Marketers would be nothing without the audiences we hope to persuade, in the same way that a movie would be nothing without viewers to see it. In today’s crowded content atmosphere where it’s harder than ever to break through the noise, marketing campaigns live or die by how your audience responds to your messaging. That means understanding your target market is absolutely crucial for success.
According to Searchmetrics, marketers should “concentrate on what is best for the type of audience you actually want coming to your domain. Only by improving the lives of searchers with valuable content and good user experience will your website stand out from the crowd.”
We’ve never exactly been limited in terms of market research—quick, free options like the data provided by the Census Bureau are convenient, and more intensive approaches like conducting widespread user surveys are always a possibility. But as technology becomes more advanced, we’re getting better and better ways to understand our target audiences.
Here are just some of the ways we’ll get better in 2017 and beyond:
1. Better targeting options.
First, we’ll have more ways to target our selected users. Already, major tech platforms like Google and Facebook are giving us features that allow us to filter audiences by demographics like age, region, and gender. In the near future, these abilities will become even more complex, and apparent in new areas of each app. For example, Facebook has always offered audience targeting options for its paid advertising campaigns, but only recently has it moved them to company pages for use in organic post targeting. This means you’ll be able to get more specific insights about more specific users no matter how or where you’re used to accessing this data
2. More engagement metrics.
One of the biggest hurdles in online advertising is finding a way to measure “engagement.” Traditional ad measurements usually rely on metrics like “impressions,” which tell you how many people were on a page while a video loaded and played for more than a second. But this metric doesn’t tell you how long the video played for, the quality of the video, or whether the user was actually watching the ad. More sophisticated forms of measuring user engagement will enable advertisers to learn more about how users respond to these messages, and build campaigns more cost efficiently as a result.
3. Improved data visualization.
Most marketers have access to a host of different analytics platforms, from the robust and free Google Analytics to third-party platforms that offer more advanced or different metrics. It’s easy to log into these platforms and view the numbers—but audiences are more than just numbers. Unless you’re some kind of statistics-obsessed genius, you’ll probably have a hard time drawing significant, high-level conclusions from these metrics. The solution is data visualization, which organizes and presents these data in more meaningful, easy-to-understand ways for end users like marketing managers. In the next few years, we’ll start to see more impressive, intuitive forms of data visualization to make our jobs easier.
4. Behavioral pattern recognition.
We’re also going to get more insights on how people live their lives. Social media allows us to see more about how people connect with other people, what their interests are, and even what their moods are like when posting, but the next level of this will come with wearable devices and the Internet-of-Things (IoT). Suddenly, people have technology integrated into almost every moment of their waking life—and that means an untapped and practically unlimited stream of data for marketers to harness in their targeting and messaging goals.
5. More raw data.
One of the most important technological breakthroughs of this decade has been “big data,” which is exactly what it sounds like—the ability to gather and interpret mass quantities of data for the purposes of achieving a better understanding of a phenomenon (like user behavior). Though not as exciting as some of the other areas of this list, big data is going to advance even further, giving us broader streams of information about a wider berth of people, and in faster, almost real-time pacing.
6. Data interpretation specialists.
We’re also going to start seeing an influx of “data specialist” career fields, both in the number of college programs in this area being offered and in the number of people with this background looking for work. Of course, your business should respond by opening a position like this—assuming your enterprise is big enough to justify the cost. Having someone onboard who specializes in gathering and interpreting numerical data could end up saving you a lot of money in campaign efficiency, strategic choices, and even areas of productivity within your organization.
7. Experimentation and measurement software.
One of the most important marketing fundamentals for improvement and growth is experimentation; through A/B tests and other live experiments, you can compare the results of one potential campaign against another and figure out which tactics work best for your brand. As more marketers learn that these experiments are important for earning long-term results and become more demanding with the sophistication of features, I anticipate we’ll see more and more advanced options emerging in the industry. That means we’ll see experimentation and metrics/analytics software more specific to certain industries and applications and more advanced technology behind them.
No matter how online marketing changes in the next decade, it’s going to be important to research and understand your target audience, and to do that to the best of your ability, you’ll need to harness the latest and greatest technology available. It’s hard to say exactly how or where this technology will manifest, but it’s already starting to appear, and if you want to stay ahead of the competition, you’ll need to be watching for it.
This article was written by Jayson DeMers from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.