The marketing industry changes faster than most fashion trends. Sure, there are some basic fundamental principles that are always the same—know your audience, measure your results, and so on—but the mechanisms and tools we use to speak to our audiences and get those results are in a perpetual forward momentum. This is accelerated, in part, due to the evolving nature of technology, but the fierceness of competition is another factor; companies are trying to one-up each other in a bid to give their customers the latest-and-greatest.
If you want to outpace the competition and guard yourself against this one-upmanship, you need to be on the forefront of the latest trends. That’s why I’ve compiled this list of 10 up-and-coming trends in online marketing:
1. Vertical videos.
Mobile is the future of marketing, but mobile devices have been around for a while and some major shifts have already come to light—like Google’s Mobilegeddon update last year. Still, we’re having trouble transitioning, with the majority of mobile sites and apps still just being “mobile versions” of what we’re used to. Mobile-centric platforms like SnapChat are looking to change that with vertical videos, which cater specifically to mobile users—and nobody else. Watch to see this trend develop substantially in the next few years.
2. Virtual reality (VR).
Oculus Rift is here, along with HTC Vive, and Sony Playstation VR is coming. We’re not all completely absorbed into a VR world, as some of the tech predictors might have told you a few years ago, but there’s no denying that the virtual reality momentum is starting to increase. Marketers haven’t taken the plunge en masse yet, but you can bet the first generation of VR marketers will hold a huge advantage over the latecomers.
3. App-based SEO.
Apps are projected to grow in popularity, while traditional browser-based Internet experiences are on a downward trajectory. Will apps one day replace traditional websites altogether? I’m not sure, but I am sure that Google will continue stepping up its efforts to provide better app-based experiences for users, including its app streaming technology. This may be the perfect time to start developing an app, or if you have one already, fleshing out your marketing of it.
4. Augmented reality experiences.
Google Glass never really caught on, and “true” augmented reality technology is still several years away from full development. However, consumers are already getting used to semi-augmented reality experiences, like QR codes, which blend the digital and physical worlds. Consider implementing something like this in your physical business, allowing users to interact with your online presence while simultaneously engaging with your “real” one.
5. Interactive content.
The days of one-sided content experiences are coming to a close. “Traditional” content involves such a one-way interaction; you produce a swath of material, a reader consumes it, and the transaction is done. Interactive content changes based on user inputs, personalizing and diversifying the experience. Today, you can think of things like calculators and quizzes as examples, but expect to see new and innovative forms of interactive content emerge in the near future.
6. User-generated content.
Brands are just now starting to realize what amazing power user-generated content holds. Through a platform, such as a user-contribution based forum, or a motivating event, such as a competition, you can encourage your users to create their own content for your brand and share it with others. This spares you the effort of creating the content yourself, but more importantly, helps you to establish a thriving community around your brand.
7. Social media aggregation.
Social media apps are trying to do more and more, and you can see this in the major players especially. Facebook’s Instant Articles have brought content experiences in-app, and its recently launched live-streaming video feature prevents the need to go to another app for such a function. Social apps are trying to become “everything” apps, and because of that, your presence there needs to become stronger.
8. Next-level personalization.
Currently, there’s a limited amount of personalization available in marketing and advertising. You might be able to use retargeting ads to customize ad displays for previous visitors to your site, or you might be able to customize your email marketing messages for different segments of your user base. Soon, this functionality will become more sophisticated (thanks to new and bigger amounts of user data), allowing dynamic new forms of content personalization.
9. Extreme automation.
We currently have access to a host of automated tools in marketing, from ones that help us syndicate content posts to social media, to ones that build display ads automatically for us. Marketers are still hungry for more automation, and in the near future, we’re going to get it. Just be careful not to automate your campaign too much, or your users will be able to detect it.
10. Data visualization.
I’ve written about data visualization recently, as a way to glean more intuitive insights from complex and numerical data patterns. I expect more marketing tools will offer visualization in the coming years, and it’s going to become more important to understanding your audience needs and demands. The only downside here is that over-reliance on visualization could lead to biased conclusions, or stifle our creativity as marketers.
Take inspiration from this list, but recognize that not all of these trends may seize hold. Some may fizzle out before they fully catch on. Some may undergo evolutions and developments of their own. But at least a few of them hold tremendous promise, and because of that, you owe it to your business to pursue them. It’s a bit of a risk, yes, but that’s why you’ve got safer anchor strategies, like content marketing, serving as your foundation. You have a lot to gain, and not much to lose.