As we finish up 2016, a number of our clients at Ideate Labs have been asking about next year, and what we’ll be seeing in digital marketing for 2017. It is going to be an exciting year as digital becomes both more data driven, more interactive, more personal and more fluid. There is also a touch of nerves as we wait for the impact of AI on marketing jobs.
I’ve put down some thoughts on the 6 key trends for 2017, and a bonus 2 trends that I don’t think will happen (even though everyone is talking about them).
- Artificial Intelligence (AI)
- Immersive Video / Augmented Reality
- Snapchat, Instagram Stories
- Native Advertising
- Location-Based Advertising
Chatbots are not new. For years, websites have had those fake chat popups that take your question and try to match it with content from the FAQ. As we all know, those systems were really annoying. Similarly, most mobile operators have an SMS service option – you message a code and it gives you a menu via SMS, 1 for balance, 2 for recharge etc. This is less annoying but very clunky and slow.
The future promise of chatbots is that they will be able to better understand your questions, will be able to interact with you in a somewhat human manner, and will be able to interact with other databases and systems.
Marketers are excited about chatbots for two reasons. Firstly, they allow customer service from inside the chat platforms that customers are already using – no need to bring customers to your website or app, or convince them to call a phone number or even write an email. Secondly, they allow basic customer service tasks to be completed instantly, at any time, in multiple languages, without hiring more and more customer service agents.
Imagine you are ordering a pizza. You call a number, wait on-hold, explain what you want, say no to the special offers, and confirm your address. With a chatbot, you could just message “1 large pepperoni pizza”. The chatbot responds with your registered address and tells you the price and delivery time. You message “yes” and your order is confirmed. The chatbot can keep you updated on the time of delivery.
H&M has a fashion advice chatbot. It asks you questions about your personal style and then shows you new clothing that you might like. These chatbots can learn, so as you say yes/no, the predictions become more accurate. Banks are building chatbots that let you report lost cards, or reset your password. There is huge potential in education and training services as well.
Your steps for 2017: There are numerous services that let you design and launch your own chatbot, many for FB Messenger. Make one for fun to start learning the ropes of both the chatbot speech, and the data integration. Let employees ask how much leave they have accrued, share a happy thought for the day, tell a joke. Once you are comfortable, start thinking about customer needs. Take a look here, or here, or here.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
For marketers at least, AI will be an unpredictable monster. It will revolutionise the way we use data, but will also remove a lot of marketing jobs. Almost any job that involves routine or analytical work will be partly or completely automated. AI systems have recently created paintings, written songs, and edited film trailers. We already have software that can automatically design an entire website. We already have AI reporters covering sports and finance beats, and a new program says it can write your marketing copy. So yes, creative jobs are also at risk.
Here is the upside. Despite how ‘digital’ many companies feel, almost everyone is terrible at using data. Companies can have dozens or hundreds of different data pools across marketing, operations, HR, IT, and no easy way to bring it together and use the information. Automated Google Adwords bids linked to inventory levels in your warehouse? Or based on live weather reports? Or based on Twitter-trending keywords? Knowing exactly which TV commercial, on which channel, at which time, drove more visitors to your website? Even simpler – how about a way for your sales team to not spend half their day updating CRM, making and re-making proposals, or preparing reports?
Here are a few for 2017 at least: Automated reporting of your analytics and digital campaigns, that includes real insight and connections that aren’t already obvious (Quill). Data visualisation tools that help you make sense of the numbers (Tableau). Much better personalised content such as recommendation engines to power web content, advertising and email (Lytics). Much better CRM sales predictions.
Your steps for 2017: IBM’s Watson has several great demo pages and a 30-day free trial, work your way through the examples. Start using data visualisation tools if you haven’t already (many are free).
Immersive Video / Augmented Reality
Marketers have debated the potential for augmented reality for years, but 2016 was the big kick off, thanks to Pokemon Go. At its peak, the daily usage of the app exceeded Facebook, Twitter, or Tinder, and the app delivered more than $600 million in revenue. At the end of 2016 however, the party is mostly over, with the majority of users drifting away (the developer really dropped the expansion ball).
So what next for AR and marketing? Viewing how new furniture will look in your house. Trying on makeup or clothes (think Snapchat filters but better). Overlaying information in retail stores about the products, or location of products. See the reviews of different restaurants or personalised recommendations by looking at the storefronts through your phone camera. Magic Leap might actually release a product!
What else for 2017? Print ads will merge with digital – by looking at a newspaper or outdoor ad through your phone, the ad becomes interactive, clickable, and measurable! Event organisers will implement multiple forms of AR to measure engagement and ROI.
Immersive video also holds potential. We are seeing 360 videos everywhere, in both storytelling and marketing. Shoppable video – being able to learn more and buy items you see in the video – is also building a presence (Ted Baker). Tourism is a natural beneficiary here – how can static photos compete with 360 videos of a location? Car test drives? Fashion designers can give their fans front row seats at runway shows.
Anyway, all this is just killing time until we start living our lives in Virtual Reality.
Your steps for 2017: If you don’t have an app, get one. Start creating in-app content linked to your print ads, product packaging, event setups etc. Here is an online course. Here is a tutorial. Here is a pdf from HP on adding AR to direct mail.
