January is usually the time where people are the most reflective. Gyms meet the people who'll pay their bills for the rest of the year but will only turn up for a few weeks, offices will start to fear no one will drink ever again while others will have smoked the last cigarette of their lives. What better time to look back at the digital trend predictions of the past and see what we can learn from them. In case you didn't know, Adobe produce an annual digital trends report in which they review what new ideas they think people should focus on and review which of their previous year's predictions were correct.
The above graph compares 2014s predicted trends against the actual trends. A few of the trends listed aren't really that useful for helping us to stay ahead of the curb in terms of technology. When it comes to making websites, writing good content in a clear straightforward manner is probably a given. This need is never going to go away so there's probably very little gain you can make over your competition, except for writing good content on a consistent basis.
Based on my experience with my clients and the types of project people need my help with, I think it's safe to say the majority of companies have invested the time and money to make their website mobile optimized. If you're reading this and your website still isn't responsive, then that should be a primary focus. Out of the trends on any report, I think the most exciting opportunities are the ones that your competitors aren't looking at. Video, Personalization, Big Data and Marketing Automation seemed to be the big emerging trends of 2015.
These trends definitely fit into how the industry has changed this year. Sitecore's main focus in version 8 was the DMS and real-time Analytics. This new feature lets Marketers track stats across 'omni-channel' presence.. or in normal talk, your email campaigns and your website. Episerver has gone one step further and brought Perius, a company that will not only read your website's analytics but will send your customer's personalized information based on their browsing history.
This is definitely a clever move; instead of you having to decide how best to target your customer with your data, they will take the stress from you and do it automatically. In additional to this, Episerver has also spent the year focusing on an A/B test in the core product and has released. Companies like Dropbox made big strives with video. Dropbox decided to focus their landing page 100% on a simple explainer video. This increased their sign up rate by 10%. They now have over 100 million users, the video landing page can be attributed to 10 million of them!
The retail company Zappos used video descriptions and demos to increase conversions on each of their products by 6-30%, which they later sold to Amazon for over $1bn.
The 2016 table clearly shows that personalisation and content optimization have definitely won in the emerging trends war and that's more than likely what your competition will be focusing on in their 2017 strategy. Personalisation is definitely what the main CMS platforms are focusing on. In terms of Episerver and Sitecore can now both handle these needs really well, but Umbraco is still way behind the curve with personalisation.
Video is another trend that companies seem to be focusing more attention to. This year I've had several video agencies contact me which has never happened before. I think that is a sign that engaging video may replace standard content and will have a bigger focus in the next few years.
It does kind of worry me that content marketing has completely dropped off the radar. In my opinion, no matter who you are, writing good content is still one of the most important things you can do to gain an audience. It seems in the last year there has definitely been some big steps forward to allow companies to help improve their conversions and after all, every business needs to make money, so this is kind of obvious.
I've recently been reading a book called Hacking Marketing by Scott Brinker, where he compares the non-stop change the IT industry has always had to deal with, to some of the new pressures marketers will have to face in the future. Looking at the 2016 graph, you can definitely see an explosion of new platforms and ideas people will need to keep up to date with. New social platforms, mobile, search engine marketing, video, content optimization, it's a lot to take on board in a relatively short space of time. That's one of the reasons I think managing omnichannel marketing has risen so quickly and is the main reason why it will continue to be one of the leading trends in the upcoming few years.
When mobiles first came out, every company had to re-platform, or re-design their website so it worked on any device. In the future, companies will likely have to go through the same headaches with their data. In the future, more and more companies will want a single place to manage all of their stats, across all their marketing channels. At the minute Sitecore is the only provider to really provide this functionality and I would expect others to follow suit at some point.
What Should I Focus On In 2017?
If we go from the 2014 list, the things that became the next big thing, were the items at the bottom of the list of the previous year. Looking at the 2016 list, customer scoring and predictive marketing, social media analytics, real-time marketing, and programmatic optimization. As mentioned above, Episerver has recently bought a company that will provide programmatic optimization into the commerce and CMS platform with very little development work required.
This feature will be released and improved throughout 2017. Sitecore has had great real-time analytics built into version 8 for over a year, so if you have either of these platforms you'll be in a great space to get on the trends. Personally, programmatic optimization is the thing I would recommend focusing on. As there are so many new platforms and the world is constantly moving, focusing on the stats matter how real-time will always put you behind the curve compared to something that's doing it automatically for you. No matter how quickly you look at data and set-up tests, an automated algorithm will always be able to out work you.