It’s that time of year again - when we take a look back on all we learned and accomplished over the past 12 months, and look forward to what’s in store for us.
2015 saw a lot of big changes in the marketing landscape, as more companies are adopting the inbound approach, and consumers are demanding more valuable content. We can’t say that we mind very much, and from where we stand, things are only getting better.
Predictions for the new year are in, and there’s a few trends we’re particularly excited for:
1. Data for everything
Data makes the world go round. We know one of the biggest challenges we face as marketers is proving ROI but we think things are going to get a lot easier in 2016.
Advancements in technology, applications, and tracking are now giving us more data on demographics and individual customers than ever before.
With everything becoming ‘smart’ - smart TVs, smart watches, smart homes - there is an increase in the wealth of data we have on human behavior, trends, and interests.
Wearable technology especially lends itself to the upsurge in big data, with location information being one of the biggest benefits for marketers. With more location information, we can target audiences better and more accurately, based on where customers live, work, and play.
Using data to develop marketing strategy and create more personalized experiences for audiences will become the status quo. In this scenario, both businesses and customers benefit.
For businesses, more data to mine means we can improve our targets for marketing, as well as more consistently keep track of results and ROI. This, in turn, improves the overall experience for our current customers and potential audience members.
2. Mobile everything
This year we saw a few big turning points in the world of mobile: Google’s algorithm now penalizes websites that are not optimized for mobile devices, and the amount of mobile searches surpassed those from desktops and tablets.
What we’re going to see in 2016 is a much greater effort in marketing towards drawing in the mobile masses. Not only is advertising adapting, but social media, content, and UX are all now on the table for optimization for consumers and their smartphones.
What might this look like? We’d venture to guess that more brands will be coming out with their own apps, mobile ad spend will increase, mobile loyalty programs will become more popular, and payments via mobile phones will continue to steadily rise.
3. More Video
2015 saw the introduction of Meerkat, Periscope, and Blab, all quickly snapped up by marketers, personal branders, entrepreneurs, and community managers as a great way to facilitate relationships with audiences.
While most professionals are still trying to figure out how these new apps, and video streaming in general, may fit into overall marketing strategies, we’re excited to see more brands and campaigns giving it a try.
We also suspect that with Google’s ownership of YouTube, we’re going to start seeing video ads included in search results.This is big news for digital marketers wanting to give display ads and video ads a try, as we may soon be able to combine the two. Google has also just announced that anyone, even without a Gmail account, can now join video Google Hangouts which will further increase the competition and intrigue for video streaming apps.
4. Relationship Marketing
Speaking of facilitating relationships with audiences, we’re especially excited for the advent of relationship marketing. Us inbound marketers have been saying for a while now that marketing should be less disruptive, and conducive to creating loyal customers through offering useful, free content.
We talk and talk about the sales funnel, but rarely is it discussed what happens after our sales goal is met, and a conversion happens. It’s starting to catch on that once a user converts, it’s just as important to focus on that new customer as it is a potential customer.
This emphasis on building relationships after a sale is going to grow even more important in 2016, as consumers strive to find businesses which they feel a greater connection to.
One way we see relationship marketing happening is through greater personalization. We now know customers’ preferences, where they live, what items they’ve put into their digital shopping carts and abandoned, and who they follow on social media.
And speaking of social media, we have a greater opportunity to connect directly with our fans and ‘hug our haters,’ (as Jay Baer would say).
Casting a wide net through generalized ads and marketing campaigns will no longer work for an audience that is growing increasingly sensitive and aware of these kinds of tactics. We recently talked about the psychology behind sharing, and it’s clear that users want stronger emotional connections to content and brands.
5. The Merge of Search and Social
For a while now, consumers and internet users have relied on search engines as the main mode of finding information and products online.
Google, Bing, and Yahoo have basically dictated how we market to consumers in certain ways. But that’s all changing, thanks to rollouts of sponsored space and integrated search on social media.
Twitter and Instagram both updated their advertising options this year, and Facebook has already begun to include a broader range of information accessible through their in-app search function. Pinterest has become a social media gateway for e-commerce. Trending topics on Facebook are now being included in newsfeeds, and juxtaposed with the typical personalized posts seen from friends.
2016 will see further integration between all the actions users typically take online. Purchases will be able to be made through social with greater automatic payment options, and transactions will be shareable on profiles in real-time. This all adds up to easier, one-stop shopping, and perpetuates the concept of building relationships with consumers by offering actual services through social media platforms.
Good news for marketers: this also means we’ll be able to create a more direct path to purchase for social media audiences, and help measure social media ROI directly through revenue.
6. More Instant Gratification
2015 has been a big year for Snapchat, and we’re only going to see that trend continue to grow. This next year, more brands will be jumping on the snapchat bandwagon and begin to understand the value of exclusive, ‘get it quick before it’s gone’ content.
Other platforms are taking notice of this ‘quick and dirty’ formula as well. Instagram unveiled its Boomerang app recently, in which short gif-like sequences of photos can be created to be posted on the social network.
With attention spans shortening, and the amount of messages thrown at consumers every second only growing, real-time, to-the-point content is here to stay. Because of this, using these outlets for marketing will be real contenders to other forms of social media marketing and content distribution in the coming year.
7. More Automation
Since we’re Hubspot Partners, we already know the value of marketing automation, and it seems like it’s starting to catch on. 2016 is setting up to be the year of automation, with more and more productivity apps and automation tools becoming available, and more marketers understanding the value of automating their efforts.
This year, Hubspot unveiled a new, free version of CRM and marketing automation software called LeadIn. This puts even small businesses, brand new startups, and personal websites in the position to use customer tracking and automation, without having to have a budget.
This means marketers will have more time to create awesome content for consumers, because they’ll be spending less time on posting, reviewing, analyzing data, and painstakingly tracking their own customers and conversions. More awesome content equals happier, more engaged audiences.
With all these growing trends in marketing tactics and practices, we can’t wait to see what happens in our industry this coming year. By the end of 2016 we’ll all be able to look back, compare notes, and be ready to kick marketing butt all over again the following year.