Digital Marketing trends 2017

Irfan Qureshi

Irfan Qureshi

2016 is over. What, lack of a better word, an interesting year it has been! The US election and other political news. '2016 is the worst year ever' was quite a common post in Facebook and Twitter feeds. Yes, we lost David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Prince, Alan Rickman, Ben Affleck became Batman, Harambe... you get the picture.

But hey, in 2016, Leonardo DiCaprio finally won an Oscar. Andy Murray won Wimbledon, Team GB performed better at the Olympics than in 2012. The world's tiger population grew for the first time in 100 years. Juno reached Jupiter, a solar plane completed a round-the-world trip without a drop of fuel. Twitter users will be able to mute words and conversations, so nobody can spoil the plot of your favourite tv show (Planet Earth 2 is here too!). 

2016 has been an interesting year in the marketing world too. Demand for digital marketing talent just keeps on growing and after attending multiple marketing events in 2016, networking and twitter chats, I’d like to share my thoughts on what industry trends marketers should keep their eyes on for this year.

Email marketing - Still strong (oh, Gmail + Media Queries)

Google tried to evolved email with ‘Wave’ and I’m sure others have too but year after year, the heart of email and email marketing remains the same - right message, right person, right time. The closer any marketer and their employer gets to this the better the results.

/ Why marketers should care

“Four in five consumers would choose to hear about offers and deals through less intrusive communication channels, with email marketing being favoured by almost 70% of consumers.” – Mintel

Most marketers already view email marketing as one of the best ROI components in their toolkit. Why shouldn’t we? A US study by the DMA reported that in 2015, email had an average ROI of $38 for each $1 spent.

Also, as consumers ourselves, it is currently the best way to keep purchase receipts, travel itineraries and more.

/ Where next?

Creative surge: In late 2016, Google announced that Gmail would now support embedded styles and media queries. Gmail owns at least 19% of the email client market share. Some businesses have already been experimenting with pushing the envelope in their design – creating hamburger menus, animated graphics or interactive features in their email campaigns. We can expect to see more clever email creatives in 2016. A great place to seek inspiration is Really Good Emails.

Evolution of automation: As I said before, the key to email marketing is the right message, right person, right time.  Marketing automation has assisted marketers in those three areas and it will get better in 2017. Automation of broadcast content is a big area of growth, effectively providing segmentation at a huge scale.

However, don’t expect 2017 to see perfection in technology for getting the right message/person/time combination. Relatively untargeted broadcast communication continues to have a place as part of the mix in 2017, as technology is far from perfect in prediction ability.

Mobile search will become all search

All marketers know that whether we like it or not, search engine algorithms will change with Google leading the way. To get an idea of how many major changes Google has made to its search algorithms – check out Moz.

/ Why marketers should care

The total number of people spending more time on their mobile devices is growing fast than the number of people using desktops as their primary device. That’s just in the US, if we assume this trend holds true for European and Asian countries than the difference will probably be greater.

                                              comScore research via MarketingLand

Mobiles are now an extension of us and we use them for searching as much as we do to communicate or take photos. Google has invest money into this idea over a long period of time and recently announced that it would be focusing on indexing websites designed with the mobile first approach. Mobile optimization is expected to become mandatory for SEO in 2017.

Google is steadily moving to a mobile-only world and we would be wise to follow suit.

/ Where next?

Until now, SEO professionals and marketers have considered mobile search to be one of the many specializations of SEO, on the same level as local search or international SEO.

That attitude did not change much when Google announced Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) in 2015. Moreover, marketers considered AMP just another (often annoying) "added task" to our implementation checklist, and not as an indication of the real intentions of Google: Mobile search is all search.

With the announcement of mobile-first indexing, though, these intentions are now 100% clear, and they represent a huge change in the status quo: After 18 years of prioritizing desktop, now we have to prioritize mobile.

But (always a but) when Google announced this change, it did not say that the change would happen that same day, or even after a few days.

Google, instead, said this: To make our results more useful, we've begun experiments to make our index mobile-first.

This means that we are still in a desktop-first index, but it's almost sure that it'll switch to mobile-first in 2017.

Live Streaming

Meerkat, Periscope, Facebook Live, Instagram live, YouTube live – this is a trend that was hard to miss especially if you are an avid gamer (think Twitch TV).

Most news agencies, bloggers and big business already use video in their communication. It doesn’t matter what type of business you are in, and whether you sell products or services. Live video streaming captures and creates new audiences that want to consume information and solutions.

/ Why marketers should care

In a world in which we’re all drowning in content to the point that everyone probably has a form of Attention Deficit Disorder, being ‘live’ has a lot of currency. When a viewer has a thousand options around to watch, knowing that the moment will be gone if you don’t watch something immediately helps to make the decision for you.

/Where next

At this early stage, it’s difficult to know what possibilities there will be. However, its best to keep an eye on this trend for opportunities. With the priority that Facebook, Google and Instgram are giving to video and the reduced organic reach, we will see marketers experimenting with this new format in 2017.