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Top Digital Trends for 2017

December 2016
Top Digital Trends for 2017
Mark Vincent
14th December 2016

The digital channels we use as marketers are ever changing – and it’s at this time of year that we start trying to predict next year’s trends.

With this in mind, we recently made the trip to ExCel London for the Integrated Live digital marketing show.

And while we didn’t have time to hear all of the event’s 120 speakers, we did take the chance to absorb over 700 caffeine-fuelled minutes of knowledge sharing that have helped shape our predictions for 2017’s three big trends.

Live video

Think back to Wednesday 6 January 2016. Perhaps you were kickstarting the new year with an intense diet and exercise regime. No? Well, there’s a good chance you were one of the thousands of people engrossed by a live stream of a puddle in Newcastle.

This was the moment live video was made for, as 20,000 viewers watched complete strangers negotiate their way through a large puddle. Some tiptoed, some leapt – and as the hashtag started trending, one man even turned to an inflatable lilo. It’s this type of spontaneous content that makes live video so captivating.

Live video allows you to upload content to social media in real time, with viewers watching as it happens. There’s no question about its popularity, with Twitter’s Periscope claiming 300 million active users. But the question is whether marketers and brands can capitalise on this?

2016 saw the likes of Red Bull and Adidas give live video a try, but we’re predicting 2017 will see a massive increase in sponsored streams.

To be successful, brands must understand why people love live video. As #DrummondPuddleWatch demonstrates, it’s all about unscripted, spontaneous content, as well as the opportunity for the audience to engage in real time by asking questions or even directing the video themselves.

We’re predicting many brands will get it right in 2017 and not only captivate their audience, but connect and engage with them in a way no other platform can allow.

Chat

We’ve seen the impact of social media in allowing people to engage directly with brands, but we expect that much of this engagement will be done through chat in 2017. So what do we mean by ‘chat’?

This year was somewhat of a milestone, with more monthly users of messaging apps such as WhatsApp and WeChat compared to monthly users of social media. WhatsApp alone boasts over a billion users, but doesn’t currently support adverts – although it could be just a matter of time before the app cashes in on this massive audience.

Messaging apps provide a more private user experience compared to public social media feeds. This presents marketers with the challenge of working out how to gain access to these personal spaces.

We believe it’s the audience that will need to make the connection with brands, rather than the other way round. We’ve already seen some successful campaigns – WhatsCook by Hellmann’s connected people to professional chefs who talked them through recipes based on what was in their fridge. The successes of campaigns like this come from the audience inviting brands to offer them something of value before they let them into the personal world of chat.

This effort is well worth it, with reported open rates in excess of 70%. With time, we predict that receiving marketing material through messaging apps will be as commonplace as email marketing – but it won’t stop there.

Messaging apps are just part of the story. If you’re familiar with Netflix’s Black Mirror, you may already have a slight paranoia when it comes to interacting with artificial intelligence, but we predict that we’ll all be at it by the end of next year.

Technology has progressed to the point where computer programs can now simulate an intelligent text-based conversation with humans, and we predict these chatbots will become an increasingly useful tool. In fact, Channel 4 created their own sinister chatbot that uses Facebook Messenger to share an interactive taster of the second Humans series.

While previous chatbots have shown a limited understanding of human interaction, we predict the technology will take off in 2017, allowing chatbots to provide a unique user experience. Rather than browsing websites for information, we may simply be asking chatbots questions who will provide us with the information we need. But unlike Black Mirror and Humans, we’re not predicting an AI uprising just yet.

Virtual reality

The rise of video content has been widely reported for some time, with Cisco predicting that video will account for a massive 69% of next year’s consumer internet traffic.

But just as everyone agreed that video was the ultimate engagement tool, Facebook rocked the boat with a $2bn takeover of Oculus VR, the creators of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, in a strong indication of where it thinks the future of video is heading.

This happened back in 2014, so why are we still watching screens and not living the interactive dreams predicted by so many in the 80s?

Back To The Future VR

Although the technology to create amazing virtual experiences exists, the headsets required to view it are not widely owned. We predict this will change with more cheap headsets entering the market, following on from Google’s original budget viewer Google Cardboard, which costs less than a trip to the cinema.

VR offers an unparalleled level of interactivity and engagement that is irresistible to marketers. This powerful tool can let consumers experience products before they buy as with virtual tourism or even change behaviours such as combatting acrophobia

And as more content is produced we expect much of this will be funded by advertising, following the model set by many app developers, or through immersive product placement, with an added dimension of interactivity available to hook users.

We think that as the wider public starts embracing the technology, VR will become 2017’s must-have toy – both for consumers and for marketers.

The big picture

These three predictions all follow the trend of providing a more personal engagement through digital marketing. 2017 will be all about providing an experience to the audience, as opposed to presenting them with traditional messaging.

The challenge will be creating something that audiences value, but here at Diva we think that could prove an exciting opportunity in 2017.

Do you have any predictions for the year ahead, or thoughts on ours? Let us know by tweeting @DivaCreative!

By Mark Vincent

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