Nov 22, 2016

11 Digital Marketing Trends Watch Out for in 2017

It’s that time of year again.

The weather is getting warmer (finally here in Melbourne in late November), pollens are in the air, and your marketing campaign is in full swing. You are probably busier than ever but there’s still one other important task to take care of: planning your marketing strategy for 2017.

Digital marketing is highly competitive and rapidly evolving, to stay relevant, you need to identify and adopt trends ahead of the curve before they go mainstream.

In this post, we’ll take a look at emerging marketing trends in Content Marketing, Mobile Marketing, Email Marketing, Social Media, and eCommerce you should adopt in 2017.

Digital Marketing Trends in Content Marketing

If 2015 was the year content marketing went mainstream, 2016 showed us that there were some chinks in its armor. Specifically, 2016 showed that it’s not just enough to create content; you also need to back it up with solid content promotion.

I predict that in 2017, the focus will shift back to creativity, but in different forms.

Here are three content marketing trends that should emerge in 2017:


1. Side project marketing

Side project marketing is exactly like what it sounds. You create an entirely new product or service (usually related to your business) which ends up becoming a source of awareness, traffic, and conversions back to your main product.

Generally, people don't care about your business unless you give them a reason to. And a great way to get people to care is by making stuff that helps them out in the present.  Here’s an example from Crew - Unsplash:

Digital marketing trends - side project marketing - crew

With just a few months of funding left, Crew (a service which connects freelance designers and developers with startup founders) decided to redesign their website.  In the process, they ended up with extra photographs. Instead of letting them go to waste, they created Unsplash (a side project) where they hosted these photos for free.

The result?

5 million unique visitors and a constant stream of leads that Crew credits with “saving” it from bankruptcy.

And you don’t need to limit yourself to one side project.  Buffer, a popular social media automation tool has several side projects. Pablo, Buffer’s social media image creation tool, helped marketers create 500,000 images in less than six months after launch.

Digital marketing trends - Side project marketing - buffer 



2. Video content will explode

If software is eating the world, then video is eating the internet. Between 2011 and 2015, digital video consumption grew from an average of 39 minutes to 115 minutes every day.

Video comsumption

According to a study by Cisco, video content will comprise 69% of all consumer traffic by 2017. Even video advertising is growing much, much faster than any other form of digital marketing:

Ad revenue by format

While video is already a big part of any competent marketing strategy, in 2017, you’ll start setting it everywhere. This will include explainer videos on sites, such as this example from Remove My Junk:

Remove my junk - video

Video testimonials from customers, like this page from Clover:

Video testimonial - Clover

Sales videos on landing pages, like this one from Clickfunnels:

Click Funnels - Video sales page

And even video backgrounds, like this one on Invision:

Video background - Invisionapp

Besides these, there’s also video on YouTube, social media video, etc.

There are multiple reasons why video is exploding right now:

  • Faster internet connections: Globally, average internet speeds increased by 23% to 6.3 Mbps in 2016 - fast enough for streaming videos.
  • More smartphone devices: In 2015, IAB Australia found that 63.7% Australians owned smartphones. This means that a majority of the Australian population can easily a) capture video, and b) consume video.
  • Better monetisation: Making and distributing videos is more financially rewarding than ever. Between Patreon, YouTube Red, advertisements, and sponsorships, creators have dozens of ways to make money. This means more and better quality video content.

Recommended reading7 Tips To Create Facebook Video Ads That Drive Engagements

Digital Marketing Trends in Mobile Marketing

By 2017, there are expected to be 4.77 billion mobile phone users with high growth rate expected to continue in the coming years. Just take a look at the growth of mobile internet usage over the past several years: 

Mobile Internet Access

This massive increase in mobile consumption gave us the app industry, valued at $77 billion by 2017. But going forward, you might see a few changes in the way we use mobiles.

Watch out for this mobile marketing trend:


3. Web apps will see a resurgence

There is a slowdown in the app economy of late. People are just not installing that many apps anymore. According to a report by Nomura, app downloads have declined 20% YoY in America.

App downloads trend

While you can argue that one reason for this slowdown is market saturation, the truth is that for most things, you don’t really need to download an app anymore; the web app does just fine.

Check out this example of Facebook:

Native app vs web app


Notice the similarity in UI? Yet, the web app on the right doesn’t require the user to download a third party app.

Thanks to frameworks like Facebook’s own React.js and responsive design, you don’t need an app for most things today. We even see this in desktop apps with platforms like Electron which have allowed companies such as Slack to build desktop apps with web technologies (HTML, JavaScript & CSS)

It also helps that browsers have become much more adept at handling Javascript (the backbone of mobile web apps). V8, the Javascript engine that ships with Chrome, has become almost 6x faster since its launch:

V8 benchmark suite

Phones, too, have more RAM, faster processors and even dedicated GPUs to handle complex pages. With hardware-accelerated HTML5, a web app can now perform almost as well as a mobile app.

The result?

A resurgence in web apps.


