Top 16 Digital Trends of 2016

Marketing has undergone a major transformation in the last few years, responding to new technologies and changes in consumer behaviors and attitudes.

Digital marketing and automation are just some of the new skills and technologies successful marketers need to learn today to better understand and help their consumers.

So what do marketers must know to stay ahead of their competition in 2016 and beyond? Here are 12 digital marketing trends you can’t ignore and must start now or risk extinction.

Top 16 Digital Marketing Trends of 2016

  1. Relationship Marketing

It is estimated that 2 billion consumers worldwide will own a smartphone by 2016. The opportunity and need to stay connected with customers and prospects on-the-go is more important now than ever.

Relationship marketing has shifted away from short-term customer engagement and individual sales to building longer term engagement and stronger loyalty, to drive more meaningful customer connections, word-of-mouth promotions, lead generation, and ultimately sales.

Krispy Kreme has succeeded with this approach to improve their customer engagement and loyalty. Through Krispy Kreme’s Red Light App, consumers can search for the nearest location and receive notifications on their smartphones whenever a batch of fresh donuts becomes available. Without spending a cent on marketing or advertising, Krispy Kreme saw nearly 7% boost in sales after the app has launched.

  1. Crowdsourced Brand Content

Creating and scaling content can be costly, time-consuming and hard to do. Many brands are starting to realize the untapped opportunity in crowdsourcing free brand content, and how effective it is in engaging their consumers and amplifying their marketing.

In a recent research, Onalytica reported that of all the content on YouTube where a brand is mentioned, 99% is created by brand fans. And this is just YouTube alone. Imagine all the free attention you can earn, if you can get your consumers and fans to create and share content about your brand.

Minecraft is a great example of a brand who is doing this right. At the annual Minecraft conferences, attendees are given free workshops on video making instead of how to play the video game. Why? When these Minecraft fans go home, the first thing they do is create videos about Minecraft and start sharing them on YouTube.

These videos generate 2.5 billion views a month on YouTube for Minecraft, and Minecraft didn’t even have to spend a dime on content marketing or advertising other than providing their fans a few video making workshops.

  1. Location-Based Marketing Technology

Today’s marketers are able to create interactive experiences and connect with customers at the point of engagement, thanks to new technologies like iBeacons and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID).

iBeacons are inexpensive transmitters that can detect nearby devices, which can be used in merchandising areas, point of sale displays and at retail stores. RFIDs are small electronic devices that provide a unique identifier for a specific tag, such as a wristband, card or app. These location-based technologies allow marketers and event organizers to connect with customers in real time, and to help attendees interact and engage with the event and other attendees in ways never possible before.

  1. Marketing Automation

Marketing automation platforms make it easier for marketers to manage content, schedule posts, segment contacts and track customers through the sales funnel, helping them get more done without compromising on quality and effectiveness.

With greater pressure and focus on delivering results, marketing leaders will need to upskill their teams so they have the knowledge needed to use these automation tools to help improve sales.

While marketing automation is nothing new, recent research indicates only 50% of companies are using it today.

  1. Virtual Reality And Wearable Technology

With big players like Google and Facebook investing in virtual reality and the upcoming release of Oculus Rift, marketers will have the capability to tell 360-degree brand stories and engage consumers through immersive marketing like never before.

Adoption may be slow or fast, but you can definitely expect leading marketers hopping on the virtual reality train, to take advantage of this new technology to create even more interactive and personalized experiences for consumers.

Similarly, wearable technology like the Apple watch will present marketers with exciting opportunities to experiment new ways of communicating with customers.

  1. Ephemeral Marketing

With over 100 million users every day, Snapchat is becoming a standard marketing platform for many brands. Snapchat is no longer just a platform to experiment fun marketing campaigns, but a place where consumers are flocking for content in real time.

In order to reach consumers, particularly the younger generation, whose time is often split between multiple channels, Snapchat is one of the hottest marketing channels to connect with them.

Ephemeral marketing is all about shorter, more to-the-point communication that takes up a small segment of an audience’s time. With Snapchat, each piece of content only lasts for a few seconds, and once viewed it disappears from the user’s stream. The fast pace offered by Snapchat is especially important to engage and make consumers who are pressed for time feel connected.

Looking for how to get started on Snapchat, check out this advice from MarketingLand.

