Digital Marketing in 2017: An Overview

Okay, so it feels a little strange to say it after this long – especially with the fact that spring has officially started (despite what the blasted weather says) – but happy new year, and welcome back to the fold! We hope you’ve had a prosperous and productive one so far.

Moving right along and avoiding the awkwardness of today’s date: like any good team of dedicated digital marketers, we’ve spent a good deal of time in a stubborn stage of study since getting back into the swing of things, trying to see what exactly is in store for our fast-moving, fickle industry from now until the next New Year’s.

In the interests of getting right to the point, here’s what we think are the areas to which you should be paying the most attention throughout 2017 in this Digital Marketing Overview.

Show, Don’t Tell. (As Much).

Although it’s ironic to note this in a text-heavy blog post, the fact of the matter is, and always has been, this simple: a digital audience does not have a significantly long attention span.

We all know this to be true, and while it’s unlikely that the written word is about to go extinct (as much fun as hieroglyphics would be to go back to), keeping your audience engaged means a wide-ranging diversity of content.

This has always been true, in some contexts. Our preferences for how we digest information haven’t changed just because the web has, but the potential for creative productions has definitely improved year over year. Videos have gotten cheaper and easier to shoot, infographics have exploded in popularity as a method of sharing fast facts, and iconography has gotten neater and cleaner while more or less replacing navigational text links on websites.

Combine this with the fact that we tap, swipe or otherwise somehow touch our phones something like 2,617 times a day on average (do you really think all of that is just for talk and text?) and that, as mentioned, our attention spans just don’t want to put in the work when we’re surfing the web, and alternatives to text-based content start to sound like a sensible part of your overall digital strategy.

(And yes, again, I’m aware of the irony!)

And Speaking of Phones…

Yeah, you knew this part was coming.

We touched on mobile in our 2016 recap article, and there’s absolutely no reason to think that its growth has slowed or will start to do so as we make our way through 2017. While we don’t have any spectacular new developments to note, here are some key reasons you need to be fully mobile-optimized yesterday if you want to keep up with – or stay ahead – of your competition.

The thing with mobile: whether you’re a marketing expert or barely know the definition of the word ‘impression’, it’s such an obvious avenue for reaching customers that you don’t need these kinds of stats and numbers and such to know it should be a serious focus for your business. You’ve heard it before, you’ll hear it again: mobile must be put, if not first, then as close to it as possible.

Get Chatty With Your Customers

Talking – that thing people probably use their phones for the least these days – doesn’t have to be the only avenue for customer support.

Hold times, hold music, automated reassurances that your call is extremely valuable and if you can just hold your horses for a few more minutes, you’ll be next in line – often, all of it is frustrating enough to deem the problem more trouble than it’s worth to solve, and unfortunately, that usually means moving on to another solution (read: another business).

Email isn’t much better, either. Going back to the average attention span of the average web user, more often than not they’ll want a solution to their problem, and trying to get some sort of help through email can mean a long wait – especially in a world where more than fifteen minutes is considered ‘long’.

Enter a friend that’s almost as old as the web itself: real-time online chat!

A report from Software Advice shows some significant support for this form of communicating with customers, with the following key findings:

  • Over half (56 percent) of respondents have used live chat at least once to answer a question on a company’s website.
  • Forty-nine percent of of respondents prefer using live chat for online-shopping questions, while 74 percent prefer telephone for complex financial questions.
  • Regardless of the nature of the question, 56 percent of respondents aged 18 to 34 prefer live chat to phone, compared to 27 percent of respondents aged 35 and older.

Numbers aside, think of the added benefits of live chat versus phone support: convenience, lack of hold times, saved records, makes it easy to multitask, and it can be used at work.

If nothing else, giving your customers an additional option for answering their questions is always an appreciated move. There’s a ton of live chat software out there, and it still seems (surprisingly) under-utilized, so getting on this now gives you a good chance of staying a step ahead of your competitors.

The Rule of Robots Will Begin

Kind of.

Sorry, couldn’t resist that dramatic header.

Scaled back and simplified: artificial intelligence & machine learning have started to play a crucial role in digital marketing, and are likely to continue growing as your new best friends when it comes to analytics. This type of software is designed to help you deliver a much more personal, customized experience for every user by constantly collecting data and using it to teach itself – and subsequently, you – ways to improve how users learn, browse and buy online.

In fact, you’ve likely already experienced this yourself: if you have a Netflix account, then you’ve been on the receiving end of machine learning and how it can personalize your experience with this particular service.

Here’s a key takeaway from an insightful article over at Business2Community on the topic:

If inbound digital marketing is in fact a conversation between brand and customer, then we stand to benefit from AI’s ability to help us improve that conversation. AI has the potential to eliminate many of the mundane tasks of the marketing funnel, thus allowing brands to extract knowledge from data in order to focus on the creative storytelling that connects them with their audiences. By automating some of the smaller tasks, marketers can spend more time looking into the human element of patterns and behaviour and adjusting their messages accordingly.

One of the most difficult day-to-day things you have to do as a marketer is discover the most effective methods of connecting with your average customer – or if you’ve got a large enough audience, understanding who your average customer is.

The Rule of Robots Will Go On

If AI and machine learning can help streamline that process and allow you to get to the fun part of creating unique, valuable content that forms connections between company and customer, then it’s an extremely valuable partner in acquisition and retention.

And maybe you’re not quite ready to go down this road yet, but that’s alright – of the upcoming and ongoing changes we’ve covered here, this is likely still the newest and biggest unknown. It’s just something you should keep in mind and keep an eye on, so when the time is right, you’ll be ready to use it in a manner that will return an obvious benefit to you and your business.

So Now What?

Information like this is all well and good, and we could talk about the seemingly boundless future of digital marketing until we’re blue in the face, but at some point, you need to sit back, sort through the trends, and try to understand where is best to start for you.

For us, that’s the now what. You know your business best, and it stands to reason you know your customers best, too. Based on that, you need to take the time to understand which of these upcoming and ongoing trends will bring you the most profitable and prosperous 2017 the digital realm can offer and then get your team (or hire an agency) to execute them ASAP.

Missed 2016’s digital marketing recap and want to see how far we’ve come? Wonder no more!

On that note, until next time!

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