As we head into the lucrative holiday season and into the New Year, it's time to reflect on the challenges and successes that marketers have encountered this year, and to determine what the focus needs to be in 2014 according to Swen Krups, vice president of client services for Epsilon, who here offers up ten trends that could bring brands and their customers closer together. This article is copyright 2013 The Best Customer Guide.

As we consider marketing strategies and plans for the coming year, it is worth keeping in mind changes and fluctuations beyond our control, both in our industry and in the consumer market. Today's consumer is far too well connected and too smart to fall for the marketing tactics of old, which means the time has come to be personally relevant and personally engaging and, consequently, data-driven.

The top ten trends and themes which will affect marketers in the near term are:

  1. The New CMO
    In recent years the marketing and IT functions have become more closely related as digital marketing increases in prominence. Modern marketers must be more technologically savvy than in years past and know how to work collaboratively with their IT counterparts. This year more than ever, it's important for CMOs to fully understand the role of the CTO.
  2. The Year of Multichannel
    If you have not yet done so, it is vital that your team defines your multichannel marketing strategy. Similar to when email marketing first emerged on the scene, those who began early tend to be the most successful users of the channel. Your consumers engage with your brand across a multitude of channels and touch points on a daily basis. Do not miss engagement and conversion opportunities by not having a strategy in place.
  3. Convenience
    Consumers should not have to jump through hoops to engage with your brand. As you consider your engagement strategy, convenience for the consumer should be top of mind.
  4. Click and Collect for Grocery
    Click and collect is a shopping model typically used by grocery retailers. This allows consumers to order goods online and pick them up at their preferred store location and at their preferred time. It's a great strategy to offer consumers choice and make purchasing simple and convenient.
  5. Loyalty Goes a Long Way
    Marketing today should revolve around trust, relevance and engagement. Build trust by first being relevant, this will in turn help you earn engagement. Look for ways to inspire your customers to be active participants with your brand through your marketing. By doing so you will build loyalty that wins both the hearts and minds of your consumers.
  6. Always Be Testing
    Evaluate consumer behaviour and use this data to modify and adjust current and future strategies to yield higher profits and ROI. If something isn't working, adjust and test again.
  7. Always Be Innovating
    Consumers are constantly finding new ways to interact with one another and with brands. Marketers must do the same. Without innovation you fall behind the consumers and behind your competition. Ensure you foster and encourage an environment where your teams can be innovative.
  8. Price Matters
    Price is important, but remember that price and trust work hand-in-hand. If you have successfully engaged a consumer and fulfilled their need, don't be shy to ask for the correct price. When you deliver a good service, a loyal customer will be willing to pay more.
  9. Stand Out From the Crowd
    Ensure you differentiate your brand, products and services so you stand out from the competition and remain top of mind for consumers. Avoid blindly following emerging trends. Instead develop a unique approach customised to your brand. This is by no means an easy feat, but an important one to remain competitive and thrive.
  10. Back to Basics
    Before innovation can take place, the communication, service and process should be mastered. Don't forget the key to successful engagement is to know your consumer and provide them with relevant communications. It's difficult for consumers to be loyal to brands that do not "know" them. Collect relevant data and make it actionable in real-time to improve the customer experience. Use data to give consumers direct access to what they want, need and are interested in.