Last year we saw the proliferation of fake news online, a fierce political divide, massively popular apps shut down operations, and found ourselves in a time in which owning a Galaxy Note 7 may have put you on a no-fly list.
This was also the year that raised some significant questions around traditional shopping days like Cyber Monday and Black Friday. Questions as considerable as; do they even matter anymore? Or are these now just days that are a support system for a much larger movement of holiday sales and brand loyalty building.
This year, we gathered 50 Mindstream trend spotters to help us identify the key shifts that we saw for 2017, in order to understand what these shifts mean for the coming years of digital marketing as it continues to evolve.
TREND #1: LIVING IN THE (MICRO) MOMENT
In 2016, we saw algorithmic updates to Instagram drastically change how we use the platform. These algorithmic changes have worked wonders for advertisers and those who are willing to pay the price to get pushed straight to the top of feeds. But for individuals and many small businesses, the receptiveness to this shift has received mixed reviews. Many small businesses actually relied on Instagram’s chronological feed for in-store foot traffic, creating detrimental business impacts that have forced these companies into “paying to play” on the platform. Although we witnessed an initial backlash in having to pay to stay relevant, small and big brands alike are getting smarter each day on how to get the most out of their advertising spend.
With the rise of micro-moments and algorithmic updates, brands, marketers, and individuals have been forced to create more relevant, engaging content to stay in the top of feeds. The answer for creating that level of quality? Embracing these micro-moments and knowing where to strategically place your chips.
Platform updates have altered user behavior.
With the most recent updates to Instagram Stories to ensure both brevity and timely expiration, the new expectation has become to make the most of many micro-moments. These smaller, sometimes mundane moments are getting rebranded as a celebration of the little things in life. So, no need to worry about posting too many Chipotle burritos, the likes and views will still roll in in 2017. But you’ll want to carefully consider which channels you’re taking advantage of.
Snapchat geo-filters have made a swift transition from big-brand moments and corporate sponsorships to being open to each and every one of us who wants to personalize our special 24-hour experience. These new options have opened up the playing field for anyone to be empowered to create their own personal brand for a day. And these new on-demand options could be a strong indication of how things like the hashtag can evolve and become more customized for each of the moments we capture and share.
Instagram Stories (24-hour expiring experiences) began to take place on Instagram in 2016, and the results were quite noteworthy. In August of 2016, Instagram said it saw over 100 million people using it every day, which isn’t too shabby considering that that is only 50 million short of Snapchat’s reported 150 million daily users at the time.
Additionally, in 2016, Instagram followed in suit with its parent company, Facebook, by introducing Live Stories; a feature that opened up new possibilities for anyone to become their own on-demand broadcaster. Whether you’re at a special event, or simply enjoying a very photogenic cup of coffee, your event is no longer a moment in time, but a true micro-broadcast that people can tune into in real-time.
Brands and influencers have been quick to hop on this micro-broadcasting trend, adopting both Instagram Story strategies, as well as Live Story strategies for exclusive product launches and opportunities for direct sales through Instagram.
TREND TAKEAWAY: Oversharing? What’s that? 2017 is all about celebrating the micro moments that make up the bigger picture that we call life. And social media is only making it easier and easier for us to showcase these micro, yet meaningful moments.
What this means for brands and marketers:
The fight to remain at the top of social feeds will continue to be an uphill battle. Consider integrating a paid approach to your social marketing efforts (especially on Instagram and Facebook) and overall marketing strategy for 2017.
Understanding how to leverage these micro-moments for your brand can help your brand become more relatable to the common person you’re ultimately trying to gain the engagement from. Have a short-lived sale coming up? You may want to mirror the timeframe of this sale by experimenting with Instagram Live Stories.
TREND #2: NEW CONNECTION POINTS
According to a 2016 report by Convergence Consulting, nearly one-in-five households has dropped their cable subscription entirely. With numbers like this, we have media companies scrambling for new avenues, and streaming services counting their cash from their monthly subscribers. But that doesn’t mean that cable TV is dead on arrival in 2017. It means that we will see an even stronger overlap between traditional media outlets and outlets that are already integrated into our daily lives, or even in our pocket.
This integration of news and national media into our everyday digital feeds has forever shaped the way we consume media. Media companies have been quick hop on this trend and go after the cord-cutters who have closed themselves off from traditional media altogether. While brands like Facebook have opened up opportunities for media companies to spend even more time and money on their platform.
News correspondents can now provide live updates on how many people are marked “safe” and motivate those viewing live coverage on television to mark themselves “safe” in the event of a disaster that then becomes news. With interactive social media heat maps, the overlap of TV and social continues to integrate in ways that connect with a larger audience than ever before.
