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Top Digital Marketing Predictions for 2017

2017 is here. And, whether 2016 was good for you, awful for you or just made you shake your head, it’s officially done and over.

This time of year is great for looking back on the year that was and looking forward to what we think the next year will be. We’ll start with a review of what actually happened in 2016 compared to what we thought would happen – then, we’ll offer our best guesses on what will happen in 2017.

2016 in Review

At the beginning of 2016, we predicted that mobile, voice search, digital assistants and marketing automation would be big players. Well, we were mostly correct.

Mobile

Mobile usage definitely grew in 2016. According to eMarketer’s mobile reports, mobile search on Google increased by 11 percent and m-commerce (online shopping on mobile devices) saw an increase of over 15 percent.

Google’s 2015 “Mobilegeddon” update made mobile optimization a much larger factor in search engine rankings and that trend continued through 2016. Consistent user experiences across devices became a primary concern for advertisers as consumers and search engines demanded that smartphone usage be fully acknowledged. Overall, mobile was not something you could afford to ignore last year.

Automation

Automating marketing campaigns has certainly become much more common. Marketing automation has led to campaigns that can be tweaked daily with little additional work from the client. However, automation removes some of the personalization aspects that clients and consumers are looking for today. Near the end of the year, we saw many campaigns looking to strike a balance between optimization and personalization.

Voice search and digital assistants

Voice search and digital assistants have become available on nearly every smartphone and tablet made, as well as many computers. Consumers increasingly turned to Siri, Alexa and Cortana in 2016 to find the answers to life’s most urgent questions. However, these searches didn’t yield as many direct calls to businesses as many marketers, including us, predicted in early 2016. While many people search for general information and businesses using voice search or their mobile assistants, many of those same people wait to call the business until later, merely visit the store or continue comparing products or services. This makes attribution to these search methods difficult to accurately calculate. Plus, many of these search features are difficult to customize strategy for.

What else was big?
Live content and experiential marketing

Companies like Taco Bell and Warner Brothers used experiences to build their brand. Taco Bell hosted a “Friendsgiving” dinner for online fans. And, rather than giving away swag at SXSW, Warner Bros. promoted their film with a Harley Quinn themed tattoo shop and complimentary temporary and permanent tattoos. These are just a couple examples pulled from a vast number of times last year that companies gained new followers, leads and fans by promoting an experience rather than a product.

*Source: Official Suicide Squad Instagram page

Predictions for 2017
Mobile wallets

Mindstream Media’s own Amelia Monroe found that mobile wallets were one of the hot topics at this year Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas earlier this month.

Mobile wallets have been around since 2011 when Google released the aptly named “Google Wallet.” If you’re not familiar, mobile wallets are apps you can install on your mobile phone to store credit card and bank information. Users can then make purchases in physical retail locations by using the app instead of an actual credit card.

Mobile wallet adoption up to this point has been slow, but the industry is poised for explosive growth in 2017. Millennials have started to use mobile wallets more and more, with 45 percent of young adults saying they’ve used a mobile wallet for payments, according to Square. At CES, Samsung’s Nana Murugesan reported that the number of Samsung Pay users nearly doubles every week.

What’s boosting engagement? A few things. First, Samsung Pay recently rolled out a rewards program towards the end of last year. Second, mobile wallets are becoming more integrated with other technology. Honda announced at CES that they will be integrating payment options into new cars that allow users to pay for fuel and parking from their car.

Live video

Video has been king for a while online, and now sites are using live video to connect with more immediacy to users. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat were the beginning and 2017 will see other sites jumping into the mix.

Facebook Live has taken off since its debut in early 2016. Started as a beta test, it has quickly become common practice amongst both marketers and everyday users. A recent live concert streamed by the band OneRepublic garnered nearly 400,000 live watchers. A BuzzFeed video featuring an exploding watermelon had 800,000 live viewers and more than 10 million video views since it was posted.

Predictions by eMarketer and LSA both suggest that an online live video broadcast will hit primetime television viewer numbers in the upcoming months. Bands, celebrities, shows and brands are all starting to take advantage of this medium and it will be interesting to see how viewership and its use as a marketing tool changes as the year goes along.

Messaging Apps

Advertising on messaging apps like Snapchat has been a bit of a hit or miss. In the coming year, we expect Snapchat to make some changes to the app’s advertising format which should help increase marketers’ ability to attribute leads. The key here is to know your audience and ensure that whichever app you’re using, whether it’s Snapchat, Yik Yak or one of the many others, is the right one for your target demographics. Plus, those marketers that get in on the ground floor are going to be ahead of the curve. So, while everyone else works to catch up, you’ll have worked out the kinks while ad costs are still low.

Personalization and the customer journey

The days of box-style personas are nearly over. Customers are being looked at with regard to where they are in their personal journey rather than what “box” they fit into. Customers are also looking for a bit more personalization than they used to when it comes to online ads. Campaigns will likely focus more on contextual targeting rather than generic audience targeting in order to hit those at the right stage in the buying cycle. It doesn’t matter as much if someone fits perfectly into your target audience customer description if they aren’t ready to purchase.

Live data

This ties in with greater personalization. Live data and a greater depth of knowledge on your audience and campaign results will lead to better targeting and more personalization. The use of larger quantities of data has grown and will continue to do so as advertisers and consumers alike demand strategically targeted and relevant ads.