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10 Digital Marketing Trends To Watch Out For In 2017

Guest Blog Post - Digital Marketing | Mumbai, India - SEO Information Technology
The 21st century is almost two decades old, and its early prodigies are reaching maturity. Social networking, digital marketing and visual branding are no longer in their infancies, and what started as experiments are now integral parts of our cultural sphere. 

A near-fully connected world means that the line between consumer and marketer continues to blur. Brands now create messages not only to invite a customer’s purchase, but to inspire that same consumer to spread the message to a broader market. More than during any time in the past, consumers control a deeper level of the market. 

“As consumers – via social media – we all have a seat at the marketing table – by sharing our needs and priorities through direct feedback and purchasing choices,” Influence-Central founder and CEO Stacy DeBroff recently told Forbes. “We’ve seen the impact of the ‘brand revolution’ on key consumer-facing industries. In the coming year, brands will become even more attuned to the needs and priorities of the consumer, and increasingly shape their product offerings around the latest lifestyle trends.”

It’s vital, therefore, that digital marketers stay in tune with the current pulse of branding, visual storytelling and social marketing in order to give consumers not only what they want to have, but also what they want to share. We’ve consulted the experts and identified the top 10 digital-marketing trends to watch for in 2017: 

1. Episodic Stories

Episodic Stories - Digital Marketing Trends 2017 - SEO Information Technology

Audiences used to wonder how a story would end, but no more. People still to know what happens next, but they’d rather not see their favorite tales end at all. Why else would the world have been forced to withstand Sharknado 5?

There are now so many outlets to deliver content – and so many entities producing it – that niche audiences can find just about any subject matter that tickles their fancies. With so many options available, how do digital marketers capture – let alone keep – consumers’ attention? When they find what works, they stick with it.

Think about it: 30-plus years ago movie-goers were satisfied with three Star Wars films to complete the franchise. Now there’s so much demand for a galaxy far, far away that the world sees a new Jedi adventure every year. Meanwhile, 2.27 million Twitter users aren’t satisfied with a weekly episode of The Simpsons, and are hanging on Homer Simpson’s every tweet throughout each day. 

Digital marketers are taking heed to these cultural changes, and 2017 promises to see episodic marketing stories move to the forefront. Just as the original soap operas were created to literally sell soap to television viewers, storytelling will play an integral role in 2017 advertising and branding efforts.

“Stop interrupting what people are interested in, and become what they’re interested in,” Marriot’s vice president of global creative and content marketing David Beebe advised brands at last year’s Contently Summit

2. Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality - Digital Marketing Trends 2017 - SEO Information Technology

If there was any doubt that media has moved beyond two dimensions, it was shattered when 360 and VR technologies flew off the shelves on Black Friday – only a year after the release of the first mainstream virtual-reality devices in decades. 

Now that VR gear is available to the average consumer, plenty of the biggest names in tech are releasing content to accompany the device, including movie-streaming apps, video games and marketing campaigns. Audiences can now interact with brands like never before as they walk around scenes, manipulate objects and even influence outcomes. 

Instead of passively watching an actor demonstrate a product, customers can virtually use it themselves. Rather than looking at pretty pictures of a place they might like to visit, audiences can be fully immersed in the location, virtually take a short hike and walk along the beach. And as virtual reality becomes an even greater part of everyday life, its use in marketing promises to expand in ways we haven’t even yet imagined. 

3. Gamification

Gamification - Digital Marketing Trends 2017 - SEO Information Technology

Engagement: it’s the ultimate marketing X factor and the ultimate goal of many branding experts. The more engaged an audience is with a brand, the more it matters to them, ultimately leading to more sales. And few strategies engage people more than gamification

Motivating audiences to take action or modify behavior by applying gaming elements such as goals, points, levels and awards in non-game contexts isn’t new to 2017, but it’s still a fairly recent strategy. 

The term “gamification” may have been coined in 2002, but the technique didn’t gain popularity until 2010. That year, Starbucks awarded customers who checked in at multiple locations custom Foursquare badges and special discounts. That and similar early campaigns were so successful that by 2013 more than 70 percent of Forbes Global 2000 companies surveyed said they planned to use gamification for marketing purposes. 

Now that there’s an app for this, that and pretty much everything under the sun, gamification campaigns are popping up across the marketing universe. 

Nike administers an immensely popular app that allows customers to record and track fitness achievements, work toward goals and compete against themselves or others.  And countless brands now reward customers with points in exchange for leaving reviews or making purchases. But it’s not enough to just award points – they must also mean something. For gamification to succeed, customers must not only be engaged, but be motivated to continue playing. 