Snapchat, Instagram Stories
These platforms are well past the trending stage. Snapchat has more users than Twitter or Linkedin. 65% of Snapchat users upload photos daily. Snapchatters watch more than 10 billion videos per day. The user demographics are expanding – in 2013 only 7% of users were over 25 – today it is the fastest growing segment.
The trend for 2017 will be that brands will start jumping on board. So far they have been resistant because (1) they don’t understand the platform – only 2% of users are over 55 (2) the ad platform needs unique content – you can’t just add SnapChat to existing campaigns (3) managing a successful SnapChat account is lots of manual work – you can’t just run follower campaigns and boost all your posts and look successful.
If you already use Instagram, the new stories feature is a perfect copy of Snapchat. Facebook will likely integrate something similar in messenger.
Your steps for 2017: Don’t leave this until all the kids run away 🙂 Create your own Snapchat account, if you haven’t and start using the platform. Both Snapchat and Instagram Stories free you from thinking of video as a high-quality, long-term asset. These videos should be quick, rough, fun and creative.
Sure native advertising is nothing new, however 2017 will see some important developments. The steady growth of adblockers will see your old display banners become less effective for key audiences. More and more apps will integrate native advertising, rather than those horrible mini banners that you only tap by mistake. And most importantly…. buying native advertising will become easier than ever.
Facebook already offers native ad solutions. Google Doubleclick opened up native ads to all advertisers earlier this year, and there are new dedicated ad exchanges for native.
The native ads that have drawn the most attention are expensive content pieces by big brands playing with big publications. Going forward, there will be more and more opportunity for smaller brands to partner with local publications.
Just because it is easier, it doesn’t mean you should put in less effort. The key to great native advertising is to create content that your audience actually wants to read or watch…. sort of the opposite of most advertising.
It will always be more expensive than buying through ad exchanges, however, you will likely see better results starting out if you work directly with publications that appeal to your audience. The in-house teams will be able to offer a lot of guidance on the content and style that will drive engagement.
Your steps for 2017: Easy… identify publications that match your audience, and add a native campaign into your marketing mix. Research native as a retargeting solution, for your mid-funnel prospects.
While some marketers are going to sigh and tell me that this is so 2014, the reality is that most brands haven’t really dived into creative mobile marketing yet.
For retail brands, the digital battleground will shift from the ad space at the top of Google search results, to geofenced areas around your stores. You will create campaigns to draw in shoppers who are nearby, while your competitors will run campaigns to convince shoppers to keep walking.
Being able to order in advance can be great for both customers and the store. Both grocery stores and coffee shops can now let your order through the app, and use location data to know when you are close enough that they should prepare your order. Restaurants can use location data to optimize table bookings, by knowing how close a customer is. No need to hold an empty table for someone who is running very late.
Airports and shopping malls can both use mobile marketing to help you navigate the location (where is my gate? Where is the nearest bathroom?) as well as highlight offers from your favorite brands. They can also provide tracking wristbands for your kids, so that you know where they are.
To be effective here, you need an app – an app that your customers will want to download and keep. If you haven’t got one yet, it’s probably time to get started.
The aspect that is confusing for marketers is user permissions. Surveys have shown that a majority of consumers don’t want brands to track their location, however…. a majority of consumers want to receive discounts or offers based on their location. A Microsoft survey found that 99.6% of respondents would share location data for cash rewards 🙂
The summary is that most consumers are fine with location-based marketing, as long as they are getting value for the data exchange. Just don’t be creepy about it.
Your steps for 2017: Buy a beacon… they are super cheap now and start testing out ways to use it. Use it with an app for your next event or in your retail spaces. If you have physical locations, try some geofencing campaigns. Be creative! If you don’t have an app, plan to launch one that provides value to your customers.
Trends that won’t happen in 2017
Live video streaming
Yes it’s happening, and it’s fun…. but it’s not going to be huge just yet. The role of live video in 2017 will be to deepen your engagement with existing fans. Think: event videos for people who can’t make it, live Q&A sessions, behind-the-scenes glimpses. Talk to your customers and help them to feel connected with your brand.
Yes, wearable devices will become big for marketing. But not any time soon.
Most people who have bought smart watches use them to check the time, see calendar invites, and as a reminder to pull out their phone to read email. Google Glass failed. A study found that a third of fitness trackers are abandoned within 6 months.
We’ll likely see the big growth opportunity here coming out of Asia. Other than fitness trackers, wearables have struggled in the west because people want to feel that they can create a separation between online and offline, between work and family, between public and private. Even if someone checks their phone constantly, they know that they can switch it off whenever they want (much like buying a car you hardly use, just so you know you can travel anywhere if you want to). Many Asian countries lack this cultural need for independence. In India, people answer their phone in the cinema, or in meetings, or in weddings….. So wearable devices will seem like less of an intrusion. They just need to start doing something useful….
Have a great 2017
There is much to look forward to in the next year. Digital marketing is changing at an incredible pace, and I’m excited to see how these trends play out. Did I miss something that you think will be huge next year? Let me know!
If you’d like to learn more about how these trends will impact your business, feel free to get in touch: chris (at) id8labs.com or visit us at www.ideatelabs.in