This was first published in #TheFutureByDesign. Click here to download the publication with insights from leading marketing, creative and advertising minds.

Scarcely a few years ago, brands were debating the longevity of social media as a viable marketing channel, but now it’s an integral part of every communication strategy, or should be if it isn’t. Today, says Andre Steenekamp, CEO of digital marketers, 25AM, that same uncertainty exists about wearable technology.

He weighs in on the future of digital engagement.

The Future of Digital Engagement

#TheFutureByDesign: What is the biggest challenge your industry will face?

The honest truth? Agency remuneration. Traditional media agencies steered away from digital for many years, mainly due to a lack of understanding and skills. In the past few years they have realised they need to integrate digital into their strategies and offer these services to their clients.

Unfortunately, just like the publishing industry killed their digital offering in the ’90s by offering it as a value-add, so too are traditional above the line media agencies killing digital through charging the same fee structure as they do for TV, radio and print. This is not sustainable in the long term as digital is a lot more resource intensive, with daily and sometimes even hourly campaign management and strategy evolution, hence the spend in digital cannot sustain the costs of these resources at traditional fee structures of x% (usually as low as 3 or 4%) of media spend.

As TV loses favour with the new marketing generation due to waning audiences and limited measurability, these agencies will see their margins drop and find themselves struggling to keep afloat.  Now is the time to get companies comfortable with this new environment. ~ Andre Steenekamp

#TheFutureByDesign: What technologies will shape the future of customer engagement?

Technologies will come and go. Yesterday’s watch is today’s health tracker that also happens to tell the time. Having an instinct for what will stick and what to discard is vital. However, integrated measurability is the key to the future of marketing.

We need the ability to measure customer engagement across as many, if not all, channels.  And measurability doesn’t stop at the first interaction; it goes beyond the click into customer behaviour and opens the potential for remarketing to already-interested consumers, existing customers and brand advocates. It also has the ability to measure one channel’s influence on another through attribution analysis which will better inform future strategies.

This is why we deploy an integrated measurement system like Double Click tracking across all our campaigns. It has the ability to bring together all your search, display, social media and programmatic media campaigns together into one dashboard and highlights the wins, losses and trends at a glance. ~ Andre Steenekamp

#TheFutureByDesign: What are the most important things for brands to focus on to prepare for the future?

Today, digital savvy customers expect a 1:1 relationship with brands.  We can no longer deploy a spray-and-pray strategy in the hope that our message will get through.  Now we need to focus on the right message, at the right time, in the right medium. It needs to at least seem personalised, even if it actually isn’t.

However, we need to guard against being intrusive. There are times when consumers don’t expect to interact with a brand and their products, there are times where they will tolerate it, and times when they will invite interaction, usually when there is a perceived benefit. ~ Andre Steenekamp

#TheFutureByDesign: Any other thoughts?

Everyone is talking mobile and I believe that mobile is key to unlocking the marketing potential in South Africa and the rest of the continent. Let’s remember, though, that the mobile phone is a very personal device and we need to treat it as such. Like the huge app industry, marketers will need to give a little in order to receive a lot (think free Skype with display ads or free “lite’, or ‘freemium’ versions of an app to encourage upgrades to premium). We want consumers to switch on, not switch off. ~ Andre Steenekamp

About Andre Steenekamp

As CEO of 25AM, Andre Steenekamp leads the company’s expansion in South Africa’s fast-growing digital marketing and advertising space. His first digital play saw Steenkamp lead Auto Trader South Africa’s highly successful digital strategy between 2000 and 2004. He has also worked for the likes of Independent Newspapers, M-Web Business and HKLM.