A simple gamification strategy might reward customers with points each time they review a product, then allow them to redeem those points for discounts. 

4. Instant Gratification

Digital marketers are now targeting the youngest group of consumers: Generation Z. And what do we know about kids that grew up surrounded by social media and technology, who never knew the agony of waiting on a dial-up Internet connection, the frustration of programming a VCR or the routine of waiting for a new episode each week? Their desire for instant gratification is like that of no previous generation. 

It’s no wonder today’s youth gravitate toward the most instantaneous of social channels, such as SnapChat and And companies that hope to attract and retain young consumers’ interest must keep up and evolve.

“This generation has grown up with instant response as its baseline expectation,” DeBroff told Forbes. “We can count on at least three platforms we’ve never heard of rising to social prominence next year that embrace faster, more pictorial and more spontaneous ways for Gen Z to bond.”

5. Real-time Marketing

Wearable and mobile technology continues to drive consumers’ expectations toward immediacy, and few strategies meet those desires like real-time marketing. The near-constant connection of the masses through social media provides unique opportunities for brands to capitalize on the latest news stories and events. 

For example, many companies are now reaching out to customers who tweet their brand, sometimes almost instantaneously. A customer who complains about her internet provider via Twitter, for example, can be proactively contacted by customer service rather than being expected to call and wait extended lengths of time on hold. 

Clever marketing strategists can also leverage social media to newsjack events in real time. When Superbowl  XLVII was unexpectedly interrupted by a power cut, for example, the quick-thinking folks at Oreo created and tweeted a related meme that perfectly tied in the event with the brand. Within minutes, the tweet was retweeted more than 10,000 times, and Facebook users liked the image 18,000 times. 
Real-time Marketing - Digital Marketing Trends 2017 - SEO Information Technology

And while all social-media outlets are prime environments for real-time marketing, none offer as ideal a marriage between the two as Twitter. With its 140-character message limits, Twitter is based on the principle of real time. 

What are users thinking or doing at this very moment? And the short messages scroll down the screen so quickly, whatever is tweeted can be seen instantly. In fact, according to a Trendology report which examined 106 major brands that utilized real-time marketing, those tweeting about unexpected occurrences during major events saw a 1,2000-percent increase in retweets per follower.

Of course when it comes down to it, most successful real-time marketing campaigns require plenty of planning. What are the odds that the Oreo team saw the power go out during the Super Bowl broadcast, created a marketing concept and had a designer create the graphic within the matter of seconds before it launched its successful tweet? 

Isn’t it much more likely that the company’s forward-thinking marketers brainstormed weeks in advance for any unexpected events that could happen during the Super Bowl? It makes you wonder how many memes they designed for that evening – just in case –  that never saw the light of day.

6. Unfiltered 

Unfiltered - Digital Marketing Trends 2017 - SEO Information Technology

The folks at Getty Images truly have their fingers on the pulse of visual communication trends. In 2017, they expect graphic arts to move in the direction of realism. Audiences are growing tired of all the fancy filters, and they are now drawn to the raw, the gritty and the real. Unfiltered photography, drawing on principles of photojournalism, adds a documentary aesthetic to commercial imagery. 

“What we are seeing now is content producers, whether that’s a digital marketer or an independent filmmaker, they want their project to mimic the style of the content that we are shooting and creating ourselves,” VideoBlocks CEO T.J. Leonard told Digital Trends.

The numbers certainly support the unfiltered trend. In the past year, VideoBlocks saw searches for “selfie” go up by 270 percent. Likewise, over at Getty Images, searches for “authenticity” increased by 104 percent and those for “real life” rose by 99 percent. Getty researchers have also identified a trend they call Color Surge, in which the color is the star of the image. 

“Over the past five years, if not decade, social media and filters have meant that consumers were using a very nostalgic photo treatment – hazy, dreamy and washed out,” Getty Images visual-trends director Pam Grossman said. “Color Surge feels like the anecdote to that. It’s bright, astonishing and even unnatural. That’s very exciting to me because it feels like we are turning a visual page.”

7. Short Films

Short Films - Digital Marketing Trends 2017 - SEO Information Technology

With the exception of toy companies, audiences rarely see an entire movie produced by a brand. Hollywood production costs must make 30-second television ads more feasible for brands that aren’t Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Legos. But like all technology, costs to create a movie are getting lower, and brand films are gaining popularity. 

