The days of 2016 ushered in an era of digital marketing defined by rapid social media changes, accelerated prominence of video, and marketers giving up on beacons becoming a retail reality (for now, anyway). As we kick off the new year, it’s a chance to wipe the whiteboard clean and develop new strategies to propel brands forward in the upcoming twelve months.
Below are the 10 trends that we think will define this year in digital marketing.
1. Speak Up: Voice-Driven SEO
Hands-free search is about to become the new frontier for SEO. With the launch of Google Home to compete with Amazon’s Echo, connected home devices are now becoming mainstream. Unlike the type-and-read searches of the past couple decades, new connected home devices bring an audio component into the mix. To date, Google Voice searches are executed in a black box without the benefit of data or analytics for marketers to assess. In the upcoming year, marketers will need to begin tackling the idea of voice-driven search results, and take advantage of early analytics as they are released from platform owners.
2. Making Cens(or) of It: Overcoming Ad Blocking
More than 400 million mobile web users and 200 million desktop web users are using ad-blocking technology to restrict the banner ads displayed on their devices. 2017 is the year marketers stop fretting about the ad-blocking doomsday and start adapting to the new reality of online campaigns. Advertisers are quickly realizing that diversifying their media mix to include native ads as well as non-standard ad formats may help improve their ability to work around blockers. And as always, the more fragile the digital ad ecosystem becomes, the more critical content marketing and other standard-bearers become.
3. History Repeats Itself: Chatbots Return
In the early internet days, chatbots were best known in the form of AIM chatterbots who entertained bored teenagers, and Microsoft Clippy, who infuriated frustrated Word Doc creators. Those chatbots were largely novelties with limited functionality, and a harsh robotic feel that made them stand out instantly. In 2017, chatbots will complete a resurgence that has been been years in the making. When Google Allo launched in September 2016, it was projected to become “the most significant chatbot messaging platform ever” with its ability to read and interpret messages, recommending appropriate responses in turn.
But chatbots aren’t just for Google. Taco Bell and Dominos are both already using chatbots to enable hungry customers to easily order dinner. And winning the ultra-niche category, mattress retailer Casper launched a chatbot for insomniacs and night owls that’s only available nightly from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Forward-looking marketers will be seeking out opportunities to partner with the makers of popular chatbots, or even implementing their own.
4. Coming At You Live: Real-Time Social
In early 2016, Facebook launched Facebook Live videos across all platforms — appropriately enough, with a live video of Mark Zuckerberg announcing the new feature. Facebook was so confident in the potential of this new content channel that it signed up 140 media companies and celebrities for a trial of the feature. Facebook agreed to pay the publishers big bucks — with Buzzfeed reportedly raking in $3.1 million — to keep the live videos streaming in. This kickback arrangement guaranteed a minimum volume of Live videos would be met over the course of the year, and based on early results, it will be in publishers’ best interests to continue rolling live cameras even after the cash bonus runs out. According to Facebook statistics, users watch live videos three times longer than the same videos when they aren’t live. It’s clear that live-streaming social content is going to continue to take off in 2017, and marketers will need to find new and exciting ways to use this video format.
5. Help A Friend Out: Content Marketing For Sales Enablement
With more and more emphasis being placed on down-funnel performance, it’s only natural that the relationship between sales and marketing will come to the forefront. Marketing teams are frequently tasked with creating sales-enablement content like white papers, case studies, and webinars. In the future of marketing, these sales-enablement activities will be treated with the same rigor, analysis, and testing as all other marketing channels. Historically, the human element of sales outreach has created a blind spot in performance metrics. But with the wide availability of CRMs, all outreach — whether digital or analog — can and should be tracked back to assess what content and channels are contributing to revenue gains.
6. See Into the Future: Data Visualization
Much to the marketing world’s chagrin, the short-lived infographic bubble has finally (and totally) burst. In 2011, a handful of bold statistics tied together with a fun illustration was all it took to get the inbound links rolling in. Now, with data more readily available than ever, internet-savvy people aren’t impressed as easily as before. However, this doesn’t mean there still isn’t a place for data in marketing. Quite the opposite. People now want data that does more than look pretty – it has to tell a compelling story, too.
Interactive data visualization is a powerful tool for marketers looking to summarize campaign performance and win over internal stakeholders, but it can be just as impactful as a piece of marketing content. For sports fans who can’t get enough of the details, FiveThirtyEight created The Complete History of the NFL, an interactive data set that objectively ranks each football team at each point in the team’s history. Identifying new data sources that may already exist within your company or customer base can unlock potential content ideas as well as business opportunities.
7. Ease On Down the Funnel: Optimizing Beyond Viewability
In the digital advertising space, viewability — whether an ad loaded onto a webpage has actually been seen — has been the big buzzword for some time now. That word has cropped up as budget-conscious marketers look to ensure that their carefully crafted ads actually reach their intended audience. While these concerns are valid, strides made in the past two years to combat click fraud mean we’ve come a long way towards ensuring viewability as well as visibility into digital ad placements. With this threat at bay, 2017 is the time for marketers to refocus their energies on optimizing beyond viewability, and tracking the impact of campaigns farther down-funnel. Understanding how campaigns impact business metrics and ultimately revenue will become table stakes for marketers looking to show real value.
8. Let’s Be Clear: Visibility in a Trust Economy
Since the first days of social media, displeased customers have used social channels to air their grievances in a public forum. It’s come to be expected that most, if not all, companies engaging in social media marketing will have some level of customer support available for those who leave less than a five-star rating.
In 2017, business ratings will become less one-sided than the current system. Companies like Uber and Airbnb have pioneered the space of customer ratings, completing the flow of two-way feedback. What’s yet to be seen is whether providing visibility of customer ratings is capable of producing higher-quality customers — or just infuriating the ones who are below-average to begin with.
9. Let’s Get Together: Breaking Down Mobile Platform Walls
When responsive web design took off as a best practice, marketers considered it a huge win for SEO and cheered that they no longer had to worry about managing both a mobile website and a mobile app. However, for most marketers who work with a responsive website, the idea of a mobile site as a standalone platform is completely antiquated.
The new year is the right time for marketers to revisit the entire mobile brand experience and optimize cross-channel. While responsive mobile sites generally offer the same core messaging and functionality as a web platform, they never have the stickiness factor that an app is able to achieve. However, in today’s landscape, simply repackaging a mobile website into an app isn’t going to cut it. Users expect unique value-adds from an app to justify the visual and physical space it occupies on their device. Mobile websites and apps need to each be optimized as part of the same user experience, while offering unique benefits that are tailored to their platforms.
10. Vanishing Trick: Expiring Social Content
Snapchat revolutionized the social media game in 2012 by introducing the concept of expiring content as a marketing mechanism. Until that point, there was no question that content should be ever-present, living on even long after its usefulness waned. Suddenly, a new wave of urgency emerged with content that is only visible once and within a 24-hour period. Exploding content has sparked such an online bonfire that Instagram recently launched Stories, a direct competitor to Snapchat. With time-bound images on the rise, it’s only a matter of time until we see a trickle-down effect to the biggest social networks, or even a place in traditional advertising platforms.
Which trends is your company tackling in 2017? Leave a comment below with the top trends you’ll be watching this year!
Featuring vectors by Darko1981