In the marketing world, 2015 was a big year. Apple Watch made its debut with strong sales. Starbucks was called out for not being festive. REI went off the grid on the busiest shopping day of the year. Ad-blocking technology stepped up its game. The digital natives from Generation Z got jobs. Mass personalization took over. And micro-moments became the tiniest big deal. Now all eyes are on marketing trends for 2016 and beyond. Here’s our take on what’s out, what’s in and what’s yet to be decided in this exciting and dynamic time for our industry.
If you’re still unsure whether or not the future of marketing is mobile, you might be in the wrong business. The number of mobile web browsers surpassed desktop users a while ago. And we’ve been preaching mobile-first for years. But with Google’s “Mobilegeddon” algorithm update last April — designed to phase out websites not optimized for mobile — now is the time to take your eyes of the desktop and focus your efforts on smaller screens.
Social As a Strategy
Since its arrival, social media has been called everything from an offshoot of public relations to a digital engagement tool. It’s time we all stop thinking about social media as a siloed marketing effort that requires its own strategy. Just like radio, out-of-home or digital ads, social media is a communication platform, a channel and a critical piece of the marketing puzzle that needs to be considered in conjunction with all other efforts.
We’ve been harping on multichannel marketing foryears. But now there’s a bigger, badder channel in town: omnichannel. Whereas multichannel marketing is about having an advertising presence across many forms of media — billboards, television commercials, online banner ads, print ads, emails, etc. — omnichannel is about creating a seamless brand experience no matter where a consumer is engaging. According to a recent AdWeek article, a quarter of consumers use at least three devices to interact with multiple channels every day. The subtle shift away from a multichannel mentality is a critical one, as omnichannel marketing considers the brand experience from the consumer’s perspective.
Type A marketers be warned: 2016 will be the year when real-time response trumps thoughtful planning. As we saw a few years ago when Oreo capitalized on the Super Bowl blackout with a cute tweet and last year when The Salvation Army turned #thedress debate into a powerful ad against domestic violence, consumers love real-time response marketing, or “newsjacking.” We like seeing brands interacting with major events in clever ways — and we reward these interactions with likes, shares, press coverage and lots of brand love. The caveat is you have to be ready to think fast and act even faster.
There’s one thing nearly every marketing leader can agree on: Strong, quality content will continue to reign in 2016. Storytelling will grow in importance, but not necessarily in the traditional way we’re accustomed to. Brands that are able to deliver relevant content in new (read: brief) formats with undeniable stopping power will see the most success this year.
Millennials want their videos — and they want them NOW! Brands that want in with younger consumers need to meet them where they are (hint: online) with information in the way they choose to consume it (hint: video). Google is also getting on board with in-SERP video advertising, meaning video ads that show up in your search results page. Search for “best coffee maker,” and you could see a video ad for a Keurig brewer alongside other paid search ads and, of course, organic results. As consumers become more accepting (or even expectant) of video ads, we’ll continue to see them pop up in more places across the Web.
We’ve been talking about data for the past few years: big data, small data, real-time data. This is the year we expect the conversation to turn from data to insight. What’s all that data telling us? What technology can we use to better analyze data and put it to use in our marketing campaigns? Smarter machine learning will empower brands and businesses to develop better consumer profiles. This may just be the year we spend less time trying to figure out who we’re talking to and more time creating the perfect marketing message.
Internet of Things
Wearable technology is expected to see an adoption rate of 28 percent this year. Combine that with the ever-growing Internet of Things (IoT), and we begin to gain moment-by-moment access into consumers’ daily lives. It’s what companies and brands do with this access that will be most exciting to watch this year as we begin to engage customers in micro-moments on a personal level that’s never been possible before.
ON THE FENCE
Will 2016 finally be the year that virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality become a thing? Many experts seem to think so, although we’re still skeptical. Inbound marketing leader Hubspot suggests that “companies who don’t supply a virtual experience for prospective customers, such as retailers, could see a drop in sales.” Similarly, Forbes suggests that “3-D technology is poised to move from novelty to mainstream.” We’re not holding our breath — at least not until the Oculus Rift, the most anticipated VR device, is released later this year. Whether passing or permanent, we’re excited to see how brands use this innovative technology to capture the interests and even the dollars of the modern buyer. One thing is certain, 2016 will continue to be the year of the consumer. Marketing professionals must focus on reaching consumers where they are, engaging with them on their terms, and making the purchase experience easier and more effortless than it’s ever been before.