The increase in digital marketing activity has resulted in an avalanche of data. In fact, a recent study by IBM found that each day the world creates a shocking 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. This provides marketing professionals with an advantage – but also an analysis challenge — when it comes to understanding their target market. Harnessing data to gain actionable insight will prove key to marketers’ success in 2016. Using insights into their customers’ online behaviours, marketers should focus on the following five areas to produce and measure results during the coming year.

1. ROI must be demonstrated

Research by ZenithOptimedia shows that by 2017 the internet will be the biggest advertising medium in 12 key markets, which together represent 28% of global ad spend. As more brands move their budgets online, the simple economics of supply and demand will come into force. Online advertising is still relatively inexpensive, especially when compared to TV, but as demand increases I expect online advertising will become increasingly expensive as brands compete for consumers’ attention. If marketers are getting less for their money, there will also be increased pressure to invest in the right places.

2. Delivering content effectively remains vital

In 2016 marketers need to stop thinking ‘channel’ and start thinking ‘consumer’. Marketers are often guilty of placing too much focus on separate channels, whether that is social media, print or in-store branding. Consumers don’t see brands this way. For a consumer, there is no distinction between channels; communication channels between a brand and its customers are entwined in a complex relationship that often demands a two way conversation. Marketers need to adapt to this way of thinking and develop content that reflects how their customers want to interact with brands across different channels. As Steve Jobs once said, we need to ‘create relevance not awareness’.

3. The importance of mobile advertising

More Google searches now take place on mobile devices than on computers in ten countries, including the US and Japan. Brands that are not yet taking mobile seriously need to take note. It’s surprising how many big brands still haven’t mobile optimised their websites and those that have often neglect to optimise their entire online shopping route. This results in many lost customers simply due to poor user experience at the point of purchase. Ensuring the customer journey is viable on all major devices is a basic requirement for all brands.

4. Sources of traffic will widen

Wearable tech has been on the news agenda for some time and although adoption has been relatively slow, we expect that marketers will start to take these new channels more seriously during 2016. The ‘internet of things’ will continue to be a theme with tech getting smarter in general, including white goods like smart-fridges. With the pool of devices available in the digital marketing mix growing, the amount of traffic will widen. Marketers need to ensure they allocate their digital budgets to the right channels and use customer insights to optimise across devices. Affiliate programmes present a huge untapped opportunity for high end brands which is sure to gain momentum in 2016.

5. Bridging the gap between online and offline

Not only do marketers need to think holistically when planning their activity across multiple digital channels, they need to bridge the gap between their online and offline marketing. Not simply regarding tone of voice and branding, but the user journey between online and offline. Click and collect is a prime example of how user experience doesn’t stop at the online checkout.  According to our research, between a quarter and a third of people go online while in store to look at reviews and price comparison websites, among others, which is why it’s so important to ensure you’re reaching out to new or existing customers via all possible touch points.

From prioritising content to investing in mobile, it’s clear that there are steps that marketers need to be planning for now. The clear themes that will emerge in 2016 is the importance of measuring success in digital, mobile and performance marketing, as well as the need to use data to target customers in the right way at the right time to maximise impact of digital marketing activities.