To me, 2017 was a year that passed far too quickly. So many things, interesting things, were happening around me that before I could fully understand and imbibe what they meant and what they were doing to my life, the year was gone. A lot that looked like theory and star-gazing only a few years ago, not only became a reality over the past 12 months, but changed our perspectives and thinking for all times to come.
Let me try and list out 17 trends (not in any particular rank-order) that were most visible in 2017 …
1. Integrated marketing moved many notches up. We moved to an ‘Always-on’ thinking in the planning and execution of advertising and communication. Efforts of brand marketers also moved from creating brand content you could merely read, versus content you could interact with. Big fillip for interactive content.
2. Content marketing was the top rated digital marketing trend of 2017 worldwide while we still have a lot of catching up to do in India. Content marketing needs greater focus on Web pages (the very foundation of digital content marketing), Rich content (video, infographics, responsive web, HTMLS), Personalization (dynamically substituted content based on visitor’s profile) and Marketing apps (interactive experiences with programmatic flow and logic). Chatbots are becoming active and it is becoming harder and harder to figure out who you are interacting with : a human or a bot.
3. Big Data finally came into its own in 2017. We started to understand the 3Vs of Big Data: Data Volume, Data Velocity and Data Variety. Add a fourth V: Data Veracity. In India we still have a long way to understanding and executing predictive analytics based on Big Data. But it will happen, and happen soon.
4. Marketing automation was big worldwide in 2017. Again, in India, we are still getting to grips with it. Lots more to learn and do in the areas of lead generation, lead scoring and lead conversion without human intervention.
5. Mobile was the biggest gainer of 2017 by far. With over 1 billion phones live and active in India, we are learning newer and newer tricks everyday to master this monster device. ‘Mobile First’ experiments were put in place by many companies, with mixed results. In the future adaptive mobile design approaches which have the benefit of serving more relevant, contextual content and CTAs for users will become the norm.
6. Internet of Things (IoT) entered our lexicon in 2017, and will stay with us for a long long time. Worldwide there are expected to be 75 billion connected devices by 2020, which means there will be ten times as many devices able to talk to one another as there will be people on the planet! What a really humungous opportunity!
7. Wearables was yet another new addition to our vocabulary. The Apple watch, activity trackers and augmented reality made Wearables one of the hottest consumer consumable commodities in the world. India lags but will accelerate pace in the years to come.
8. Machine Learning started to impact business in a lot many more ways than we ever thought. Worldwide adoption and impact was more than significant. India is still getting started.
9. Social Media marketing, including Social CRM and Social Customer Care became more and more important to businesses. Social Media today affords myriad opportunities because of its reach, and options it gives businesses to engage audiences and encourage advocacy or ‘social media amplification’. India again has a lot of catching up to do. Here, Facebook and Twitter are more understood than Snapchat, Instagram and Pinterest.
10. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is the new buzz word in performance driven digital marketing. In India we still have many challenges to overcome before we create a more holistic ecosystem for transactions, conversions and measurement. Much still needs to be done in India on improving website experiences, data gathering and a more refined data driven approach to increasing leads and sales from online customers.
11. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has been around for more than a decade. But it is the improvement in mobile marketing SEO techniques which impacted us more in 2017. Google’s announcements about the mobile index and AMP is good news for all, going forward.
12. Influencer marketing is on the rise, because people tend to trust recommendations from people they see as thought leaders. A lovable social media personality speaking highly about your product to his or her fans and followers will carry more and more conviction and customer confidence in the days to come. 2017 saw many examples of this emerge.
13. Short-lived content, deriving strength from Snapchat where content disappears almost as soon as you have seen it, in 2017, became an essential pivot of the content strategy of many brands worldwide. India still has to learn how to best use short-lived content which is a key attraction for Gen Z, famous for having an 8-second attention span, no more.
14. Livestreaming got a leg up in 2017 with Instagram’s integration of a livestream option into its Stories feature. There are going to be many more reasons why to live broadcast in the years to come, beyond sports and national events.
15. Mobile Video grew six times faster than desktop views worldwide in the year gone by. 95% of all content on Facebook today is video. All brand investments in the future will have to be driven with mobile video as the center piece of the marketing strategy.
16. Personalization means getting cost effectively and cost efficiently to an ‘audience of one’. In 2017, this was a very visible trend as companies tried very hard to segment their content to reach different audiences differently in different time zones, different modes and with different messaging.
17. Native advertising came into our lives many years ago. 2017 just saw advertisers become more and more savvy in integrating brand messages into a larger narrative so that the brand and the message almost became one.
2017 was a continuation of trends witnessed by us through this decade of rapid digital evolution and revolution. We saw India move beyond viewability in digital, from views and clicks to sign-ups, downloads and purchases in performance marketing. Good for the client, not so good for the digital agencies as the funnel became narrower and narrower. Also, the emergence of machine learnings and artificial intelligence also created the possibility of Dark Social where one could never be sure of who and where from was the digital traffic coming from? Real consumers or just digital personas?
If I were writing this piece 10 years ago, much of the nomenclatures and jargon would not have existed. Today it not only exists, but defines consumer trends that have taken shape right before our eyes.
The world around us is changing. In fact, metamorphosing. It is also becoming de-humanized. For a moment, it is scary. Almost eerie. Is all that I know today become irrelevant for tomorrow? Or will I learn as I go along? It is difficult to say. For sure, anachronism will become much quicker and more potent in our daily lives. Marketers will need to wake up quickly to newer opportunities, newer technologies, newer applications and newer mindsets. Those who will hesitate or procrastinate will perish.
(Sandeep Goyal loves wandering into the future. His understanding and appreciation of trends is dictated by 33 years of work on some of India’s best known brands. And, digital savvy before most of his peers woke up.)