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At Fresh Egg, we have a bit of a New Year tradition. Having emerged bright eyed and bushy tailed (honest) from a relaxing Christmas break, we like to get together and indulge ourselves in some future gazing. At this time every year, we ask our most knowledgeable digital sages what they predict for digital marketing in the coming year.
So, read on to find out the eight top trends our nine industry experts predict we’ll see – and more importantly, how they will affect your business.
Our Fresh Egg experts’ first prediction is around the growing importance of customer experience.
Powered by big data, marketers and UX designers will work together to ensure a seamless user experience for customers across multiple channels.
First up, I spoke to our client services director, Sarah Leach, to get her take on this trend:
"Customer experience is changing the face of marketing as we know it. It’s been around for a while now but it’s only until recently that we have seen a significant step change in businesses taking it seriously at board level.
Companies are starting to embrace customer centricity to create holistic integrated marketing strategies and transform not only their digital marketing, but their businesses too.”
Sarah believes there will be drive for collaboration, shaping overall customer experience rather than just driving conversions:
“UX and design experiences have been traditionally created by UX designers. However, we are seeing a shift with the brands we talk to where they are putting more and more emphasis on consumer insight shaping the customer experience.
This is leading to collaboration between marketing and UX teams, which very often sit in different teams or departments.”
Next up, I spoke to Kayleigh Rogers, our senior web analyst who emphasised the importance of linking on and offline behaviour as a first step towards an integrated customer experience:
"There is no question of the importance of customer experience to the modern day marketer and the vitally important role for analytics. Although marketers can visualise this shift, there are far too many obstacles and barriers that means these form part of their long term strategy.
However, in the medium term, and over the course of 2017, we will see an increasing number of clients making efforts to link on and offline behaviour (O2O marketing). This is going to be a hot topic for tool developers and the privacy concerns that surround them and the data.”
When I spoke to our head of innovation, David Sewell, he also envisaged offline and online journeys becoming more joined up.
"Connecting our real world experiences to the fabric of the internet is already underway. This is likely to be through social media channels (e.g. Snapchat's sunglasses), bringing offline experiential real world interactions online through the Internet of Things.
Our social lives will be connected to the internet in real time, through seamless check-in, live broadcasting and facial recognition to determine mood.
David went on to predict that data on our mood will used to determine our propensity to purchase:
“Are we sad? Are we happy? These are all things can be determined from monitoring our activities in real time.
I predict Facebook will introduce a product to connect social online and social offline more immediate. This data will be used to predict the propensity of an individual to purchase, guiding messaging and dynamically updating touch points for brand advertisers.”
Duncan Heath, our head of conversion services, predicts that this trend will see optimisation and testing offsite becoming more prevalent:
"We’re going to increasingly move away from just optimising and testing experiences on websites and more towards optimising experiences across all digital engagement points – airport check-in desks, gaming consoles, smart TVs, Amazon Echo etc.
Testing platforms are increasingly enabling this ‘over the top’ content optimisation via their software and Fresh Egg is keeping abreast of such developments in order to help clients optimise all of their digital experiences.”
So, how will these seamless journeys be facilitated? Our head of biddable media, Nate Wood, had some thoughts to share on to find out how big data will power a more integrated experience:
"Who doesn’t love data? We’ve come full circle in digital, from the early days of not having much data but pretending it told us everything to the current world of having too much data but realising that it still only tells us part of the story.
For many businesses data exists in a variety of internal back office systems and web analytics. In 2017, we’ll see more adoption of data management platforms (DMPs) in an effort to stitch this data together.
DMPs will facilitate better mapping of ads to the user journey, allowing for a variety of ads to be used to prop up and support the whole user journey, not just top and end of funnel.
We’ll be taking big data and refining it down so that it feels very personal, and we’ll use that data to provide a sequential ad campaigns that use the old concepts of response modelling in email to create a consistent, relevant and coherent ad experience.”
The second upcoming trend that our digital gurus are getting excited about is the advancement of personalisation.
