Mobile, Video, Personalization, UX Testing Automation and Social dominate.

At the start of each year there’s always a lot of interest in predictions for the year ahead as articles and blog posts from industry commentators give opinions on “what’s hot” and “what’s next.” This year many of the online marketing predictions published focused on mobile optimization, content marketing and social marketing as three of the main trends set to dominate 2016.

With 2016 now well under way, to what extent are we seeing this year’s marketing predictions being borne out in reality? Here we look at our top five online marketing trends and how they’re connected to UX.

1. Mobile optimization continues to dominate

Nowadays when people talk about the internet they’re usually talking about mobile, since last year we passed the point where there are more searches on mobile than desktop. Not surprising given the number of smartphone users worldwide is predicted to surpass two billion in 2016 – that’s one quarter of the people on the planet! It makes sense then that mobile commerce is predicted to grow to $31B next year, up from $3B in 2010.

Companies have been paying attention to the shifts in mobile use, with many organizations delivering mobile-optimized websites and emails using responsive design. However, the danger for marketers is to think that they ‘re done with mobile simply because responsive design has been implemented.

Online marketers need to think about creating specific campaign versions for mobile that hide elements to automatically make them shorter and easier to navigate. Mobile also provides us with a plethora of data which can be used to target customers more effectively. For example, time your campaigns according to when your prospects are using their devices, tailoring your communications to suit different times of the day and hardware.

Another game changer is wearable tech; you’re no longer just targeting desktop and mobile. By 2019, analysts predict vendors will have shipped more than 168 million wearable devices so it makes sense to get savvy now and plan the user experience. Consider geo-specific and highly-targeted campaigns for wearable tech – e.g. send an email voucher to a customer’s wearable device as they walk past your store.

2. More video content

Video ads aren’t new, but online video is now growing faster than most other advertising formats and mediums. Facebook and Bing have started offering video options to advertisers, but perhaps more importantly, Google now includes video content in its search engine algorithm. This is a significant step for online video ads, because it shows users are finally accepting their existence and businesses are discovering their effectiveness.

According to Cisco, video is predicted to account for 80% of global internet traffic by 2019, and in the US, digital video advertising market is on pace to nearly double by 2019. After an explosive year of growth for video content, it’s becoming clear this surge in popularity shouldn’t be dismissed as a phase.

3. Personalization can be important, but not always essential

Relevance is key to catching and holding attention offline and online, and marketers continue to personalize many areas of marketing including web marketing, content marketing, and video marketing. As attention spans are reportedly dropping to around eight seconds on mobile devices, personalization is rightly at the top of every savvy marketers agenda.

Many brands are utilizing a variety of personalization techniques as an opportunity to get closer to their customers but personalization may not always be the best method.

It may be better to focus on creating great experiences, first and foremost. It’s about re-shaping how brands connect with (and in some cases re-connect with) today’s consumer. If personalization can help consumer interaction by being quicker or cheaper, then it should be used. But if not, maybe personalization shouldn’t be applied “just because it’s a trend.” It is always better to take into account your user feedback by implementing a VoC program.

4. Automation

Advances in technology mean that marketing automation is getting easier every day, and this year we’ve seen the non-technical digital marketer have more automation tools within their grasp than ever before.

Automation and UX Research allow you to segment and personalize your marketing tactics at scale. Not only that, marketing automation promises to connect the silos that exist in corporations so all functional areas can learn from each other.

Marketing automation is currently a $5.5 billion industry and marketers will continue to rely on these features to manage time-consuming tasks.

5. Social marketing

The social media marketing trends of 2015 were rooted in personalization. Social media — and the data analytics it offers — provides plenty of opportunities to give consumers exactly what they want. Businesses can deliver targeted messages on platforms like Facebook, as well as Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.

This year, we’re seeing developments in social media in terms of real time engagement. For example, take Periscope, which was recently acquired by Twitter—it allows users to give a live video broadcast of some stretch of their lives. Compare that to simply taking a video and posting it later. Periscope users collectively watch 40 years of live video each and every day.

Instagram and Snapchat also support on-the-go, in-the-moment updates as opposed to late-game retrospectives, and could collectively herald in a new era of immediacy in social media.

Conclusion

If the past few years have taught digital marketers anything, it’s that striving to keep up with effective digital marketing techniques might be compared to enjoying a roller coaster ride with no seat belts.

Technology and user preferences can change quickly and decisively. While some traditional marketing tactics have translated very well from offline to online, recently new tactics such as social web marketing and digital marketing automation require new skills, concepts and technologies.

Marketers get to enjoy an exciting ride, but they need to adapt quickly or risk falling off. Staying in your comfort zone is not an option in a digital world.

For further information and advice on involving your users in your marketing strategy, read our ebooks on Best Practices for Creating a Voice of the Customer Program and Amplifying Your Web Analytics with VoC Studies.