10 Digital Marketing Predictions for 2016
With another year coming to a close, it’s time once again to cast our eyes into the near future, with my annual look at what might be coming for digital marketing in 2016. It feels like only yesterday that I was hitting publish on my 2015 predictions (several of which came to pass) but plenty has changed in those 12 months.
We’ve had the launch of the Apple Watch, the (slow, painful, but much predicted) death of Google+, the explosion of Snapchat and the continued rise of Instagram. So what might 2016 have in store for us? Here are my predictions:
1. Messaging is where it’s at
Messaging is the one thing that people do more of online than social media. This year Facebook has thrown its muscle into Messenger in a big way in a bid to develop it as the next big global platform by way of response. The plans involve developing it essentially into an entire operating system within which third party apps and functionality can be built. (Think Chinese Tencent which enables 600million+ people to buy flights, cinema tickets, book taxis and do their banking all within their Weixin messaging app). 2016 will see all the major social network players looking closely at what their response should be to the explosion in the messaging culture which has seen teens move away from established platforms like Facebook into messaging apps like Snapchat with enthusiasm.
2. Social networks will drive more referrals than search
This is a trend that has been building for some time but I expect 2016 to be the tipping point when, for most brands, traffic referrals across all social platforms combined will exceed traffic referrals from Google. Expect more pressure on agencies to be able to monetise their social media campaigns and more rigour from clients in analysing their spend and ROI across social media activities.
3. Ad-blocking will drive change
With the continued growth in populatiry of ad-blocking software (given a massive boost by Apple getting onboard) the advertising industry is being forced to innovate and evolve. Whilst some publishers are quickly switching to a subscription/paywall based model (see item 7), others are appealing to users’ goodwill by hiding content until ad-blocking is switched off. 2016 will see new solutions and innovations evolve in response to consumer cries of frustration to stop pushing ads on them at every opportunity.
4. Voice search will force SEO to evolve
With ‘voice’ powered search on the rise – helped in part by Google’s popular ‘Hey Google’ TV adverts – the way consumers use voice search could lead to an evolution in search behaviour. Ironically, considering the much-maligned origins of search engines like Ask Jeeves, consumers are often moving towards conversation-based search queries – “How do I bake a cake?” – which will inevitably lead to some big changes for SEO and content creators. Watch out for a lot more help-based optimisation in 2016.
5. Instagram will develop into a blog platform
Instagram has been the huge success story of social media of the last couple of years and 2016 won’t see any brakes put on their seemingly unstoppable growth. However useage will evolve as longer and more interactive commenting facilities will be launched. (I expect 2016 to be the year Instagram finally enables links outside the network in comments). This will unlock the potential for blogging to explode on Instagram, with reviews and post about products being launched and featured within Instagram itself – rather than via a blog post.
6. Influencer partnerships will rule 2016
Brands have recognised (and are capitalising upon) the huge power of consumers who have influence within their sector – whether they’re bloggers, social media power users or business leaders. At the same time these influencers are understanding their worth and getting more and more savvy about how they agree to work with the brands that approach them. Expect this area to continue growing in 2016 with brands establishing high-profile partnerships with the key influencers in their communities which may include co-branded product launches and revenue sharing models.
7. Subscription-based models will multiply
The big question for brands in 2015 seemed to be how to move their one-time purchase business model into a subscription-based one. This year subscription based services continued developing and proliferating: Apple TV, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Spotify, Apple Music all developed further in 2015. In 2016 I predict moves into subscription services from brands and industries across the board with some surprising adopters.
8. Interactive content will be King
Brands have moved significant budgets into content development and production in the last few years. But now that every brand and individual is blogging and producing content at an exponential rate, getting heard/seen online is becoming increasingly difficult. In 2016 there will be a huge push to stand above the crowd with interactive content which will enable brands to engage with their customers off-site. Expect video, Periscope and live-streaming audiences to grow as a result.
9. Move-over YouTubers
With YouTube stars now starring in their own TV Shows, Movies and Books, look for some of the more ‘traditional’ stars of those mediums to start pushing back and invading THEIR turf. Many forward-thinking celebrities have already started to produce content exclusively for YouTube, and this trend is sure to continue in 2016. Whether they really can beat the savvy YouTubers at their own game will be interesting to watch.
10. Millennials further embrace the off grid lifestyle
The ‘offline’ digital detox trend is gathering momentum with brands aimed at Millennials pushing an analogue slow-paced lifestyle in response to the dominance of screentime in their lives. Mainstream brands will need to think carefully about how to position themselves and market to this demographic who are increasingly talking amongst themselves about the virtues of going ‘off grid’. They’re a huge and potentially disruptive section of the consumer population and brands would do well to think about engaging them in their love of a simpler off-screen lifestyle before they lose them online completely.