Digital Surgeons



Our Top 15 Marketing Trends and Predictions for 2017

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2016 was a doozy. But fear not, because for one, things can only go up from here. And two, next year you'll be armed with these marketing trends and predictions. These are our big bets for 2017, but to quote an often-repeated adage, "the best way to predict the future is to create it." Makers, dreamers, marketers, executives, creatives, whoever you are — let's create a better 2017.

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1. DTC Will Be the Battleground for B2C and B2B Retailers

Whether you're selling widgets, cupcakes, or financial investments, humans are the end buyer (for now). And today's "uberfied" humans want things fast, convenient, and on-demand. To meet this need, the shift toward direct-to-consumer business models will only accelerate once the ball drops. Expect more big acquisitions like Unilever's purchase of Dollar Shave Club and Walmart's of as brands look to DTC business models to increase their margins and leverage investments in data.

2. Human-Centered Design Will Be the Differentiator

Or better yet, human-centered design will continue to be the differentiator. After all, from 2004 to 2014 companies that invested in design outperformed the S&P index by 228%. But the more complex technology, business, media, and our lives become, the more simple, yet superior, customer experience matters. Next year's digitally-empowered consumers will continue to reward brands that use design thinking to create experiences that are immersive or multisensory when they crave delight, and frictionless when they crave utility.

3. Paid and Earned Get Owned

Traditional advertising is dead. Blame adblockers, millennials, or TiVo if you're still holding a grudge, but it's flatlining. In 2017, questionable returns on paid and earned media will give way to an increased investment in owned media. Brands that win will be those that create marketplaces and communities on owned properties that allow them to tell great stories, connect like-minded consumers with influencers, and offer experiences filled with surprise, delight, and utility. Paid/Earned/Owned will be replaced by more holistic measurement models like reach/depth/relationship that measure the share of attention and engagement captured by content and designed experiences. These progressive media-mix models that incorporate sophisticated multi-stage channel attribution will be brought to life by PhD mathematicians and data scientists. Brands already know they're publishers — 2017 is the year they act like it.

4. Platform Fatigue is Here

From a divisive 2016 election, to phubbing, fake news, and cyberbullying, social platforms have had a rough year and we predict next year audiences will push back. Facebook will see its first noticeable decline in US daily active users, and Twitter will struggle to find a buyer. Social media platforms aren't going away — and people will continue to fight over who was elected president — but to retain their influence, social networks must take drastic steps to improve how users experience their platforms. Social networks, once morally-neutral and designed to addict users to endless feeds, will refocus in 2017 on weeding out clickbait, fake news, and garbage content that leaves their users feeling guilty for time spent looking at their phone. Brands and business must respond in kind and move away from polluting social feeds with quantity, instead posting quality content users will be happy they found.

5. Fintech Will Go Mainstream

Wall Street has long enjoyed returns from Silicon Valley, but 2017 is the year both affluent and digitally-empowered customers embrace using financial technology. Driven by demand for aggregated financial reporting, simple visualization of choice, and algorithm-optimized investment strategies, fintech offerings from market innovators like Mint, Personal Capital, and Envestnet Yodlee will find mainstream adoption. This will finally force legacy providers of financial advice, insurance services, and banking to incorporate these technologies into their products and service delivery models. Investors will move over $1 Trillion in assets under management to institutions that offer "hybrid" service models that take advantage of robots, analytics, and data visualization technology to plan, select, optimize, and rebalance their investments.

6. Let’s Get Virtual

Price, hardware accessibility, strained eyes, and sore necks kept virtual reality from scaling in 2016. VR may not proliferate like the smartphone in 2017, but it will be increasingly used by innovative brands and publishers aiming to create immersive storytelling experiences that stand above a crowded media landscape. Pop-up shops, experiential activations, and showrooms will heavily feature virtual experiences that put the consumer in control, whenever and wherever they want to be. Travel, education, and retail will be three verticals disrupted by VR next year.

7. Sound Is the New Bluetooth

From our ovens and thermostats, to wearables and cars, smart, IoT (internet of things) driven devices are everywhere. These devices predominantly sync and communicate with each other using Bluetooth technology. But there are technological limits to Bluetooth that will allow sound to emerge in 2017 as a viable alternative. Ultrasonic sound frequencies are able to deliver targeted and proximity-based messages farther distances than Bluetooth, and without WIFI and hardware requirements. With the growth of conversational commerce powered by digital assistants like Siri and Alexa, sound has the potential to revolutionize IoT devices and change how we receive and share information across a smart world. Pioneers like LISNR are expanding the technology's capability and Golf tech tracker Arccos has replaced bluetooth with sound in the latest generation of their 360 sensors.

