As we look back over 2016, some clear digital marketing trends have been present throughout. The final third of the year saw mobile internet usage overtake that of desktop for the first time, a milestone in keeping with perhaps the year’s most dominant trend. Digital publishers and marketers alike have made mobile a priority, and though this won’t slow down in 2016, other specific areas like UX will take precedence.
Video, too, has been a major buzzword of 2016, with brands large and small looking to create video content to be shared across social channels. 2017 will see further proliferation of this, with live video and native advertising in broadcasting realising their potential. So, as 2016 draws to a close, here are the top digital marketing trends to watch out for in the 12 months to come.
Less is more
One thing we can learn from Facebook’s recent algorithmic change, which favours user generated content over that of brands, is that persistent branded content is no longer welcome. The emphasis now is on quality. Content should offer real value to the customer in exchange for their attention, and brands are now spending more of fewer pieces of content. This shift will only intensify in 2017, with the crackdown on misleading content on social channels marking the beginning of an online cleanup.
Essentially, brands will be afforded less exposure by social channels. As a result, content will need a marketing budget behind and brands will have to be more considered in their approach. Churning out second-rate content for the sake of clicks will be less effective.
UX, UX, UX
A serious trend in the latter half of 2016, user experience (UX) will only grow in importance in 2017 whether it be on mobile, on desktop, or in store. You may consider UX more of a design issue than a marketing concern, but the area has progressed to the point where all interactions with a brand should be in keeping with its wider feel - even an email blast is part of the user journey, and brands should take into account how intuitive it is to navigate and how it connects with the website.
The focus on UX will also affect digital marketers looking to place ads on other brands’ websites or in-app. Such is the need for a smooth and pleasing UX that banner ads will become less and less available, with pop-ups all but disappearing across mainstream apps and websites. As a result, digital marketers should focus on native advertising in 2017, marketing that offers a value exchange to the user.
Smart home marketing takes off
Though the technology hit the mainstream somewhat in 2016 - think Amazon Echo or Google Home - the connected home is set to take off proper in 2017. Personal assistants and mobile thermostat controls are just the beginning, and some believe homes will one day be able to distinguish between family members and guests, using heartbeat rhythms, body temperatures and fingerprints to build a picture of who they’re serving.
As the technology grows, marketers will need to be cautious in how they exploit it. The home is a by definition a personal space, and users will reject any data collection or brand involvement that crosses the ‘creepy’ line. However, techniques like suggesting a particular brand of detergent when a user asks how to get a stain out of their clothes, for example, could give brands a way into the home that isn’t particularly invasive. 2017 will see smart home technology proliferate, and along with it opportunities for marketing.
Native advertising in broadcasting
Just as online, the public dislike of advertising in the conventional sense has become a problem for those marketing on television. TV advertising remains an incredibly effective - albeit expensive - method but broadcasters are experimenting with ways to increase engagement as many lose interest in the traditional ad break.
Fox Sports, for example, is doing away with the commercial break during games. In its place, the broadcaster is airing ‘commercial-free breaks,’ segments of analysis sponsored by T-Mobile. The phone network’s logo adorns the entire segment, it’s ‘brought to you by T-Mobile’ and the break ended with what Digiday called ‘a 30-second live read about the T-Mobile One campaign.’ Digital marketers should be aware of the opportunities native advertising may throw up, as more broadcasters experiment in 2017.
Live content improves
2016 was supposed to be the year that brands got live content right. With Facebook in particular pushing live content to its user base and encouraging its users to ‘go live’, brands had the opportunity to exploit the hype by creating their own live content. Very few have succeeded, though. Live content isn’t easy - the production value is often too low to wow customers and the content just isn’t interesting enough.
But live video is still on the rise, and brands in 2017 will be missing an opportunity if they don’t at least experiment with it. Experian, for example, holds live Q&A sessions with finance experts every week to discuss their customers’ financial worries. Live video is best when its interactive or unpredictable. Buzzfeed live broadcasted two of its employees strapping elastic bands around a watermelon until it spectacularly exploded, and the suspense and sense of occasion generated lent itself to a live broadcast. In 2017 expect to see not only the growth of live content, but the increase in quality.