Sizing Up Digital Marketing Trends for 2016

As we make our way through Q4 predictions for digital marketing in the new year are starting to roll in. After browsing the initial batch we’ve compiled a list of the ones we think are probable and ones that should stay in the crystal ball.

1. Video ads will start dominating the web.

Forbes predicts that video ads will have a breakout year in 2016. Although video ads already have a strong presence on social media channels like YouTube and Facebook, there is evidence that Google will start including video ads in their search results. It’s widely reported that Google has been testing this new feature, but they have yet to confirm if or when it will be released. Google did announce that TrueView campaigns (YouTube’s ad platform) will now be incorporated into the AdWords interface, giving greater credence that search results will include video ads sooner rather than later. Google is actually a bit late to the game on this one as Bing and Yahoo! already launched video ads in search results earlier this year.

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Image via Graphic Design & Publishing Center

This prediction is a solid bet. Google is a titan in digital advertising and it knows that video is one of the strongest advertising mediums around. The path has already been paved by other players in optimizing the video ad experience, so the risk here is fairly low. Some estimates predict that 74% of all internet traffic in 2017 will be video. They might just be right.

2. Virtual reality will come into it’s own.

With lots of talk about Oculus Rift and other virtual reality technologies, many marketers are anxiously awaiting to see the impact they will have. HubSpot predicts that, “[it], will inevitably have a huge impact on the way that marketers engage consumers in 2016.” HubSpot points to the value of virtual reality’s personalized experiences that could particularly engage Millennials. Jayson DeMers from TechCrunch has more conservative outlook on the how virtual reality technology will play out in 2016.

“As [virtual reality] hasn’t been extensively tested in a wide market, there’s no guarantee that it’s going to go over well upon its release. Extended use of a rotating [virtual reality] headset could cause neck strain, and if it isn’t handled properly, can cause virtual reality sickness. These problems could lead to significant portions of the population who aren’t able to use [virtual reality] headsets at all.”

Apart from product development issues, virtual reality might face some market issues as well. Deters explains that,

“…the diverse number of rising [virtual reality] startups and the sheer number of dollars attributed to them seems like overkill. The technology is impressive, and in relatively high demand, but with so many people putting such high stakes on it succeeding, any blip of failure on the radar could set off a chain reaction that results in an over-funded, over-saturated market.”

The Oculus Rift headset is tested by attendees at the Eurogamer Expo at Earls Court in London.

Image via Oculus Rift

While Oculus Rift is the closest to releasing a finished product, many others are still a few years from release. Senior Vice President of Strategy at Kaizen Platform, Eric Speech suggested that,

“If it can overcome the adoption challenges faced by other IoT devices, I would say it will take 2-4 years to mature to the point where it’s relevant for digital marketing. Historically, if we look at new technologies and experiences, it’s taken several years to go from novelty/early adopters to mainstream. I only see it’s immediate impact being to the gaming market.”

It looks like we might have to wait a little longer before virtual reality makes a real impact.

3. Personalizing the customer experience will be the marketer’s top priority.

It used to be that people viewed personalization as intrusive, but as the digital experience has developed more consumers are comfortable with tailored content, in fact  56% of consumers said they are more likely to shop with a good personalized experience. Increased personalization has been on many marketing industry trend lists for 2016. The reason? According to Brandanew,

“…the only way to make consumers interact with content, is personalization. Offering personalized content means sharing relevant and knowledge based posts that a consumer can get a solution from.”

Personalization adds way more value to your content. It allows you to get the right message in front of the right audience to increase marketing efficiency and impact. So will 2016 be the turning point for personalization? Hubspot highlights one key factor that could make next year a breakout year for personalization.

“Data. We now have data in easily accessible and interpretable formats through which we can develop strong relationship-marketing plans. In 2016 and beyond, personalized, data-driven marketing will become increasingly important.

Intrusive, mass-target approaches to marketing will slowly dwindle as marketers who focus on relationships grow their businesses. All solid relationships are built on trust. Transparency between customers and brands is essential, so companies must keep this in mind when mapping relationship marketing tactics.”

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Sephora “Color IQ” personalized marketing campaign. Image via Forbes

The verdict? It’s safe to say personalization will be big in 2016. Content may still be king, but personalization is what gives the content it’s power. Marketers have begun to master the creation of content and the acquisition of customer data—the two ingredients necessary for effective personalization. Now we will see the rise in technology and services to meet the demand of consumers who want tailored experiences, and businesses that want more efficient marketing.

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