Wow. Weren’t we just making marketing predictions for 2015, like, yesterday? Each year seems to go by faster and faster, and this past year was no exception. In just a couple of days, we’ll be celebrating the New Year, looking back at the ups and downs from 2015. We’re assuming that you probably won’t be thinking about marketing as the ball drops, but it won’t be long before you start to wonder, “What types of marketing trends should I be on the lookout for in 2016?” While no one knows exactly what the future holds, we’re pretty confident that we can expect these marketing trends to evolve in 2016.

Here are some of the trends we think you should be prepared to see in the coming year.

Relationship Marketing

It’s estimated that 2 billion consumers will own a smartphone by 2016, which means brands need to find ways to stay connected to prospects and customers in meaningful ways. Relationship marketing has grown over the years, but a lot of marketing materials still focus on quick, short-term customer relationships that result in individual sales. In 2016, we can expect to see relationship marketing strengthen. Companies will need to develop stronger, emotional customer connections that drive sales, engagement and lead generation.

So how can marketers create and maintain these types of relationships? Much of it will come from the data that is collected. This data can then be used to create customer-focused marketing plans that are personalized rather than mass driven. Of course, the simple rules of trust and transparency exist as well.

Marketing Automation

Marketing automation software makes mundane tasks faster, simpler and more efficient. Things like sending out emails, segmenting prospects, posting social media content, managing content and more can all be handled through marketing automation. Plus, more marketers are starting to understand that marketing automation is not robotic. It leaves plenty of room to personalize interactions with customers and segment audiences based on a number of factors. And with so many marketing automation platforms available, even small businesses with small budgets can find something that works for them.

New Publishing Options

Instant Articles on Facebook propelled this trend, and now Google is following suit. What prompted Facebook to offer Instant Articles was that they noticed that articles shared on their platform were getting more visibility than articles published on native publishing sites. Instant Articles solved the problem by giving publishers the opportunity to publish their work right away in an interactive format. Now Google is offering its own version, and we can expect to see this type of publishing emerge on other platforms as well.

Interactive Content

Millennials, in particular, appreciate a more personalized experience when they interact with brands. Thanks to virtual technology like Oculus Rift, more brands will be able to deliver these personalized interactions. It’s still unclear exactly how brands will be using virtual reality, but we’ve already seen some impressive stuff such as virtual tours, how-to demonstrational videos, role play exercises, audience engagement and brand immersion. It’s not a bad idea to start thinking how virtual reality could shape the interactions between you and your customers one day.

Ephemeral Marketing

Social media has allowed us to communicate with each other, but it’s being fine tuned even more. Users are wanting information in real time, but they want this information to be exclusive and limited. That’s what makes it desirable. Think about Snapchat and the popularity of it. Snapchat may appear to be a fun marketing platform, but it’s more than that. It delivers real time social media content that users have to gobble up right away, otherwise they miss it. This type of fly-by-night content also makes users feel connected to brands at the same time rather than before or after the fact.

Moving Past Search Engines

Right now, it seems like the only way to search for things is through Google. But expect search capabilities to go beyond Google, Bing and Yahoo. Search is taking place through social media, which will only benefit brands. With advanced search capabilities, we can also expect to see more inclusive social experiences where users can shop, buy and discuss their purchases all from one platform. Brands will need to revise their marketing strategies to fit this new all-in-one, buy-and-share social media search, predicts HubSpot.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things will become bigger and better for as long as we can see into the future. With wearable technology on the rise, marketers will have even more data to understand. Some of this data will come from people’s everyday habits, which could allow marketers to target consumers based on certain behaviors. Sure, it could feel a little big brotherish at times, but this is the future of marketing. And consumers want it. They want personalized interactions that meet their demands in real time.

Final Thoughts

Looking into 2016, it would appear that we have a bright future ahead of us. After all, digital marketing never ceases to impress. While it’s important to stay on top of the latest trends, don’t put too much pressure on your business right away. Every business follows their own trajectory, and you’ll find that some of these trends will be easily integrated into your marketing strategy while others will take time to develop. The important thing is that you’re moving forward rather than staying stagnant. Digital marketing is built on growth.

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