#DigitalTrends – AB’s 2017 Predictions


The inevitable 2017 trends blog… As we delve into a new year our Head of Digital Strategy, Chris Shadrick takes a look at what’s hot in Digital. So, sit back and get stuck in.

Like every year, most agencies produce their trends piece on potential changes in marketing and advertising… Unfortunately, we’re not time travellers, however we can use commonalities and insights to make some informed predictions.

We live in a noisy world, something that will keep most marketers awake at night. Their job is now to ensure they own and innovate brands by considering how to build better experiences for customers, both online and offline. Marketers have been considering how to do this for years, but with advancements in technology such as ad blocking and changes in social media behaviour, brand engagement has never been so important.

The Continual Domination of Ad Blocking

The Continual Domination of Ad Blocking

Let’s face it… Ad Blocking is a growing problem for marketers with over 200 million people using Ad Blocking software. It is readily available for browsers and the industry has been jolted into action by the continued rise of ad blocking software and forecasts of billions in lost advertising revenue. Sometimes even I, a Digital Marketer, can sympathise with consumers who install Ad Blocking software, because brands think that bombarding website users with adverts is a good idea. It’s not… It’s annoying and a dire customer experience.

If brands want to escape being blocked by consumers they need to strategically improve their digital advertising approach so that ads are tailored and personalised to the user but also subtle and not hard selling. For example pop up ads that dominate your screen with no escape are likely to increase your website drop-off rate and reduce returning visitors. You have to question here… Is it better to retain customers and brand loyalty, or risk losing customers for good? There could also be negative SEO factors to website popups as it reduces the user experience.

Data Driven Content Marketing

Data Driven Content Marketing

Sometimes I struggle with the term “Content Marketing”, because after all it’s just another form of marketing. However, the term isn’t changing anytime soon and it’s an important factor for today’s marketer.

While high-quality content can be difficult to produce and distribute, it has the potential to increase brand awareness and trust, ultimately positioning you as a thought leader. According to Neil Patel, people who succeed at becoming leaders in the world of content marketing are those who craft compelling, valuable content that gets to the heart of their readers. Here at AB we have always strongly believed that compelling storytelling is still one of the most effective ways to build a brand.

The number one important factor in 2017 for Content Marketing will be the use of data and personalisation. According to an IBM Digital Experience Survey, 56% of marketers believe that personalised content promotes higher engagement rates. We have been testing this theory with our own clients and by tailoring email campaigns, on-site content and social media advertising we have seen a significant increase in engagement. Engagement being online purchasing, social shares, content downloaded and consumers making contact with our clients.

Oh and for goodness sake… be more inventive with your content strategy! Hopefully the days are gone when we just committed to two blogs a month on a website and forced ourselves to write content. Consider how your different audiences might appeal to content in different forms. 87% of online marketers already use video within their marketing strategy, but how many do it well?

The average time a consumer spends reading an article online is 37 seconds… That’s not long to communicate your message. However our in-house production team have found that video content around 30-40 seconds has a much higher engagement rate as the content can be more compelling.

Using video as part of your brand advertising strategy is also highly effective as video ads can increase purchase intent by 97%, so if you haven’t explored video advertising through YouTube, Vimeo or an affiliate it could be highly successful for your business. Even Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook has announced their “video first” strategy across Facebook owned apps and websites.

Programmatic Advertising

Programmatic Advertising 2017

Programmatic advertising is nothing new, however the added benefits for  personalisation and ad serving means that marketers can serve digital ads to their audience by targeting behaviours, demographics, interests etc. eMarketer predicted that UK programmatic spend will reach £2.46 billion in 2016, compared to £1.8 billion in 2015 – an uplift of 37%.

We’re also expecting to see more advanced personalisation targeting in 2017 as 94% of businesses say personalisation is critical to their success and 74% of consumers get frustrated when they receive content that has nothing to do with their interests. This leads us to suggest that marketers need to find the balance between Big Brother style marketing and reaching the right audience at the right time.

Messenger Apps

Chatbot Messenger Trends 2017

The next two points are fairly interlinked. The rise of messenger apps is providing new ways for consumers to engage with brands. Facebook launched an API in 2016 so that brands could use Chatbots to answer simple questions from their fans on Facebook Messenger.

Twitter have also produced a similar Bot allowing automated replies through DM’s. Chatbots tend to be used  to answer simple questions like “How many 60w light bulbs do you have in stock?” which could be useful for a brand like B&Q as this reduces the need for internal resources. 

We believe that Chatbots are likely to be most effective with millennials who are more open minded when it comes to live chats and messenger apps because they want a response straight away.

Digital Customer Experience

Digital Customer Experience Trends 2017

Customers have never been so demanding. We live in a connected world where deliveries can be made within 2 hours by Amazon and customers want responses right away.

According to Gartner in 2017, 89% of marketers expect customer experience to be their primary differentiator.

Brands need to create a seamless online customer experience where all of the touch points are joined up. Traditionally within larger organisations silos mean that marketing, sales and IT are not always joined up and therefore this reduces communications and innovation through technology. Our client Glassbox is changing the face of Digital Customer Experience, providing a platform that enables brands to analyse their customer interactions across web and mobile, as well as improve data sharing and collaboration within the business.

This investment in their technology has already proven to be successful with conversion rates increasing and the time spent phone calls within contact centres reduced, which makes the business more profitable with an enhanced customer service.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

SEO Trends 2017

This is definitely not a new one for 2017… But SEO is something I feel strongly about AB’s clients investing in, because of the positive impacts it can have for a brand… Increased trust, better rankings, more visibility and more authority to name a few.

The competitive advantage that high organic rankings brings is one of the most effective marketing techniques. While the top Google listing still gets about 1/3 of all clicks, the organic results earning the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th spot now receive the other 63% of the clicks, leaving only 4% of clicks for anything lower.

Forbes suggest that User Experience Optimisation (UEO) will become even more of an important ranking factor for SEO in 2017, as many brands continue to invest in how customers access and navigate their online platforms. You could argue a better user experience will lead to a higher time spent on site, more interaction, an increase in sales (if the website is ecommerce) and more links pointing to the website.  

Other potential SEO factors in 2017 include more App indexing in search results, machine learning to identify how users are searching on Google (check out RankBrain, an AI system by Google) and Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) where access to publishers content on mobile is super fast and slick to access.


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