Fresh Egg’s digital marketing director, Lee Colbran, predicts that there will be an increase in companies investing in their personalisation efforts across multiple channels:
"Consumers can expect to see a greater level of fine tuning as businesses start to invest heavily in personalisation outside of linear channels such as email and onsite.
While there are many large businesses who are currently able to utilise ‘Big Data’, the transformation and update is slower as many mid-market clients are struggling with the interpretation and combination of data sources. Expect to see further progression and adoption as businesses scramble to enhance and personalise their offering across multiple channels and touchpoints.”
Sarah Leach sees the trend towards more personalisation as a natural follow on from the increased emphasis on customer experience:
“A focus on customer experience is also going to lead to the rise of personalisation across multiple touch points from dynamically substituted content based on visitor behaviour and profiles, to streamlining the customer journey, to making sites more responsive.
CRO plays an integral role here in improving the website experience using a more data-driven approach to increase leads and sales and we are talking to more and more brands who want to engage in this activity for the first time.”
Duncan Heath also foresees that the pace will quicken in the take-up of more advanced personalisation:
“Companies have been personalising their websites for many years. However, the minutiae of personalisation have had slower adoption due to the inaccessibility of tools to power it.
A wave of personalisation research and delivery tools that have entered the market over the last year or so have broken down these barriers and widespread adoption of website personalisation (and beyond) is going to be quick to follow.”
However, more advanced personalisation will force Google to adapt, Duncan predicts:
“Search engines like Google are built on crawling and indexing static pages, then delivering those pages in order of relevance and authority to users with varying queries.
Personalisation can completely change content for individual users to make it more relevant and helpful, but search engines cannot ‘see’ all of these changes or read the varying content. They therefore won’t be able to necessarily return the best results for the right users and may struggle to index pages altogether.
Could this be the reason behind their push to control personalisation through Google Optimize 360, where they can ‘see’ the content changes happening for individual users?”
Our third big trend for 2017 is focused on how businesses and marketers will benefit from the increasing role of virtual assistants in our lives. Lee Colbran has been paying particular attention to this development:
“With behemoth tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft pouring tens of millions into innovation outside of their core product set, I see a new battle developing for control of the connected entities and incursion into our daily lives through our smart connected devices.
As we now enter 2017 there will be tens-of-thousands more households asking their personal assistants for seemingly random information or controlling the living room lights, electrical items or heating.
What does this ultimately mean? More data, more learning and more exciting and innovative ways for businesses to communicate to their consumers while enhancing their experience.”
Ashley Hitchcock , our senior web designer, highlighted the need for websites to optimise for the sorts of questions consumers will ask their virtual assistants and provide VR compatible content:
“Making sure a site is correctly marked up with schema and location data will be vital to help virtual assistants discover your site. With questions being asked like, ‘what’s a good book for the plane?’, ‘Where can I find the best pizza place in town?’ you need to be providing relevant answers on your website.
With VR also gaining popularity, websites will start to feature more content that is VR compatible, this will include virtual walk through of products and services. For example, this could be a virtual tour around a property or a ride along review of a new car.”
David Sewell predicts some very clever (but slightly unsettling) optimisation of virtual assistants so that they are able play on our suggestibility, making us more likely to buy products:
“Once an army of virtual assistants has been created, persuasion marketing will be the next big challenge.
How can Alexa persuade you to buy things? More sinister, perhaps, is when we ask: How can Alexa be programmed to communicate with you to make you think you had the idea by yourself?
Imbuing virtual assistants with a basic understanding of cognitive biases, when to use a bias using the knowledge they have about our mindset and learning from the ways we respond to their suggestions.
There's a whole new field beginning in virtual assistant programming which I’ll call ‘suggestibility optimisation’.”
Steve Teece expects that the rise of virtual assistants will push businesses to consider an increasing number of touchpoints with their customers:
"I believe how users find and interact with brands in 2017 is going to become more diverse than ever before. With the predicted growth of virtual assistants which are all driven by voice search, this may well see speaking directly to machines instead of using screens as part of the norm for consumers.
Furthermore, the use of chatbots will continue to grow in 2017 and provide users with alternate ways to buy and discover information outside of Google.
