Guest post from Alan Cassinelli, Sr. Strategic Copywriter at Zembula | @alancassinelli
Wow, it feels pretty crazy talking about 2017 already, where has 2016 gone?
But, as any good marketer knows, there’s always something coming around the corner. This is never more true than when it comes to digital market. Things move so quickly, remember when Meerkat was going to be the next big thing? Just one and a half years later they closed up shop.
The fact of the matter is, though, you need to know what digital marketing trends are coming up in order to be in the best possible shape to connect with your customers. Remember, they are following the trends, so it’s up to you to find the platform (or platforms) where they are and create a strategy to reach out.
Take a look at a number of the digital marketing trends that are going to be big in the next year.
We’re not quite at the point like in I, Robot where Will Smith fighting hordes of robots on the highway is normal, but Artificial Intelligence is becoming an increasingly important tool.
It seems like every other day that a new AI platform launches. IBM was one of the firsts with their Jeopardy-winning Watson machine, and Salesforce recently launched their Einstein AI for CRM. On the consumer side, Amazon is growing their Alexa program, along with Google and Apple fighting for dominance with their AI-powered voice assistants.
Brands are just starting to dig into AI in one common form right now, with customer service. This is where you’re seeing the rise of chatbots.
Image via BusinessInsider
Facebook is one brand that has gone all in on chatbots, according to them, they have over 11,000 different chatbots currently in operation inside Facebook Messenger.
The benefits of using a chatbot are pretty interesting. Many brands are looking to use them specifically for customer service and assistance.
B2B brands are adopting bots as well, but in more of a utility role to help their operations. There are now hundreds of Slack bots to streamline your marketing within Slack, as well as bots like Clarke, an AI powered assistant that dials into conference calls, takes notes, and emails recaps of the conversation.
‘Buy Buttons’ on Social
Until very recently, social media was one of the last places online where it was hard to find a “buy now” button. All that is changing.
These were originally rolled out for early 2016, and most brands haven’t seen much movement in the way of increased buys. So, who cares then, you might ask?
Image via Pinterest
Well, the big tell is that these buttons are increasing, in 2015 less than half of US-based retailers used them. And brands are working on improving their e-commerce platforms to make the customer experience of buying via social media better. Plus, don’t forget about the potential here, 93% of Millenials spend their time on social media when they are online.
So don’t count out social commerce yet, in fact, all signs point to this becoming an increasingly powerful trend over the coming years.
Ok, ok, livestream video isn’t exactly something that’s new, but it hasn’t been directly embraced by brands as something interesting until this year. Remember the BuzzFeed Facebook Live watermelon event?
They got 800,000 people watching, and over 315,000 comments. By the way, it now has just about 11 million views. Now THAT’s engagement.
So, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that more and more brands are looking to use livestream to appeal to consumers. Twitter is now livestreaming NFL games and Instagram now has stories, a feature that was introduced to directly compete with Snapchat, 2016’s big social media winner.
Livestreaming isn’t just for consumer brands either, B2B companies can get into the action too. Salesforce decided to livestream the keynote of their Dreamforce conference using Twitter, which allowed thousands more people to take part in the event. B2B marketers can use livestreams for webinars, weekly educational shows, product announcements, Q&As, and more.
More Focus on Messaging Apps
It used to be that the private inbox of a consumer was hard to break into, well, email marketing changed all that. The next barrier was text (or SMS) messaging, and brands have been able to find a way to reach consumers in very effective ways.
Now, the text frontier is messaging apps. As you’ve already seen above, Facebook Messenger was the first brand to really put a focus on finding ways to reach consumers through their messenger app, but don’t expect other brands to be very far behind.
While many of the traditional social messaging channels are leveling out a bit (Instagram being the exception), there has been a huge uptick in messaging apps.
So, don’t be surprised to see more brands move into this space, working on ways to market and even sell on platforms like WhatsApp or even Slack. After all, one of the most effective ways to reach your customers is still one of the oldest: talking to them.
Cross Device Marketing
As mobile devices have become not only more prevalent but more advanced, we’re seeing the growth of people who are accessing the Internet on a number of screens and devices.
Look at these stats from a study by Accenture on “connected consumers”:
- 87% of consumers use more than one device at a time.
- Globally, 74% of 14- to17-year-olds using a combination of TV/smartphones during viewing.
- In the US, 59% used a combination of a laptop or computer while watching TV.
Now, consider also the soon to be massive growth of wearables. We’ve already seen Apple release their 2nd generation watch, and the wearable market is poised to continue to grow for the foreseeable future.
Image via Statista
Not only do brands need to make sure they are able to communicate with consumers on laptops, phones, and tablets, they also need to keep things like wearables in mind as well.
Right now, consumers of B2C and B2B companies tend to quickly move between devices. It’s not uncommon to search for something on a desktop at the office and then want to go back to that on their phone or tablet minutes later when they are commuting home.
So, brands have to do more than just make sure their websites are responsive, they need to continue to provide a consistent user interface and user experience across a number of devices. The brands that don’t are likely to lose out on potential customers if that second device experience is different.
These are a few of the trends that we’re keeping our eye on as 2016 comes to an end. Regardless of what your brand thinks is the most important thing to focus on, it’s clearly essential to understand what digital marketing trends are going to be the best bet for you to interact with your customers and provide them with an outstanding overall experience.
The brands that are able to capitalize and effectively maneuver their strategy are going to see some quick wins as they get out to market before their competitors, which could have big implications over time.
What are the biggest trends you’re watching for 2017? Let me know in the comments!
Alan Cassinelli is the Sr. Strategic Copywriter for Zembula, an interactive content marketing software start-up. A graduate of Oregon State University, Alan is an avid fan of sports, technology, and Portland IPAs. He has worked in sports marketing at UC Santa Barbara and in tech at the Nike+ Accelerator, Postano, and now Zembula.