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And just like that…2015 has come to a close.
Now that 2016 is a-tapping on our shoulders, it’s time to do our due diligence as digital marketers and identify trends for the year ahead.
With the way technologies and behaviors change, we’re looking at a year that will likely be completely unlike the last. If we want to stay afloat in this tumultuous digital tide, we must prepare for – and ultimately adapt to – these five major digital marketing trends for 2016.
So out with the old, and in with the new!
1. Video Ads
We predict that the biggest online marketing change from 2015 to 2016 will be a sudden upswing of video advertising. Why? Because not only are video ads growing in popularity among users, they’re also growing in sophistication among platforms.
Everyone knows about YouTube (which, by the way, is still one of the most-visited apps, with only Facebook ranking higher), but now there are a couple of other key players on board. Facebook and Bing both offer video options for advertisers, and other networks are sure to follow suit.
Plus, now that Google has incorporated video content into its SEO algorithm, it will be more important than ever for companies to include it in their digital marketing efforts in order to stay at the top of those all-important SERPs.
So if your business has the technology and skill to produce high-quality videos, you should definitely hop on this trend. It will undoubtedly be expensive and time-consuming to tailor your videos to the unique audiences in each different platform, but as more companies recognize the effectiveness of video advertising, it’s going to be essential to your digital marketing success. Trust us.
All together now: video ads!
2. Migration to Mobile
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last year or two, you’ve noticed a huge uptick in your traffic from mobile devices. In fact, mobile now accounts for more than half of all Internet usage. And – surprise, surprise – that percentage is only going to increase in 2016.
The migration toward mobile is largely due to that monumental event of 2015 known as “Mobilegeddon,” when Google announced a new algorithm that would reward mobile-friendly websites (and penalize mobile-unfriendly websites). As a result, companies everywhere started scrambling to create mobile versions of their current desktop websites.
But that’s just the beginning of the new trend toward mobile. These days, it’s all about apps. Since mobile apps are more intuitive and convenient than websites, they’re expected to replace mobile-optimized sites altogether in the coming years. And with Google’s new app indexing feature making it easier for companies to promote their apps on mobile SERPs, apps are quickly becoming the norm.
That doesn’t mean to ignore your mobile-optimized site – totally the opposite. If anything, your desktop site is the one to put on the back burner, as Google won’t even dock you for not having a desktop counterpart to your mobile site. More proof that mobile is where it’s at!
Whatever you do, make sure you adopt a mobile-first mindset if you haven’t already. You’ve got to meet your customers where they are, and for the foreseeable future, where they are is on their smartphones.
3. New Technologies
It’s true: the latest technology to hit the market is virtual reality. With dozens of different devices set to launch within the next few years, including the highly hyped-up Oculus Rift, virtual reality will prove to be a game-changer for digital marketers in 2016.
Other innovative technologies are set to emerge as well. Think of the Apple Watch and other wearable technologies; they’re literally changing the way we consume information. To accommodate for the smaller screens and shorter attention spans associated with wearable technology, digital marketers will have to craft short, catchy messages and images in order to stand out.
And that’s all without mentioning the Internet of Things, the phenomenon that will change not only the way we consume information but also the way we live. With the ability to advertise to people across virtually all channels at virtually all times, the targeting possibilities for digital marketers are nearly endless.
These new mediums will surely present a challenge, as it’s all uncharted territory. Most of us don’t even have the tools necessary to market on them yet. But if you’re smart, you’ll keep an eye out for them — especially considering wearable technologies will be adopted by 28% of users in 2016 alone.
4. Digital Assistant Optimization
While SEO and PPC advertising will remain the main methods of broadcasting your website to visitors, digital assistant optimization is a trend on the rise. Now that digital assistants like Siri, Cortana, Alexa, and Google Now have established themselves as search authorities (thanks to their easy access and personalized approach), digital marketers will need to start optimizing content for them as well.
Think about the last time you searched for something on your phone. If you have an iPhone S, you probably just spoke your question right into the phone and clicked on the first site Siri offered up (which, most likely, was based on your location and previous search history). That’s certainly a much quicker method than opening Safari, navigating to Google, typing out your question, and scrolling down the page until you finally find something useful.
As digital assistants become more common among mobile devices, they will begin to steal a bigger share of the search engine market. Make sure your company is aware of this, and start optimizing your site for digital assistants as well as for Google.
5. Shift to Social Media
More and more users are relying on social media, rather than search engines, to answer their questions. Two reasons contribute to this shift. First, people like pictures, and social media is perfect for pictures. (Plus, users trust image-heavy ads more than text-heavy ads.) Second, people like to get others’ opinions before buying something, and social media is as close to word-of-mouth advertising as you can get.
So if you want to build your brand in 2016, you’ll need to make sure your social presence is top-notch. That means generating positive reviews, accruing comments and likes, and posting great content often. It’s a tough beast to keep on top of, but if you do, your customers will reward you.
In addition to the social giants of Facebook, Twitter, and the like, there are also a couple of newer social media platforms you’ll want to take note of. Snapchat is a big one. It’s one of the fastest-growing social networks, and advertisers (even big ones like ESPN) are starting to see the unique branding benefits it has to offer.
Snapchat is at the head of a new movement called ephemeral marketing, which presents exclusive content with an imminent expiration date. Not only does the urgency encourage people to make buying decisions quicker, it also cultivates an “in the know” culture that people (especially millennials) love.
Be on the lookout for up-and-coming social media platforms like Snapchat as viable places to market your business. If you have the following for it, you’ll be on the forefront of something big.
Your Digital Marketing Approach for 2016
Of course, those aren’t the only digital marketing trends to watch out for this year. On a broader level, you might want to consider these five main marketing trends of 2016. They’ll help you plan your budget and focus for the coming year.
No matter what type of plan you formulate for 2016, make sure digital marketing is a key component (if not the center). Competition in online marketing is growing — in fact, companies are on track to spend $10 billion more in digital marketing this year than they did last year. So if you’re going to get on board with these new digital marketing trends, now is the time…before demand causes prices to skyrocket.
Want more digital marketing advice? Check out our library of free resources on everything from SEO to social media, and everything in between.