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9 digital marketing trends to stay on top of in 2017

Words by: Natasha Wahid Last updated: January 22nd, 2021 17 min. read

Stay up to date! We just released our top digital marketing trends for 2018. Read ’em here.

It’s January 24, and marketers are striding forward into 2017. This post is a collection of predictions from a few of our favorite digital marketing experts on the trends that you must pay attention to this year.

From copy guru Joanna Wiebe, to Hubspot UX-pert Austin Knight, to Microsoft’s PPC pro Purna Virji, this list of trends comes from experts across the entire spectrum of digital marketing.

The trends range from slightly alarming (virtual reality advances, anyone?) to theoretical, to tactical, to reflective…but all of them are important for the modern marketer.

So, without further ado, here are the experts on the marketing trends you cannot ignore in 2017.

1: Visually intelligent marketing

Expert: Purna Virji, Senior Manager, PPC Training, Microsoft

I think a big trend for next year will be tapping into consumers’ visual-spatial intelligence. Numerous studies have shown that we are more likely to engage with content that has relevant imagery.

We’ll see more marketers playing on visual intelligence in three ways:

  1. More videos: From recipe videos to product showcasing videos, audiences have clearly shown their willingness and preference towards consuming video content. We’ll see video ad offerings growing in popularity.
  2. Augmented Reality: Snapchat and PokemonGo have already shown that people love AR. We already see companies like Sephora taking notice and developing visual offerings such as their Virtual Artist feature, which enables women to see how different make-up looks will look on their faces.
  3. Visual search: Apps like the Amazon app already allow people to search for products by taking a photo. This is not just convenient, it also allows for searches to be done when we don’t have the words to describe something. This is giving rise to image search engines and services such as Slyce and TapTapSee.
Marketing Trends Sephora Visual Artist
Sephora’s Visual Artist feature allows you to ‘try on’ makeup looks by simply enabling your webcam.
Purna Virji Marketing Trends

As humans, we’re visual creatures. We eat with our eyes, we travel with our eyes, we fall in love with our eyes. It makes sense that the future will be very visual.

– Purna Virji

2: Content that converts

Expert: Joanna Wiebe, Founder, CopyHackers and Airstory

In 2016, we saw two much-loved tech businesses – that are masterful content marketers – lay off an unfortunate number of their teams in order to get the books back under control. I couldn’t help but wonder, “What if their great content didn’t just educate but also drove revenue?”

So I believe 2017 will be the year of content that converts.

The pressure to write more stuff – and make it a billion times better than the stuff that’s already published – is only going to get more intense. The result? Better content… but also exhausted writing teams.

Joanna Wiebe Marketing Trends

Because content continues to present such an incredible opportunity for traffic, businesses will want to continue pushing more resources at it. That means spending more money on it.

– Joanna Wiebe

To justify that spend, I see more marketing teams doing three things in 2017: 1) “disguising” long-form sales pages as blog posts and video content, 2) building every post around the ultimate CTA, and, 3) if Google’s killing the pop-up, pushing hard to get a real conversion right inside the post.

Marketing Trends Copy that Converts
Get ready to see more content built around a relevant call-to-action.

3: User trust trumps all

Expert: Austin Knight, Senior UX Designer, HubSpot

Within the next few years, I believe that user trust will emerge as the most valuable commodity in marketing.

As technology companies become deeper and deeper entrenched in our lives, and their data collection methods grow, concerns over privacy and security are growing with them.

74% of U.S. based internet users have limited their online activity in the last year due to privacy concerns. Users are not happy with the ways that companies are using their data, and this leaves room for massive disruption by companies that can prove they’re better at it.

Marketing Trends User Trust
User trust will become a differentiator for leading brands.

Data collection and analysis will continue to improve at an accelerating rate, and eventually, there will no longer be technological barriers to obtaining any kind of information. We’ll be able to track everything.