8. Specialized A.I. Says “Hello World”

Unfortunately for those looking for a trip to Westworld, sentient general AI will remain the stuff of sci-fi. However, specialized AI that allows machines to perform specific tasks that automate, personalize, or predict our wants and needs will become ubiquitous. This will help cut costs, speed up product delivery, and completely change the possibilities of digital experience. Just as tech giants Google and Facebook are fighting for top A.I talent, product and brand managers will have to rethink whether their vendors and staff are equipped to deliver best-in-class experiences driven by machine learning. It's time to prepare for the cognitive era.

9. The Cord Will Be Cut

By the end of 2017, over a third of households will be cable-free, triggering the biggest change to the TV industry since the advent of cable. Legacy media and cable companies will be forced into layoffs, mergers, and acquisitions to offset ratings declines. For marketers, this restructuring, unbundling, and diversification of large-scale media will put pressure on them to find new ways to reach a broad audience. Innovators will fill the gap in 2017 by targeting large, but not necessarily broad, audiences with messaging better aligned to the choice and flexibility that consumers now prefer in media delivery.

10. The Fall of the Border, the Rise of the Tribe

The proliferation of social media and other digital channels has made the world feel smaller than ever and sociopolitical borders mean less than they used to. But the fall of the border coincides with the rise of the tribe. From small niche Slack communities and Facebook groups to underground "Dark Web" marketplaces, small is becoming big again. This tribal behavior is affecting both how we source information and make purchasing decisions, and how we connect with others (see Dunbar's Number). For Brands, they must focus on nurturing these niche communities that exist on both legacy and emerging platforms. For consumers, this provides the opportunity to more actively curate, participate in, and contribute to relevant content experiences that speak to your passions, or pains.

11. There's a Bot for That

In 2016, brands as diverse as Barbie, the Washington Post, and Microsoft built AI bots that could be of service to the billions of users on mobile messaging apps and social platforms. But in 2017, conversational commerce will evolve beyond messenger bots as consumers increasingly speak to digital assistants like Siri, Cortana, and Alexa. It is critical that interaction designers structure information and implement natural language processing tools to answer conversational queries if they want to ride the next big interaction wave — consumers have evolved from typing to swiping, now they just want to speak.

12. Augmented EVERYTHING

We're way past Pokémon Go. With the interconnectivity of people, smartphones, sensors, the internet, and other input sources at an all-time high, the world is going to become increasingly augmented. Research forecasts that by 2022, the augmented market could be worth $117.40 Billion. Information and interaction will begin to merge in ways that bring our analog and digital worlds together into a converged multi-sensory reality. This has wide-reaching implications for not only how we play, but work, collaborate, and communicate. And you thought catching a Pikachu was fun….

13. Cybersecurity Becomes Big(ger) Business

Whether or not 2017 brings "the great hack" that changes how everyone thinks about online security, it will mark the beginning of a greater consumer consciousness around how their data is used and collected. The world is more connected than ever, and the growth of beacon technology will be one of the many signals that show consumers just how exposed they are. Expect the rise of encrypted message platforms like Signal and Telegram as regulators have no choice but to respond to privacy fears and drastically change authentication procedures.

14. The Remote Economy will Transform the Workforce

Employees want to work when and where they please. Businesses want less overhead and access to top talent, no matter where they're located. Work will go remote as 2017's connected workforce increasingly leverages online DIY and the sharing economy to generate new streams of income. Even the most conservative companies will have no choice but to implement work-from-home policies and lean on far-away talent to meet their business goals. The result? Look for a boom in conferencing technology that will allow global teams to collaborate effectively. VR board rooms anyone? We're working on one, let's talk.

15. Experiences Will Get Faster

In our FOMO world filled with shrinking attention spans, speeds and feeds matter more than ever. To develop an audience, digital content must load lightning fast and be syndicated to social feeds or other central hubs. In 2017, initiatives like Google’s AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) and Facebook’s Instant Articles that allow content to be published once and load instantly across feeds will be critical tools for brands and publishers that compete to keep users in their ecosystem. UX designers, beware: users want their content fast, cheap, and good.   

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