In the words of Ferris Bueller: life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you’ll miss it.

The same is true for digital marketing. It really is a fast-paced industry, fuelled by developments in technology, Google’s ever-changing SEO rules and trends in buying. Keeping on top of digital marketing can feel like walking on quicksand – if you stay still too long you’ll sink into the quagmire and fade away into insignificance.

So how can you keep your head above water? It pays to get ahead of the game. Here are some of the changes that are likely to happen in digital marketing in the next few years. Just a wee heads up…

SethGodin“Content marketing is the only marketing that’s left.”

There we have the words of Seth Godin – marketer, TED Talker and author. He reckons that the virtual space has become so saturated that advertising, websites, blogs and telemarketing are far less effective now than when the web was young and less populated. These days, the only way to stand out is to create great, original, substantial content. Easier said than done, of course. Gulp.

Only content that is unique, interesting and offers readers what they can’t get elsewhere will survive in this day and age. The thing to ask yourself is this: What purpose is my content serving? Does it fulfil people’s needs, or solve their problems? Is it relevant? Does it answer their questions? If you’re reading this, then this piece of content has done its job. But it’s all too easy for content to sit on websites unread, unnoticed, and unloved. Sniff.

Marketing goes mobile

Are you one of those people who walk down the street staring at your phone? If you are then you might not have noticed this, but everyone else does it too! And what with Pokemon Go capturing the attention of most people under 50 (and some over – interestingly, though, according to their analytics, no one aged 55-64 plays Pokemon Go!), a huge proportion of the population are absorbed by their mobiles.

75% of Americans take their phones with them into the bathroom. Whether this is to catch a Charizard hanging out in their bath or to surf Facebook while dropping off the kids, that’s a lot of people who are strapped to their phones all day long. Putting your message directly into their hands can be a pretty good digital marketing strategy.

Research shows that the most effective kinds of mobile marketing are SMS or text messaging, search engine marketing (i.e. paying to move websites up the search results) and display-based ads, where adverts are targeted to website keywords. With predictions that 2.5billion mobiles will be in use by 2020, the future of marketing might just be mobile.

A mobile target?

mobile_apps-2-100566958-primary.idgeBut, of course, technology is moving at such a pace that even mobile phones might become obsolete. It’s predicted that by the end of 2016, one in four Americans will be using a wearable device – a pretty huge percentage considering the costs associated (an Apple Watch will set you back at least £600). What will happen to our pocket devices then?

For digital marketers, this means they’ll need to attack with gusto the challenges associated with marketing to wearable tech – they’ll need to produce and distribute content in the right format, channel, time and place for their potential and current customers. Digital marketing just got a whole lot more difficult, guys.

Social superstars

According to DMA, the Direct Marketing Association, social media will grow from 10% to 24% of marketing budgets within five years. Not surprising, given that 47% of marketers think that social media marketing offers the best opportunities, compared to 37% who prefer email and websites, and 26% who are avid SEO supporters.

Of all the developments in the social media world, possibly the most interesting is Live Video. You’ve probably noticed on Facebook that videos will often have, ‘…was live’ next to them, or ‘…is live’ if you catch them at the right time. Knowing something is happening right now this minute oh my gosh is much more enticing to your audience than watching an ad you probably recorded months ago and which has been edited to all hell. There’s always that sense of schadenfreude when it comes to live videos – will he trip over? He’s carrying a glass of water, maybe he’ll spill it on himself. Ooh let’s hope that dog pees on her leg. Go on, say something stupid.

Live video has the power to connect the business to the audience much more personally than blogs, audios, static ads – or even traditional videos.

Virtual insanity

SpainWirelessShowWith virtual reality headsets becoming increasingly common, it was only a matter of time until virtual reality marketing took hold. While it’s out of the scope of most businesses – Colin from Colin’s Cable Ties won’t be running any virtual reality advertising campaigns – if it’s done right, it can be incredibly effective.

That’s because virtual reality marketing solves a few problems that marketers face: that it’s so easy for people to ‘switch off’ and ignore adverts, walk away, or just not pay much attention at all. Virtual reality marketing is immersive, impactful and memorable. Users are, effectively, stuck doing what they’re doing. They’d have to actively stop and take the headset off, so your marketing message is more likely to be heard. With fewer real-world distractions, they’re also likely to pay more attention, so your message should be remembered. And the intensity of a VR experience is far greater than a traditional advert – all their attention is focused on the experience, whereas it’s all too easy to ignore pop-up ads, scroll past video ads and send emails straight to trash.

There have already been some pretty awesome virtual reality adverts made by industry big-hitters like Coca Cola, McDonald’s, New York Times, TopShop and Volvo.

Check them out here: 10 Best Uses of Virtual Reality in Marketing.

Being able to prepare for changes within digital marketing over the next few years will give you an edge over the competition. Keeping up with the changes isn’t as simple as you might think – it’s isn’t just a case of updating your current digital marketing plan to get on board with the latest fads. It takes careful planning; which of the new trends will you attack first? Which will benefit your company more? If your potential customers are in their 60s, will they be using virtual reality headsets? If they’re in their teens, will they have access to wearable tech?

Don’t make the same mistake as some companies of launching head-first into digital marketing trends before you fully understand just what it’s all about. Remember when Heinz jumped on board the QR code bandwagon last year? People innocently scanning their bottle of Ketchup were redirected to a hardcore porn site. Not cool, Heinz. Not cool.

At least they’ll never make that mistake again.

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Author Chris Painter

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