As technology is an ever-evolving entity, constantly changing how companies operate, brand themselves, and do business, digital marketing is no exception to that change. If you can be guaranteed on one constant in the digital marketing industry, it’s that the trends will change over time. Over the past few years, the digital marketing industry has seen its fair share of transformations, as it increasingly becomes a main staple in developing a strong and consistent online brand. In this ever-cyclical entity, it stands to reason that some online marketing techniques are starting to be phased out while others are beginning to pick up some steam.
Every year, new technologies, software, hardware, and updates are released, pending approval and acceptance from their targeted users. Being ahead of the game is crucial, as early adopters in these technologies set the trends for what will be the most appealing and widely used versus what has fallen short of its intended usefulness. The earlier this information is assimilated and adopted, the better. Information as such is pertinent to the digital marketing industry as it gives companies a leg up on the competition, while others miss out on good opportunities for advancement and customer retention. Marketers are constantly trying to figure out the best methods and technologies, what’s “hot and not”, to predict future trends and better their efforts in digital marketing.
The following article highlights and details what are expected to be the dominant marketing trends of 2016.
This is not a new technology, but it is an extremely useful and timeless tool. Video advertising is, and for the foreseeable future, will remain one of the fastest growing and most promising online advertising methods available. Video has a way of invoking an emotional response from the viewer, adding a new element to any campaign from the marketer’s perspective. Similar to how we respond to television ads, video ads online work the same way, if not tend to be more effective. Video ads allow for another dimension of demonstration of product demonstration that cannot be achieved through images and text. According to a recent study done by Ascend2, a company that conducts monthly research, out of the 280 respondents, 85% of the companies they represented have found that their video marketing and advertising initiatives were extremely successful.
The creation of social video channels such as YouTube, Vine, and Vimeo have helped to push video ads to the forefront of marketer’s minds and the viewer’s attention. Sites like Facebook, Bing, and Twitter already offer users the ability to have video ads, but what we will see in 2016 is something that has long been anticipated. In 2016, Google, the leader in online marketing innovation and social media analytics, will finally adopt SERP (search engine results page) video advertising. Being slightly late to the party, following in the steps of its competitors Yahoo and Bing, this idea would finally allow for video-based advertisements to be embedded into search results, instead of the go-to text and occasional image based ads that we so often see at the top and sides of the page. Video ads will be presented in a thumbnail format, with the ability to click for expansion, and have auto play features. Though Google is late to adding to this feature, the appeal of such advertising will grow and acceptance will be inevitable, as the medium for more ads to appear in such a manner will grow through Google.
The objective: to increase brand awareness, online engagement, and lead generation.
The advancements in technology have called for a more mobile and fast moving society. As a society, we are more locked into our technology now more than ever. Everywhere you go, you can’t help but see mobile technology being used in multiple capacities. Whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, or wearable electronics, the evolution of this technology will strongly influence the marketing perspective. Having consumers that are constantly plugged in and plugged up, these mobile devices give marketers the opportunity to maximize their reach, exposing their message to their audience for longer stretches of time throughout the different phases of the day. By utilizing mobile marketing technology, marketers can create a more customized and personalized experience for their intended target. Marketers can communicate with their specified audience through location and time-based advertisements.
Furthermore, mobile marketing is not just advertisements on a mobile device, but it also means having a mobile friendly website. Mobile phone Internet usage will be well over the 50% mark going into 2016. In 2014, mobile sales account for 22% of online sales (on Cyber Monday) was a 27%+ increase compared to the previous year. The increase in mobile traffic should cause marketers and companies to increase their mobile ad budget. As this world and economy become more mobile, as will sales and business operations. We saw the launch of Apple Pay and several other mobile technologies and systems emerged. Your number one priority should be to optimize your website for mobile friendly viewing and usage. Marketers and developers used to overlook this aspect of marketing when developing ads, but that can no longer happen. Images, content, and websites should be just as accessible via mobile as they are via desktop. Bottom line: marketing strategy, design, search and marketing advertising, e-commerce, payments, CRM (customer relationship management), and coupons should all be optimized for a proper mobile experience.
One thing is for certain, with all of the mobile traffic trends believing to be increased, it’s imperative for companies to not only grow their mobile marketing budgets, but also their mobile security efforts. In the past, it hasn’t been an area that many companies focused on; however, we saw a lot of security breaches and mobile Internet surges/outages over the last few years. As mobile apps become more prevalent in mainstream usage, it leaves companies open for attacks easily. It would be wise for marketers to learn from their mistakes in the late 1990’s and really think about building up their security going forward.
