One of the main reasons why marketing changes so frequently is because of rapid advances in technology. Marketing has a direct relationship with technology, so as one changes, so does the other. You may not realize how much digital marketing changes on a month-to-month basis, but if you look back through the years, you’ll see that the transformation is substantial. In fact, it’s often more than what brands can keep up with!

As you try to keep yourself in control of the latest marketing trends, nothing is more important than being informed. While you may not be in a position to implement every change as it happens, it’s at least worthwhile to know what strategies your competitors are employing and why.

Let’s dive into seven game-changing strategies that you should be aware of.

1. Relationship Marketing

It’s estimated that over 2 billion people will own a smartphone in 2016, making brands and customers even closer than they already are. That’s why relationship marketing is an important tool that you will want to work into your marketing strategy, if not today, then soon.

Relationship marketing has the purpose of building stronger loyalty and customer engagement. Rather than focusing on quick, short-term customer actions such as clicks and first-time sales, brands take the time to get to know their audience and form long-lasting relationships. When brands are successful at developing emotional ties, they’re more likely to get word-of-mouth promotions and quality lead generation.

How are companies building relationship marketing into their strategies? According to HubSpot, some of the ways to build stronger brand-customer relations include:

  • Having meaningful customer conversations

  • Creating loyalists and brand advocates

  • Building communities that rally around a product/service

  • Offering personalized, data-driven marketing

  • Being transparent in their actions

  • Phasing out of intrusive, mass-target approaches

2. Marketing Automation

Marketers today are spending at least half of their time on content, which isn’t hard to believe when you consider everything that goes into it: creating an editorial calendar, writing and editing content, finding appropriate images, posting content and sharing it to social media, monitoring comments and more. Luckily, marketing automation makes it easier to keep things under control.

Marketing automation can schedule emails, segment prospects, automate social content posting and more. You can also track the lifecycle of your customers, which is important when creating content around specific touchpoints. When used appropriately, marketing automation makes it easier to stay on task and generate the most profit possible without compromising quality.

3. Interactive Content

People love content, but it’s only natural to be bored when reading through blocks of text. That’s why interactive content is becoming the more preferred way to consume information. Whether it’s news, entertainment or professionally-relevant content, there are multiple ways to include interactive elements. This type of content also syncs up well with the touchscreen experience provided on mobile devices.

So what are some of the ways that you can provide interactive content?

For one, you must have a mobile responsive website. If this is news to you, then you have a lot to learn. Hopefully, your website is already responsive and adjusts to a variety of screen sizes. If you’re still working off a mobile-dedicated site, look into switching over to a responsive design. It’s an investment that yields an excellent return.

A second option is to create a mobile app. With an app, users have the ability to use their touchscreen for a wide range of functions. Included in your app can be things like coupons and discount codes, social media content and mobile-specific landing pages. These features further enhance the mobile experience.

4. Virtual Reality in Messaging

Virtual reality is for more than just video games. It’s highly important for users to feel emotionally connected to the messages they are presented with, and VR is an excellent way to achieve this. Millennials, in particular, have come to expect personalized messaging, and virtual reality makes it possible to customize interactions.

For instance, a prospective college student can use VR to tour a school of interest without having to actually travel there for a campus tour. A company selling products for the home can tell a story using a 360-degree immersive experience. As you watch marketing become more personalized, look for ways that you can bring your brand to life through touch, smell and taste rather than just sight and sound.

5. Inclusive Social Media

Social media platforms are already implementing their own search engines that are surprisingly quite impressive. With these developments already in the works, it’s apparent that search will go beyond Google, Bing and Yahoo. The good news is that brands will get an immediate boost from these search capabilities.

In 2016 and beyond, watch for social media to become more inclusive. Consumers will be able to use a channel like Facebook to search for products, chat with friends, read reviews and make a purchase. They can also post the social proof of their purchase, which is just as good as word-of-mouth reviews in our book. Just remember that social media on this level is more about providing a great user experience as opposed to simply making things easier.

6. The Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things is based on the notion that everything and everyone is connected to the internet. IoTs became a reality with the implementation of wearable devices. If one is actually wearing the internet, this means that they’re never disconnected from it. And this obviously changes the way brands interact with consumers.

IoTs is already changing the way people live their lives. With geo-targeted marketing, a person may be influenced on what to eat for lunch, where to buy their work clothes and which gym membership to purchase. As more tools are created to give you the ability to track your audience’s moves, you will need to have data that is more behavior-driven, which is OK considering it’s what people want.

7. Fierce Competition

Digital content continues to grow bigger. In fact, content creation is the second largest component of digital marketing budgets, coming in just behind mobile marketing. If you think that you’re marching in your own lane, think again. Your competitors are investing just as much time and money, if not more, into their content marketing, and they can outperform you at any time.

A bit of competition is never a bad thing, and it certainly keeps you on your toes. This is a good thing considering that the best content will come from fierce competitors with a proven track record, and raising the bar will make you competitive in your industry. You may find that your competitors are reaching out to niche-specific experts such as data-driven content creators and workflow content specialists.

The above seven game-changing marketing trends should be factors that are kept at the forefront of your digital marketing campaigns. It won’t be long before we share another round of game changers, but until then, these new tricks will keep you busy!