We are living in an age of rampant digital consumption and consumerism; one which compels all businesses, be they large or small, to interact with online communities. To be successful in this modern world, businesses have to be willing to integrate physical and digital touch points, in order to facilitate smooth and enjoyable customer experiences.

According to recent studies, approximately 75% of consumers are now regularly communicating with brands via digital marketing channels. Yet, what is truly surprising is the amount of small businesses which have yet to jump on the bandwagon. A great deal of SMEs are aware of the value of skilled digital marketing, but they are still cautious about investing.

It is believed that around 78% of small companies do not put aside capital from their budget for digital marketing campaigns. The problem with this is that it makes ‘keeping up’ with the world rather difficult. With so many of our purchasing habits and behaviours now dictated by super brands like Amazon, Google, and Apple, to be successful in the long term, contemporary businesses have to learn how to be as flexible and innovative as they are.

This guide to the top three digital marketing must haves you cannot afford to ignore in 2016 will help you get connected and start communicating with your customers.

Location Based Marketing

It is important not to ignore the reality that millions of consumers are now bypassing personal computers altogether, in favour of mobiles and tablets. With increased portability, comes the need for content which moves right alongside users. Plus, unlike a lot of the social changes which technological innovation ushers in (giving consumers broader and wider access), location based marketing is actually a great chance for small businesses to attract traffic.

If you can match users with information about your business, precisely because they are geographically close to it, it is bound to be much easier to convince them to buy from you. It is going to make a huge difference to how your brand is viewed if you can be there, at the right time, to fulfil the right need, for the right person – location based marketing can help you to achieve this.

User Generated Content

The second biggest trend, and one which is growing more important all the time, is user generated content. The finest example of this is, of course, Pinterest, but a number of high profile companies have now taken on the challenge of allowing their customers to direct their brand. For instance, in 2013, the Ford Fiesta was marketed with use of an entirely user generated Instagram campaign (dubbed the ‘Fiestagram’).

As the amount of influence which users exercise over online content increases, so too does the desire for input. It is no longer enough for consumers to simply be able to pick out the most valuable content and discard the rest – they want to have a hand in creating it. If you allow users to have an input, your target market is much more likely to develop a personal and emotional connection to your brand.

Integrated Marketing

There is nothing more important than being relevant to your audience, within and across all contexts and platforms. This comes back to the notion of consumers always being ‘on the move’ these days and desiring content which is similarly portable. Without optimisation of content (particularly between smartphones and the desktop), there is no way for users to interact with your brand precisely when they choose to.

This is essential, because the online world is not restricted to a desk. You want customers to be able to engage with your content whether they are lying in bed with a mobile phone, sitting at the library reading from a tablet, or supermarket shopping with the kids. According to recent statistics, only 39% of consumers are receiving an integrated marketing approach, but 72% are looking for one – be the gap in the market and give them what they want.