8 Digital Marketing Trends To Watch Out For In 2016

By Radhika Basuthakur
8 Digital Marketing Trends To Watch Out For In 2016


January is well underway. We've survived the holidays and had a bit of recovery time, which means it's time to start looking towards the future. What does 2016 hold for you and your business? How can you expect the marketing space to change in 2016?

Digital marketing, as you definitely know, is ever-changing and rapidly adapts itself to new technology, new attitudes and new behaviors. As a marketer, you must always be aware of what's on the horizon to make sure you're prepared, with the best marketing strategy.

Technology will have the largest impact on marketing efforts in the coming year. Whether it's video production (and consumption) or wearable gadgets, rapidly developing technology is set to break boundaries and push us all out of our comfort zones.

Don't know what to prepare for? Here are some digital marketing trends that are likely to dominate the marketing space in the new year. 

1. Visual SEO

Optimizing your site for search engines is an ongoing and ever-evolving process. Google (and other search engines) are regularly tweaking their algorithms to ensure we  always find the best results.

There is no doubt that the way we consume content has changed drastically in the past couple of years. Our attention spans have become increasingly limited and we are much more attracted to visual content such as photos, infographics and video over traditional plain text. 

While plain text will always be important, in 2016 it’s likely search engines will start to place even more importance on visual content, as that is what users want. According to this Demand Gen report, even the B2B audience is becoming increasingly interested in visual content when making purchase decisions. 

visual SEO

See the full infographic on Visualistan.

Engaging visual content means a user is likely to spend more time on your website. This is a good signal for search engines. Additionally, a site with more visual content is likely to start ranking better in search engines. If your visual content starts to appear in search results and users click through, you will get additional brownie points from Google for relevance.

2. Video Domination 

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth, oh, about 1.8 million. 

OK, yes, we're being a bit dramatic, but it helps to drive the point home: video is very relevant for the current marketing landscape. 


Whether it’s NetflixYouTube, Instagram, or even live streaming options such as Facebook Live and Periscope, video is going to dominate the visual content marketing and consumption space in 2016.

In a Nielsen global survey of 30,000 respondents from 60 countries, 55% of respondents asserted that video programming is an important part of their lives. Whether it’s on mobiles, desktops or smart TVs, video, in its many forms, is well loved by the average internet user.

It’s also important to note that mobile video plays a huge role in video consumption. For Millennials and Generation Z, mobile is very often the primary or the secondary device for video. For out-of-home video consumption, mobile is the primary device of choice for all generations. I’ll talk about mobile in more detail below. 

video consumption

See the full Nielsen report here.

For marketers, this growth in video consumption is a new opportunity to produce more video content themselves, but also to advertise where and when their audience is viewing this content. 

According to this study, 71% of respondents plan to increase their video marketing budget in the coming year. B2B marketers are also likely to continue ramping up their video marketing and SEO efforts with 73% of them confirming that video has positively impacted their marketing results

3. Live Streaming

With the boom in video production, it’s impossible to ignore the growth in the live streaming trend as well. 

periscope live streaming

Whether it’s a sports event live-streaming on the Web, a music festival on YouTube or your favorite celebrity on Periscope/Meerkat/Snapchat/Facebook Live, we are all loving how easy it is watch live content now. The quality of videos and the ease of accessibility (via mobiles and tablets) also helps the live streaming cause. 

Live streaming is having a huge impact on the way we view traditional TV, with sporting events leading the way. The 2014 Sochi Olympics and the FIFA World Cup in Brazil are the perfect examples. However, it’s not just limited to sports anymore, with TV hosts, CEOs, yoga teachers, makeup artists and other celebrities live streaming anything from a makeup lesson or keynote speech to random bits of their lives.

Brands are jumping on board too. In early 2015, Red Bull live streamed several of its Guest House events and built up interest for the events using Twitter and Snapchat. Mountain Dew is another brand doing great stuff with its live broadcasts on Periscope.

What does this mean for marketers? Put simply: Go where your audience is. For example, if your audience is live streaming events instead of watching traditional TV, this is where your marketing efforts need to be focused. Or, if your audience is hooked on Periscope, find a way to personalize and humanize your brand by creating interactive content. You need to be engaging with your audience more and more on these platforms. 

meerkat vs periscope

Before you go, check out this really cool infographic created by Salesforce on the difference between Meerkat and Periscope, and how you can use them for your business

4. Data is King

Digital marketing is well and truly out of its nascent stages. Whether we're talking about content, paid, social or another strategy, online marketing is now a familiar field and marketers need to know what metrics to look at, to determine how effective their campaigns are.

data insights

Unlike traditional marketing efforts, intuition is no longer a metric for success. Digital marketers now have access to very detailed data and analytics. The success (or failure) of every marketing campaign can now be determined and backed up by cold, hard data. 

Watch out for disruption in the business intelligence space, with more technological advancements in digital analytics space allowing you to understand your business, your customer and your marketing efforts better than ever before. Having access to data and knowing which data insights to pay attention to will be crucial for making business and marketing decisions. 

