by Heather Hurst
In the last couple of months, a rash of predictions articles has spread across the Internet, aiming to foretell which rising trends will influence, change, and disrupt marketers’ work lives in 2017.
I’ve been watching, listening, and gathering my own list of prognostications, as they relate to Workfront’s audience, in particular. (There’s plenty of talk out there about the Internet of Things, for example, but it didn’t make my cut.)
As I read dozens upon dozens of forecasts, I looked for common themes among them, zeroing in on those that also resonated with what I’m seeing out there. I landed on 10 fairly universal trends that can help all of us—whether B2B or B2C marketers—stay ahead of that rapidly changing curve.
Without further ado, here’s my roundup of what today’s top marketing minds claim will be coming our way in 2017.
1. Video, Video, Video
You’ll see this on almost every list. And it’s no wonder. In November, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) reported the following statistics that show growth from the first half of 2015 to the first half of 2016:
- Total digital video, including mobile and desktop, rose 51%
- Video on smartphones and tablets saw unprecedented triple-digit growth—a 178% rise
In a recent MarTech Advisor article, Workfront’s Joe Staples also weighed in with these statistics:
- YouTube has over a billion users, almost a third of all people on the Internet
- YouTube on mobile alone reaches more 18-49 year-olds than any cable network in the U.S.
- 75 million people in the U.S. watch online videos every day
- The top 500 brand channels on YouTube each average 884,000 monthly views
What does this mean for you? Staples says, “Marketers in 2017 will need to streamline their video production processes and develop that in-house expertise in order to keep up with the trends.”
And Content Marketing Institute’s (CMI) Joe Pulizzi agrees:
“Most brands are still hanging their video strategy on the viral video, instead of building a process and organization around the ongoing delivery of valuable information through video.”
2. It’s Mobile First Now
Gone are the days when marketers needed to optimize for mobile. We’re in the “build it for mobile first” era now. Again with the jaw-dropping IAB statistics:
- Mobile revenue saw the largest year-over-year change, climbing to $15.5 billion, up 89% from $8.2 billion in Half Year 2015, representing 47% of total internet advertising revenue
- Mobile search took a significant uptick, realizing $7.4 billion in Half Year 2016, a 105% increase compared to $3.6 billion in Half Year 2015
As included in Brandwatch’s 2017 predictions list, it is now being reported that for retail websites, mobile traffic has overtaken desktop traffic for the first time ever. Recognizing this, Google is working on a new mobile-first web index. What does that mean? I’ll let Sue McCrossin explain:
“As more people consume content on mobile phones, Google has stated that there will no longer be a desktop algorithm and a mobile algorithm. There will be just one, and it will be mobile. This means that the rules for geo-targets and differentiating reviews will apply to all websites.”
If your content isn’t easily viewed and digested on a mobile device, you’ll be in trouble in 2017 and beyond.
3. Influencer Marketing Will Continue to Rise
“2016 is the year influencer marketing went mainstream,” wrote Kimberlee Morrison in AdWeek. “Of the 170 marketers surveyed by Linqia, 86 percent said they already work with influencers, and nearly 94 percent reported that influencer marketing was an effective part of their overall marketing strategy.”
In the last couple of years, influencers have become a much bigger cornerstone of Workfront’s own marketing strategy. (Thanks Ann Handley, Andrea Fryrear, Robert Rose, and others.) I join a wide array of marketing thought leaders in predicting that influencers are only going to get more important from here. In another article, Morrison quoted Xomad CEO Rob Perry as saying:
“Brands will rely on real-world influencer events and activations to build more organic, nonscripted content with higher engagement, while agencies gravitate toward livestreaming and real-time social media platforms. At the same time, brands will become increasingly dependent on micro-influencers with high engagement in niche verticals, which will be utilized in mass quantities (thousands per campaign) to generate more organic and engaging content.”
Yeah, what he said.
4. Greater Integration Between Content Marketing and Sales
In Pulizzi’s 2017 predictions article, he mentioned an epiphany that arose from a conversation he had with Marcus Sheridan about CMI’s annual conference:
“Most organizations are dominated by sales, and if we don’t start integrating salespeople into Content Marketing World, marketers are going to get back to their offices and hit brick walls.”
The infamous Sheridan also got a mention in Ian Altman’s predictions piece for Forbes, which suggests that “top companies engage their front-line sales teams to identify topics for content marketing, and the content marketing team helps sales professionals to effectively use content in the sales process.”
It seems so obvious, and yet very few companies truly make the most of the symbiotic relationship between marketing and sales—especially now that content marketing has matured to the point that it has to be truly relevant, educational, and useful to do any good. According to Altman:
“As customers and buyers continue to do more online research, top performing organizations continue to integrate sales and content marketing. The goal is to ensure that when customers search for risks, challenges, and implementation strategies associated with your solutions, they will find your content to address their questions.”
5. Personalization Continues to be King
I know you spent at least a few minutes in 2016 looking for your name, or friends and family names, on a Coke can. It’s easy to spot examples of this kind of personalization hitting consumer products, but individualization is increasingly important across the entire marketing spectrum.
Writing in Forbes (also the source of the image above), Daniel Newman says:
“Mass customization has transitioned into personalization. For some businesses, this will mean ensuring touch points are specific and individual. For others, it’s simply streamlining the purchasing process and making it more responsive.”
Despite this obvious and growing trend, 80% of marketers today are failing to personalize their efforts, even though they know it improves customer engagement.
