With each passing year, the world of marketing has more and more tools at its disposal, as well as more responsibility.
In 2015, we saw new importance ascribed to social consciousness, customer value and privacy.
We saw trends that will shape not just marketing, but business conduct all over the world.
Each of these marketing trends from 2015 will continue to touch our lives in significant ways well into the future.
Content Marketing Hits Its Stride
In a recent reader poll, Smart Insights found that content marketing took the top spot for “most commercially important digital marketing trend” for 2015 with 29.6 percent of the vote. That’s a significant margin, but the news is not a huge surprise.
We can attribute this overwhelming display of public opinion, at least in part, to Google and their ever-changing algorithm. Thanks to an ongoing refinement of “best practices” and “online etiquette,” business owners and marketers can rely less and less on traditional keyword stuffing and other SEO practices — the focus is now firmly on producing the best, most varied and most engaging content on the web.
Presence is no longer enough. What’s needed now is substance: something that can tell a story or impart something to customers more meaningful than “Here’s why our product is best.”
If 2015 has proven anything, it’s that content marketing needs to represent the lion’s share of your advertising budget if you want to compete in 2016 and beyond.
Customer Values Take Center Stage
The customer may always be right, but genuinely getting in touch with customer values has been a long, drawn-out battle for many companies. Non-interactive, one-way communication from brands to their audience has been the status quo for quite some time, but these days more and more companies, both large and small, are reducing or eliminating the sometimes significant gap between brand and customer.
We can partially attribute this to the many useful tools baked into our favorite social media sites. Brands like Pulse Uniform, for example, Twitter to speak directly to their audience about their products, as well as to draw national attention to the important issues their brand touches on a daily basis — the national nurse shortage, for instance.
The end result of this kind of outreach is an unprecedented level of communication and engagement with the customer and the values they care about. American shoppers want more than ever to know that their favored brands are communicative and socially conscious, and according to Nielsen surveys, 55 percent of shoppers are ready to “put their money where their heart is.”
The World Has Officially Gone “Mobile First”
This particular trend has been developing for years, but 2015 clinched it. We’re living in a mobile-first world. We know this because Google has finally confirmed what we’ve long suspected: More Internet searches are performed on mobile devices than on desktop computers.
The implications of this are huge. For starters, responsive design is more important than ever — not just for the customer experience, but for website rankings. Google began penalizing websites earlier this year for failing to be “mobile friendly.”
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A related and potentially disquieting trend is that ad blocking has finally come to mobile operating systems in a big way. With the release of iOS 9, Apple allows for the installation of third-party ad blockers on iPhones and iPads — a decision that’s been met with a mixture of enthusiasm from customers and panic from advertisers. Again, the implications here are enormous.
Publishers and marketers are officially on notice, and will have to scale back the aggressive and performance-tanking banners, pop-ups and other intrusions that get between Internet users and the content they’re looking for.
Going “mobile first” is not just about leveraging the opportunities of pocket-sized operating systems. It’s also about finding ways to win back the public’s trust.
The “Internet of Things” Heralds Ubiquitous Computing
Lastly, let’s look at a trend that’s changing not just the world of marketing, but modern life as we know it: ubiquitous computing. We’ve come a long way in just a single generation. A few short decades ago, computers took up the entire wall of a small room. Now they’re tiny enough to follow us anywhere — stowed in our pockets, strapped to our wrists and nestled into the dashboards of our cars.
The phrase “Internet of Things” refers to the now-inevitable future where our digital lives will follow us everywhere we go. Already, car manufacturers are cozying up to Silicon Valley giants like Apple and Google for automobile-based operating systems. The implications for personally tailored advertising and marketing are huge — but it’s also going to change the very way we interact with the Internet.
The Internet is becoming less like something we access and more like something that accesses us. And in a world where privacy and security have never been more valuable, you’d be right to assume that big data is changing what it means to be an “ethical company.”
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There’s a strong chance your marketing efforts already leverage customer data of some sort — things like geological location, age, device type and other demographics. But as computing becomes more and more ubiquitous and adds a host of other data points — favorite locations, walking pace, resting heart rate and more — the success or failure of the world’s marketers in 2016 and beyond will depend on their being able to use that wealth of data in a socially responsible way.