In our over 30 years of digital marketing and sales experience, we at ChannelNet have learned that we need to stay in front of market trends. We need to understand the needs and opportunities our clients face. Plus we need to understand the motivations driving our clients’ customers and the ways they choose to act on those motivations.

It sounds simple enough, but digital is a very fluid world. The companies that truly win in today’s environment are usually one step ahead — anticipating and delivering the next big thing.

To stay a step ahead, I read a lot of studies. Here are eight of the best studies that have crossed my desk in the past few months. These offer great communication and service insights for any brand that is promoting a service or product online.

1.    Why you should consider creating your digital marketing one segment at a time

McKinsey & Company — Growing by adapting at speed, May 2015

You cannot wait to figure digital out before getting into digital. McKinsey advocates moving “quickly and decisively” into digital. This study says companies need to introduce new strategies quickly in limited areas and get fast customer feedback to figure out what works, rather than launching large changes all at once after longer development cycles. It confirms an approach we have been using for decades. The three-page paper quotes Napoleon on why he was viewed as a great strategist: “We engage and then we see.”

2.    Mobile banking is where new customers are being won

J.D. Power — 2015 Retail Banking Satisfaction Study, April 2015

This 10th annual study finds that banking satisfaction overall is up, but scores are trending down in satisfaction with mobile banking, and mobile is “raising a red flag about retail banks’ approach to technology.” Moreover, the study finds that Generation Z, born after the mid 1990s and  make up 25 percent of the U.S. population and present challenges to banks that are not optimized for mobile service. If you are in financial services or plan to be, this is for you.

3.    Best-in-class security insights

Aberdeen Group — Six strategies for safeguarding sensitive data, March 2015

From determining what data needs protection to substituting non-data for data through tokenization, data masking or other means, this paper walks through six high-level approaches to data protection. The more we collect and use data in our businesses, the more important this becomes. The enterprise data planning referenced in the document is something I think every company should do — most do not. I think it could solve some of the issues regarding the use of consumers’ personal private information (PPI).

4.    Digital success requires new ways of thinking about business processes

McKinsey & Company — Acquiring the capabilities you need to go digital, March 2015

If there is one thing we know, it is that digital is underpinning the foundation of marketing and the future of service delivery. We also know this future began some time ago. Authors Matthias Daub and Anna Wiesinger explain that the usual rules for hiring don’t apply in the digital arena, and neither do normal IT structures. If you are still struggling to ramp up your digital presence, this is for you.

5.    Brick and mortar companies are expanding online

AGC Partners — The changing consumer shopping experience: trends and technologies leading the way, January 2015

Globally, AGC says retail is a $22 trillion industry. They estimate that only 7 percent of retail today is digital, but the digital retail footprint is growing fast. Some areas are growing much faster than others are, with advertising and marketing dollars moving into digital at a dizzying pace. AGC notes that companies known primarily for their digital presence are now moving into brick and mortar and winning there as well.

6.    How do you stand out from your competitors?

Bronto — Trends and strategies for the commerce marketer, 2015

“Mobile has overtaken the desktop as the primary point of contact with consumers,” begins this white paper, which also explores how to adapt content marketing to different platforms. The advice counsels that companies need to make bold brand statements that resonate with customers to stand out from the crowd. I could not agree more.

7.    Tactics for seamlessly driving loyalty and sales across all customer channels

IBM Software — Omni-channel product recommendations: maximizing impact and customer engagement, February 2014

While this study is a year old, it remains relevant: customers want to be sold. According to this paper, 55 percent of consumers expect retailers to use their purchasing data to recommend additional products. And 40 percent say they purchase more from companies that deliver a personal cross-channel shopping experience. This paper spells out how retailers can work seamlessly across all customer touch channels to create higher satisfaction and higher sales.

8.    Banking customer relationships are quickly changing

Accenture — The digital disruption in banking, 2014

Consumers want their banks to be “nimble and proactive” and to offer digital products that “mesh with consumers’ ‘smart’ mobile-empowered lives.” More than a fourth of consumers say they would consider switching to an all-digital, branch-less bank. Nearly 75 percent consider their “banking relationship merely transactional.” Clearly, there is a huge opportunity for banks that are able to give today’s customers what they want.

All of these papers make the point that digital is becoming more important every day and is evolving constantly. We need to optimize our digital marketing for mobile devices, we need to deliver timely and valuable content, and we need to always pay attention to what our customers want and how they want it.

Paula Tompkins, CEO and founder of ChannelNet, is a digital marketing and sales expert. ChannelNet has helped hundreds of the world’s leading companies use technology to sell their products and build customer relationships.