Content marketing expert Shafqat Islam predicts:
“Consumers are smart and they expect their world to be personalized. Netflix and Amazon set the bar high, and consumers expect that from brands and publishers. Yet, almost every marketer's website is generic and one-size-fits-all. Brands will seek out the tools to build custom experiences for individuals that are truly personalized, and this year they will deliver on that promise to consumers. Personalization will move from a buzzword to a fundamental part of the marketer’s toolkit, across web, social email and every other channel in the customer experience.”
This is all easier said than done, but MarTech Advisor can help you out, with excellent tips for how to personalize and optimize email marketing—a challenge most marketers face, in both the B2B and B2C worlds.
6. The Rise of Bots and Chatbots
Speaking of personalization, trailblazing companies are achieving it thanks to the ultimate depersonalized entity—artificial intelligence. The term sounds scary (to me, at least) until I realize I’ve been using it for years, in the form of Apple’s Siri. There’s also Microsoft’s Cortana, Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa and others—all poised to influence customer behavior in a highly personalized way.
This tech is only going to grow from here. Maybe not by leaps and bounds in 2017, but it’s on the horizon and definitely worth watching this year. Don’t just take it from me, however; take it from Matt Mansfield (and Jes Stiles):
“As more consumers communicate with brands via social media and messaging apps, the need for brands to respond to would-be customers in a timely manner has grown increasingly important. Chatbots, which use both artificial intelligence and machine learning, according to Jes Stiles, ‘allow you to have personalized 1–1 conversations at scale, opening up a whole new audience who does not wish to connect with brand over email or download an app.’”
7. Say Hello to Predictive Analytics
Regular old analytics aren’t cutting it anymore. We’re moving into the age of predictive analytics. Morrison explains:
“With the rise of analytics, businesses will reap the benefits of things like seeing a customer’s history immediately when they contact customer service and providing personalized experiences for consumers based on likes and preferences. This technology will also predict what consumers need based on patterns in their customer journey, allowing for agents to proactively reach out to consumers before the problem is even realized.”
8. Content Distribution Will Trump Content Creation
Content marketing has matured to the point that we can’t just create great content and expect it to be seen, liked, and shared. (Was it ever like that?) While it’s still important to craft truly relevant and useful content, much more effort needs to go into content distribution. As Pulizzi says:
“The trend (rightfully so) seems to be moving from less content to more promotion. This is correct. No longer can we afford to create and execute on content projects without them ever seeing the light of day.”
If you need some tips for doing just that, look no further than another CMI article, this one from Tom Whatley, who suggests the following content distribution strategies:
- Engage in other communities, like Quora or Reddit
- Tap lesser-known influencers. One helpful tool is BuzzSumo.
- Republish your content, using such services as Medium, LinkedIn Pulse and republishing media outlets like Huffington Post and Mashable.
9. Google and Facebook Will Continue to Dominate
Just how dominant are these two behemoth companies now? Leading up to the first quarter of 2016, The New York Times reported that, “85 cents of every new dollar spent in online advertising will go to Google or Facebook.” Was that prediction correct? Jason Klint at digitalcontentnext.org opened my eyes with this stunning table:
And he followed it up with this warning:
“Facebook, due to its closed platform, and Google, due its dominance in browsers, ad tech, search and advertising, will have a large seat at nearly any industry or regulatory table discussing critical issues. So we urge the industry to keep your eyes wide open. Lax rules around data collection and use and incomplete solutions to ad blocking may very well play into their hands as they angle to swallow up that last 10%.”
What percentage of your advertising dollars are going to Facebook and Google? And how much is devoted to that shrinking 10% of the pie?
10. The Marriage of Marketing Activities and Revenue
Again writing in Forbes, Newman predicted that we should all “expect business objectives to tie back to profit, revenue, customer retention, and satisfaction.” In my world, I’ve definitely seen an increased focus on ROI. Given how pervasive metrics and analytics are, I expect it will only grow from here.
“In 2017, companies will spend a lot of money on data reporting in order to try to tie business objectives to profit, revenue, customer retention, and customer satisfaction (a difficult metric to measure). Businesses will collect ROI data from email, social media, paid advertising, direct, search, referral and affiliate, and print, radio, video, etc. in order to get a clear picture of where to invest their marketing dollars.”
Speaking of video, in particular, allow me to offer a handy link that combines my first and last predictions. Writing in MarTech Advisor, Joe Staples recently outlined five different metrics you can use to justify your video marketing budget.
What Do You Think?
There you have it: my roundup of top marketing predictions for 2017, as influenced by dozens of thought leaders—as well as my own direct observations. Did I leave any obvious and rising trends off the list (apart from the Internet of Things, of course)? What do you think we should be watching for in 2017?
Given how quickly digital trends rise and fall, it will be interesting to see how right (or wrong) we all were and what unforeseen surprises 2017 has in store.
The following infographic was created by Matthew Mansfield of NewCo Shift, who reviewed and analyzed 151 marketing trends and predictions posts.
This infographic first appeared in NewCo Shift.
About the Author
Heather has enjoyed playing the game of marketing for the past 15 years, at the agency and corporate level, in both B2C and B2B companies. She's run PR campaigns that took her from the MTV Beach House to NASDAQ and many media outlets and content channels in between. She is currently the Corporate Marketing Director at Workfront.Follow on Twitter More Content by Heather Hurst