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One of the most exciting (and challenging) things about digital marketing is that it is constantly evolving. While no one can see into the future, our experts have the knowledge to make some pretty well-founded predictions.
In what has become an annual tradition, read on to find out what the Fresh Egg team believes will be the key digital marketing trends for 2016 – and the impact they may have on your business.
Or you can listen to our podcast, in which our panel of experts discuss several trends in more detail:
Digital marketers have been heralding the year of the mobile for the past few years but 2015 has seen this develop beyond mobile, tablet, desktop and wearable tech.
Technological developments have catalysed this. For example, Windows launched Continuum for phones – a hybrid desktop-tablet computer system that also works on Microsoft smartphones. It means that your phone has the potential to be your main computer.
With so much transformation happening within digital, it is restrictive to think about device. Once your digital experience is seamless, you need to think beyond the device.
Yes, your customer will be using mobile but it will be in a more individualised way than ever before, via apps, virtual reality and social channels. Winning brands will be those that can understand their consumer via data analysis, so they can adapt to this behaviour and make their brand essential to their customers’ lives.
Of course, in order to be able to think beyond the device, your business must have a solid mobile offering. It’s not enough to have a basic mobile website, with the focus on desktop, says Nate Wood, Fresh Egg's head of biddable media.
“Mobile will finally change the way we market,” says .
“Mobile is no longer a luxury or add-on for brands, it’s fast becoming the first touch point. Mobile strategies need to be in place for all brands through 2016. Mobile behaviour will start to skew how people engage with brands, and all new KPIs and methodologies are going to be necessary.”
A reality shock came early in the year when Google announced a major algorithm update , which saw the search engine include mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. Many dubbed the update “mobilegeddon”, as it was expected to significantly impact many brands’ positions in SERPs due to them not offering a good enough mobile experience. Although the effect wasn’t as huge as first thought, it’s clear that mobile-optimised websites are a necessity if a business wants to succeed.
Ashley Hitchcock, Fresh Egg’s senior web designer, believes the importance of mobile will lead to further crossover with apps, which look set to take even more of a front seat in 2016. Digital marketing director Lee Colbran agrees: “Apps are crucial digital property which businesses need to take seriously.”
Fresh Egg’s head of conversion services, Duncan Heath, believes that optimisation of app store pages will become more commonplace in 2016.
He says: “ Businesses will split test elements such as the layout, copy, images, and reviews used on app store pages to encourage more downloads of their apps. With Google’s release of the ability to split test app store pages back in May , other app stores will follow suit. More split testing will happen on web pages encouraging app downloads.”
Apple helped to boost the attraction of apps with its iOS9 update in September, which added new search functionality to its Spotlight feature , enabling it to find answers within a user’s apps, rather than needing to go online and ask Google first.
But with the rise of mobile and innovation in that space, more companies are becoming aware that in order to keep the desktop experience relevant to their customer it has to up its game. Martin Cannon, Fresh Egg's senior web developer says:
Martin explains that AngularJS is a framework that can be used to develop applications that run within a web browser. It is widely supported, which means there are many modules that can easily be plugged into your application, making it whizzy and impressive.
The distinction between desktop and mobile is a thing of the past.
Our head of innovation, David Sewell, believes that Windows Continuum could mean that we stop calling smartphone devices ‘phones’ at all in future, potentially using them as our main computer.
“The key advantage for Microsoft is that it will be turning phones into PCs by running the same operating system across devices,” he says.
“The demarcation between phone, laptop and desktop will blur faster than ever before. Attaching a larger screen to your windows phone will recreate a workable desktop environment using Windows Continuum – talking to Cortana will become the normal way to search.
“Any screen can become a PC using Continuum – that [possibility] transforms how we think about smartphones and is a major benefit in emerging markets,” he adds.
People’s reliance on mobile has made it an essential device to get through daily life. According to research , almost 50% of us check our mobile 50 times per day. Ashley Hitchcock highlights data from Google that shows mobile searches overtook desktop for the first time this year.
Our behaviour has adapted to the availability of information on the go. We no longer want to wait until we get home or get back to the office to find something out or to buy something we need.
In response, Google brought us its Micro-Moments this year – the moment that is the trigger for you needing a piece of information now – for example, the postcode of the location where you’re meeting a client.
It may sound obvious, but convenience is key to making this work. Inbound marketing manager David Somerville says: “There is even more competition online for businesses, especially with technology becoming even more advanced. Therefore, it is key for brands to be creating products and services that make someone’s life much easier. This will make someone want to engage with that brand, plus act as advocates spreading the word to new customers and users.”
That’s why anything that makes it easier for your customer to find information will be essential, such as digital personal assistants like Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri and Google Now On Tap.
Fresh Egg’s digital marketing director Lee Colbran says: “I see a new level of intelligence for digital assistants being introduced. At this time, the likes of Siri and Cortana are very much waiting for instruction from the user. I expect the next leap in improvement to become more two-way, a conversation if you like.”
Already Google has made its Google Now On Tap technology more intelligent, so users can ask questions based on what they’re listening to or watching. For example, a user could ask, “Who’s the lead singer?” while a song is playing on Spotify and Google will understand and search for the answer.
Now Facebook is taking a slice of the digital personal assistant pie. It is testing its own digital personal assistant M and making its notifications tab more location-based, offering users information about their location, such as nearby restaurants and cinema listings. It has also recently launched a dedicated Notifications app.