With this emergence of news companies stepping further into the digital space to attract new audiences, there is no doubt we will continue to see more regulated industries searching for unique ways to dip their toes into digital platforms that they’ve never experimented with before. We began to see this take place on dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble during the election last year where people could show who they endorse in the coming election to their potential matches. And Tinder went as far as to do a live swipe-driven poll to try to predict the presidential outcome.
As we continue to see this overlap, there remain the brands that feel the need to clean up the digital space by letting TV lead when mass awareness or widespread adoption is already achieved. For example, Coca-Cola is drastically cutting digital spending for mass scale TV penetration in order to cast a broader net. TV spots remain critical to the brand. And Chief Marketing Officer, Marcos de Quinto was quoted as saying, “We are very seriously trying to transform our company to make it a digital company, but it’s not just to put ads in social media.” – CMO Marcos de Quinto.
TREND TAKEAWAY: In 2017, TV and social media will be holding hands as they find ways to further their integration into users and viewer’s everyday lives. A natural blending of traditional and social media will continue to evolve and shape the way we digest our news and media.
What this means for brands and marketers:
Even if the industry in which you operate is highly regulated, now, more than ever, there are numerous opportunities to experiment with new platforms and engage with them in new fashions. If presidential candidates can find their way into dating apps, regulated industries like healthcare and financial services certainly have room to experiment with these new platforms and tools.
TREND #3: DAILY DIGITAL SUPPLEMENTS
2016 showed brands how things like AR, VR, and advanced digital support apps can help strengthen the customer experience. In 2017, everything will be either digitally infused or digitally supported. That’s not to say that in 2017, each brand who understands digital will be dishing out VR apps. But this new pick and choose-style of human interaction is what’s for dinner. And odds are, you may be eating light.
This trend stretches way back when self-checkouts first became a thing. Remember those? Those delightful aisles where you could check out your own items if you didn’t want to wait in a line or only had a few quick items to grab? This style of interaction has become so embedded in our daily lives that we take it for granted, and we want these types of options to be present in every other aspect of our lives. Banks were some of the next to go; understanding that waiting for a bank teller was not exactly the best user-experience for busy professionals who simply want to deposit a check on their lunch break. Consequently, the mobile banking app was born and infused with check deposit options that simply use your mobile phone’s camera to make the deposit.
In 2017, we’re going to continue to see this marriage of digital and in-store experiences. Home Depot led this initiative in helping their customers use AR through their mobile app to better visualize how certain products would look in their home and how to easily locate them in-store. And Amazon has just recently upped the ante with the first-ever Amazon Go grocery store in Seattle that may just be the absolute pinnacle of marrying these types of in-store and digital experiences. No lines, no human interaction, just simple transactions and go.
Brands like Warby Parker have a natural understanding that any strong in-store experience needs to be supported by all out-of-store and online experiences. These experiences, like their at-home try-on option allows for a product experience that emulates the in-store experience, but cuts out the middle man and hands over the power of choice directly to the customer.
TREND TAKEAWAY: True offline moments are rapidly fading out of the picture. Successful customer experiences in 2017 will be rooted in a self-service friendly mentality that is willing to let customers take the lead using their (usually digital) tool of choice, while remaining capable of jumping in without missing a beat if necessary.
TREND #4: LOCALIZED DATA DELIGHTS
For years, marketers have been talking about the power of big data. But it’s not until 2017 that we really start to put our money (data) where our mouth (customer) is.
Millennials are no longer the obvious opportunity demographic that they once were. Sure, they own great amount of the world’s purchasing power. But, as we continue to localize and personalize our marketing efforts, the hot new demographic isn’t going to be a demographic at all – it’s going to be “you.” Brands will finally go beyond segmented sub-groups, driven by three or four stripes of data and start communicating much more effectively in a 1:1 fashion – and it won’t just be on a device.
Spotify has started to lead the local data charge with its, “Thanks, 2016. It’s been weird” campaign. A campaign that tastefully used the data at the music brand’s fingertips to delight customers with localized data-driven billboard ads, showcasing our peculiar music behaviors throughout the year. This new take on the traditional billboard ad has opened up new doors for big data. Spotify’s CMO, Seth Farbman, went as far as to say, “There has been some debate about whether big data is muting creativity in marketing, but we have turned that on its head, “For us, data inspires and gives insight into the emotion people are expressing.
We’ve bridged the gap in which we once had to fight for customer’s data, to where they’re more than willing to share it, as long as there it provides them with a resourceful utility. Advances in mobile geo-targeting has allowed brands to target their customers based on time of day and offer customers unique promotions or coupons via email marketing programs tied to the individual’s locational data. And a full 78% of US marketers have stated that they have increased location-based advertising based on the availability of foot traffic data (Mobile Marketing Association, July 2016).
