Three digital trends for 2017

24/01/2017 12:44:59
2016 saw the birth of Facebook Live, the advancement of the Internet of Things, and the introduction of artificial intelligence into the home with personal assistants like the Amazon Echo. It’s been the most technologically-enabled year yet – but what new advancements can we expect in 2017, and what effects might these have on the marketing industry?

Today on the blog, we’ll be talking about three digital trends we expect to see emerging this year…

An even more mobile-centric world

All the signs point towards 2017 being the year when having a mobile-optimised website stops being just a desirable add-on for businesses, and instead becomes a genuine competitive advantage.

Until now, Google has used data from the desktop versions of websites to rank and sort search results, but things may be about to change – late last year, the search giant began testing its mobile-first index, which will prioritise the mobile version of your website for its ranking signals and fall back on the desktop version when there is no mobile version.

Additionally, research published by Google at the end of last year highlighted some marked changes to the way people browse the web:
  • Mobile use now represents more than 65% of time spent using digital media, with desktop use receding to 35%
  • Speed is everything: more than 50% of mobile users will leave a website if it takes longer than three seconds to load
  • User experience is key to engagement: people are five times more likely to leave a site if it isn’t mobile-friendly.
This means that having a mobile-optimised company website has never been more important – there’s no benefit in hoping that your ‘one size fits all’ website will continue doing the job when search engines are no longer sending mobile users to it. Some digital trends do turn out to be short-lived fads, but we can promise you that the importance of having a mobile-friendly website won’t be going away any time soon.

(Still not sure whether your website is well-optimised for mobile devices? Use Google’s mobile-friendly test to check. If it isn’t, contact us to find out about our web development services.)

Lots and lots of bots

Everyone loves a helpful customer service adviser, and when it comes to ecommerce websites and online services, chatbots are a great solution to the difficulties of providing an impeccable customer experience for minimal cost.

With technology constantly working towards better artificial intelligence (AI), it’s likely that 2017 will see an increase in both the quality and quantity of chatbots we encounter on the internet. It also seems we’re beginning to find them being used for purposes we wouldn’t necessarily expect: last June, a 19-year-old entrepreneur gained recognition for developing a chatbot which helps users to appeal parking fines, successfully overturning 160,000 tickets worth over $4m in 21 months. And LinkedIn’s brand new user interface features a chatbot which suggests topics of conversation to break the ice with new connections, suggesting that the company has seen the potential in using AI to enhance customer experiences as well as for aiding conversions.

We don’t yet know enough about chatbots to make accurate predictions about their future beyond 2017, but their increased use could have wide-ranging effects on both companies and consumers. Perhaps we will see fewer public complains about brands on social media as users’ questions are answered straight away on the company’s website, or maybe amusing chatbot AI gaffes will become the new autocorrect fails – only time will tell.

Video's not dead - in fact, it's live

From live streaming and autoplay to reviews and the unboxing phenomenon, the rise of video as a marketing tool has been unstoppable in the last year – and the trend looks set to continue.

When it comes to product reviews, there’s arguably no better way to communicate the benefits of a product or service than for prospective customers to hear them come from someone else’s mouth. The world seems to agree: 77% of UK shoppers consult reviews before buying online, and according to Google’s own research video is the way to do it, with views of product review videos growing 50% year on year.

User-generated video content is a valuable element of digital commerce, but brands should also be creating their own video content to promote awareness and engagement. Helpful videos like product demonstrations and FAQ sessions, which are designed to help the viewer make a choice when they’re close to the point of purchase, have been shown to positively influence consumer behaviour. And video advertising is increasingly successful, too: a recent Google study of more than eight hundred YouTube advertising campaigns revealed that 65% of campaigns see a significant lift in brand interest after viewers watch their ad on YouTube.

The concept of live streaming, meanwhile, has been around for years - remember Sandi Thom’s ‘basement gigs’ back in 2006? Live streaming has seen slow adoption over the years, limited by inadequate technology and internet speed. In the last year, though, the phenomenon has exploded in popularity, with the launch of Facebook Live taking instant video away from specialist platforms like Periscope and bringing it to the mainstream. The viral ‘Chewbacca Mom’ video cemented Facebook Live’s reputation, and live streaming has gone from strength to strength since.

It’s taken a little longer for brands to get the best out of live streaming, but there’s plenty of evidence to indicate it delivers great results. Any kind of live broadcast is always risky when there’s a brand reputation at stake, but many businesses have now used the platform with great success – just the other day, Channel 4 and Cancer Research UK broadcast Britain’s first live TV advert: a bowel cancer patient undergoing a colonoscopy. Perhaps a little gruesome, but we can’t deny it was effective…

From a Partners perspective, we’ve already started encouraging some of our clients to branch into video to promote their products and services.

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