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Top Digital Marketing Trends of 2016

Don’t look now but 2016 is almost over. (Many, I’m sure, are not sad to see it go.) As a new year fast approaches let’s take this time to reflect on the past 12 months.

Digital marketing is in a constant state of flux. It can be challenging to stay up-to-date on social networks and stay one step ahead of the competition on emerging technologies and strategies. Looking back, what were the top trends dominating the marketing arena?

marketing trends 2016

Top Digital Marketing Trends

Social has always been a fast-moving space and lots happened in the world of social media but what were the most important developments? Well, in 2016, there weren’t too many new networks. We even saw the demise of a few, such as Vine. Others, like Instagram, have quickly evolved to become overwhelmingly large and powerful marketing tools.

Live Video

Live video streaming has existed for years (i.e. Meerkat and YouTube) but now it has really taken off. Facebook, Periscope, and Twitter all introduced new and better ways for companies to livestream content. Because of mobile, live video is something everyone can create. These disappearing videos are at the heart of the ephemeral messaging style that people want: will live video eventually replace TV?

Facebook Live was launched for everyone in April of 2016, quickly accelerating into the world of live streaming and without a doubt became a very important content format. Described as being “like having a TV camera in your pocket” Facebook Live has been touted as being a big part of a larger shift in the way we communicate. Now, there is even 360 streaming!

Instagram just rolled out a live video feature as well in the United States! In addition to posting snapshots in Instagram’s Stories, you can now go live.

2016 marketing trends

Many people still don’t fully grasp just how to use social video effectively. I think it’s safe to say marketers will be rethinking their social video strategies in the coming year. 2016 saw the rise of this content marketing format, with social platforms like Facebook transforming into broadcast media, but 2017 will see brands emphasizing quality social videos that aim for more engagement. Do people actually have entertaining and compelling things to live broadcast? Another challenge is monetizing livestream but we’ll leave that for another blog!

Artificial Intelligence

Over the past twelve months, artificial intelligence has grown. We’ve seen sophisticated digital assistants such as Siri, Cortana, and Alexa, become highly capable at recognizing, understanding, and responding to humans. Not only that but we’ve watched the rise of AI-powered chatbots. In April, Facebook announced that bots could be developed for Facebook Messenger. Facebook is turning their messaging app into a platform where publishers and retailers can develop bots that chat with users. Creating an automated system to monitor customer service conversations is innovative in many ways. Not only is it quick and easy to implement but it takes the conversation out of the public sphere without removing it from a platform that the user is comfortable with.

The one-on-one marketing seen in messengers and bots, across social channels and email, has had a great influence on customer service. AI will continue to offer up marketing opportunities around bots, personal assistants, and buying optimization.

Virtual and Augmented Reality

This was supposed to be virtual reality’s big year (i.e. Occulus Rift and Samsung Gear) but nothing revolutionary really happened. While it has become a viable mainstream marketing tool, VR still has a ways to go. VR storytelling is very different than other modes of storytelling and it is rather challenging to do well. Plus, not many people have headsets right now.

On the other hand, augmented reality saw huge popularity with breakouts like Pokemon Go bringing millions of people together. Augmented reality has been around for a longer time than just this past year but Pokemon Go‘s success lead to brand’s rethinking the ways such technology could be used for marketing purposes.


Personalization influenced all parts of marketing in 2016, from tech to strategy to content, and became a strategic priority for many teams. Personally relevant web content improves how consumers feel about a brand and increases their intent to buy a product or service. More and more over the year it became evident that the best way to attract audiences’ attention is through compelling content that is delivered through a highly personalized experience targeted at the individual.

Disappearing content, e.g. live video (see above), allows for a personal connection between a brand and its audience. An email newsletter allows for a brand to present a targeted message to a specific consumer. Who wants to engage an email or a piece of content that speaks in general terms? Not me and not your potential buyer. Thinking about where your personas are in their buyer’s journey and sending a personalized message that addresses their concerns or hesitations will up your game.

Honorable Mentions

It feels like we’ve been talking about the Internet of Things (IoT) and mobile for a long time so I’m opting not to put them in the list of 2016 trends. But the increasing role they are playing in the marketing world is important to note.

2016 marketing trendsPredictions say that IoT will revolutionize marketing by 2020. For now, it has an impact on everything from business practices to marketing to the customer’s experience. As internet connectivity expands, digital marketers needs to pay attention to the implications of IoT. When marketing is viewed as a major function of a company and seen as an important strategic activity that adds to the bottom line of creating and satisfying customers, then it is up to the marketers to understand the market, no? It’s part of a marketer’s job to understand consumer wants/needs and stay up-to-speed on the competitive environment. So what impact does IoT have on this competitive landscape? How can IoT help marketers to provide more value to the consumer? IoT helps us to understand the customer journey, online and offline. IoT provides real-time data which is crucial to this understanding.


We’re living in a mobile-first world. For most people, this means that from the moment you wake up, your cell phone is apart of your daily routine. You turn off (or in my case, snooze) your alarm, you check the news, scroll through your Instagram feed, review your email, maybe update your calendar. Search results on mobile have even surpassed their desktop counterparts. Mobile devices provide a huge opportunity to reach and engage our audiences and you probably already have a mobile-friendly website. Which means you’re ready for visitors to find you via mobile, but have you optimized your content for mobile? Google’s search results index is being changed to reflect the new reality that we live in: it will prioritize mobile results first. From responsive design to optimized content, make mobile a priority!

We saw the rise of artificial intelligence, virtual reality, social video and more in 2016. Using such technologies effectively will continue to be a priority for marketers in 2017. I’m confident that we’ll continue to blur the line between the physical and the digital experience and will continue to see the influence of these trends. Incorporating these trends into your long-term goals and strategies in order to get ahead of the competition should be a huge part of your 2017 marketing plan.

Here’s to a great new year! Happy holidays from our marketers to yours. Let us know what trends from this year you thought were the most impactful.

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