16 Marketing Predictions for Canada in 2016

December 22, 2015

Over the past few months, experts have been offering their thoughts on marketing trends for the coming year. Our breakdown of what they have to say has led us to identify four main areas of focus: devices, social media, platforms and formats. Here’s our digest of the top 16 trends for 2016:

Device Trends

1. Beacons

Experts generally agree we’re coming up on a year of major experimentation for using location-based technology in marketing. By the end of 2015, $9 billion will have been spent on location-targeted mobile ads. RFIDs and iBeacons that target users at the point of engagement have already been adopted by many industries, and over the next 12 months we'll see B2B marketers experiment with how to make this technology work to their beneft. 

2. Internet of Things (IoT)

Wearable tech like the Apple Watch or Samsung Gear is going to explode in 2016 — and will be with us for the foreseeable future. Shipments of wearables surged from 7.1 million to 21 million in 2015, so this is the year to invest in marketing via IoT technology and target your audience at their every move and touchpoint. 

3. Digital Assistant Optimization 

Now that Siri isn’t the only mobile assistant on the block, these aides are getting more sophisticated, which calls for digital optimization from marketers. Experts predict more than $2 billion in online shopping will be done by Cortana, Google Now and their ilk in 2016. These assistants use traditional search engines, so there will be a big push for businesses to make information easily accessible to them next year.

4. Virtual Reality

According to the experts, the day is fast approaching when virtual reality will jump from novelty app to marketing tool. With devices like Samsung Gear VR and Facebook’s Oculus Rift hitting stores, it’s estimated more than 12 million VR headsets will be sold by 2016. This fresh channel for content creation will give B2B marketers new opportunities to explore personalized interactions.

Social Media Trends 

5. Social Buying

With Pinterest buyable pins everywhere and YouTube’s recent introduction of Shopping ads, it’s no surprise many prediction lists anticipate a rise in social buying. Watch for Twitter to adopt this trend in the next year, too.

6. Ephemeral Marketing 

Ephemeral marketing — short-lived micro content on platforms like Snapchat, which hosts four billion daily video posts — has become a standard platform for B2C. Timely and fleeting content hasn’t found its place with B2B yet, but many say this year we’ll see these marketers using the ephemeral approach to create buzz.

7. Social Advertising 

Right now, only 14 percent of digital ad spending is put towards social media, but a number of commentators say 2016 is the year we’ll see social advertising really take off. Why? Because users have learned to ignore paid Google results and ad blocking is common practice, so it makes more sense than ever to spend marketing dollars in a social arena where ads are harder to ignore.

8. Real-Time Marketing

Canadian B2B marketers are trying to work out how to capitalize on real-time marketing — on-the-fly responses to what’s happening in the moment. More than 40 percent of B2B marketers are already incorporating this type of marketing or are planning to in the near future, so expect to see more marketers step away from set-in-stone plans to respond to timely opportunities on social media

Platform Trends 

9. Mobile

Marketers will want to prioritize mobile-friendly campaigns and tactics next year. We’ve already seen, in 2015, mobile traffic outpace desktop traffic in 10 countries, and next year, the number of smartphone users worldwide will exceed 2 billion.

10. Marketing Automation

Marketing automation programs simplify content management, lead generation, measurement and social media posting. Fifty-five percent of B2B marketers are already using this technology, so as we look for ways to make our workdays simpler, many observers predict we’ll see automated platforms become more popular in 2016.

11. Customer Journey Mapping

In Canada, 67 percent of the buyer’s journey occurs digitally — and marketers are able to follow that progression with “journey mapping.” In the next year, marketers will increasingly use these visual renderings of customer touchpoints, patterns and experiences to get an edge on the competition.

12. Data-as-a-Service 

It’s predicted that by 2020 the current amount of data will increase by 44 times. But even today, many organizations are struggling to get a handle on big data — massive, unstructured data sets full of potential value, including customer insights, to help refine and target marketing efforts. Over the next year, more data-as-a-service providers will emerge, offering solutions for mining that data and extracting what’s most useful.

Format Trends

13. Video Ads

Video now makes up 50 percent of all online mobile traffic, so expect to be inundated with visual content in 2016. Experts predict that as video gets cheaper and easier to produce — driving up the potential ROI of video ads — we’ll see a lot more marketing video popping up in unexpected places; most notably, Google search results.

14. Apps

The move to mobile means a shift toward more — and better — apps. Canadians are getting more selective, downloading fewer apps, which will make 2016 a pivotal year for app optimization, so that those apps Canadians do choose can be vehicles for delivering marketing content.

15. Interactive Content

With the move to individualized marketing, we’ve seen barriers break down between businesses and their audiences. Almost all the prediction lists we’ve seen agree marketers will increasingly experiment with interactive content to engage their customers.

16. Ad Blocking

Users are no longer willing to watch ads in exchange for content. Hence the rise in desktop and mobile ad blockers, declining broadcast TV subscriptions, and mass opting-out of telemarketing lists. In 2015, ad blocking took $21.8 billion out of advertisers’ revenues globally, a figure forecasted to hit $41 billion in 2016. Next year, as customers become even less patient and ad blocking becomes more sophisticated, the challenge to marketers will be developing content their audiences will want to receive.

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Photo: Paul Bica