Wednesday, January 4th, 2017 | 6 min read
As the consumer technology world converges on Las Vegas for CES, innovation will be top of mind for everyone across the industry. Their eyes will be on the future.
At the end of the year, however, brands often make the mistake of focusing too narrowly on their own successes, shortcomings, and goals for the coming year. In the spirit of CES, it’s time to think bigger—as emerging digital trends continue to disrupt the status quo.
As 2017 begins, it is critical not only to consider how you can improve your brand’s performance, but also to understand the forces impacting your industry, the marketplace, and your customers. These macro-level shifts are affecting the way your business needs to work.
Here are a few of the major trends to keep an eye on—and prepare for—in 2017.
People are increasingly building niche communities by surrounding themselves with likeminded groups of people. During the 2016 Presidential election, people created digital bubbles in which their beliefs were reinforced over and over.
In 2017, brands must reach consumers within their own specialized networks in order to stay relevant and connect to the right audiences at the right time. Using new levels of hyper-personalization through authentic communication and specially curated content is the key.
YouTube is still top dog in the world of video, but with the emergence of platforms like Facebook Live and Snapchat, the gap is beginning to close. These new tools have facilitated a convergence between social and video mediums, and this powerful combination is already making an impact.
Facebook now boasts 8 billion video views per day—8x the daily rate in 2014. The immediacy of both live video and social updates has driven the platform’s booming popularity. In fact, people now spend 3x more time watching a Facebook Live video compared to a Facebook video that’s no longer live. If 2016 was—as Forbes described—“The Year Streaming Video Came of Age,” 2017 will provide even greater opportunity to engage audiences through this exciting medium.
Virtual reality technology is still considered a novelty by some, but it is quickly gaining traction among brands and consumers alike. Half of brands want to integrate virtual reality into their future customer experiences, which will catapult VR technology further into the mainstream in 2017. Today, many customers consider brands offering VR to be “more forward-thinking,” and 53% are more likely to purchase from a brand that uses VR.
The rise of this compelling, multi-purpose technology is ripe for marketing and advertising teams to incorporate into their strategy.
The rise of Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Microsoft’s Cortana has put digital assistants at the forefront of the technology discussion. Manual search and on-screen browsing are being overshadowed by voice-assisted task completion and purchasing, using aids like Apple Watch and Amazon Echo.
According to Gartner, by the end of 2016, digital assistants will have driven $2 billion in online sales. With significant revenue up for grabs, brands must play into consumers’ changing expectations for what an interface is, and should be able to do.
While consumers are creating niche communities with like-minded peers, they are also looking for products, approaches, and influencers that reflect their interests. This has led to the rise of micro-influencers: people who have not achieved mainstream fame, but are well-known within a particular community (consider fitness guru Kayla Itsines and her 6 million Instagram followers).
In 2017, brands who engage and use micro-influencers can generate a more authentic, personalized image than those that simply rely on more generic, mainstream influencers.
Whether they’re destined to usurp social networks or not, messaging apps have increased in sophistication and popularity, making the online social experience even more direct and personal than before. Rising chat channels like LINE allow users to message, make phone and video calls, play games, and use several other apps all in one place.
Today, we see a particular interest in using artificial intelligence (AI), in the form of chatbots, to streamline customer service and purchasing. Since April 2016, Facebook Messenger has launched 11,000 chatbots for its user base. Over the next year, AI will quickly allow these bots to learn more, faster in order to improve user experiences and help brands engage with customers better.
In-app advertisements and a growing number of “Buy” buttons on social media are blurring the lines between marketing, advertising, and sales. For brands to master these new, mixed approaches, they need to increase collaboration between their sales and marketing teams, and consider changing the way their departments are structured.
2017 will be a big step forward in integrating business strategies and aligning customer-facing workflows. Brands must be prepared to reevaluate both what their customer’s journey looks like and how they play into it.
These trends will, in large part, shape the marketing landscape in 2017. The brands who recognize and internalize them will reap the benefits.
This means not only knowing what the trends are and how they may impact your brand, but also what you must do to integrate this insight into your business strategies, workstreams, and technologies. The more your customers’ behavior and expectations change, the more you must adjust your approach in order to successfully continue to reach them and grow your business.