The short film – running anywhere from 10 minutes to a half-hour, is turning into a marketer’s dream. Long enough to entertain, the productions are also short enough to keep production costs manageable and promotion feasible across multiple platforms. And digital video is becoming the media of choice among younger consumers. In 2015, Americans spent more time each day with digital video than they spent with social media. Studies have also shows that an astounding 80 percent of millennials reference videos when making purchasing decisions. 

Rather than blowing their marketing budgets renting TV air time, companies such as Jaguar, Samsung and Marriott are directing those funds toward creating high-quality short films that can be viewed on YouTube and other free video channels. But since 84 percent of millennials claim they dislike traditional advertising, the key to creating a successful brand movie is focusing on entertainment more than promotion.

    “The story is ours to tell,” Intel’s co-marketing director Billie Goldman, who has helped produce the Emmy-winning Intel Films series since 2011, told Contently. “In product placement, I don’t get to own the journey and be woven throughout the story. When I own the content, I own all of that.”

8. Global Neighborhood

Global Neighborhood - Digital Marketing Trends 2017 - SEO Information Technology

Any observer who didn’t just crawl out from under a rock knows the now live in a global society. Groups once separated by oceans now regularly connect with social media as though they were in the same room. And our role in a global society is influencing the ways we see ourselves. Rather than celebrating our likenesses, we now embrace our differences as a part of our cultural identity.

In response to social globalization, more digital marketers are focusing on inclusive campaigns that reach out to diverse groups. Rather than create separate campaigns for Brazil, Canada and Spain, why not combine efforts and craft an even better promotion that reaches customers in all three nations? Why limit the target audience to the local market, when a campaign could just as easily reach across the globe?

9. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence - Digital Marketing Trends 2017

It’s the rise of the machines, and marketing experts predict 2017 will be the year artificial intelligence takes on a crucial role in the industry. AI allows digital marketers to meet ever-rising customer niche expectations by combining and analyzing a variety of data across a multitude of media and platforms.
The advanced insight provided by AI more than predicts market changes and consumer behavior, it can use those same algorithms to customize messages to each customer, encouraging the desired outcome. Every consumer experience will be unique, as computers determine who would respond best to which message on what platform and at what time. 

Consumers are already taking note, the matching of searches in an internet browser to the ads displayed on Twitter and Facebook has become a frequent topic among social-media users. It is an AI system, after all, that determines if you are most likely to purchase a coat or a bikini, from Target or from Old Navy, and then directs Facebook to display a matching advertisement in your Newsfeed. And we’ve only seen the beginning. 

10. Influencer Marketing 

Whether they’re reading product review, browsing the blogs or watching their favorite YouTube personality, today’s consumers take note of others’ opinions when making purchasing decisions. According to Influence Central, 81 percent of consumers say they frequently buy items they’ve seen shared on social media, and 86 percent of female consumers agree that social-media content is now the primary source of online research used in their purchasing decisions. 
The survey also found:
  • 82 percent of female consumers say social media has changed the way they gather opinions and information. 
  • 81 percent of consumers say product reviews influence their shopping choices.
  • 72 percent agreed that social media recommendations take the guesswork out of purchasing a new product.
  • 94 percent of survey respondents report buying new food items and ingredients based on a social-media recipe, photo or suggestion.

If consumers are most-heavily influenced by online recommendations, then how do marketers target new customers? By targeting the influencers, of course.

Influencer marketing isn’t a new strategy. Companies have long sought influential spokespersons to help sell their products. Modern influencer marketing isn’t so different from Nike paying millions to Michael Jordan to help the company sell sneakers. But instead of writing Mike a check with a slew of zeroes, brands are offering popular bloggers free products or discounts to review their wares. 

Social media influencers, specifically, aren’t traditional celebrities. Rather than famous actors and musicians, today’s influencers are regular, everyday people with typical lives and careers – and a large online following. In fact, a Variety survey of U.S. teens’ favorite influencers found that YouTube creators outranked traditional celebrities, taking eight of the top 10 spots. 

Influencer Marketing - Digital Marketing Trends 2017 - SEO Information Technology

Fortunately for the digital marketer in 2017, a variety of tools are available to create visually-stunning, interactive and informative content that is right in line with any of the year’s top trends. Resources such as Visme enable designers of all skill levels to craft engaging infographics and presentations that appeal to a broad range of audience demographics. 

With nothing more than a browser and an internet connection, anyone can tell better stories and translate boring data into beautiful, engaging and interactive content with an easy-to-use editor.

›10 Digital Marketing Trends To Watch Out For In 2017

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