According to a recent survey by Adobe, 76% of marketers think marketing has changed more in the past two years than it did in the previous fifty years. The proliferation of the Internet has affected marketing as much as any business discipline.
As the digital marketing world continues to evolve we see countless trends emerge while others fall out of favor. I walked into a building recently that had a sticker on the front door with a QR code. Thankfully this ugly bar code (meant to be read by smart phones) never really caught on. Like auto-tuned vocals in pop music, QR codes won’t likely survive beyond the early 2000’s. Many of this year’s emerging trends, however, have staying power and will likely change the way we market products and services.
Since I’m writing this article in December, I feel like it’s a good time to reflect on this past year in list form. Here are the eight trends in digital marketing that mattered in 2015 and will continue to matter in 2016.
8. Programmatic – This is a trend that has been ramping up for years and continues to be an important element of digital advertising. Programmatic advertising is the process of using software to purchase advertising, often in real-time bidding environments, with a multitude of factors that determine placement. It’s important because it can more efficiently reach target audiences while minimizing waste. Programmatic buying already dominates online banner and video placements, soon it will be used by media buyers to place radio and television ads as well.
7. Ad blocking – While ad blocking software has existed for over a decade, 2015 was definitely the year of the ad blocker. This was thanks to Apple’s new mobile operating system iOS 9 which for the first time allowed developers to create Safari extensions that block content on websites. This development moved ad blocking from a niche behavior of the guys in your IT department to the mainstream. Oh well, changing careers might be fun.
6. Native advertising – So far, the industry’s answer to consumers who choose to block ads is to disguise them as content. Native ads online have taken the traditional advertorial to the next level. Ads that disguise themselves as content have become ubiquitous on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You’ll also notice them in Google’s search results. As major news publishers seek additional ways to monetize their web properties, we’re seeing an increase in branded content appearing with other news headlines on the front page. Look for it the next time you go to wired.com or newsweek.com.
5. Social media video advertising – Recently Facebook has made a push to rival YouTube as the main digital video platform. You might have noticed your Aunt June is sharing four times as many videos as anyone needs to see in their newsfeed. Facebook and their partner social network Instagram are making it enticing for advertisers to use their platforms to extend the reach of their television buys and use video for branding and engagement.
4. Content marketing – In the information age consumers are all looking to get smart and learn as much as they can about a product or service before they buy. The larger the sticker price, the more research goes into the decision. Marketers have learned how to help consumers (and themselves) by developing relevant and informative content. In the B2B environment this might be something like a white paper or case study. In B2C the options are endless, from video tutorials to price guides.
3. Inbound – One of the biggest advantages to using a content marketing strategy is its ability to attract potential customers as they research their purchase decision. Inbound marketing focuses on being a resource for purchase decision makers and influencers. When buyers are researching online, companies that execute an effective inbound strategy will show up in the search results. Through a series of landing pages, forms, and e-mails, marketers can capture contact information about these potential customers for ongoing direct communications.
2. Marketing automation – Taking inbound marketing to the next level, marketing automation gives companies the ability to send communication to potential customers based on what content and pages they’ve engaged with. If developed correctly, marketing automation can lead a prospect through every step of the purchase process from awareness to loyalty and advocacy.
1. Focus on UX – Website designers are more focused on user experience than ever before. The Internet is unique in that all activity is measurable. Rather than surveying a select group or considering subjective opinions, marketers can collect and analyze website activity data. Understanding how potential customers navigate their website, marketers can then optimize their website’s pages with a focus on user experience and results.