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Digital Marketing Trends You Can't Ignore When Planning for 2017


It's that time of year again! Time to sit back and analyze the dumpster fire year of 2016, and how we can optimize our marketing strategies going forward.

When we talk about emerging digital marketing trends, we need to identify two things. 

  1. The technological, social, and economic trends that impact how we interact with digital content
  2. How to approach marketing to stay abreast of these trends

We'll start with the trends themselves and how they affect our expectations.


Trends & Expectations in Evolving Landscapes

1.  Chatbots, Smart Automation, & Human-But-Not

We've been seeing it for a while: people tend to avoid talking to people. If we do talk to people, we prefer to stay behind the safety of a screen. But we don't want to not talk to people, either. Are you confused? I'm confused.

We want the convenience, understanding, and care that other people show us. But we also want to solve problems ourselves. That's why we love chatbots and smart automation. We feel like we're accomplishing something on our own, while receiving the intimate attention we'd usually get from people. 

We're looking for connection without commitment - Human-But-Not.

2.  Immersion & VR

You've heard of virtual reality. It's been in the works for a decade, and VR headsets look to be a major Christmas hit this year. Virtual, augmented, and mixed realities are becoming a part of everyday life. Pokémon GO gave us the first large-scale taste over the summer.

More and more, people rely on tech to enhance (or make sense of) the world around them. Digital experiences certainly impact our physical lives - "reality" and the Internet are no longer separate entities. The digital world now permeates the physical world. They're inseparable, especially for younger generations. 

The melding of physical and digital means we expect real time digital updates - live content.

3.  Live Content

The speed of the Internet has done interesting things to our brains. Our attention spans are tiny, we're driven by instant gratification, and we're quick to adapt to rapidly emerging technologies. Everything is fast quick go go go.

Modern Internet users expect content to change rapidly from minute to minute. Twitter posts have a half life of maybe twenty minutes. We want

  • Live news updates
  • Live video feeds
  • Live chat responses
  • Real time info sharing
  • Immediate notifications
  • Responsive media

Anything else is too slow. Did you know if your website takes more than two seconds to load, you're losing half your potential audience? Fun fact: Google once implemented a 30-result search option, which increased its load speed by half a second. That alone made traffic drop by 20%.

4.  Internet of Things & Interconnectedness

We have connected digital and physical environments providing live content. This interconnectedness spans across all of our devices - even those you'd never expect.

Digital cameras can now upload photos to social media. Coffee makers can connect to apps. You can automatically save everything on your phone to cloud storage. Now, it's almost more shocking if a device doesn't connect to an app or website.

5.  New Communication Pathways

Voice commands, motion, online body language, GIFs, emoji, memes - modern people communicate in some odd ways. Oxford's 2015 Word of the Year was this emoji:  tears-of-joy-emoji.png
We're also in constant communication with someone or something (whether we know it or not):

  • Tech
    • Phones
    • Computers
    • Tablets
    • Apps
    • Social media
    • Messengers
  • People
    • Friends
    • Family
    • Coworkers
    • Clients
    • Customers
    • Vendors
    • NSA
  • Media
    • News sources
    • Ads
    • Podcasts
    • Video
    • Interactive
    • Games
    • Curation platforms

Devices use fingerprint recognition. Phones "wake up" at the sound of your voice, or when you pick them up. We learn about people on the other side of a screen based on what they search, view, and download. Facebook serves ads based on your Amazon activity. Creepy.

6.  Sharing & Renting

New generations are more inclined to share and rent products, services, and information. Ownership is not on the priority list. 

Companies like Google, Uber, Facebook, and Airbnb have been so successful because they allow access without demanding ownership. Google provides information, Uber - transportation, Facebook - communication, Airbnb - real estate.

7.  Extreme Personalization & Privacy Breakdown

Standard is out. Customization is in. People want to feel understood, unique, and cared for. And younger generations are willing to take the hit to their privacy to receive that special treatment. This isn't necessarily a good or bad thing - it's simply the new reality.


How to Meet 2017 Marketing Expectations

As with all things marketing, your approach should cater to your unique audience. How you apply the following advice will vary based on your prospects' goals, challenges, and preferences.

1.  Upcycling

Reuse, transform, and optimize your content.

  • Live Content - Turn existing content into an interactive experience

  • Interconnectedness - Provide different formats and content mediums for multiple devices

  • Communication Pathways - Optimize content for different platforms to reach your audience through multiple pathways

  • Sharing/Renting - Provide snippets of valuable content with no strings attached

  • Personalization - Customize content for your target industries, roles, and even individual people

2.  Breaking Sales/Marketing Silos

Silos were never a great idea. It's time to break them down to make both teams more effective.

  • Chatbots/Smart Automation - Use chat and smart automation to enhance CRM data and lead nurturing

  • Immersion - Keep them interested with a streamlined marketing-to-sales transition

  • Communication Pathways - Provide a cohesive sales-marketing experience across platforms

  • Personalization - Use the data gathered by marketing to inform sales' interactions with each prospect

3.  Analytics 2.0

Marketing channels do not exist in isolation. Analyze past and current data to make channels work together to increase ROI.

  • Smart Automation - Use each prospect's choice of channels to customize workflows and lead nurturing

  • Immersion - Use data to create a cohesive experience across their preferred channels

  • Live Content - Content should evolve based on snapshots of current analytics

  • IoT - Analytics can identify the role of tech in your prospect's life

  • Communication Pathways - Use data to discover new ways to communicate with prospects

  • Sharing/Renting - Identify the sweet spot of access and gated services

  • Personalization - Data across all channels gives more info for extreme personalization

4.  Use Video When Possible

Video has become the medium of choice for all generations. 92% of mobile video consumers share videos with others, and 75% of executives watch work-related videos at least once a week.

  • Human-But-Not - There are people involved, but no expectations for interaction

  • Immersion/VR - Video imitates reality by providing visual and aural sensory information

  • Live Content - Video is an easy way to provide real-time updates, webinars, demos, and other information

  • Communication Pathways - Video (especially through YouTube) is easy to share cross-platform and -device

  • Renting - Like Netflix or Redbox, you can create limited-access video content for lead generation

5.  Create Experiences

This year, Oxford's favorite word is "post-truth." It's become painfully obvious that we make decisions not based on facts - but on how we feel about those decisions. Creating an experience that resonates with your prospect should be top priority.

  • Chatbots/Human-But-Not - Make them feel comfortable by allowing indirect interactions 

  • Immersion - Smooth interactions between web, apps, and other mediums increase brand immersion

  • Live Content - Use responsive content to make their life easier and forge a personal connection

  • Interconnectedness - Your brand experience needs to translate into something useful in their physical life

  • Communication Pathways - Make them love engaging with your content at all levels, on all devices and platforms

  • Sharing - Facilitate social sharing and networking with compelling, emotionally-charged content

  • Personalization - Make their experience with your brand unique, like it was made just for them

2017 will be interesting, if nothing else.

I think we can all agree on that. These shifts that affect our marketing are also affecting the economy, social constructs, global relationships, and how we engage with the people around us. 

Download Your Guide - 30 Greatest B2B Lead Gen Tips, Tricks & IdeasFor marketers, it will be interesting to see how these evolving landscapes impact customer-brand interactions.

Here are some of my outlandish predictions for the next few years:

  1. Drones make human interaction completely unnecessary re: online shopping, pizza delivery

  2. People get more and more socially awkward as interpersonal interactions decline

  3. No one talks to anyone else, societies collapse, humans are added to the endangered species list

  4. Earth implodes

What are your predictions for 2017 and beyond?