Last week, Kenshoo hosted a panel discussion at the incredible Museum of Brands in London.

Whilst we certainly have a view on the future of digital, the idea behind this event was to invite senior marketers to hear from and engage with a panel of experts on a range of themes that are keeping brand leaders awake at night.

Our panelists included:

  • Brent Hoberman, current CEO and Co-Founder of Made.com and Co-Founder of LastMinute.com
  • Thomas Hoegh – Co-Founder of Arts Alliance, entrepreneur and investor – sold LoveFilm to Amazon
  • Will Martin-Gill – SVP Product at Kenshoo and former Global Head of Search at eBay
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One of the reasons digital is so exciting is that it has a pace unlike any other industry. It’s driven by consumers; it’s disruptive; and while nobody really knows what the future holds for digital, we can certainly predict where we think things are going based on what the trends point to.

Hosting this kind of event is fun and challenging as, at the outset, we really don’t know where the conversation will go, which themes will resonate with the panel, which topics will speak to the audience and if any definitive answers or strong views will arise.

Luckily, we had excellent panelists, all very experienced and all successful in digital (and beyond!) in their own right, so I was pretty sure we would uncover some interesting insights.

During the discussion, Scribing Magic, illustrated the debate on a giant canvas, capturing the main themes (and spooky likenesses of the panel members!).

panelists-drawing

Let’s dive into 5 key  topics explored  during the discussion.

1. Are marketers too fixated on acquisition or will this remain the most important use of digital budgets in the next few years?

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The overriding sentiment from the panel was that marketers need to focus on lifetime value, the cycle of digital touch points, and how each channel has a part to play in acquiring, retaining, and deepening relationships over time. Winning new customers will always be high on the agenda, but  there’s value in an existing customer who has already converted, has already bought into and from the brand, and has the potential to become an advocate via word of mouth.

Brent stated that he is still a huge fan of PR and believes it is often overlooked by digital marketers, especially Gen-Y, digital savvy marketers who are naturally comfortable with digital channels and clicks. They may be overlooking the power of a good story, controversy, and sometimes, just clever/cute/mischievous ways to get coverage. He mentioned Made.com’s infamous email welcoming clients to a ‘Free’ Scotland –- was it a deliberate PR stunt or a mistake? Only Brent and his team know, but no coverage is bad coverage and Brent was particularly delighted to get a few mentions in the New York Times!

2. Search still sees circa 55% of the UK’s digital budgets according to eConsultancy–- in the future, will marketers will be less reliant on search alone?

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Our own Will Martin-Gill led this discussion point with the perspective that other channels, in particular paid social, will see growing budgets, but not necessarily at the expense of search budgets – the key will be thinking about programs more holistically. From Will’s perspective, marketers will look for ways to integrate search with other channels as attribution evolves beyond last click, to ensure every touch point in the path to conversion is considered rather than viewing channels in silos. After all, search is great for capturing intent but other channels are needed to stimulate awareness and interaction.

3. In the near future, all media will likely be biddable. Will we see a time soon when brands are bidding on individual household TV spots?

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The general consensus was that this could be a fair possibility. As digital marketers start to build out detailed profiles of consumers in terms of likes and interests, viewing habits, subscriptions and we (as consumers) move away from traditional broadcast media to on-demand, of course marketers will want to drill right down into targeted households.

Add to this the fact that we are also consuming TV shows, news, movies, and music on the move and on multiple devices, but usually logged-in as individuals, it is highly likely that all media will become programmatic. The challenge for marketers, or at least media owners selling advertising spots, is that subscription models usually carry an ad-free option.

4. Proximity Marketing: with beacons and Apple Pay picking up steam, will consumers ever be comfortable with brands making offers in-store based on online behaviour and vice versa?

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The key idea here is ‘Permission Marketing’. There was definitely a view in the room that the right offers at the right time are a huge opportunity when done well. This discussion dovetailed nicely into one of the other themes on ‘Personalisation’ and again, the general view is that if done well, campaigns can be highly effective. Executed poorly, however, and it can come across as disruptive or unauthentic.

5. Email is dead… long live email! 

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Right now, email is still one of the most effective ways to communicate with existing customers; in fact, most customers choose email as a preference when it comes to regular communication. With the prevalence of Smartphones and our obsession with checking email during every waking hour, email is certainly far from dead. That being said, Brent raised an interesting challenge for email marketers – teenagers don’t use email, period. If Gen Y are the future, how will marketers find ways to engage them?

Where does the future of digital leave us today?

These 5 themes only scratch the surface of what’s to come in digital. Other interesting topics touched upon during the event included the internet of everything and the algorithmic intimacy of personalisation – all captured by our artist’s depiction.

fod-illustration

We actually ran out of time and didn’t get to many of the other topics we had planned, which is a good thing; it means we had excellent, engaging discussions and that many thoughts and ideas persist when it comes to future opportunities and evolution.

This also means we can get the panel back together to discuss the topics we didn’t get to, and who knows, they may have a different perspective on the themes we did manage to cover – after all, this digital space changes so fast!

To download a digital copy of the canvas illustrating the Future of Digital themes and highlights, click here.