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Jan 19

Digital Marketing Trends to Watch in 2016


In: Strategy Insights

With 2016 upon us, it’s time to talk about predictions for the upcoming year. Digital marketing remains a fluid concept that continues to grow and change as consumers shift in the way they find businesses. With 97% of consumers using online media to find local businesses, and almost half of smartphone owners visiting social media daily, your online presence has never been more crucial. How you structure that presence can mean the difference between a consumer finding and purchasing your product and that same consumer taking their business elsewhere. So what are the most important trends we’re going to see emphasized in 2016?

Content Marketing Remains King

Content Marketing was ubiquitous in 2015, and will continue into 2016 as a critical piece of strategy for every business. Content marketing gives businesses the ability to build brand awareness and attract and acquire new customers while engaging and strengthening existing customer relationships. Quality content marketing has the added benefit of boosting SEO while defining your business as an authority in your space.

More specifically in 2016, video content will be the main focus as branded, highly shareable videos replace the traditional blog post. Selling will play second fiddle to sharing. The biggest hurdle to overcome in content marketing in the coming year is the inevitable content shock as an increasing amount of free, high-quality content vies for a finite amount of time and attention from potential consumers. How to get your business to come out on top of ContentShockApocalypse is the real question of 2016, and is a topic we will soon be covering in detail.  

Predictive Analysis & Behavioral Email Are a Must

If you’re not already tracking detailed user data on your site, you’re behind the times. If you are tracking this data, but aren’t using it to shift from an historical view to a forward-looking perspective, then you’re missing out on a golden opportunity. The amount of behavioral data businesses are able to collect continues to increase at an alarming (and enthralling) rate.

Using this data, companies can more accurately identify potential leads who are in the market to buy, and focus their marketing spend where it will produce higher ROIs. Additionally, predictive data allows us to optimize buyer personas and personalize messages to increase conversions. Creating dynamic content and nurturing leads with targeted messages should be an integral part of your strategy in 2016.

While many larger corporations already utilize this tactic, it’s becoming increasingly accessible to SMBs and startups. With advanced tracking tools such as Kissmetrics and Mixpanel, even the smallest of businesses can track every event that a visitor performs on their site. Utilizing insights on everything from watching a video to abandoning a cart, businesses can create targeted email campaigns that have seen a 4x open rate as compared with a standard newsletter. The days of generic email blasts are officially in the past.

Mobile Marketing Flattens Desktop

The defining shift in digital marketing in 2016 is the move from desktop to mobile search. If your webpage isn’t optimized for mobile, you have probably already seen your name drop in the ranks. Mobile-friendly platforms are no longer an added perk for a site, but are now imperative for its success. In fact, 14% of the holy grail of demographics (the Millennials, of course) say they wouldn’t do business with a company that doesn’t have a mobile site or app, and 60% say in the next five years that everything will be done on mobile devices. We must face the truth that users have become one with their phones, and if your website is difficult to read, use, or click from that 4” screen, both consumers and Google will pass you over for the optimized version.

Beyond just optimizing your site, 2016 will bring us huge advancements in targeted advertising designed specifically for mobile users. From vertical video to virtual reality, companies will continue to find increasingly creative ways to use those addictive little data-collecting machines to their advantage. If your business wants to stay at the forefront of consumers’ minds, you should already be designing and implementing your mobile strategy for the coming year.

Voice Search & the Future of SEO

Generally speaking, the purpose of digital advancement is to make our lives easier. Nowhere is this clearer than in the advent of voice search (think Siri, Cortana, and OK Google) as a prominent alternative to traditional web search. A 2014 study showed 55% of teens aged 13-18 used voice search every day, and we can only assume that number has continued to grow. That same study showed that 89% and 85% of teens and adults, respectively, agree that voice search will be “very common” in the future.

While Siri and Cortana still have a way to go before surpassing typing a phrase into Google, businesses need to think about optimizing pages today for a different kind of Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Adjusting to the long-tail searches that come from natural speech versus the keyword-based searches that have driven SEO since its inception will be critical for anyone who wants to come out on top of these results. Accompanying this shift is Google’s move towards relevancy and semantic search, and away from over-optimized pages stuffed with keywords, but lacking in quality content.

Wearable Technology Will Rewrite the Book

Wearables have already gained momentum in 2015 and it isn’t slated to stop this year. Or next year for that matter. In fact, the wearables market is projected to see 35% growth over the next five years, with Apple Watch primed to lead the market. What does this mean for your website? Content strategy for wearables is still in its infancy and you can bet that several iterations lie ahead before any best practices are firmly established. Easily-consumed listicles and a whole new subcategory of “glanceable marketing” will take the cake over your traditional web content. The biggest shift in wearable technology will be targeting your strategy to the intimate nature of wearables and finding where your brand fits into each person’s world.

Ultimately the most important trends in digital marketing are the ones that are the most relevant to your business. While not every company needs a wearables strategy today, the days of taking out an ad in the yellow pages and waiting for the phone to ring are over. Data rules the world in 2016, and if you aren’t paying attention to what your customers need, they will quickly (and easily) find somewhere else to get it.


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UNION is a full-service digital agency. We create experiences that help brands thrive. We believe to be relevant in today’s marketplace, brands must lead with a digital-first philosophy. We craft engaging digital experiences and integrated campaigns that are built on strategy and driven by data. At the heart of what we do is help brands create meaningful and enduring relationships with highly connected consumers.

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