As 2015 starts to draw to a close we are once again reaching that time of year when we can look back and assess exactly what has happened in the past twelve months, and start to speculate about what next year might bring. In a year full of unforeseen political shocks, a selection of scandals, and hoverboards that didn’t quite hover, the world of digital marketing has certainly had a lot of content to present and trends to follow, but just what has 2015 offered, and how is 2016 shaping up?
The continued rise of mobile devices has had an incredible impact upon digital marketing in 2015. During 2014 mobile data usage increased by 80% (KPCB 2014 Internet Report) and this heavily impacted digital marketing in 2015. Companies began to direct more advertising to mobile users through apps and mobile sites with very clear effects including portrait style advertising breaking free from the confines of bus stops and web banners. Mobile devices can no longer be considered subordinate to computers when it comes to marketing, especially considering that more searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in at least 10 countries. This was reflected by Mobilegeddon; Google’s algorithm update that gave priority to sites that display well on mobile and smart devices, giving mobile and desktop traffic equal value. Equally, Google have been indexing apps for some time meaning mobile presence also contributes to SEO, and 2016 will see them placing more importance on deep links in apps as well. Mobile-optimisation is more important than ever and it is unlikely that this change will slow down in 2016 as consumers become increasingly connected and desktop-only sites fall behind their competitors.
Are you a Laura, Luke, Lucy, or a Liam? If you’re not quite sure how to answer that question then it may be best to take a look at Deloitte’s study from this year (http://www.deloitte.co.uk/mediaconsumer/) that identified four key personas that can be attributed to consumers. Arguably, the most important findings of this study relate to a graded scale that corresponds to the age of consumers. If you are between 16-24 then it is likely that you’re in the 92% of people in this age range with access to smartphones who check their messages before they even get out of bed. However, Deloitte’s study shows that the older people get, the less they use technology. Mobile phone usage is decreasing for everyone over 55 while books and magazines are the preference over their digital counterparts. The results of this study indicate just how important digital marketing is to people under 40 as they consume so much of their media through technology. In 2016 the increasing availability of wearable technology is set to alter the four key personas Deloitte found, however, wearable tech is expected to increase mobile consumption and the frequency of use, including increasingly targeted advertising.
Consumer Becomes Creator
Technology is an essential part of people’s existence and while there is a shift from smartphones to tablets as soon as people are over 24, they are still spending a lot of time using touch screens. The increasing use of interactive technologies also indicates another important aspect of marketing in 2015; the shift from consumer to co-creator. Interaction is higher than ever before with over 50% of the population checking social media daily. However, people don’t simply look at social media, they also comment, tweet, share photos, and create all sorts of aditional content. The growing prevalence of websites such as Reddit and Imgur shows just how much people want to interact with content. Reddit’s AMAs (Ask Me Anything) serve as a prime example of this interaction. People no longer want to read an interview, they want to ask the questions as well. In relation to marketing people are no longer just following trends, they directly influence it more than ever. The duality of consumer and co-creator in one person doesn’t quite constitute the death of the author as content creators can still decide how they want to target their brands and sell their products, but they don’t get to choose everything that happens. 2015 has shown the direction content creation is taking, where the internet no longer simply fills with images and words selected by brands. Instead they have to compete with memes, blogs, and videos, that can say whatever they want to an enormous audience.
The Webcam is Mightier than the Keyboard
The role of the consumer as co-creator online has developed significantly in 2015, however one specific area of creation has grown more than any other; video. While websites that focus on the written word appear to be in decline, for example Twitter’s reduction in active users after peaking in August 2014, sites that focus on video have continued to grow. While YouTube has begun to see significant competition, it has still continued to grow, and it appears that consumers want more video than ever. The continued rise of apps such as Snapchat and Vine throughout 2015 and the increased popularity of streaming sites such as Twitch has been a key indicator of just how important video is becoming and how marketing through video is more important than ever. 2016 is set to see even more growth from these companies, but Google may be the true visual catalyst that firmly establishes video over text as they are currently experimenting with video adverts in search results. If a brand doesn’t have video content it is likely that in the near future they will be falling behind their competition.
Digital Personal Assistants
There was a time when having a digital personal assistant was simply an aspect of science fiction, however with increasingly effective speech recognition and artificial intelligence most people have easy access to a friendly voice they can ask questions to via their devices. The development of programs such as Siri, Cortana, and Google Now has resulted in search engines receiving increasing amounts of search requests from intelligent digital PAs. The effect of this speech to text type of searching means that sites that offer more casual and colloquial language within their searches are likely to be more successful on search engines when people can ask more conversational questions to their phones. Facebook’s Graph Search developed in 2013 was an early example of a search system that was supposed to respond to natural language queries, and can be considered as technology that may become more prevalent as digital PAs become more evolved and more present in everyday life. Once again, the increase of wearable technology in the near future will also influence this as touch keyboards are replaced by voice controls.
Everything Everywhere Anytime
The development of wearable technology in 2015 has been indicative of a number of trends, with a significant one being the increased frequency of technological interaction. People no longer want to wait for content, and they want everything in one place more than ever. 2015 has seen significant advances in streamlined content, and while apps have continued to develop ways of selecting very specific information to send directly to consumers, technology such as Moments by Twitter that indexes vast amounts of content is being developed for 2016 indicates that the trend of streamlined simple to consume information will continue and getting a daily roundup of the most important content will be easier for consumers than ever. With this in mind, the space for advertising is clearly shifting as consumers want very specific things at very specific times. This is why the development of programmatic advertising in 2015 has been significant as it aligns with this consumption shift. Through apps such as Shazam users can interact with the media they are consuming on another screen directly while not pausing their original media of consumption. This involvement facilitates direct interaction between the consumer and the product even when the consumer has very specifically streamlined what they consume. As people gradually use more technology in their daily lives they can consume streamlined content while still consuming advertising content simultaneously.
It’s clear that 2015 has brought a lot of change. The influence of hardware and software has been wide reaching and the demographic divides between consumers means it is almost impossible to target everyone through only one form of advertising anymore. The shifts in content toward video and streamlined feeds has aligned closely with the prevalence of mobile and wearable technology, altering the way digital marketing has occurred throughout 2015. However, it is likely that these changes won’t slow down in to 2016, and while certain changes may still only be in their infancy throughout 2016, their impact will be clear. So, whether you’re a Laura, Luke, Lucy, or a Liam, things are changing, and those who don’t keep up will be stuck in 2015!