With so much reliance on the computer doing the work, maybe 2016 is the year of the future, the year of the robot. As personal assistants become cleverer and more human, humans will become more like robots as our experts believe virtual reality will gain popularity. The ‘right here, right now’ attitude will push ecommerce into using cutting edge technologies, such as Oculus Rift or Microsoft’s holographic technology Hololens, which both go on sale in 2016. These will enable consumers to virtually interact with an item before choosing to buy.
But as new technology becomes more available to consumers, virtual reality (VR) is expected to gain huge popularity.
Fresh Egg’s senior web developer Martin Cannon says: “It’s not clear exactly how the emergence of VR will affect digital marketing, but we’re sure it will have a great impact on the online shopping experience. As in the movies, product placement could be used to advertise in a virtual environment. The marketing possibilities are endless.”
Our head of innovation, David Sewell, believes our relationships with technology will go to the next level as machines start to learn. Technology will monitor and analyse our speech, as well as our online and offline behaviour, and predict our needs before even we know what they might be. Scary, I know.
We are already seeing big indicators of this. In October,Google revealed it had been using a virtual reality algorithm called RankBrain.“It was the first time the search engine had admitted using machine learning as part of the core search engine algorithm,” says Fresh Egg’s director of technical SEO, Mark Chalcraft.
“While the machine learning element of this new system is not continually running on the live search results, it is clear that this is an area to which Google is devoting considerable resource. As such, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see more algorithm changes that incorporate elements of deep learning.”
Technological developments have meant consumers can choose how and where they interact with brands. It means customer behaviour can be highly individualised, bespoke to their lives and only what is most convenient to them. This has created individualisation online.
“There is a tendency to think that all users will approach and interact with social media platforms, networks and apps in the same way,” says head of inbound marketing David Somerville, but this is the wrong approach.
Social channels, such as Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter, have all developed above their original intention, as consumers use them to communicate in different ways.
“This means our assumptions on how and even why people use a particular platform or network could be way off the mark – a standard marketing (or advertising) strategy might not cut it,” says David.
“So what should you do? Explore your audience to an even more granular level. Analyse your data in conjunction with your standard web reporting tools, such as Google Analytics, but take this even further by researching or surveying the different audience groups to unlock some of the nuances that may provide specific opportunities.”
Fresh Egg social media strategist Susie Cox believes Facebook won’t be slowing down in its bid to be as relevant as possible in people’s lives.
She says: “Love it or hate it, Facebook will continue to be highly relevant to businesses in 2016.
“From improved search capabilities that include the ability to search real-time news, to their new, highly personalised notifications, Facebook continues to provide relevant information to users, based on their location and social circle. That way, why would the user ever need to bother going to Google?”
According to head of biddable media, Nate Wood, digital marketers will need to think more traditionally when it comes to the value and power of the brand and its relevance in consumers’ lives.
“Everyone knows that the age of the digital marketer is coming to a close and, increasingly, the need for general marketers in a digital landscape is coming to the forefront.
“I expect that we’ll see much more talk of brand, brand exposure and brand salience in 2016. Brands will need to understand the impact of activities like display and video advertising as a function of brand value rather than direct response value.
“Understanding the value of the brand has been one of those areas that digital marketers have typically neglected but which more traditional marketers understand well.”
Launched in October, Apple’s newest update iOS9 enables users to install adblockers to their smartphones, sending many marketers into a panic. It highlighted that marketers will need to be more creative and offer better quality ads to get passed users who are tired of being bombarded by ads on websites.
Nate Wood says: “Ad networks will start to push for more quality, and will be more selective in the ads that they will allow to run. This will come at a premium.
“Publishers will likely react by protecting revenue with pay walls or exclusions for ad blockers, but will wise up and start to present ads in a more creative and useful manner. Leading publishers will adopt this strategy quickly.”
Digital marketers are working hard to keep up with the digital innovations and behaviours of consumers. With virtual reality and machine learning set to take off in 2016, it’s a whole new area for us to get our head around.
According to Mark Chalcraft, we’re all on the right track by no longer focusing on keywords as a ranking factor, instead putting the audience and their needs at the centre of marketing strategies.
“I would hope to see more acceptance from those outside the industry that SEO is becoming a bigger challenge that offers far fewer of the quick traffic gains that used to be so easily attainable,” he adds.
Additionally, companies are getting smarter about how they handle digital, better integrating advertising, ecommerce and digital marketing teams, according to client services director Sarah Leach.
But she warns that talent remains in short supply which could cause a few hurdles for some businesses. “Creating and developing digital marketing teams remains tough, in particular finding people who understand the role of content, how to develop this to best fit the customer journey and how to dive into the data to refine and optimise performance,” she adds.
To conclude, Fresh Egg managing director Adam Stafford makes it clear that 2016 is an exciting year for us, our clients, and anyone involved in digital marketing.
“At Fresh Egg, we’re proud of being an integrated digital marketing agency. All of our departments work closely together, learning from the skills and expertise of everyone in our talented team. As consumers come to expect a more unified and personalised experience – across their devices, as well as online and offline – this integrated approach becomes all the more important. Only by truly understanding what individual audiences expect at every stage of their interaction with a brand can businesses expect to succeed.”
What do you think 2016 holds for digital marketers? Let us know by leaving your comments below.
If you’re looking for help to understand what these trends mean for your business, get in touch with us today.