Digital Marketing Trends in Email Marketing

Contrary to popular belief, email is far from dead.

In fact, it is alive and kicking with over 200 million emails sent at any given minute during the day. This is not what you would expect from a ‘dead’ communication platform. Emails are so popular that 72% adults actually prefer it as a communication channel with brands. And unlike other platforms, the likelihood of messages getting lost are far less.

But email blasts with static text like the 90s are not going to work anymore. You have to make your emails interactive and engaging.

Here are two email marketing trends you should look out for in 2017:


4. Countdowns in emails

Countdown timers - a tried and tested scarcity tactic - are frequently used on websites. But in a bid to capture the attention of subscribers and motivate them to take action, countdown timers in emails are becoming common as well.

Check out this email from Countdown Mail:

Digital marketing trends - countdown in emails

Instead of making your audience read a text-heavy mail, you can tap into the power of visual marketing and scarcity to grab their attention. An offer that’s about to expire in a few days is much more potent than a persistent one.

Countdown timer on websites is nothing new, but countdown timer in email is definitely novel. Their adoption has been helped by improvements in email services such as Gmail and Outlook which are among the most used

Webmail market share

Unlike older mailboxes, these services now automatically display images in a message across both desktop and mobile.

Take a look at the difference this makes:

But it goes beyond images. Gmail also shows HTML content by default, making embedded countdown timers possible. The result is this:

ASOS countdown email


5. Interactive emails

Wouldn’t it be great if you could carry out tasks without having to leave your inbox?

The good news is you can; thanks to integrated HTML and CSS support by email clients mentioned previously (Gmail and Outlook). You can now play a game, monitor your twitter feed, and even shop for products

Through some basic code, you can design buttons which allow a customer to alter and select different variations of your product as they see fit.

The process is highly interactive.

Take a look at this example from Jack Threads:

:Digital marketing trends - interactive email - Jack Threads

The possibilities of this trend are massive. You can now turn the inbox into a shopping destination rather than just a promotion destination.

It also removes a couple of clicks from the shopping process. For eCommerce, that can lead to higher conversions and more sales.


Digital Marketing Trends in Social Media Marketing

Social media is easily the fastest changing marketing field. While we’ve had just two major search engines for over a decade (Google and Bing), we’ve already gone through dozens of social media platforms - MySpace, Hi5, Orkut, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.

Because of social media’s ever-changing nature, trends come and go pretty quickly as well. Snapchatting might have been the in-thing in 2016, but 2017 promises several new trends, such as:


6. Social media Chatbots will grow in popularity

Remember Microsoft Office’s assistant Clippy?

If you wanted to find a specific word in a long in a document or slide deck, all you had to do was type the magic word and Clippy would come to your rescue.


Annoying though it may be, Clippy was a very early precursor to a new kind of assistant that have the potential to dominate social media, even eCommerce and customer support: chatbots.

Chatbots are assistants that hang out in apps such as Facebook Messenger and Slack waiting for a command before delivering on the request. However, unlike Clippy, chatbots can engage in intelligent conversation without direct presence of a human being.

This allows your audience to engage and interact with your brand through a platform they are already using. There’s no need to make phone calls, install a new app, or go to a website. Instead, you can message a brand like you would your friends.

Check out this chatbot from 1-800 Flowers:

Digital marketing trends - Chatbots - 1800 Flowers

You can order, pay, and track delivery of flowers without ever having to leave Facebook. Chatbots work because:

  • They are strictly on-demand. Unless you contact them, they won’t annoy you with interruptive messaging.
  • They allow you to work without leaving your existing app = better workflow.
  • They let you “talk” as you would to a normal human being, giving the entire transaction a more human touch.

As AI continues to improve in 2017 and beyond, expect chatbots to occupy more important roles in any marketing mix.


7. Social video will explode in popularity

Remember how we mentioned video gaining even more momentum online?

If you want to see this for yourself, look no further than social media (especially Facebook). What was once a primarily text and image-based platform has suddenly been taken over by video. Just log into your account and note the number of videos on your newsfeed.

In just last year, the number video posts per person on Facebook increased by 75% with over a billion video views every day. This has been brought by changes to Facebook’s algorithm which now places an enormous weight on “reach” of videos.

When you upload a video natively on Facebook,  you have a much higher chance of having your content video being seen by your community than text or images.

There are two video types that will become more important in social media marketing in 2017:

A. Auto-play videos

Because of Facebook pushing videos so aggressively, autoplay videos, which play automatically once a user scrolls by them, have become immensely popular.

The story’s the same at Twitter where testing revealed that users were 250% more likely to prefer autoplay videos. Creators are even finding a way around the lack of sound on autoplay by adding closed captions.

Digital marketing trends - Autoplay videos


B. Live video

2016 was the year live video started going mainstream.

Chalk it up to a lack of suitable content or suitable medium, live streaming so far was successful only in the gaming industry (think and “Let’s Play” YouTube videos). But with Facebook Live (which Facebook is boosting heavily) and Periscope (closely integrated with Twitter), the medium problem seems to have been solved.