You have an extensive digital marketing budget. You put all your effort into a flawless marketing campaign. But now what? What’s the point in having a well organized and developed digital marketing campaign if it doesn’t allow you to engage with your users and vice versa? Users are looking for more transparency from brands. Transparency can be equated with value in the eyes of your consumer. A “genuine” feeling from a brand evokes value in the consumer mindset and therefore will be rewarded by a loyal customer. The consumer market is becoming more demanding. With the introduction of personalized products and tailored marketing, customers know what they want, when they want it, and how they want it. To properly deliver a good quality product to your consumers, you need to know what they want, and that starts by engaging.
Analytics and metrics are good barometers for measuring how your ads and websites are being interacted and received by the audience. Most companies know the importance of utilizing analytics to track visitors to their sites. Google Analytics is your most popular option because it’s free and by far the most powerful and thorough analytics site available. Google Analytics helps marketers by understanding their number of users and their user’s path throughout the site. On the contrary, Google Analytics does not give information regarding repetitive consumer behaviors, individual user behaviors, or cross-device behaviors. Other analytics sites that are worthy of consideration would be Kissmetrics and Mixpanel. Now, gathering the data from the analytics is the easy part. Knowing how to dissimilate it properly to formulate a strategy is where it gets tricky. Customizing and using the tool to your business advantage is key in learning your user’s behavior in order to engage better with them. Data sites like Smart Insights and Quill Engage can help you with mining through your information.
With this collected data, you can start to develop a better strategy for user engagement. This allows you the opportunity to communicate with your consumers about new features and updates, gather feedback about existing products, and increase customer retention. This helps you steer your marketing towards becoming a “customer centric” or customer based initiative. In 2016, customers will be looking for a more human experience, something that is so often hard to replicate digitally. This demand should force marketers and advertisers to consider their market more than just their product. Think of new ways to engage. Email marketing is always the go-to, but with that you deal with email fatigue. In-product messaging and social media are the go to methods of 2016 in user engagement.
Samsung has a watch. Apple has a watch. Every body has a watch. That’s just the tip of the wearable technology iceberg. What once started as mainly a fitness trend, with Nike Fuelband and Fitbit, has now progressed into a digital age of game changing proportions. These wearable smart devices are far more than fashion trends. This type of technology is continuously evolving and is starting to usher in a new wave of mobile devices.
For marketers, pay close attention to how wearable devices are being adopted. The wearable market is developing at a steadily fast rate and it is advised that marketers set aside time and allocate funds to test and explore how their strategies flow into the market share for wearable technology. Yes, the Samsung and Apple watches seem cool, but how does this affect your strategy as a marketer? For starters, the new wearables can pretty much do the same functions as a smartphone, causing users to not really depend on their cellphone as much. Why dig out your phone when you can just handle what you need to from your watch? Exactly. There’s no point. So now you have to adapt your strategy to be more be “glanceable” friendly. This means developing your message for what you believe your consumers will consider important enough to be delivered onto a wearable and how will the design be user and wearable friendly. Sites like Wearably offer the subscription ability to deliver news onto wearable devices in an easy and user-friendly format.
Furthermore, with devices like the watches and Fuelbands, wearables that track user conditions, use this information to your advantage. Tap into how users are feeling at a specific time of day. Look at how users are responding to certain stimuli while using your product or viewing your ad. Most of these products contain mini sensors that make this type of data mining easy. At this point in the technology game, it goes beyond location and time and heads straight for a costumer’s feelings and emotions.
Even though this type of technology had a big boom in 2015, it will still remain a hot yet smaller portion of the success of commercial markets in 2016. The place for marketers in wearable technology is either through data mining or through application development and representation.
Content. Content. Content. You can spend all the time in the world on developing a great website or social media accounts, but if you don’t have good content, you have nothing. That’s not an exaggeration. That is absolutely 100% true. Content is the center of any strategy, as it is what conveys the message from marketer to user. The need for good content was big in 2014, continued to be major in 2015 and will not slow down in 2016. Developing good, clear, and attention grabbing content should be considered the number one priority for any company across industry who wants to have a good digital marketing presence. Whether it’s visual content or text, the message that it conveys is of the utmost importance to marketers and companies alike.
Now, there is one specific form of content that is beginning to surpass branded content, and that is user generated content. This means your consumer has a voice and they are willing to use it. The power of user-generated content is a strong relentless force. Whether it’s product or company reviews (Yelp, Glassdoor) or social media posts and blogs, this means that brands will have to spend a lot of time on creating a positive impact on their consumers that will reflect well in the content from their users.
An issue that marketers tend to have is overexposure of content. This has become more prevalent with the introduction of social media. Being able to reach your audience at any time, all time, and as often as you want can be a double-edged sword. More exposure can mean you are reaching more customers while also turning away customers you’ve already made. Facebook has resolved this issue for marketers by creating timed posts for its News Feed feature, that way your content is still visible, still makes a mark on the audience, but doesn’t lose value in over exposure.