As big data finds new applications in marketing, we are also going to see technology gaps that once existed draw to a close. Where we once had gaps in Facebook usage amongst Baby Boomers, we are now seeing those (and similar) technology gaps dissipate faster than ever before. Expect this trend to push the boundaries of how we think about marketing to different generations and using data to personalize brand experiences.
TREND TAKEAWAY: Big data is no longer just a buzzword that marketers use to impress their clients (at least not for us). It’s an actionable way of translating data into insights, and insights into experiences that are meaningful for a wide array of audiences.
What this means for brands and marketers:
Finding meaningful ways to turn your insights into action is now the standard. It’s time we take a deep look into how meaningful, local data can turn standard advertising into exceptional brand experiences.
Narrowing your marketing efforts to looking broadly at age bracket assumptions will leave you coming up short in your year-end goals.
TREND #5: THE EXPECTATION OF IMMEDIACY
If you can order it or request it with just a few taps on your mobile device, then why wouldn’t it be delivered in that same fashion? This is the new immediacy expectation. This new sense of immediacy is being driven by the Amazons of the world, and perpetuated by all others that can provide the illusion of immediacy, even when their transactions or deliveries in fact may not be.
The Domino’s pizza tracker is an example of how brands can deliver upon this expectation of immediacy. Sure, your pizza won’t arrive as quickly as the Uber you request, but you’ll know exactly when that pizza finds its way to the oven and when your driver is in route with that mouth-watering goodness.
75% of online customers expect to receive personalized assistance within 5 minutes. – Customer Experience: Creating Value Through Transforming Customer Journeys. McKinsey & Company, 2016
But, immediacy – or the illusion thereof – isn’t limited just to companies with a time-sensitive product or service. Thermos was out to prove this by shipping coffee overnight to their top 25 social fans to show that it would still be hot by the time it arrived at their doorstep. Thermos was able to deliver upon this promise while providing a unique surprise and delight opportunity for loyal social media fans that goes beyond the standard retweets and engagements from brands that we know and love.
This demand for immediacy goes part-and-parcel with an expectation of transparency, which is the true crux of why efforts by companies like Domino’s and Thermos are so effective.
TREND TAKEAWAY: Creating the illusion of immediacy is one of the most compelling ways to display to your customers a level of dedication that goes beyond the point of sale.
What this means for brands and marketers:
The competition for delivering exceptional products and services is already there. Now it’s time to adapt your services. Thinking about the entire customer experience from start to finish, from touch point to touchpoint, will be the only way to remain competitive in the age of “I need it now.”
Everything from product tracking, delivery methods, website functionality, should be a seamless experience that draws the customer in and out and then back again due to the first great experience.
TREND #6: CONSUMERS HAVE TRUST ISSUES
2016 may very well go down as the biggest year in cyber-attacks yet. Big names like Yahoo!, LinkedIn, Twitter, Tumblr, and the Democratic National Committee all sustained high-profile breeches. Even if they’re not technically being “hacked,” fending off brute force attacks from abroad has become business-as-usual for many brand marketers across all categories.
Couple that with high-profile email hacks of presidential candidates and overwhelming coverage of the fake news epidemic, and even the least tech-savvy consumer has security on his or her mind. And, it’s not just a thought-exercise. Security concerns have, quite literally, manifested themselves in consumers’ pocketbooks.
In 2016, we predicted that the point of sale would continue to get blurrier and that mobile payments would take the stage in a big way. Although there still remains a steady resistance to this movement. Fewer than 20% of smartphone users used proximity mobile payments last year, but mobile peer-to-peer payments are maintaining steady growth. So, what’s holding people back from ditching their wallets and embracing new forms of digital payment?
One of the key barriers to conducting more transactions via smartphone according to millennial smartphone users in North America and the UK remains security concerns, followed by concerns about identity fraud. While this demographic has been called a lot of different things in recent years, their concerns over security and identity safety are double to that of any more “superficial” concerns.
TREND TAKEAWAY: Data and privacy are going to continue to be major topics of discussion in 2017. As we conduct testing and build web experiences, we need to be cognizant of each experience’s possible vulnerabilities and adjust our approach as such.
What this means for brands and marketers:
With the frequency and complexity of “hacks” and large-scale breech attempts only expected to increase, brands must make security a priority that spans vendor selection, technical architecture, patch and update rollout and organizational planning.
Consumer awareness – and sensitivity to – data security and information integrity are unlikely to dial back. It’s incumbent upon brands to let them know the steps being taken to protect them in as transparent a way as possible.