For marketers, it’s important to use all the sources of data available and make better decisions about every aspect of your digital marketing efforts. Want to launch a new landing page? Run a split A/B test first to determine which page your users will prefer. Creating a new content calendar for your blog in 2016? Don’t wing it. Analyze the posts that performed well in 2015 and work on creating similar content that your audience will enjoy.

google analytics

Use data for every decision. Learn which metrics are important and figure out how to find the information you need, whether it’s by delving deep into Google Analytics or by using other tools for insights into your marketing efforts. Guesswork in marketing is over. 

5. Mobile as the First Screen

You probably don’t need reminding that mobile optimization is crucial for your website and all your digital marketing efforts, but here goes anyway. 
In the last few years, experts have have harped on about making the most of a mobile audience, as an increasing number of internet users were using it as their second screen. In fact, though, mobile is now the preferred first screen for many people. 

According to this Oracle report, 80% of adults worldwide will have smartphones by 2030. Additionally, it also found that one in five millennials is now mobile-only.

mobile landscape

Google’s algorithm update in April 2015 was dubbed the "The Mobilegeddon" by most marketing experts. The new algorithm update means Google has started placing a lot of importance on mobile-friendly results for its search results. Mobile-optimized sites have gone from "nice to have" to an absolute essential. 

Mobile-friendliness is officially a factor for search engine appeal. Google has also made a Mobile-Friendly test available to help you check if your website passes muster. 

In addition to mobile sites now being an SEO requirement, a mobile-first strategy is also crucial to other marketing efforts, especially video. 

As mentioned above, video consumption is also highly driven by mobile. This Accenture report found that there is an increase in out-of-home video viewing, which has meant more video consumption via mobile devices. A Deloitte study also found that millennials now watch more TV shows on mobile devices than on a TV; 57% of these millennials used mobile devices as their primary viewing screen. 

mobile video consumption

Americans are spending more time per day on their mobile phones than watching TV, so it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where you should be spending your advertising dollars.

6. Paid Social Media Advertising

Social media marketing is continually evolving. You've probably noticed that "free" on social media doesn't cut it any more.

Things have changed a lot since many of us first got into social media marketing. Organic reach, especially on Facebook, is something most brands struggle with. If you want to reach your Facebook fans, you have to pay up.

Of course Facebook isn't alone when it comes to paid advertising options. You can now place "Shop Now" Instagram ads, create Buyable Pins on Pinterest, create Brand Stories on Snapchat, and so much more. 

instagram ad

Before you say you want quit social media marketing if it's not free, let me remind you that according to the Global Web Index, at the end of the first quarter of 2015, stats revealed that we are spending 28% of our Internet time each day on social media. That's a lot of time! At the start of January 2015, there were 2.078 billion active social media accounts, across the world. This number has no doubt continued to grow. 

Marketers are now heavily investing in paid advertising on social channels as part of an overall paid advertising strategy. The IZEA State of Sponsored Social study found that 52% of companies now have a stand-alone Sponsored Social budget for their brand, and find Sponsored Social to be in the top three most effective marketing investments they make. Surprisingly, consumers have also become used to advertisements within their social media feeds and the study found that consumers also perceive these sponsored messages to be equally or more effective than TV commercials. 

buyable pins

Marketers are now more actively measuring their Return on Investment as well. There is a distinct shift in ROI measurement, with fewer brands opting to measure increases in likes/followers. Measurement of social media marketing campaigns are now more focused on business goals and objectives. Marketing has matured to the point where every dollar spent on social is analyzed critically to ensure the results continue to justify the spend. 

So whether you like it or not, you have to start setting aside a budget for paid social. If you don't pay, you're simply not going to reach your audience where they're spending most of their time.

7. Wearable Tech 

Until a few years ago, wearable technology barely existed, even though the idea was well entrenched. In 2015, the industry has boomed, with the Apple watch leading the way of course. Smart watches, smart glasses, health trackers and even smart fashion — it's all set to revolutionize the world. 

apple watch

A hefty 52% of people polled said they're aware of wearable technology devices. Among those, a third said they're likely to buy one. According to Statista, by 2018, it is estimated that the wearables market will be worth some 12.6 billion U.S. dollars and is expected to reach 385 million people by 2019

Wearables are being hailed as the new mobile. The same way smartphones made social media and immediate action a huge (and now, normal) part of our lives, wearable technology such as smart watches are likely to continue to bring social media even closer. 

With these kind of stats and adoption rates, this is an industry just about to boom. Marketers need to be ready to make the most of these new devices that allow them to get closer to their customers than ever before.

8. Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is no longer just a futuristic concept. Oculus Rift is definitely the most hyped VR device; however there are dozens such products, and they're going to be game changers.

oculus rift

People will now have a whole new way of consuming content. As a good marketer, you should be looking for a way to reach your audience through this new medium. 

As you already know, the best way to attract and engage Millennials is by personalizing your marketing efforts. Virtual reality will make this a lot easier. Econsultancy has some great ideas about using virtual reality to create tangible experiences, product extensions and more. 

The technology is new and it will take some time to come into the mainsream but, VR is all set to change the way we approach digital marketing, so jump on board and start preparing for the future now. 

What do you think of these marketing trends? Did I miss anything that you think is going to be huge in 2016. Leave us your thoughts in the comments.