It’s that time of year again, when we start looking ahead to what the new year will bring. We saw changes in 2016 in our approach to marketing, social media, and design. It was a year that focused on the consumer: consumer-centric marketing, consumer experience, consumer insights, and ways of tracking and analyzing those perceptions.

As we look at what’s to come for digital marketing—a medium that seems to be in a state of constant fluctuation—we will need to rise to the challenge of staying ahead of emerging technologies and find strategies that emphasize targeted marketing.

Here are some key things to focus on as we ring in the new year:

Interactive Content

Last year, it was reported that audience attention spans have shortened as result of a more digital lifestyle. Keeping what little of consumers’ attention we have will depend on engaging them in the content. Blog posts, white papers, and infographics are still great content for people and search engines, but attention can easily shift away from static content. Interactive content like assessments, calculators, training modules, and games to keep your audience clicking, swiping, and sharing information will be key in engaging your audience. A great way to generate items such as these is through marketing automation. Speaking of which …

marketing-automationMarketing Automation

Marketing automation – the software used to automate repetitive marketing actions such as email, social media and other website actions – is growing at an astounding rate. There are now nearly eleven times as many B2B organizations utilizing marketing automation as there were in 2011. As of December 2016, more than half of current B2B companies (55 percent) have already adopted this technology. But now the question is—are you using marketing automation to its fullest potential? Some strategists believe that most companies are using only about ten percent of the functionality behind marketing automation. So if you’re gearing up your digital strategy for 2017, there are a few things you will want to make sure you have in place.

Dynamic content: Dynamic content is content that “talks” to your subscribers. It puts a personal spin on your messaging—and the more personal you are, the more likely you’ll convert subscribers into customers. As this strategy becomes more the norm, consumers will expect email to have more relevant content. But beware of over-personalized content—studies are showing that consumers have less tolerance for advertising that crosses the line into creepy.personalization-levels

For example, there are two forms of personalization: personal – it involves facts related to an individual person; and intimate – most people would feel hesitant about sharing the information in a professional setting. There’s a good chance that your marketing might feel creepy for your audience if your marketing personalization is based on information that is both personal and intimate. Basing your marketing around personal facts like what city or community they live in, how many children they have, or what they do for work are good examples, although privacy limits are always subjective. By contrast, if it’s intimate, and you’re basing your marketing display around intimate details like you overheard them talking on the phone about troubles with their wife and you start showing them ads to purchase flowers in their city, you may be crossing the line into creepy.

Drip campaigns: Drip campaigns are a set of marketing emails that will be sent out automatically on a schedule. These can be essential for businesses with long sales cycles. A drip campaign can help your team stay in contact with prospective leads and provide multiple touch points that help in closing a sale. Setting up a drip campaign is the most efficient way to run a campaign without having to constantly monitor it, as it does the hard work for you.

Nurture campaigns: Just like dynamic content that changes depending on who you are contacting, a nurture campaign will segment your audience based on interaction. A nurturing campaign can be particularly effective with leads who are on the fence and need a little nudge.

The Social Media Scene

For years now, we’ve been seeing the influence of social media on marketing. It’s a form of marketing that’s been embraced by most companies and viewed as a must-have to appear relevant in today’s world. Even so, 70 percent of companies are still not collecting data from social media channels. That is a crazy number, considering that social channels offer the greatest marketing opportunities out there. Our suggestion for 2017: invest in social analytics, and up your social media budgets.

contentContent, Content, Content

Remember when we said that people’s attention spans are getting shorter? With that in mind, consider the content of your website. Information needs to be accessible as quickly and easily as possible. Great copy will always add strength to your website and is invaluable for SEO, but if something can be said clearly with a photo, animation, or short video, then do it. It all goes back to finding a better way to engage your audience in a concise and shareable way.

Remember too that your content doesn’t end with your site. Your marketing strategy should interweave those valuable nuggets of information and brand messaging into all aspects of your digital existence. Social content, blogs, and eBooks are all still crucial aspects, and marketing channels like videos will be what blogging was seven years ago.

Content strategy is not a trend; it’s an evolution of where marketing is and will be in the foreseeable future.

Keeping up with the latest and greatest strategies is always a struggle for any business. Let us help you stay ahead of the curve.

Afterthoughts

This is our short list of trends that we see emerging in the near future. Although some may sound a little far out, most of these are closer to becoming reality than we think, and it’s best to be prepared to incorporate them into future marketing strategies:

ai

Artificial Intelligence (AI) will end the screen age. Crazy, right? Can anyone really imagine the death of the smartphone? Yet with AI advancing and wearable tech on the rise, those little black screens in front of our noses may disappear in the next 10 years. To back this notion up, the “all-powerful” Google is already moving from a “Mobile First” company to an “AI First” company. Go ahead, let that sink in.

vr

Virtual is getting real. Augmented reality (AR), which blends the real world with the virtual world, has a ton of promise and is already proving itself to be a vital tool not just to engage consumers, but also to immerse them. Total virtual reality (VR) isn’t far behind. It seems everyone has a VR headset available now—and the headsets will only get better. Within the next few years, we predict VR will advance by leaps and bounds from the motion-sickness-inducing smartphone apps of today into a force to be reckoned with. Businesses should start looking into creating targeted applications of AR and/or VR now if they want to be ahead of the curve.

car

Things with be intelligent. Yes, things. Drones, vehicles, robots, even your house. This area of AI is advancing every day and soon will likely affect every aspect of our lives. Our tech stuff is going to shift further from being stand-alone items to being a universally available, collaborative intelligence that communicates to accomplish natural and intuitive tasks: when you turn onto your street, your car will let your house know to turn on the lights, turn up the heat on your thermostat, and start playing some sweet jazz on your in-home speakers.

About Ocreative

Ocreative is an award-winning, fully integrated marketing agency whose work features some of the best forward-thinking organizations and B2B companies. Since the integrated digital marketing agency began in 2003, they’ve carved out a specialization for themselves with nonprofits and business-to-business companies. Their portfolio expertly includes branding, digital marketing, website design and development, graphic design, video storytelling, color consulting, and more.