Austin Knight Marketing Trends

At that point, we’ll need not ask the question, “what can be tracked?” but rather, “what should be tracked?” The companies that answer correctly will come out ahead.

– Austin Knight

There are many ways to design and market for user trust, and we’re already seeing mainstream companies start to do it. The release of Apple’s customer letter in resistance to the FBI’s request to break privacy protections on the iPhone serves as one such example.

I would encourage businesses to start thinking seriously about privacy and user trust, and to be very public and transparent in their approach to it. Respect your users and then use that as a differentiator in your marketing.

4: What about mobile?

Expert: Duane Brown, Performance Marketer, Unbounce

I think that a lot of marketers will say that virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and digital currency are the trends to watch this year. They may be right, as these are probably the future of technology in two to three years.

Duane Brown Marketing Trends

However, I think most marketers still need to keep their eye on mobile. Even though mobile makes up more than 50% of web traffic, for many sites, the mobile user experience is far inferior to the desktop user experience.

– Duane Brown

With Google rolling out mobile-first indexing this summer (and I imagine Bing will follow suit), mobile has cemented its rightful place in Internet history. If your business doesn’t have a mobile site, or doesn’t understand the implications of mobile indexing, this is the time to catch up.

Marketing Trends Mastering Mobile
If mobile isn’t on your radar yet, get moving!

With the advent of AMPs and Google redesigning their desktop experience to be mobile, the world has fully gone mobile… what are you waiting for?

5: AMP-ed up conversion optimization

Expert: Nick So, Director of Optimization Strategy, WiderFunnel

Marketers have been talking about mobile for years, but just when you thought your website was finally 100% mobile-friendly…AMP happened.

Google announced the Accelerated Mobile Pages (or AMP) project in October of 2015, but it has really begun to play a role in your user’s everyday browsing experience over the past several months.

If you’re unfamiliar, AMP is an open web development framework that aims to provide a faster, more consistent mobile viewing experience. You have likely stumbled upon links in Google that have a little lightning bolt next to them: These are AMP-enhanced pages.

Nick So Marketing Trends

The scramble to comply with AMP within your digital experiences and marketing will be two-fold in 2017: 1) Making your website and content AMP-friendly, and 2) doing conversion optimization and A/B testing on AMP pages.

– Nick So

In my position, I’m mainly interested with the latter.

In order to accelerate the mobile experience, AMP strips away the elements that slow down your typical web browsing experience, including Javascript. For the Optimizer, this presents an immediate challenge: Almost every A/B testing tool, user research tool, and data-gathering tool on the market uses Javascript to work (the exceptions being A/B testing tools that run variations on the server-side).

Google addressed the A/B testing challenge in August last year, announcing the < amp-experiment > component, which will allow for server-side testing. While our tech team is digging into < amp-experiment > and its capabilities, our Strategy team is researching to discover answers to questions like:

  • How big can our ideas be given the design limitations of the AMP framework, and
  • How will AMP impact our gathering of user data?

We are looking forward to seeing the usability improvements of AMP, and learning how to further optimize this ‘optimized’ experience, particularly in the e-commerce space.

Only time will tell, but we will be keeping a pulse on this throughout 2017!

6: Following the customer journey

Expert: Feras Alhlou, Co-Founder, e-Nor

If I were to say “multi-device” and “multi-channel” challenges were the trends to watch this year, I’d be stating the obvious.

Feras Alhlou Marketing Trends

I believe the biggest challenge for marketers will continue to be figuring out their customer journey. To connect with her audience, a marketer must evolve her marketing, measurement, and optimization strategies and tactics to the level of complexity and sophistication of her customers and their journeys.

– Feras Alhlou

As we interact with a brand throughout a buying cycle as consumers, we increasingly expect a unified user experience across each platform and channel, be it mobile, desktop, Web, app, or offline.

Marketing Trends Customer Journey
Your users expect a unified experience across each platform and channel.

