Brexit, Trump’s election, the death of David Bowie – 2016 was certainly a year nobody could have predicted.
The same could be said for the world of marketing. With many organisations discovering new ways of marketing their brands motivated by changing consumer habits, such as Facebook Live and a rise in influencer marketing, it was a year of change for the industry and for the world.
As we look ahead to 2017, we expect many of last year’s innovations to really come to the fore. Here is what we think the big talking points will be.
The rise of real-time video
Social media users are beginning to demand more in-the-moment content, giving them a vicarious view into a world they’d previously been unable to access.
As a result, new platforms such as Facebook Live and Instagram Stories are quickly becoming some of the most popular ways for people to discover and share content. With latest figures showing 1.79 billion monthly active users, these social media platforms provide a great opportunity for brands to get themselves seen.
In 2017, we’ll see more brands using these platforms to tell stories and engage with customers, and businesses must adopt video as the new normal in customer service or risk getting left behind.
Mobile still rules
No matter where they are or what they’re doing, consumers are interacting with brands on mobile, tablets, TV screens, desktops – you name it, they’re on it, and brands need to be visible.
In the US, at least, it has been predicted that 72% of all digital ad spend will be on mobile in 2017, reaching an unprecedented $65.87 billion by 2019. And if you factor this on a global scale, especially with growing internet accessibility on mobile, we are going to continue seeing soaring budgets in mobile ad spend.
Artificial intelligence gets smart
Chatbots – the applications powered by artificial intelligence that are designed to simulate a conversation with another human – are the next phase in the migration from a desktop-dominant world to a mobile one.
While they are no new phenomenon, customer service began to transform online through the proliferation of chatbots in 2016, with organisations using the technology to generate two-way, personalised interactions with customers. Facebook, for example, went from having zero bots in February to 18,000 by July, according to research firm Forrester.
At first, conversations with these robots may be inferior to service from a human, but as machine learning develops it will become harder and harder to tell the difference.
While chatbots provide great potential for organisations to streamline and better communicate with customers, brands will have to decide how best to keep up and stay true to themselves as they do. Getting the tone and content of this conversational commerce right will mean that marketers need to understand the personality of their brands inside out.
Embracing virtual reality
Despite its initial usage in the gaming industry, brands have become wise to the opportunities that virtual reality presents when it comes to promoting their products and services.
There have been some great success stories in the world of marketing in recent times, with big brands using virtual reality to create an immersive experience for both consumer and B2B audiences. At bigdog, for example, we worked with Mazda to create a virtual showroom using the Oculus Rift headset, to give customers the chance to experience driving a car like never before, resulting in sales before the car had even launched.
However, as usage increases, costs will come down and as a result 2017 will see smaller businesses taking advantage of the technology to create effective marketing campaigns and brand recognition.
2017 will see personalisation move from a buzzword to a fundamental part of the marketers’ toolkit, across web, social, email and every other channel in the customer experience.
In a digital age, customers are walking data generators, creating quintillions of bytes of information about their daily habits, needs, and experiences. At the mercy of customer experience, marketers are tasked with the daunting prospect of being able to understand this data to provide a personalised experience, based, at the very least, on a level with a consumer’s last-best interaction.
Consumers are smart and they expect their world to be personalised, yet almost every marketer's website is generic and one-size-fits-all. In 2017, brands will seek out the tools to build truly personal custom experiences.
2017 is set to be the year of native advertising as focus shifts to a mobile-first perspective, seeing brands creating content that consumers want to see and which adds to, rather than takes away from, their experience. However, the industry needs to ensure that the core benefit of a native ad – being unobtrusive – is not lost.
In business, and particularly in the world of marketing, agility is the key to momentum. Providing business owners and marketers are willing and able to adapt to the ever changing needs of their customers, they can look forward to a successful and prosperous 2017.