We are well into 2016 – it’s March already! However, with the constant barrage of developments in marketing technology, I find it hard to shake off my predictive mode. It’s only natural for humans to want to know what’s in store for them and to prepare ahead of time for disasters (and triumphs) that might lie in wait…
2015 was all about mobile. From Google’s Mobilegeddon to mobile apps taking center-stage, we have now become conditioned to include mobile as an integral part of any marketing effort.
The smaller developments that we saw in the last couple of years are now gathering enough momentum to become significant game changers in the year ahead. So, instead of resorting to unadulterated blue sky gazing, I’d like to make some educated predictions about where marketing might be heading in the next ten months.
Social Networks Adopt Ecommerce
Gone are the days when setting up an ecommerce site was all you needed to sell your products online. Today, the best retailers sell on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and more. Social media has finally graduated from being an influencer medium that had trouble proving its worth to the CFO to now becoming a full-fledged shopping platform in its own right.
Unlike the Facebook Stores of the past, this time, social commerce has gained critical mass and the technology to sell across a variety of social media networks has given brands and retailers the impetus to seriously consider social commerce as the next frontier to be conquered.
Ad Blockers Get Blocked
Until recently, ad blockers were that annoying thing web users tended to download to bleep out all ads from their online browsing experience. This meant some lost revenues for advertisers, but was still an irritant at best. However, all that changed in 2015. Today about 198 million internet users use ad blockers – that’s about 6% of the entire online population. The “worse” news is that this population of ad block users grew at the rate of 41% in the last 12 months and shows no signs of slowing down.
If that was not bad enough, Apple launched its latest iOS 9 update recently, allowing users ad blocking extensions to work for its Safari browser. Considering that over 53% of all mobile internet traffic in the United States comes from iPhones, combined with the fact that on a global level, more users access the internet from their mobile devices than desktop or laptop PCs, the time to create real action plans against ad blockers is here.
Remarketing Becomes Sophisticated
There was a time when targeting a user who had already had some exposure to your brand was considered a wondrous or creepy thing, depending on who you asked. Now those ads that seemingly follow us all around the web are a common sight.
As we enter 2016, remarketing technology has become more sophisticated. Advertisers look at remarketing not as a novelty, but as an integral part of their marketing campaigns. Blind media buys have given way to real-time bidding. User tracking has moved on from cookies to generating unique identifiers for each user. Dedicated tools has emerged that combine the synergies of display retargeting with social retargeting. The possibilities only seem to abound in the months to come.
Brands Turn Publishers
We have all heard the fables of brands like Red Bull that built their entire world domination business on the back of content marketing ten years ago – at a time where no one would even recognize the term content marketing. However, those fables are being rewritten every day today by brands that are betting big on the content marketing engine.
Close to 70% of B2B marketers place content marketing within their top three priorities for the year and the trend towards promoting quality content is only on the upswing. Brands have come to realize the value of strong content in not just getting leads and converting them, but also the strong role it plays in controlling the narrative about one’s brand. Sainsbury proved the power of great storytelling with its latest Christmas commercial starring Mog, the cat.
This brilliantly crafted commercial racked up over 7 million views in under 4 days, which only goes to prove that when brands create fabulous content, they don’t have to chase after users, users track them down and gobble up all that awesome content on their own accord. And this, in a world where using ad blockers is the new “it!”
Video Trumps Images
Humans are visual creatures. A picture speaks a thousand words. These are but a couple of the umpteen ‘visual’ homilies that all marketers have been fed on for the last few years. However, that slowly changed in 2015.
This was the year video began to come into its own. More brands ventured into YouTube. SnapChat began monetizing its transient video sharing service by allowing brands to create video stories that could be shared with fans and followers. Live video streaming on apps became widespread thanks to Periscope and Meerkat. Facebook overtook YouTube in daily video views.
Photo sharing app Instagram launched its own version of video sharing with Boomerang. All of this action in the last one year around video content means one clear thing – videos are going to be the next infographics. Hang on to your seats to face a glut of video content in the coming year, with brands experimenting across different platforms.
Location-Based Marketing Goes Mainstream
Anyone who has ever done any significant amount of PPC marketing is aware of geo targeted ads by now. However, technology has grown since the days of showing a user from Atlanta ads about the upcoming Falcons’ game.
These days, proximity-triggered iBeacons located inside stores and other physical locations can deliver offers and perfectly timed deals straight to users’ mobile phones when they’re in the exact position to make a purchase. Google AdWords is moving to give iBeacons a run for their money for geo targeting users. Users of Google Now will now get notifications about nearby retail outlets or restaurants if they happen to have seen the ads for these stores already via AdWords.
Ringing In the New
More than anything else, the next year is going to be about brands driving conversations about themselves, instead of them being passive participants like in the past. If your brand had to have a chat with users, what would it say?