no two customers are the same, your business’s weather-based plans should be flexible and malleable. The best and most effective way to design a weather strategy is to instead research your own data.

Using historical sales reports or your own knowledge, track how extreme temperatures may have created a real impact in your shoppers behaviors. Compare a surge or downturn in sales with weather websites such as Weather Underground, where you can determine your weather triggers (or meteorological events that cause a change in consumer behavior). You may be surprised to see shifts in consumer behaviors directly related to a hot, Houston day.

Heating Up Sales

When the weather heats up, Houston business owners shouldn’t sweat. Basic consumer psychology has shown that while heat may play a direct role in purchasing decisions, it is largely regional and can have a perception bias. Furthermore, a warm day may even cause a weather trigger that can bypass clearance sales or spur online shopping. By understanding how your business may be affected by the rising mercury, you too can ride the summer shopping heatwave.