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Seven Top Online Marketing Trends for 2008

To know where companies are headed in 2008, they must understand how Americans adapt to the latest information and communications technology. According to May 2007 research from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, roughly half of Americans actively use online communications devices. The breakout:

* 8 percent are deep users of the participatory Web and mobile applications.
* 23 percent are heavy, pragmatic tech adopters who use gadgets to either keep up with social networks or be productive at work.
* 10 percent rely on mobile devices for voice, text, or entertainment communications.
* 10 percent use information gadgets but find them a hassle.
* 49 percent use devices only occasionally, and many of these users resent all electronic connectivity.

Looking forward, companies can see how this activity will affect online marketing. Offline marketing expenditures will continue to shift to online, and digital marketing will keep on evolving and maturing. This will have significant impact on 2008 trends.

Consider these seven top online marketing trends for 2008:

* Social media growth will come from expanded niche products. While Facebook increased share significantly in 2007, grabbing attention from MySpace and YouTube, social media growth in 2008 will emerge from more targeted offerings that attract users based on interest.

* Search marketing will continue to extend its reach into other formats, including social, local, and mobile search.

* Analytics and related measurements will become more sophisticated. As the online market matures, analytics will become the arbiter of success and important for revealing areas of opportunity and those that require additional effort.

* Behavioral targeting will become more widespread and will provide improved customer experiences, offering customers more relevant information to consumers and better targeted ads to marketers. It will extend beyond current uses for media and social networking sites to help other online marketers improve and tailor their customer experience.

* Integration of on- and offline will continue as retailers update technology to allow customers to use the channel they prefer for each aspect of the purchase process.

* E-mail communications will evolve. Promotional e-mail has lost its novelty. Given consumer fatigue from increased frequency and stale offers, marketers must focus on delivering relevant messages to consumers when they're most willing to listen to them. This translates into increased use of behaviorally triggered e-mail related to customer actions, more personalized and dynamic content, and greater use of newsletters that provide customers with either valuable or entertaining information.

* The market will disrupted by a new technology or a shift in how existing products are used. Be sure, something big like a Google, MySpace, or YouTube will arrive out of nowhere and provide a great opportunity for marketers who can react fast.
Notice that mobile marketing didn't make the list. It's been the next big thing and part of many predictions for years. It has a world of potential, but the lack of generally accepted platforms, formats, and business models will continue to hamper mobile's growth in 2008.

Metrics to Measure

Moving into 2008, make sure to have the systems in place to monitor marketing successes and challenges. The following are the fundamental metrics that must be tracked by any marketing organization:

* Customers. Track the base of existing customers and prospects as well as the flow of new visitors and conversion rates to determine the direction and level of growth.

* Revenues. Monitor sales in total as well as per customer. Consider the value of the average order and number of units per purchase. Check the trends to ensure they continue to maintain current levels, at least, if not grow.

* Expenses. Measure marketing costs in total as well as per customer and per campaign.

* Margins. Ensure that the company continues to maintain its gross margins. Also track lifetime value and return on investment to determine whether they are within acceptable corporate guidelines.

* External factors. Track environmental factors. A company may be doing well relative to internal measures while falling behind the overall online economy or close competitors.

* Buzz. Monitor what's being said about the firm and products as well as competitors and their products. Is the company overlooking trends?

It's sure to be another exciting and challenging year for the online marketing community in 2008. While the rate of e-commerce's growth may be slowing down a bit, the pace of change won't. The future belongs to those organizations that can succeed at both innovation and execution.

Adapted from article by Heidi Cohen, The ClickZ Network, Jan 2008

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