Posted on January 1, 2016 by Webfor Happiest New Year to you! 2015 has been an excellent year for us, and we hope it was great for you, too! It seems like just yesterday that we maxed out the awesome of our current brand and visually redefined ourselves, affirming our core values and bringing a new vibrancy to our offerings. Then – omg – we relocated our office to the bustling Downtown Vancouver Arts District, welcomed wonderful new people to the Webfor Family, and continued to leverage new and old marketing skills to BRING IT for our clients. Staying ahead means looking ahead, however, and we’ve got lots to anticipate in 2016! Below, our experts weigh in on Content, Design, SEO, Social, and Branding predictions for the upcoming year. Kevin Getch – The 3 P’s When thinking about what digital marketing trends would flourish in 2016, I came up with the 3 P’s. The 3 P’s stand for Predictive, Personalized and Proactive. I believe these three themes provide the basis for a shift that is happening in marketing and technology and will accelerate in 2016. Each of the big 4 (Apple, Bing, Facebook, and Google) are investing a lot of time and money into developing personal assistant-type technology. Apple has Siri, Bing has Cortana, Facebook is beta testing M and Google is leading the pack with Google Now. Google Now is already good at predicting what information may be useful based on your past requests, your location history, your emails, your calendar and a number of other factors. When I woke up this morning there was already a card on Google Now about today’s weather, the traffic to work and recent sports scores and news stories I’m interested in. In the near future I believe predictive technology will be get even more awesome… or more scary depending on your view. Personalization is also a strong trend in marketing right now and you probably already know that your search results from Google are personalized based on your search history, your past actions, your location and affinity for certain things. This kind of personalization in my mind will improve in it’s accuracy with machine learning tools like RankBrain, which Google announced back in October. Then you have one of the biggest shifts which is going from a reactive state to a proactive state. What I mean by that is that now you normally have to do a search for “Great Lunch Spots Nearby”, but in the very near future you may be getting personalized recommendations, possibly 15-30 minutes before the normal time you break for lunch. Or, you might get some recommendations for entertainment like movies or events on Friday afternoon, just in time to plan your weekend. Finally, the Goog knows your wife’s anniversary is coming up and knows better than you what she might want, so you get a message, “Jenny’s Birthday is next week. Why don’t you schedule her a massage and plan a nice dinner?” Of course, it provides you with personalized options for both. 2016 is going to be a great year with a ton of advancements in these three areas. If you don’t have a strategy to take advantage of these future trends, make sure to reach out to us. Jason Knapfel – Content Strategy is Key Businesses will need to get serious about developing a mobile content marketing strategy. People use the Internet more often on their mobile devices than on their PCs. In fact, that’s kinda old news… but many businesses aren’t taking that news serious enough. This year, Google announced that web page ranks will be affected positively or negatively based on whether or not they have a mobile-friendly design. But responsive web design is just the beginning. People interact differently with content on their mobile devices than on their laptop or desktop computers. Hence, the content strategy must be approached differently. Old school tactics will still be important. With all the talk about trends and innovations in the marketing industry, it’s important to note that some of the mainstays are still very relevant. Email marketing is not only relevant, but effective when done correctly. And while there is a constant push towards developing a wider variety of content assets, good old-fashioned blogging will also still be important. Paid clickbait content will go down in a fiery ball of death. Okay, that one is just wishful thinking. Michael Rough – Content = Conversions Moving forward into 2016, it will become even more important to build really deep content based on information gleaned from different metrics regarding user experience and conversions. Understanding who your customer is, what they want and how that matches up to your business model is key to continuing to drive quality traffic to your business. Adding additional layers of information that dive deeper into your products or services will help send signals to the search engines and enable your products to to rank for long tail converting keywords that are traditionally indicators of a buying signal. Utilizing beta testing while tracking conversion metrics will allow you the flexibility to act upon up-to-the-minute feedback based on your changes, allowing you to track and reap the benefits of fine-tuning your website and marketing plan. Call tracking, along with conversion tracking, will also create opportunities to harvest data that allows your site to continually improve engagement and conversion numbers on desktop and the ever-increasing percentage of exclusively mobile and tablet