It seems every month a new social media site is being launched, and for good reason. Social media is the “IT” tool for marketing nowadays and will drastically inform marketing decisions from here on out. Marketing for social media is no longer creating schedule updates and just monitoring engagement and follower retention. It’s not longer just sitting by while your follower count goes up or down and hoping you get a retweet here and there. Just simply sticking with that method is by far the least effective way to utilize your social media accounts for marketing.
Now, as mentioned in the previous segment regarding content, more social media sites are starting to adopt the “right content for the right market” approach to social media marketing. Sites like Facebook and Twitter are tailoring ads and content to be visible to those customers they believe it will be relevant to based upon tracking the pages they interact with the most. This could mean that some sites get increased exposure while others see their numbers take a small dive. However, to compensate for that possibility, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all allow marketers to access the data that they have collected regarding their users. This now means that marketers can target their ads based on something as broad as location and interests or more specific like job title and homeownership type. This type of tailor-based marketing allows you to maximize your budget, use your resources properly, and reach the people you intend to reach.
But through all of this, how can you make social media marketing the most effective form of your marketing strategy? For those companies that are purely social media based, this is an important question that has a few answers. Whether it is through hashtags, live streaming, interactive content postings or just responding to your users, the strategy needs to be effective and clear-cut. Social media is to now what website building was in the 90’s. Every one needs to be on it and integrate it into their marketing strategy. Social media has a very organic nature to its being and just simply posting isn’t going to get the conversation going or your message across. Actively participate. Your traditional sites like Facebook and Twitter are excellent for marketing, but now, we’re starting to see more Instagram and LinkedIn marketing strategies going in to 2016.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Now that technology has hit new strides in mobility, it seems everyone has a little search engine that is readily accessible in their purse or pocket. In 2016, SEO looks to be shaping up with a couple changes and optimizations. Mobile and voice search will become bigger while Google will begin to roll out a “direct answer” to search engine questions. Desktop still remains the primary SEO platform, providing responses for more in-depth questions, but SEO mobile is on the rise.
All of the aforementioned digital marketing trends can be summed up into SEO optimization. Visuals and content help give the added benefit of improving your SEO ranking. Google has created ways for quality content to be given consideration over keyword optimization, which is the strategy most companies have been using. Using additions like pictures, videos, infographics, and other interactive content is more appealing to your user and therefore will more likely hold more value to your consumer. Sites that are more appealing cause users to linger around a little longer, sometimes it’s to explore further or interact with what they’ve already seen. The more they interact with your site, ads, and content, the more your SEO and SERP (Search Engines Results Page) results will increase. Furthermore, sites like Google are looking to rely on social media more for SEO signals. Social media will now have a part in search engine rankings, now marrying the two ideas of social media marketing and SEO marketing. Optimizing the two means unifying the strategy to benefit both. A good SEO strategy allows for you to have a good ROI on your advertising and marketing campaigns.
More Money Allocated in Online Ads
Strangely enough, most of the above trends that will dominate the bustling digital marketing field in the next year directly relate to traffic generation. But, on the other hand, no amount of traffic can ever satisfy a good, composed businessperson. Everyone knows that this is an exponentially growing endeavor which will not ever be touched the concept of diminishing returns. Arguably, one of the most failure-proof ways to increase our traffic and visibility is paid ads. This tends to be so, only when a knowledgeable expert is the one who sets up the campaigns and only then is it guaranteed to result in an over-the-top return on a company’s investment.
Perhaps one of the fastest growing-in-demand digital marketing component, even more so than Search Engine Optimization, is funnel and optimization techniques. These serve as catalytic value givers for any website or sort of company because they translate directly to sales and subsequent profit. All these efforts and cutting-edge techniques will undoubtedly go in vain unless there is enough traffic to experiment with.
An important detail to note at this point, is the ever-increasing amount of platforms on which we can deploy our carefully designed and target paid traffic campaigns. The predecessor of them all is naturally Google, but in recent years we have witnessed an immense explosion of such platforms. These platforms, more often than not end up to be the biggest companies of our age. Take for example Facebook. Facebook’s prowess in this domain lies in the type of experience that their users are immersed in. One can easily argue that their rationalizing abilities are at a standstill when browsing their Timeline.
There is not a single ounce of doubt that overall investment in online ads will increase in the year 2016 hence we must consider the implications of such a fact. Certifications like Google Adwords and Google Analytics can no longer be deemed sufficient, especially when a company is looking to exploit its full digital marketing potential. Facebook, Instagram and all sorts of other specific online ad platform know-how must be obtained first in order to successfully set up a winning campaign for our brand, a component which is often overlooked.
In conclusion, it appears to seem that 2016 will be a big year for digital marketing. 2015 was a defining year for many digital marketers in the areas of social media and wearable technology, but 2016 will be the year all of those aspects are defined and video ads technology will heighten. Going into the New Year, marketers should be pay very close attention to how they optimize their presence for the web. What may work for some, may not work for all, but one thing is for certain, digital marketing is viable force to tap into the global market and we are only just seeing the beginning of it.