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As 2017 passes by, we felt that it would be a fantastic opportunity to reflect on the past year and understand what the market has in store for us all for 2018. Only by speaking to those across our region who are driving the industry forward can we really understand what happened over the last 12 months and get insight into the biggest developments for the year ahead.

Marketing Recruitment

The Candidate is the leading regionally focussed recruitment agency which recruits in the Digital, Marketing and Creative sectors within the North West. Having recently won the prestigious Regional Agency of the Year Award at the Marketing and Recruitment Awards in London, we, as a business, feel proud that the relationships we have built with both candidates and clients across many different sectors has been recognised.

Our Marketing recruitment division continues to thrive in the Northern marketplace and we believe that it is down to our ability to predict and service these trends, efficiently and at pace. Our clients’ requirements change each year because the industry, it’s technologies and skillsets evolve. We gain a great deal of insight from the close contact that we have daily from those at the forefront, from Marketing graduates through to business owners and from attending various marketing events throughout the year.

Social & Influencer Trends

This year we’ve seen a huge increase in the demand for skills in the Influencer market and the continuing requirement for top-class SEO and PPC candidates at all levels. Marketers are required to continue to understand their customer’s behaviour and in particular how this is changing and how that impacts how they are absorbing messages and interacting with brands.

Dane Stanley, Chief Marketing Officer at www.inthestyle.com believes that ‘the growth of the influencer market in the past 24 months shows no signs of slowing, although what is becoming clear is that customers are increasingly aware of how the model works, and that influencers are working with brands, rather than are just acting as advocates. As a result, it’s becoming even more important for brands to develop genuine relationships with influencers. As such, we’ll see a significant upskilling in what was largely a junior role, whereby business development and relationship management are important skills within the Outreach function.’

Within eCommerce and retail, the marketplace is becoming busier then ever before and only the most experienced marketers who really understand their marketplace will make a difference to the businesses they are working for. However what is clear is that social is at the core of many online retailers’ strategies.

Nicki Capstick, Head of Marketing at PrettyLittleThing has said that ‘communicating with our digitally savvy customer through the right channel at the right time is key to driving success. Over the past 12 months we have utilised our social channels, social influencers and brand ambassadors to showcase how PLT recreates the latest celebrity looks for less and drive awareness of the brand on a global scale. Social media is an integral part of our communication strategy and will remain at the forefront of our 2018 growth plans.

This really highlights how the digital marketing landscape is fluid and we have to be agile in our response to this.’

GDPR & Data

Outside of fashion retail, there are other major areas front of mind within the Marketing industry that will need addressing in 2018 to continue to have a successful marketing strategy.

Chris Sheard, Head of Acquisition at currentbody.com brings GDPR and the potential unexpected impact on businesses to our attention. ‘I’m sure every marketer’s email box has been flooded with emails about GDPR for months now. There is a great digital marketing podcast by Michael Morrissey (The GDPR interview) – it is definitely worth a listen if you are unsure how it could impact your business.

One of the more unexpected implications of GDPR is the pressure it potentially could create based on personal requests for data. In a nutshell, you will be able to contact any company that holds personal data on you, and they are legally required to provide that information within 30 days (rather than the current 45) and free of charge (previously required an admin fee).

Without a financial barrier to entry, shorter time frames to hit and strong rumours that a few of the PPI firms could refocus on this area- be prepared for a sharp increase in inquiries. 

There is a risk that the real impact of GDPR on 2018 could be the resources and focus it will demand.’

Kai Kurihara, Senior Digital Marketing Manager at NCC Group plc agrees on the impact of GDPR and believes the major shift in the Digital Marketing paradigm in 2018 will be data. ‘In May 2018, GDPR is going to have an undeniable knock-on effect on how we did Digital Marketing until now. In terms of recruitment, I believe that while the market will still need strong Content Marketers, companies should focus on three areas: CRM, analytics and paid.

CRM is going to be an area of opportunity for digital marketers. With GDPR in place, customer data is going to be at the centre of all scrutiny. In conjunction with a Data Protection Officer, CRM Managers will be crucial for any organisation. 2018 is set to provide the perfect opportunity for CRM Managers to up their game and become indispensable.

Analytics is going to be affected by GDPR, especially if you talk about areas such as IP lookup or marketing automation. Next year, there will be a clear need for adequately trained individuals who understand what can and cannot be tracked. 

Finally, we have paid. Paid will become more important than ever, as we should see a move away from cookie and IP targeting. Cookies and IPs are personal data which are essentially passed on to third party companies with no real consent; a big no-no under GDPR. As a result, we may see the decline of tactics such as retargeting to make room for ‘Moment Marketing’ (I had to put a buzzword, didn't I?). For Paid Ads Managers, it is a brilliant time to be an innovator.’

