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15 unstoppable trends which will shape marketing in 2016

Author's avatar By Robert Allen 28 Jan, 2016
Essential Essential topic

What we discovered about the growing use of digital media and tech which will inform our strategies for next year 

We are now well and truly into 2016. How time flies. The busy and hectic world of digital marketing always has its eyes on the year ahead, interested to see what the latest new tool will be or what exciting new developments some of the big platforms in digital marketing have in store. This is important, but it is also useful to remember how far we have come. With that in mind we thought we'd look back over our research and research from others published throughout 2015 and summarize some of the great insights about the state of digital marketing we have gleamed in 2015.

Internet usage continues it's phenomenal growth...Internet usage Internet usage

Internet access grew to over 3 billion people, accounting for almost half of the world's population. 10 years ago over half of internet users were in the developed world, whereas now 2/3rds of internet users live in developing countries - highlighting the importance of emerging markets.

We've seen devices used to access the internet change considerably over the past few years. Smartphones have become massively more popular, whilst some devices such as Games consoles and Smart TVs have become able to access the internet and are thus starting to account for some internet traffic.

internet use by device

Emerging devices

As does Social Media use

On average social media use continued to climb, although the younger age groups have now reached a saturation point, as about 90% already use social media. The fastest growing segment are the over 65s, which will change the marketing landscape when it comes to using social networks for targeting certain audiences.

Social media

The year of content marketing?

A year ago we surveyed marketers about what they thought would be the most commercially important digital marketing trend of 2015, and they had a resounding answer for us- content marketing.

Content marketing

Content marketing has evolved and grown considerably in importance throughout 2015, as Google's algorithm updates make quality content ever more important, and marketers start to use new and existing forms of content to get the attention of their customers. Already marketers are predicting that 3D video and virtual reality could be the next big trend in content creation, and unleash a 4th wave of content marketing. Something to look out for in 2016!

B2C content marketingB2C content marketing gained in popularity over 2015, and now over 92% of marketers are using at least some form of content marketing. The same is true for B2B marketers, who have also enthusiastically taken up content marketing.

b2b content marketing

Blogs remain popular

What are you reading right now? That's right, a blog! No wonder they are the highest rated type of content marketing by marketers this year! Their ability to provide insight, talk people through complicated issues and be crawled by Google and thus give a boost to one's SEO mean they very much deserve their rating as the best form of content marketing. However blending many different forms of content marketing lets you exploit the advantages of different formats, which can be complimentary. For example an e-newsletter can drive traffic to your blog and quality blogs can inform the content of your e-newsletter, thus preventing people from unsubscribing. Infographics can grab peoples attention and point them towards white papers, whilst statistic heavy white papers are the perfect sources for creating quality infographics.

content marketing types

This rapid take-up of content marketing has left many organisations without a coherent plan, which means they are not getting as much out of it as they could be. 37% of businesses only inconsistently embraced content marketing in 2015, a situation which needs to be improved in 2016, lest they fall behind competitors which have fully embraced content marketing and are using its full potential.

embracing content marketing

Affiliate Marketing Diversifies

Affiliate marketing has involved considerably over the past 1o years, and in 2015 we are seeing editorial content growing considerably, whilst PCC has declined considerably by market share. This plays into the growth of content marketing, and the rise of 'banner blindness', where people are far less likely to pay attention to marketing message if they see it as coming from an advert.

Affiliate marketing

Email goes mobile

The past few years have seen a massive shift from desktop to mobile devices. First this was in web browsing and social media use, but email is now moving to mobile, with the majority of email opens occurring on mobile devices for the first time in 2015. This changes the playing field for email marketers, who need to optimise their emails so they appear perfectly on mobile devices. Different email clients sometimes display emails differently, so it is important for email marketers to keep up to date with the most popular ones in 2015.

email clients 2015

E-commerce grows strongly

E-commerce sales grew considerably in 2016, with the UK leading by volume in Europe. The potential for cross-border e-commerce to the UK is massive, as the UK is currently the 3rd largest cross-border e-commerce market in the world, behind only the US and China!

ecommerce sales europe 2015

Digital skills grow in importance, and skills gaps appear

Our research into the current state of digital marketing skills revealed some interesting trends. More than half of marketers time was now spent managing digital activities, meaning digital skills are now more important than ever. However many marketers want to improve their skills in certain areas, and managers looking to hire are often struggling to find the skills they want.

Time spent managing digital

digital skills

digital skills

improving digital skills

recruiting for digital skills

Are we entering a post-digital era?

There has been a lot of talk this year about the term 'digital marketing' and if it is even useful anymore. Shouldn't we be beyond having to call it digital marketing by now, isn't it all just marketing? Surely everyone is onboard with digital marketing?

Our research presents a different picture. Many organisations are still struggling to build properly integrated digital marketing departments, and some still lack and kind of plan for utilising digital.

integrating digital marketing

limiting digital transformation

We hope those 19 charts have helped you get build up a picture of the momentous changes we've seen in the digital marketing world in 2015. Most of these changes happen are still gaining momentum, as the world becomes ever more digital. To succeed in 2016 you will need to be a digital-first organisation, for one simple reason, you're customers are.

If you have any thoughts on what changes you've seen in the digital marketing landscape in 2015, let us know in the comments.

Auhtor's avatar

By Robert Allen

I was the Editor of Smart Insights between 2015-2017. I managed the blog and you will find blog articles on a range of subjects- Marketing Technology trends and latest tech developments are a regular focus, as well as exploring key marketing concepts. You can get in touch with me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. The new Editor is Carolanne Mangles.

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2016 Digital Marketing Trends

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