It’s going to be more important than ever for brands to be managing the user journey across multiple touchpoints and evolving their search strategy beyond Google.”
Our fourth digital trend focuses on mobile. In line with the increased focus on customer experience, users will be demanding a fast and frictionless experience on mobile in particular and companies will have to invest accordingly.
Steve Teece, our head of technical SEO, predicts that businesses will need to up their game and adopt new technologies to improve user’s mobile experience:
“Ensuring users have the fastest possible experience on mobile was critical in 2016. However, I think more businesses are going to take this more seriously in 2017.
I believe we will see a sharp rise of progressive web apps to provide users with the best possible mobile experience. Frameworks such as ReactJS and Angular are now being widely used as they provide the speed, performance and cross platform abilities required.
Google has heavily promoted the positives of building a progressive web app throughout 2016 and we’re already seeing early adopters such as The Washington Post leveraging this new technology.
It will also be interesting to see if there is a fall in businesses going down the route of building native apps that mirrors their desktop site, instead of only relying on a progressive web app.”
Ashley Hitchcock, echoed Steve’s thoughts on the increased use of progressive web apps in 2017 and gave me a run down on their benefits:
“As browser support for some of the advanced features of progressive web apps starts to increase we will see more sites adopting this methodology for building sites.
A progressive web app uses modern web technology to deliver an app-like user experience. They run everywhere, on all browsers with newer features only enhancing the site when available.
Progressive web apps have many benefits, including:
It's still early days for progressive web apps with many of the advanced features only being supported on Chrome from Android, but we should see greater support as their popularity grows this year”
Ashley also emphasised the need for a mobile-first approach to web design to meet user needs:
“Given that 53% of users will abandon a site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load, add this to fact that most users pay per MB of data, using a site that is un-optimised can cost the them more money to browse a site.
A mobile-first approach to building site will be key to mobile optimisation, rather than the smaller screen being an afterthought.”
Linked to this, Steve also predicts that there will be an increased adoption of AMP this year:
“Google has pushed AMP very hard in 2016. This has now expanded out the top stories carousel to the entire mobile search results page.
It has already been heavily adopted by news publishes and in 2017 we will see more e-commerce sites taking advantage of AMP.”
Another focus of 2017 will be evolution in paid advertising, something that our head of biddable media, Nate Wood and head of inbound marketing, David Somerville have both been considering.
When I spoke to Nate, his first prediction was that we’ll see mobile ad spend grow rapidly:
“Mobile usage continues to grow, and so too will ad spend. Conversion rates on mobile are continuing to increase as businesses adopt responsive designs and copy as they get better at understanding the true needs of the mobile consumer.
While cross-device tracking will remain a problem, the role of mobile in the consumer journey is generally becoming more understood and quantified. So, the ability of advertisers to target mobile users correctly is on the up. Better targeting will lead to better performance, which will lead to increased confidence in investment.”
Secondly, Nate foresees a necessary improvement in native ads as low quality copy and click-bait headlines fail to engage consumers:
“Native ad formats are generally good for users and good for publishers and have huge potential but the quality of the ads suffers.
Phrases like “one weird trick to….”, “…will blow your mind”, “you’ll be shocked by….”, “what <insert celebrity name> looks like now is shocking/mind blowing/unbelievable” should be consigned to the scrap heap.
Low quality ads pointing at low quality impression-bait content drags down the industry as a whole and turns what could be a fantastic win-win scenario for advertisers, publishers and content consumers into a mine field of badly judged clicks and overall disappointment.
The networks need to increase their advertiser and content quality requirements to put trust and usefulness back into this format.”
David highlighted that he expects paid social media advertising to continue to play an important role:
"Despite the continuous innovation and development across social platforms, brands are still finding that their organic reach can be limited. Therefore, the need to bolster their reach with quick and effective paid investment means that they will always maximise their carefully crafted social content.
However, without one you can’t have the other. As brands organic audiences grow, so too does their audience insight and segmentation, allowing for effective paid targeting through innovative ad formats – this means that paid social can drive engagement and tangible conversion metrics.”
