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Digital Marketing: 2016 to offer a new level of connection

At the start of every year, analysts attempt to predict new marketing trends that will reshape the produce industry. As we’ve seen in the past, most of these trends are the same year-over-year. This year, I suggest focusing not on predictions but on what produce marketers should be leveraging for success in 2016.

Digital marketing success in 2016 will solely depend on two crucial aspects: first, early adoption of new technologies, and second, creating personalized consumer experiences. These two focus areas are the best way to keep your marketing programs successful and your brand top of mind throughout the year.John-M-AvolaJohn Avola

Early adoption of new technologies
Each year, new technologies either get adopted or ignored. The early adopters stay ahead of the competition, appeal to new markets and strengthen their reputations as industry leaders, while those who decide to wait risk missing key opportunities to grow their business.

In 2016, early adopters should focus their attention on location-based marketing (iBeacons), virtual reality (Octulus Rift) and ephemeral marketing (SnapChat). Each of these technologies provides an opportunity to make real-time experiences possible for consumers.

iBeacon technology detects nearby devices and can be placed in retail stores near point-of-sale displays. As shoppers walk by your product, they receive notification alerts with coupons and/or rewards. iBeacons also allow you to better track consumer data, providing more behavior-driven information that can be used to optimize your marketing strategies.

Scheduled to release during the first quarter of 2016, the most talked about virtual device, Octulus Rift, will have the greatest impact on the way produce marketers engage with their customers.

Octulus Rift provides the ability to tell 360-degree stories and will introduce an entire new medium of virtual reality advertising. Within a few years, on-location field tours will be an experience of the past. Instead, you’ll be bringing an Octulus Rift to your next sales meeting, giving your customers the ability to view your flourishing green fields and state-of-the-art equipment right from his or her desk. The possibilities of what these new “eyes” can do for your business are limitless.

Ephemeral marketing capitalizes on producing snippets of content that expire after a specific amount of time. Think of ephemeral marketing as sharing exclusive content with an expiration date. SnapChat, for example, is the most popular ephemeral marketing platform among millennials. With more than 100 million users and a reported valuation of at least $15 billion, SnapChat has become more than a fun photo sharing app; it’s a platform used to capture and share real-time content.

As a produce marketer, you should be keeping a close watch on SnapChat advertising this year, and here’s why: name another platform that requires users to view only one screen at a time. There’s no better way to communicate with your audiences than being front and center.

Creating personalized consumer experiences
This year, intrusive mass-marketing approaches will continue to fade as shoppers demand more personalized consumer experiences. The days of short-term acquisition and quick interactions have been replaced with loyalty and long-term customer engagement. Produce marketers must focus on building trust, increasing transparency and establishing stronger relationships throughout 2016.

Offering a personalized consumer experience involves sharing information relevant to an individual’s interests, age or location. Save your customers time by giving them what they care about most.

To begin personalizing your marketing communications, start with collecting information to build consumer profiles, then analyze your data for accuracy and segment specific variables into groups. Data have become increasingly easy to access and available in a variety of formats. Produce companies that make an effort to personalize each consumer experience can expect an increase in sales, higher engagement and better customer satisfaction rankings.

There are plenty of opportunities to personalize interactions with your consumers. When sending an email to your consumer database, customize the message by including a data tag that will automatically address each individual. On signup forms, in addition to requesting general information (name, email, etc.), be sure to include other questions such as interests, favorite products and how your products are being used in recipes.

Social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, also provide customizing opportunities for targeting content to your most relevant audiences based on age, gender, location, interests and education level. Paid social advertising offers even more personalization options.

This year, my challenge for you is to step out of your comfort zone and adapt to new ways of marketing to your consumers. It’s not a one-size-fits-all environment anymore. By focusing on early adoption of new technologies and creating personalized consumer experiences, your company is guaranteed to have a successful 2016. Keep thinking ahead, creating unique experiences and making your customers feel connected to your brand, especially the younger generation of consumers.

This year, don’t become a victim of uncertain trends; make 2016 a year focused on success.

(This is the first in an occasional series by John Avola, co-founder and chief executive officer of Idea Garden Marketing, a full-service marketing company specializing in the produce industry. As a digital marketing expert, he creates integrated marketing campaigns to increase awareness, engagement and revenue for produce companies. He may be reached at , or visit