Thanks to the massive audience these social platforms offer creators, expect more and more creators to adopt live video.


Digital Marketing Trends in eCommerce

eCommerce continues to chug along, taking ever larger bites from retailers’ market share.

However, as people continue to shop more and more online, their expectations are shifting. 

Three emerging trends underscore these shifting expectations:


8. The growth of social commerce

Social commerce - discovering, sharing and even buying products on social platforms - has been on the verge of breaking out for years. On paper, it’s a natural fit: shopping is a social experience and people naturally turn to their friends and family for recommendations.

Now, a recent development might finally push social commerce into mainstream popularity: Instagram ads. Instagram ads allow anyone to promote an image or a video with a CTA such as “Shop Now”. The ad will show in your target users’ feeds. Tapping the CTA will take them directly to your landing page.

Here are what Instagram ads look like:

Digital marketing trends - Social commerce 

Because of Instagram’s massive reach (over 500M users) and use as a discovery platform, these ads have the potential to make shopping truly social. Furthermore, since Facebook owns Instagram, you can link these ads onto your Facebook page and reach a highly specific audience.

But that’s not all - Instagram is even testing a “Shop Now” option that will allow users to buy a product without leaving the app at all.

Here’s what these ads will look like:

Digital marketing trends - Instagram ads

At the moment, these ads are being tested by 20 large retailers. Once it opens up to other advertisers - likely by 2017 - expect it to change social commerce completely.


9. The UBER-ization of shipping

A couple of weeks ago, on-demand delivery startup PostMates raised $140M in funding at a $600M valuation. This massive funding round highlights the impending UBER-ization of shipping.

Just as UBER turned the taxi industry on its head by opening it up to everyone, a slew of new startups - like PostMates in the US, Sherpa and EpicDelivery in Australia - promise to the do the same for local deliveries.

At the same time, another retail giant - Amazon - is pushing for increasingly faster deliveries. Consider this: Amazon Prime has 63 million customers who can choose from 20 million products eligible for one-day shipping.

Digital marketing trends - Amazon shippinh

All this has changed consumer expectations of shipping speed. While 5-7 days would have been the norm a few years ago, consumers now demand shipping within days, if not hours.

This is particularly true for hyper-local businesses, especially in competitive markets in the US. According to one survey, 61% of customers want hyper-local shipping within 1-3 hours. For others, 80% want same day shipping.


In all likelihood, these US trends will eventually reflect in other mature markets such as Australia as well. In fact, you can already see the effects of this “UBERization”. Iconic, for instance, offers delivery within 3-4 hours in certain locations:

The Iconic shipping

New startups such as ShopWings also offer delivery within 1 hour, while established players like Coles now offer next day delivery.

With Amazon Fresh targeting an early 2017 launch in Australia, the writing on the wall is clear: if you want to stay competitive as a retailer in 2017, it’s time to focus on your logistics.


10. Social commerce to go bang!

Customers today prefer to choose their shopping method and they also browse your products on multiple platforms.

It’s not unusual for a customer to dig through your Instagram page on the mobile while simultaneously browse through your website on her laptop. This is why your social, web, mobile and even in-store shopping experiences all need to be an extension of each other.

Shopping in silos is so 2016.

In an Econsultancy survey, 39% of consumers said that multi-channel shopping was “very important” to them.

Multi-channel shopping

In another PWC survey, 32% of US consumers said that they follow brands on social media, mostly for discovering new products and promotions.

Shoppers follow brands online

Even when customers are inside your store, they are using their phones. According to one study, 40% of customers use their phones to compare prices while they’re in the store. 23% even purchase a product through a (competitor’s) website.

What shoppers do while on a mobile

Multi-channel shopping can be a complex endeavor, especially for older retailers depending on legacy systems. But if you want to stay relevant and competitive, it is a necessary step you must take in 2017.


11. More businesses will tap into the lucrative Asian market

Consider this map of real GDP growth rates worldwide:

Digital marketing trends - Leverage Asian market

There are no two ways about it: Asia is booming. India is one of the fastest growing large economies in the world while China is poised to overtake America as the world’s largest economy sometime in the next decade.

This massive growth also means massive opportunities.

For example, Alibaba sold over $14B worth of goods on November 11 (Singles Day) - more than the total Black Friday sales in the US.

Some of the world’s fastest growing businesses are already investing heavily in Asian markets. Uber, for example, is scaling up operations in Southeast Asia. All this is helped by the changing consumption trends across Asia. There are now over 1 billion smartphone users across the Asian continent. In China, shoppers purchased close to $600B worth of goods online.

For 2017, the mantra is clear: look to the east. Instead of battling slowing demand in developed markets, businesses can gain a lot by tapping into the growth opportunities in Asia.


Over to You

Your marketing plan is your blueprint to achieve business goals. Just like any blueprint, you need to be ready to make adjustments and changes the environment demands to successfully reach your goals.

Start planning and implementing these emerging trends today and watch your marketing success soar in the year ahead. 

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