Online Ad Trends for 2017

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Marketers are constantly trying to predict the next trend so they can be ahead of the game, but there’s no better time for prognosticating than at the end of the year.

After all, this is an ideal time for a reset, as we are approaching the end of the holiday retail shopping season and so many people will soon be paying off their overloaded credit cards. Many will not be ready to buy again after the seasonal country-wide shopping spree, giving you time to experiment with new campaigns and even do a little A/B testing with the much smaller audience that remains.

In 2017, these are some trends you absolutely need to be watching:

• Big Data. I’ve written on this subject before and I will continue to drive the point home. Data is the key to modern marketing, especially digital marketing. You can track a vast range of metrics, but the ones you really must focus on are related to actual performance.

It doesn’t matter how many clicks you get or how many views there are if no one is buying. You’re not in business to entertain the masses, you’re there to sell something. Base your 2017 KPIs on actual sales-related actions and you’ll find that data is a lot more useful than it has ever been.

• Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality. There’s some argument to be made that these two things should be broken into separate categories, but I’m putting them together because they belong in the “novel advertising frontier” part of the industry. We know things like social selling and direct response marketing are working, but there’s a push for involvement in the AI and AR spheres, both of which are currently little more than novelties.

Would a customer buy more if Alexa suggested items they might be interested in based on their Amazon activity? Could you get better engagement with AR ads? Both are possible, but definitely not something to throw all your marketing dollars behind. AI and AR are still niche interests and will take time to build into solid marketing tools. Using AI to suggestive sell something on a website is a great way to start, but having Alexa as your spokesbot might be a few more years in development.

• Social Selling. You certainly can’t help but to notice all the advertisements floating around on social media these days. These billboards for every kind of product under the sun aren’t going away any time soon. Facebook is still growing by leaps and bounds, Twitter is completely remaking itself and other social outlets like Pinterest and Instagram are opening up clickable advertisements; it’s obvious this market is still full of steam. In fact, research firm ComScore found that mobile now represents 67 percent of digital media minutes and we already know that social media is the best way to reach those mobile users.

• Messaging Apps. Messaging apps have so far remained primarily advertisement-free, but with Facebook’s experiments adding things like the ability to call an Uber from inside the Messenger app, this area is ripe for exploration. Maybe this will come as a combination of AI to suggestive sell items within the app and small banner ads, much like the Uber suggestions now.

How this works is that messenger will often put messages into the app about arranging a ride, including an active link to Uber, when users type specific keywords. This is subtle, but genius. The AI decides, “This person needs a ride” and then throws out a solution to the problem. It could ultimately do the same for someone who needs a vacuum cleaner or a new insurance agent—the possibilities here are really endless. The trick will be to keeping this type of advertisement limited so it’s not overly intrusive and allowing opt-outs for people who are really creeped out by it.

• Niche Advertising. There’s a lot of talk about niche advertising becoming a big thing in 2017. The trouble with this is that niche advertising has been a thing for a while. It’s not new, but it is still the future of digital marketing, which many of the trends above can make easier and more seamless.

When you find your niches through social media, market to each person within the niche individually with the help of suggestive selling AI and then collect the data on how they respond, you’ll be employing cutting-edge digital marketing techniques. For marketers everywhere, this should be the new approach. The bottom line is that if you’re still resisting digital or social selling, you’re going to miss out. It doesn’t matter how many print ads you create, this digital thing is only getting bigger and bigger.

When it comes to online ad trends for 2017, keep looking forward. As marketers, we’re testing limits that have never been tested before, pushing into technologies that are just barely mainstream and learning how to more efficiently market to a few right people using the latest and greatest tools available. 2017 promises to be another interesting and eye-opening year for digital marketers everywhere!
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