Insight & technology

Clearly right across the region, the experience that lies within company’s marketing departments is vast and their practices and ideas will continue to drive the industry forward. Company Directors are keen to grow on this by bringing experience in-house in order in order to have full control over their marketing activities that can bring huge commercial benefits. However software and outsourcing will always be a part of the mix.

Mark Kuhillow, Founder at R.O.EYE, a Digital Performance & Insight Agency weighs up the benefits by observing ‘One of the most significant recruitment trends we have seen over 2017 is that of client in-housing. With digital marketing channel maturity, skill sets are becoming commoditised; particularly within PPC, affiliate and organic social sectors. The proliferation of skills in the North West has created adequate supply in the talent pool to satisfy agency demands whilst offering SME and corporate clients the ability to resource their own in-house teams. Whether advertisers are driving these initiatives for strategic or commercial reasons, in the majority of instances the move makes complete sense.

Operating in an ‘echo-chamber’, however, can bring risks. Although an expensive alternative, (good!) agencies do bring a constant source of new ideas and force client innovations by virtue of their market access. As the majority of clients are in-housing paid channels with low-mid tier activation buyers, this creates a huge insight vacuum. This has created a huge area of growth for R.O.EYE where we have offered our channel attribution platform, SingleView to offer media strategy insights to clients who have the activation resource but lack the tools and knowledge to understand the true incremental value and roles of their channels.’

Matt Holmes, Head of Search & Performance Media at Distrelec Ltd agrees with the in-house need for great insight and the type of person who will be using it ‘As we move towards a world where marketing automation becomes king, 2018 will see the rise of the tech geek within marketing teams (and search in particular). I think we’ve now reached a tipping point where marketing innovation is being driven by tech, the success of agencies and brands now hinges heavily on the tech stack choices of their business and finding the technically minded marketers to get the most out of the tools.

The most successful businesses will be looking outside the box at tech solutions which solve age-old business problems (like keyword level call tracking) and tying the results together into a unified view of the customer. I believe 2018 will be a year of caution for marketeers. As the UK economy continues to slow and stall as the real truths about Brexit emerge, making sure that every marketing pound spent is fully accounted for and tracked will be vital. There will be caution around GDPR in May, where huge fines will cause companies to question their existing marketing strategies as the deadline looms, GDPR’s stringent personal data rules will be vital to get right.’

Back To Basics and Caution?

Finn Christo, Head of Ecommerce at www.inthestyle.com thinks that you just need to get the basics right first.  ‘Allow your users to search, find and filter before worrying about which AI bot to go live with first or which AR scene to position your product in. Ecom is at the cutting edge of innovation but if you’re visitor ultimately can’t find a product, add to basket and purchase you’re working from the wrong priority list.

It’s all well and good to try and be ahead of the curve but any five minute search through your Customer Service tickets will point you to urgent customer experience gaps that need addressing before you build The Next Big Thing or train up your chat bot to take on the world.  My advice for 2018, get the basics right first!’

As retail clients are finding new ways to reach both their millennial and increasingly digitally savvy audience, we - as recruiters, have to understand how to up-skill a relatively limited and junior candidate pool.’

Jason Guy, Digital Marketing Lead at Co-op Funeralcare believes that ‘as print continues to be unfairly punished because advertising revenues continue to fall faster than circulation, there should be caution around diverting too much spend to online. People’s personal newsfeeds are already over saturated with bad marketing and ill thought through formats. Content must be bespoke and unique to these mediums. Keep it short. The 6 second video will be king. Watch out for Snapchat really starting to appeal to mass market brands, along with new initiatives from the likes of Spotify and Oath.

There will be caution around brand safety too. Not just about what dodgy content your online advertising might appear next to as YouTube continues mishandle this year’s issues, but around fake and spoof sites too. As the public’s spending power is squeezed, common sense can go out the window when an online deal or website looks too good to be true.’

As you can see from the fantastic insights and predictions above, there is set to be a lot of change and a real shift in focus throughout 2018. We will continue to be in touch with market changes and always aim to attract the best talent and opportunities across the Marketing, Digital and Creative sectors. We, as a business, enjoy working on every new project, meeting both new and old candidates and clients and of course, most importantly placing candidates into their dream role. We would love to hear your thoughts and would welcome your own opinions as to how the sector will evolve throughout 2018. Whatever happens, we know that it will be an exciting journey!

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