If this year’s Canadian Internet Marketing Conference (CIMC) made one thing clear, it’s that it’s a very exciting time to be working in the digital age. With more data available at our fingertips than ever before, a constantly growing network of digital devices, rapid technological advances and increased consumer contact – what works today won’t necessarily work tomorrow.

Keynote speakers from reputable brands such as Disney, LinkedIn, Airbnb, Amazon, Adobe, Telus and McDonalds – just to name a few – shared their industry knowledge and insights at the two-day conference in Squamish, British Columbia.

Having found the event extremely valuable, and since sharing is caring, we thought we’d share with you our key takeaways from the conference. Enjoy!

Creativity is essential for survival
Innovation was trendy in the early 2000s, but now it’s necessary for survival. Many of the Fortune 500 have died out due to their inability to innovate or keep up with technological advances (RIP Blockbuster). As a result, Disney’s Duncan Wardle emphasized the importance of exercising our creativity. The ability to ‘think differently’ will be the key to creating innovative solutions that deliver game-changing results and allowing the company to survive.
A number of ways to encourage creativity within an organization…..so many that we’ve dedicated a separate blog to it!
Be customer obsessed
Companies need to be creating buyer personas to attain a deeper understanding of their consumers. Target market level-data is no longer in-depth enough considering the volume and detail of consumer data available to firms. Companies must be learning all about their key buyer types by learning their language, putting themselves in the buyer’s shoes, understanding their pain points, and the “whys” to the decisions that they make.
Manu Goswami from LinkedIn reminds us that “Followers aren’t a number, they’re people we can engage with”. Creating conversations with consumers is important in providing them a great brand experience. In return, marketers gain a greater understanding of consumers’ needs which allows them to improve their offerings.
It’s all about the user experience
Competing for experience will be the new strategy according to Adobe. Companies will have to create innovative experiences around their products and users to survive. Interac notes that just as companies must provide a great experience to gain trust, they must ensure their experiences (as well as data breaches) do not break it. The product, the website – everything has to work.
Oli Gardner from Unbounce stresses the need for companies to not only focus on online conversion rates but track micro-behaviour too. UX audits and A/B testing should be constantly conducted in order to highlight user pain points. He demonstrated how adjusting micro-design details on a page can change user micro-behaviour for the better, and in doing so, upping the experience from sufficient to great.
Data, data, data
Companies understand the importance of data-driven decisions and yet the majority of them aren’t utilizing their data to its full potential. Even worse, some decisions are made without any data, which makes it guesswork and as Dario Meli from Quietly says “if you’re guessing, you’re either lucky or you’re wrong”.
Social listening is extremely powerful with its ability to provide real-time consumer insight. McDonald’s experience of being able to rectify their new product within 48 hours after its launch thanks to social listening was a great example of this. From checking in on the brand’s health to assessing competitor activity, social listening provides a more holistic view of a brand and the marketplace.
It’s important to focus on the projects that the data shows to be working, and continue to improve on it. However, as Buzzfeed stresses, you also need to try completely new things and gather data on that. Disney says the problem is people stop looking once they’ve found “the right answer” when there are actually more, even better answers. This results in missed opportunities and only minor improvements.
Introducing conversational-commerce
With voice assistants like Google Home, Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri, voice-activated search queries are quickly on the rise. Over one billion voice searches happen a month, so it’s important companies have a voice search strategy in place. Questions like “How will consumers phrase things verbally (compared to their more robotic typed searches)?” and “Where will they be speaking from?” will need to be answered.
Voice SEO will become extremely competitive as conversational-commerce picks up speed. Companies will need to fight to be the default brand for generic purchasing requests such as “Hey Google, order me some new batteries”.
With voice assistants becoming part of our everyday lives, companies have to consider completely new aspects of their brand. Deciding what a brand is going to sound like and designing a zero-UI experience that is intuitive and easily navigable will both be exciting and challenging.
Create thumb-stopping content
As mediocre content continues to flood the internet, industry leaders urge content creators to focus on quality, not quantity. LinkedIn’s Diana Luu challenges us to think about the longevity of the content: How long a piece of content will continue to perform well, rather than how many instant impressions it will generate.
One-size-fits-all doesn’t work with content. Content should be tailored to appeal on an individual level as much as possible. Thanks to target audience settings and improved machine learning, we are getting better at delivering this at scale. With continuous content analysis, companies can create the content Richard Reid says they should aspire to be: “Don’t interrupt the content that people love, be the content that people love.”
Content should: Be lengthy but relentlessly focused, appeal to search engines, answer a particular problem, be educational, entertaining and useful. It should speak with the user, not to them, in the language they’re familiar with.
As the digital world continues to evolve rapidly, and as we shift towards voice-activated interactions with our devices, the next decade will bring about the biggest transformation to businesses yet. Both companies and marketers need to be prepared for these changes. This will require them to become more in tune with consumers, successfully link various data silos for better data-driven decisions and be creative by redefining the rules and utilizing emerging technologies.