Blog Trends

Digital Marketing: 7 Game-Changing Trends of 2016

It has been a year of epic change for many industries—digital marketing included. In this week’s blog, we’re highlighting the year’s top seven trends in digital marketing and looking at how brands can get ahead in 2017. Here’s what we saw:

Mobile “micro-moments” powered consumers’ decisions.

In 2016, consumers increasingly turned to their smartphones to help them learn, find, do, or buy something.(1) As a result, customer journeys were more fragmented. What was once a linear purchasing path has been taken over by a profusion of “micro-moments” of decision, powered by smartphones. This shift in decision making is giving brands the opportunity to influence consumers’ preferences in the moment more than ever before.

With the rise of smartphone queries, consumers’ expectations for useful, relevant results delivered instantaneously rose. Search results had to be fast loading on mobile and of high quality, or consumers moved on just as quickly as they came. Looking ahead to 2017, the brands that are ready with mobile-optimized content that truly addresses consumers’ needs will win big.

Content marketing drove automation.

Almost half of all marketers in 2016 used a marketing automation platform.(2) Automation software was used to handle a whole range of tasks, including segmenting contacts, scheduling emails, automating social media postings, recording digital activity of leads, managing content, tracking the lifecycle of customers in the marketing funnel, and reporting ROI.(3)

An increasing interest in content marketing drove this trend toward automation. To have more time to create content, brands looked to automate other marketing tasks.(3) In 2017, expect to see brands increasing their reliance on automation software to engage prospects, qualify leads, and shorten the overall sales cycle while their marketers spend more brain time on the creation of quality content.

Psychographics joined demographics for targeting.

This year, more marketers turned to psychographic segmentation and targeting to predict behavior and engage audiences.(4) They used psychographic information like values, attitudes, lifestyles, and personalities to build out personas, moving away from a sole reliance on demographic information like age, gender, and location. By working with companies like our partners Cubeyou and Brandwatch, which collect data on consumers’ internet usage and behaviors, brands were able to produce psychographic profiles that helped further personalize their marketing.(5)

Next year, we will see the trend toward psychographics continue—though demographic segmentation won’t (and shouldn’t) go away. Instead, the two will augment one another, helping marketers to better understand who their consumers are, what they want, and how they’ll act.

Live video dominated social media.

It was all about live video in 2016, with Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter investing heavily in their live stream offerings and adding increasingly sophisticated features, from in-stream comment feeds to 360-degree video capabilities. They also adjusted their algorithms to prioritize live video, which encouraged the trend to stick.

The big reason why live streaming is so popular is because of its ability to engage audiences. In a study of US retail executives, 80 percent said that live video events had helped them to create genuine interactions with their audiences.(6) Other benefits brands saw from live video included higher e-commerce conversion rates, longer viewing times compared to prerecorded video, and faster customer database growth.(6) If these benefits continue to hold true, expect 2017 to involve even more live video content.

Influencer marketing continued—with tweaks.

Businesses have long used influencers to market their products. However, 2016 marked a shift in influencer marketing toward micro-influencers: content producers with niche audiences, rather than massive reach. As a result, brands targeted fewer people, but achieved better engagement.(7)

Furthermore, brands expanded the scope of influencer marketing, using influencers to replace traditional PR efforts. Instead of writing press releases, brands turned to influencers to blog or Tweet or make videos about their newest offerings.(8) In an environment of consumer skepticism, influencer marketing remains a way for brands to gain consumers’ trust—and for that reason, it will continue to be big in 2017.(9)

AI offerings and bots took over customer service.

This year, companies like Apple, IBM, Amazon.com, and Google leveraged machine learning to improve their artificial intelligence (AI) offerings. Then, chatbots powered by these AIs exploded in popularity.(10) As a result, more brands began to use chatbots to answer basic consumer queries and complaints via instant messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger and Kik.

Part of the rise of chatbots was because technology improved, but another part of the story had to do with higher consumer standards for customer service. In 2016, more than half of all consumers expected a business to respond to their queries 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 42 percent expected a response within an hour.(10,11) Chatbots provided a scalable solution to the consumer demand for 24/7, personalized, interactive communication.(12) As AIs get more sophisticated in 2017, we expect the utility and reach of chatbots to grow.

Augmented reality went mainstream.