users. Ensuring that your site is actively sending information to Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, and Bing Webmaster tools combined with other tracking and performance tools will help you see and understand the bigger picture and overall health of your marketing plan for a profitable 2016 and beyond. Wes Button – An Experimental Year Last year saw a peak in design consolidation (read: sameness). By now you’ve noticed a clear trend and standardization of design across all types of websites. Examples include large, graphical or video headers with concise intros no longer than a Tweet and a clear call-to-action button with a secondary action to read on / dig deeper. Incredibly easy to implement frameworks like Bootstrap and Foundation contributed to this partially, but ultimately it’s part of a large pendulum that, over time, swings from consolidated design to experimental design. This is driven primarily by technology. The latest trend in web design is born from the simplicity and grid systems necessary for responsive layouts that adapt to mobile devices. I predict in 2016 we’ll start to see some breaking out of this mold as the pendulum swings in the other direction and experimentation in design and UX becomes necessary as new technologies like virtual and augmented reality start to enter the mainstream. We’ll likely see this in app, technology, and agency sites first — as other industries catch up and start to see mobile very clearly overtake desktop traffic. All industries will require a hard look at the user experience of mobile websites as smartphones become the primary computing device for the average user. Sara Thompson – More Ways to Connect What’s going to happen on social media in 2016? I think marketers can expect to see more rich content sharing and advertising options. New features like Facebook’s Instant Articles could finally roll out to more publishers, and more brands will begin taking advantage of advertising with buyable pins on Pinterest and direct links in Instagram. As far as user experience is concerned, I’m expecting much more personalization as Kevin mentioned (anyone experienced Place Tips yet?), and more ways to connect directly with your favorite people. However, one of the most beneficial things marketers can do on social media in 2016 does not include fancy new features. It’s simply good ol’ listening. If social media is one of many hats you wear, you probably don’t have a ton of time to sit and think about what to post on Facebook. If that’s the case, odds are you don’t have a socially-integrated content strategy or posting calendar laid out either, and that’s okay (for now). Without those things, the best way to develop social posting ideas is to monitor the conversations of your target audience. Is there something everyone’s talking about today? If there are any trending topics that relate to your business or industry, let those be your guide (but be careful about it). It’s much easier to engage users in an ongoing conversation than to start one of your own out of the blue. Even if you were a master of social media analytics and used every new network feature the minute it rolled out, you’d still have to listen to your audience to be relevant. Get in touch with Webfor and we’ll help you put that social media strategy together! And in the meantime, check out our social network cheat sheets. Chelsea Terris – Truth-telling and Emotional IQ Boost Branding For those wishing to increase the power of their brand, 2016 is all about deepening the practice of trends we learned in 2015. Brand differentiation will be essential this year, as more consumers are looking to create a meaningful relationship to the products and services on which they spend their hard-earned cash. As consumer decision-making grows more emotional, the most successful brands will utilize values to underlie meaningful storytelling and set them apart from their competition. Nostalgia and planet-friendly marketing efforts will be especially rewarded, as consumers increasingly seek to both connect with their best memories and support the health of the planet in their investments. Authenticity has never been more important. Volkswagon recently lost $22 billion in market value in two days due to the exposure of their emissions cheating scandal. It’s much easier to build and maintain honest branding than to recover from the public’s loss of trust, so keep your storytelling truthful and remain aligned with your highest values in your business practices. Consumer desire for a relationship with your brand will continue to increase this year. Brand engagement – communication between brand and user – has now surpassed the world of “Likes,” “Friends,” and “Followers.” On social media, blogs, and review sites, comments and discussion between the businesses and consumers will serve to personalize brands, making them more valuable to users and a true part of their lives. If you are looking to successfully brand your business in 2016, or build on what you started in 2015, focus on your target clients as individuals wanting to get to know you and your value in the world. Webfor digs deep to determine the best ways to leverage search engine optimization, content, social media, and design to maximize your online presence and increase your ROI. We’ve got some ideas we’d love to share with you! When the champagne (or sparkling cider) bubbles settle, give us a call!