Delivering relevant content in a creative, unified, and user-friendly engagement, measuring customer response, and optimizing to minimize friction along each touch point are all formidable tasks that require investment in resources, people, and repeatable processes.

These are not easy problems to solve, but if they were, a marketer’s life would be boring! 🙂

7: The battle between HI and AI (in CRO)

Expert: Paul Rouke, CEO, PRWD

The machines are coming to take all of our jobs! Machine learning is the future that we need to embrace today!

Businesses have never been shy of investing in tools and technology, yet what is the one biggest bottlenecks within most businesses? Lack of resources and a lack of expertise.

In 2017, machine learning will take greater prominence in the conversion optimization landscape. Is this a bad thing? It doesn’t have to be.

AI can alleviate some of the day-to-day workload that conversion optimization strategists and practitioners have, such as small design tweaks, traffic allocation, and data analysis.

It’s these functionalities that make me interested in what AI and machine learning can offer, just as long as businesses don’t neglect HI.

Human Intelligence (HI) is more important now than ever.

To match customer expectations, businesses want to create engaging and exciting online experiences, and the only way to do that is through creativity, innovation and customer understanding. At this point, AI can’t replace these three human attributes.

Paul Rouke Marketing Trends

To truly draw value from machine learning, you still need to have a human behind the machine, ‘feeding’ it ideas, concepts and designs that have been built from user research and in-depth data analysis.

– Paul Rouke

That way, you can get more improvements and solutions in your online experience than you could manually, and leave your optimizers and strategists to do what they do best: Create.

There is no getting away from the fact that AI is going to play an increasing role in our daily lives. The question is, do we just throw in the towel and leave all this to machines?

It will be the brands that focus on harnessing more HI rather than AI in 2017 who will be setting themselves up for a more sustainable future.

8: Slow marketing

Expert: Ann Handley, CCO, MarketingProfs

I think the biggest, broad trend this year is that marketers are becoming a little more patient.

They are recognizing the value of “slow marketing” in our fast-paced, always-on, agile, want-it-yesterday, mile-a-minute world. They see the critical need to slow down in some areas. Why? Because doing so allows us to achieve real results—faster.

Ann Handley Marketing Trends

In 2017, marketers need to invest in themselves: They need to hone customer empathy.

– Ann Handley

They need to uncover the why of their marketing programs.

They need to align the customer experience and journey.

And they need to get the necessary tools and training to thrive in 2017 and beyond.

Marketing Trends Marketer Self Care
Marketers need to invest in themselves.

9: Voice search is big, but not that big

Expert: Rand Fishkin, Founder, MOZ

Note: This section was originally published in Rand’s post on the Moz Blog “8 Predictions for SEO in 2017

I’m going out on a limb with this by predicting what most aren’t — that voice search won’t actually cannibalize desktop or typed mobile searches, but will instead just add on top of it.

Today, between 20–25% of mobile queries are voice, but oddly, Google said in May 2016 the number was 20% whereas in September 2010, they’d said 25%. Either voice has been relatively flat, or the old number was incorrect.

KPCB’s 2016 Trends report suggests the growth in voice search is higher, using implied Google Trends data (which, as those of us in SEO know, can be a dangerous, messy assumption). Clickstream data sampling and sources that track referrals (like SimilarWeb Pro) are likely better ways to measure the impact of cannibalization, and hopefully Google themselves (or third-party data sources with direct access) will report on the relative growth of voice to validate this.

Rand Fishkin Marketing Trends

In my opinion, voice search is the first true high-risk technology shift ever faced by the SEO world.

– Rand Fishkin

If we see it cannibalize a substantive portion of search activity, we may find a pot that’s been growing for 20 years is suddenly (possibly rapidly) shrinking. I’m still bullish on search growing for the next 2–3 years, but I’m watching the data carefully, as should we all.

Of course, this list of trends is not 100% exhaustive. What are the marketing trends you will be paying attention to this year? Is there a trend or trends that you believe should be on this list, but didn’t make the cut? Let us know in the comments!

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