Finally, 2016 introduced huge gains in the mainstreaming of augmented reality (AR). This was largely due to two forces: Pokémon GO and Snapchat lenses. For the past decade, virtual reality has been hyped as the next big thing, but the hardware still has yet to achieve widespread adoption. In contrast, the success of AR in 2016 was possible because everyone already had the hardware: a smartphone. In 2017, we anticipate more marketing in AR, from digital signage on Google Maps to holographic showrooms.

We also expect Facebook to become a major player in the AR space next year, powering further mainstream adoption of AR technology through its large audience base. Over the summer, Facebook acquired Masquerade, a popular app that creates interactive selfie filters.(13) Since then, the social media giant has begun experimenting with its own AR filters and lenses, which are likely to become a major feature on its platform in 2017.(14)

Happy New Year!

As 2016 draws to a close, it will no doubt be remembered as a year of change. In digital marketing, it yielded trends that reshaped how brands reach their audiences from the ground up. We at The Garrigan Lyman Group look forward to helping you reach your audience with your next brand story. See you in 2017!



1. “Micro-Moments,” Think with Google, https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/micromoments/intro.html?gclid=Cj0KEQiAsrnCBRCTs7nqwrm6pcYBEiQAcQSznKyDJ_F0csnBleKdNoVKFnT_Bb86FdRSy07h_MY8NwsaAq1y8P8HAQ&dclid=CLaRgr_S79ACFY-OfgodLYAIqQ.
2. Jordie van Rijn, “The Ultimate Marketing Automation Statistics Overview,” emailmonday, http://www.emailmonday.com/marketing-automation-statistics-overview.
3. Meaghan Moraes, “7 Game-Changing Marketing Trends to Tackle in 2016,” HubSpot blog, September 25, 2015, https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/7-game-changing-marketing-trends-to-tackle-in-2016#sm.000009d29wacbhfrhrjd1uyyvnu59.
4. Brent Walker, “HBR: The Importance of Psychographic Segmentation,” c2b Solutions blog, March 18, 2016, https://insights.c2bsolutions.com/blog/importance_of_psychographic_segmentation.
5. “Data Analytics Top Trends in 2017,” Innovation Enterprise website, https://channels.theinnovationenterprise.com/articles/data-analytics-top-trends-in-2017.
6. “How Live Streaming Video Events Can Benefit Retailers,” eMarketer website, March 25, 2016, https://www.emarketer.com/Article/How-Live-Streaming-Video-Events-Benefit-Retailers/1013750#sthash.Cpjxb37V.dpuf.
7. Yuyu Chen, “The Rise of ‘Micro-Influencers’ on Instagram,” Digiday website, April 27, 2016, http://digiday.com/agencies/micro-influencers/.
8. John Hall, “The Most Meaningful Content Marketing Trends and How They Will Influence 2017: Part 1,” Inc.com website, September 8, 2016, http://www.inc.com/john-hall/the-most-meaningful-content-marketing-trends-and-how-they-will-influence-2017-pa.html.
9. Eric Burgess, “11 Essential Stats for Influencer Marketing in 2016,” ION website, https://www.ion.co/11-essential-stats-for-influencer-marketing-in-2016.
10. Alex Debecker, “Chatbots Are Revolutionizing Customer Support,” VentureBeat website, September 5, 2016, http://venturebeat.com/2016/09/05/the-chatbot-revolution-in-customer-support/.
11. Jay Baer, “42 Percent of Consumers Complaining in Social Media Expect 60 Minute Response Time,” Convince & Convert website, http://www.convinceandconvert.com/social-media-research/42-percent-of-consumers-complaining-in-social-media-expect-60-minute-response-time/.
12. Josh Constine, “Facebook Launches Messenger Platform with Chatbots,” TechCrunch website, April 12, 2016, http://techcrunch.com/2016/04/12/agents-on-messenger/.
13. John Koetsier, “Why Facebook Bought Masquerade: Recent, Massive, Hockey-Stick Growth,” Business Insider website, March 11, 2016, http://www.businessinsider.com/why-facebook-bought-masquerade-2016-3.
14. “No Tricks, Just Treats from Facebook This Halloween,” Facebook Newsroom, October 27, 2016, http://newsroom.fb.com/news/2016/10/no-tricks-just-treats-from-facebook-this-halloween/?ref=producthunt.