Looking Ahead: We Predict 11 Digital Marketing Trends for 2017

Crystal balls. Tarot cards. Extra Sensory Perception. Looking at tea leaves. Using your sixth sense. Fortune cookies. Reading Nostradamus. Precognitive dreaming. Palmistry. There are many ways it is said you can tell the future, and precisely none of them were used to research this list of the biggest digital marketing trends for 2017.

Instead, I have taken a year’s worth of reading about marketing every day, looked at the developments that seem to be gaining traction, and extrapolated some predictions for 2017.

Sorry if that’s not scientific enough for you. I actually Googled ‘methods for predicting the future’ in preparation for this article (see, I do proper research too) and one of the methods listed was ‘time travel’ so if it helps, imagine me in a Delorean going at 88mph.

Immersive marketing

The success of content marketing has been a mixed bag. It has given consumers entertaining, informative content. It has also seen a lot of rushed content published in the race to expand content volumes.

This increased competition has seen market leaders and innovators look for new ways to engage their audience, and developments in various technologies are helping to drive this phenomenon.

Both Facebook and YouTube have introduced 360-degree video, and some brands have already begun experimenting with the format for an interesting and innovative experience. Take a look at this 360-degree promo for Star Wars: Rogue One, or this effort from GoPro.

Following on from the success of Pokemon Go, Pepsi developed an augmented reality ad.

The Art Institute of Chicago and Airbnb released a uniquely immersive experience to promote a Van Gogh exhibition. They created a room that copied one of Van Gogh’s most famous paintings and listed the room on Airbnb.

There have been some innovative, interactive campaigns on Snapchat this year, with sponsored filters being an obvious route.

Marketing campaigns that push the boundaries like this cannot be universal, but it will be interesting to see how marketers continue to experiment in 2017. Live video can play a part in creating an immersive video too…

More live video

Live video has suddenly become the internet’s favorite shiny new toy. When Meerkat entered the market it was an entertaining novelty. Now, Twitter (via Periscope), Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram have all released live video offerings as well.

Many of these networks are promoting their live video quite heavily, and it’s something that will stand out in the saturated world of content, so I can see plenty of reasons why brands would want to get involved.

An early example was BuzzFeed’s live stream of two employees trying to explode a watermelon using rubber bands. The video has had a total of 11 million views.

I also expect the two worlds of live video and influencers to collide in 2017, with product placement and sponsorships becoming a regular feature of influencer videos. Finally, The Truman Show comes to life.

Using all the big data

Big data has been around for a few years now, but getting the most out of all this data is still a challenge to many.

Market research firm Ovum estimates the big data market will increase from $1.7 billion in 2016 to $9.4 billion by 2020. As businesses mature and put new structures and roles in place, big data will begin to become increasingly useful and utilized.

Big data is becoming increasingly widely used. It is said to have played a large part in the outcome of the US election. Cambridge Analytica harnessed big data for a variety of uses. Their analysis helped the Trump team know where to focus fundraising efforts, target ‘persuadables’, and increase spend.

The data was even used to deliver 4,000 individual digital ads. This messaging was continually tested and refined using polling and the firm’s data.

Increased personalization

Big data can have a variety of uses, one of them being personalized customer experience and marketing. The personalization of Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify show how data can be used to improve the customer experience. This level of one-to-one marketing will slowly become more prevalent as brands weigh opportunity and cost and find ways of introducing it into their messaging.

In marketing, data has been used for the lighthearted but enjoyable campaigns such as Spotify’s “Thanks 2016, It’s been weird”, to Chelsea football club’s search for a new sponsor, which was a highly personalized campaign (see video below).

Native advertising

While native advertising may be an old method, market forces should increase its prominence in 2017. The diminishing penetration of many ads – through ad blockers, reduced social media organic reach, and the decline of banner ads – will see an increase of native advertising.

The Guardian newspaper has recently updated its native advertising platform to help brands find a home for their content. As Adam Foley, commercial strategy director, says “we have answered a genuine industry problem faced by advertisers and agencies who create their own branded content and struggle with a suitable home.”

Digital marketing trends that are on the list every year but still deserve to be there:

Mobile first

Probably on every digital marketing trends list since cell phones first had internet capabilities, the relentless increase of users accessing the web through mobile means its importance continues.

In fact, this year there were two important markers for mobile: Google announcing a mobile-first web index, and the fact that mobile traffic has overtaken desktop for internet usage.

AR & VR

The progress is probably slower than people would like, as this is another trend that’s been on many a list. I’ve even talked about it in this post, and I do believe its use will increase, but it is unlikely to develop beyond a niche market in 2017.

More video

It feels like my entire Facebook feed is already taken up by video, but I’m sure there is room for more. Facebook has driven profits by embracing video, and is likely to continue. Twitter are banking on broadcasting NFL games to boost their revenue. It seems we can’t get enough of video, so expect the powers that be to serve up even more.

Things that everyone will predict to trend but probably won’t quite move as fast as they are expecting:

The Internet of Things

There are billions of connected devices, from thermostats to smart cars. And yet, the biggest Internet of Things news this year was the massive DDoS attack in October caused by weaponizing low-security connected devices.

The Internet of Things has some exciting early uses. There are industries that are seeing a lot of value from IoT, but for most people it’s a slow crawl. Developments will continue to creep into our lives, but it feels like people are expecting too much too soon.

Wearables

The tech will improve, the prices will go down, and more people will embrace wearables. I just can’t see it becoming a mainstream concern by the time the year is out. Having said that, usage will slowly continue to rise.

Chatbots

Chatbots will be a trend in 2017, but don’t expect to be talking to Scarlett Johansson in Her anytime soon.

And one that I hope will happen:

After Google announced that popups will soon be penalized in search, I’m hoping they go one better and stop autoplay videos with audio. Autoplay videos are intrusive, annoying things that make me want to instantly close the browser, shut my laptop, throw it in an open, active volcano, and never return to the internet again.

Those are our predictions for the biggest digital marketing trends for 2017. If none of them come to fruition I’ll break out the Tarot cards next year.


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