  1. Social And Digital Content Assets

In the new age of digital, the importance of creating quality content optimized for search engines will only continue to rise. Digital content you create today, including your website, blog and videos, will be found on the web or in a Google search years from now. Digital content assets are no longer an expense but an investment in your brand’s future success.

Another digital asset is your brand fans and advocates on social media. They are the ones who will help distribute and promote your content. You need to be investing and growing your social network following today, if you’re not already doing this.

  1. Search Past Search Engines

With Facebook already testing its own search engine, search capabilities are expected to go beyond existing search engines in 2016 and beyond, which will give brands an automatic boost. Coupled with the introduction of buy buttons and payment messaging on social, both marketers and consumers can expect an all-in-one-type platform in 2016.

These advanced capabilities will bring a more integrated social experience and buying process, as consumers will be able to purchase, share with friends and post social proof of their purchases all in one place. Marketers who leverage this integrated social media search trend as part of their marketing efforts will clearly see a boost in their returns.

  1. Paid Social Distribution

Social media may have been free 5 years ago, but things have changed. If you want to reach your Facebook audience, you will likely need to pay to access users’ attention and eyeballs. And if you choose to pay, you need to measure the results to make sure you are getting the most out of your investment.

This is why analytics and digital marketing automation software should be your best friend in 2016. The web provides us with the data we need to find out what’s working and what’s not. Instead of relying on guesswork and intuition, data-driven decisions will help marketers achieve the results they want.

  1. Mobile

Mobile has now become the primary screen for most people. If you look at Facebook, 75% of its revenue comes from mobile advertising, so it’s clear that mobile should be a key focus for marketers.

With the limited screen space, you cannot do everything you do on desktop with mobile. You need to focus on what matters the most: easy-to-read content, easy-to-use calls to action, easy-to-find contact details, and the ability to capture email leads via mobile.

The same goes for mobile apps. They are no longer an option but a necessity for businesses, as more and more consumers go mobile with their research and purchases.

  1. Personalization

Personalization is here and won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Relevance is key to capturing consumer attention and eyeballs. Effective marketers will leverage all the digital marketing technologies available today to deliver personalized marketing and content that engages and sells.

  1. Return on Marketing Investment

For the last 7 years, marketers have been talking about vanity metrics like Facebook likes, traffic and social sharing. 2016 and beyond, effective marketers will need to focus on what really matters – the metrics that will show your execs the sales and return on investment.

That’s why Liz Bedor and I wrote the Content Formula. If you haven’t read it yet, get it now!

  1. Advertising Industry Will Experience A Market Correction

I shared this in my content marketing prediction for 2016: The leading marketing trend of 2016 will be the maturing of the age of ad blocking. I think we’ll see a massive correction in the advertising market.

As more and more consumers download ad blockers on their computers and cell phones, opt-out of telemarketing lists, and cut their cable subscription cords, marketers will start to see the futility of spending so much of their budgets on ads no one wants. Ads we are willing to pay an ad blocker to avoid.

This will drive an increase in content marketing budgets. It will force more marketers to consider how to create and publish content their customers actually want. And it will require content marketers to get pretty damn good at showing ROI.

  1. Visual Content Will Continue To Explode:

Yep folks, this is still huge. I can’t believe how few marketers are creating Slideshares from existing executive presentations and video-taping them as they speak to customers.

  1. Entertaining and Funny Content

Just check out my favorite new example of content marketing, mattress company Casper’s This is a content brand from a company that understands a very tight niche of their market that was under-served. They use an amazing design, fresh content (literally), and a strong call-to-action (subscribe) to generate a list of consumers who might be interested to buy their stuff at some point. Check them out!

  1. Podcasting, Media Brand M&A, Or?

I asked my friends across the content marketing industry for their top predictions. An explosion in Podcasting was predicted by Jay Acunzo.

Joe Pulizzi thinks a major brand will but a media company. But what do you think? Which trends have you adopted already or will be adding to your 2016 marketing strategy? Please share your ideas below!

Are you interested in engaging and converting new customer for your business? Contact me here and let’s talk about how we can help.

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

2 thoughts on “Top 16 Digital Trends of 2016

  1. Agreed! Nice Blog, Thanks Michael!

    I’ve read at other places that personalization cannot be the future for marketing, but in my views personalization can be future marketing trend for long time as consumers pay attention to only those brands which are connecting with with in most efficient way.
    How do you see this point?

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