Top Ideas to Affect Digital Marketing in 2017

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What does the future of digital marketing look like? Is it all about mobile, messaging apps, conversational marketing or what?

Yes, definitely. And no, not really.

We can look at trends and changing traffic patterns until the cows come home, but to get a real idea of how to move forward in your marketing, we have to take the bigger picture.

That bigger picture is the customer’s experience. Viewers today are looking for much more in advertising. They want to be engaged, they want to be part of the conversation, and they want marketing that fits into their use of the web.

As I see it, the big trends that will dominate digital marketing in 2017 are more like three concepts that reflect a change in how we use the web. It’s all about convergence, community and creativity.

Aim for these in your marketing and your customers will be more loyal than ever before.

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Convergence

It used to be you’d have a computer for surfing the internet, a phone for making phone calls and a camera for taking pictures. You’d go to the bank to cash a check and call a restaurant to order takeout.

Not so anymore. Digital users today want to have as many functions as possible performed on a single device, and they want their experience to flow seamlessly across different devices.

Basically, the more people do online, the less willing they are to juggle between separate, uncoordinated devices and platforms. They want technology to simplify and streamline their lives.

It’s the ideal of the continuous design approach. Michal Levin, Senior User Experience Designer at Google, describes it as “a user flow that runs along a set of contexts, during which devices ‘pass the baton’ to one another until the user reaches her information goal or completes the desired activity.”

For any given activity, whether it’s registering for an event, planning a trip or just reading an ebook, the flow of action isn’t continuous within the device anymore – it’s in the user’s experience.

So how do marketers get in on this flow?

One (compound) word: omni-channel.

Omni-channel technology allows you to track and integrate your customers’ experience across multiple media touch points. It helps you make sense of data by seeing your customers like they see themselves: as humans performing actions on different platforms devices, not as traffic numbers in separate columns.

With this 360-view, you can engage your customers in a way that’s much more personalized, targeted and timed to their behavior.

Your aim in 2017 should be brand coherence. Desktop, mobile and social media are all integrated, all working together to tell one story.

Disney is one amazing example of omni-channel marketing done right. Their website is super responsive: it looks and works great no matter what device it’s viewed on.

With their My Disney Experience app and Magic Band program, you can plan your entire (real-life) trip to Disney World, from where you’ll eat lunch to estimated waiting times at each attraction. You can order food and store photos. You can even turn your phone into a hotel room key.

This all-in-one approach is setting the bar for marketing next year.

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Community

Today’s best online customers are looking for more than just an isolated experience at their screens. They want to be involved. They want to be engaged and engage with other people.

Meet “Gen C,” as defined by a recent Google study. These people are active consumers, almost three times more likely than others to buy online, and they can market your product better than you can.

They regularly create content of their own and they’re passionate brand advocates. These are the people who will respond to ads, try out new products and tell all their friends about what they’ve found.

They’re passionate about community and connection. They want to make their voices heard and to interact with the entire world.

That’s why so many of them participate in online communities, which is the best way to reach them.

Turning your company’s blog or social media into an active community should be a top priority for digital marketers in 2017.

Customers today aren’t satisfied with one-way marketing: they want to be part of a conversation. Online communities can bring your clients together, get them personally involved in your brand and build brand loyalty like nothing else.

Communities can also help your company generate new ideas and give feedback on new prototypes. After all, when you’re trying to get give your customers what they want, what’s better than bringing your most loyal customers into the creative process?

Despite the benefits, many companies still aren’t taking advantage of this resource. So if you get your community rolling, you’ll be a step ahead of the crowd.

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Choice

The rise in ad blocking software is one of the biggest issues that marketers will have to confront in the coming year.

The use of ad blocking skyrocketed last year, up to nearly 70 million users just in the US. It’s expected to increase by another 17 million people next year.

Marketers’ responses can take two forms: avoid or adapt.

To get around it, you could try to use ad formats which aren’t recognized by current ad blockers. Facebook is breaking ground here. Ads which are much more difficult to detect have already started appearing on their desktop site.

But is this such a good idea? Forcing ads on people who took some trouble to avoid them is not a great way to win customer goodwill. Plus, since developers are always improving and expanding ad block programs, this might be a losing battle.

I recommend taking a more sustainable approach: create ads that customers won’t want to block.

You have to be original. Give value in everything you ask your viewers to look at, whether it’s useful information or just a good laugh. Get to know your customers better through surveys, careful testing and engagement with online communities.

Combining these two approaches, native advertising is likely to play a big role in the future of digital marketing.

Antti Pasila, founder and CEO of Kiosked, says, “A native creative strategy gets closer to what we might think of as a fashion magazine. The ads become part of the content, or part of the reason why people were engaging with that piece of content.”

Native advertising is the fullest form of providing value in your marketing. If the content is interesting and relevant, customers will naturally be endeared to the brand that created it. Instead of trying to avoid it, they’ll be looking for more from your company.

Finally, keep in mind that users want to have the feeling of choice. Those Gen C users I mentioned earlier are almost twice as likely to watch video ads if they have the chance to skip them.

Giving people an option not to see your ad, whether by a “skip ad” button or through native advertising, won’t make your marketing invisible. The viewers who are likely to buy just might pay more attention to it, and they’ll come to it with a positive attitude – definitely a better mindset for making purchases.

Conclusion

It’s only October and 2016 has already been a wild year for marketers. No-one can really say what surprises 2017 will bring.

However, it’s clear that customer experience has to be a priority. Viewers expect advertising to be more creative and interactive than ever. They’re looking for dialogue, community and flow.

Keep pace in your marketing and you’ll be golden, no matter what other trends the world throws at you.

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