Fresh Egg’s sixth prediction around video and short lived content came from a conversation with David Somerville and Lee Colbran. David was particularly enthused about innovations in live video:
“Live video has been adopted by more brands, and individuals, over the last 12 months and this is only set to increase.
Facebook’s current TV campaign pushing ‘Facebook Live’ and Twitter’s recent mobile app refresh that pushes the ‘Live’ functionality to users are both key indicators that the social giants are realising the value of live video.
The format is still in its infancy (comparatively) and few brands have yet to take full advantage of it and their advocate viewing audience. This is why I think over the course of 2017 we will see lots of innovation from brands on how they engage with users before, during and after their live video – integrating promotion and user interaction.”
Lee foresees that smart businesses are going to have to find innovative ways to keep up with consumer demand for video content:
“The adoption of a video strategy will now be a must for many businesses that have, until now, shied away from investing in the format. Consumer demand for relevant content, coupled with more cost effective and accessible video production methods, means that we will see even more video content being produced by businesses looking to engage and enrich their customer experience.
However, producing video content is one thing – producing the right content is quite another. The smart business is one that listens and understands to the demands of their consumer and can quickly create the right content that ticks all the boxes.
Samsung were using video as part of their customer service offering back in 2014 and this is now the norm as far as consumer demand in concerned. The demands on businesses to enhance the level of interaction required to keep consumers happy and engaged is going to take a big leap forward.”
David also believes there is potential for short lived content to become more justifiable in a marketer’s budget:
“The popularity of very short-lived content (or ‘expiring content’), that you’ll see on Snapchat, Instagram, Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger is set to continue.
Although these platforms seemingly copy each other’s features (despite Facebook owning three of them) they are becoming separated by the demographic of users and, therefore, the content that users create.
Since its launch in 2016 “Instagram Stories” has become hugely popular with businesses (big and small) using direct ‘sales’ content. There is a currently a new feature under test which allows users to click through to a brand’s website. If this rolls out, then it will make this short lived content more justifiable by marketers in driving engagement, awareness, but also direct traffic.”
Our next predictions centre on progressions in data insight and analytics. I spoke to our senior web analyst, Kayleigh Rogers, to get her take on what would be in store for data in 2017.
Kayleigh emphasised that whilst big data is now at the centre of all that we do in digital, human insight will be increasing important this year:
“In 2017 the analytics industry will move towards a people-centric model rather than just tool focused. As tools are bedded in, and their outputs become automated, businesses are realising that no matter how much money they invest into their analytics tools, it’s the combination of who is using it and how that gets them the key actionable insights and return. Independent analytics consultants will win here in 2017, as will agencies that are able to adopt consultancy models.”
Following on from this, Kayleigh explained that the reverse will be that the automation of insights and anomaly-detection will be a big player in 2017:
“Automation tools that can immediately alert businesses to key trends in their data and strange anomalies will be increasingly important - especially for clients who do not have the internal resource to fully manage their tools.
These algorithms and alerts will never replace the analyst (my first point), but it will help businesses by alerting them to what is happening in their data while prompting them to ask their analyst the right questions.”
To complete this year’s predictions, David Sewell pontificated on Google’s potential purchase of Twitter:
“Long shot, yes; or perhaps not. Google has long been considered the most likely home for Twitter, and is known to have looked at buying the company before.
With billions in cash reserves, buying Twitter would be no problem for Google, even at an inflated price.
Despite huge successes in search and smartphones, Google has repeatedly struggled to gain traction in social networking, with a series of failed efforts to challenge Facebook. Buying Twitter would give it an instant presence where it has failed to build its own social properties.”
In 2017 virtual assistants will play a pivotal role in helping to connect people’s offline and online journeys – and may even subtly influence their purchase decisions.
The world of digital is set to offer consumers a highly personalised, data-driven, joined-up customer experience – full of rich content – moving seamlessly from offline to on a device.
With such advancements in digital marketing, smart businesses will need to invest wisely in the key areas of focus for 2017 to keep up with the competition or risk falling behind.
If you’d like Fresh Egg to help future proof your digital marketing strategy – get in touch today.