The 2017 Digital Trends Forecast | emfluence
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The 2017 Digital Trends Forecast


It's never too early to start forecasting what's going to be 'the next big thing' in the digital marketing and tech landscape. emfluence has compiled trends and expectations across different agency teams to get an array of predictions from experts in different areas. We have an assortment of insights on what to look for, and more importantly what to plan for with your marketing strategies in 2017. The boldest prediction of all? 60% of the time our predictions are right, every time.

See You at The (Social Media) Crossroads


Facebook continues to "eat the internet" with their share of the social media landscape. Live Video has no signs of slowing down. Instagram and Snapchat continue to trade punches in the ephemeral content ring. And does anyone want to buy Twitter?! Our experts have a variety of thoughts on what to look for in 2017 with Social Media - and if this is the year it hits a tipping point.  

David Cacioppo, President/CEO
There will be some deaths or near deaths of some of the channels. Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Messenger, Slack, Instagram. It may not be directly visible by a number of open accounts on any given platform. But it would be highly visible if there were published numbers on the activity/inactivity of users on those channels. There are already way too many ways to communicate. While social channels all own unique sets of strengths, they aren't all proprietary and another channel can easily replicate those functions and features. Case-in-point, Instagram Stories a virtual copycat of Snapchat. We can expect to see this even more, either through development or acquisition.  Those channels that do survive must do a better job of serving tribes. i.e. How does the feature set and audience of Houzz find a new home on Facebook? What it means for marketers is that there could be fewer relevant options, making budgeting decisions a little easier.  

Chad Anderson, Director of Client Strategy
I think one of the most interesting and compelling shifts in 2017 is going to be the continued rise of private social networks, as younger Millennials and Gen-Z's have started to gravitate away from social networks. 2016 marks the first time that consumer posting volume in private networks: Facebook Messenger, GroupMe, WhatsApp and Snapchat exceeded that of the posting in public social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. As social media giants compete for more native content posting on their platforms- consumers are shifting more towards micro-sharing within their core groups. Marketers need to start looking at these consumer behavioral changes and address audience expectations when marketing to consumers on public social networks compared to private social networks. Social Media is more social than ever, but it's fragmented and will continue down that path in 2017.     

Alan Rapp, Account Analyst
As we've seen in previous years, I expect a continued increased focus on mobile and social targeting – specifically around mobile. Mobile devices outnumber humans on the planet - and they are multiplying 5x faster than we are! The introduction of smart watches and the increased popularity of social media apps like Snapchat and Instagram has created new, opportunities and uncharted territory for marketers to target users in new and different ways. This will require innovation and imagination to best used the different platforms and devices available to create a custom experience for each and move further away from outdated marketing methodologies and into the future.    

Marlana Allaman, Accounting Director 
As social networks become increasingly spread out, I would really like to see an app that pulls in feeds from all social media apps. There's a finite amount of time in each day and people can't keep up with all of the content being put out on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest. So, an app that would aggregate everything into one space and allow me to keep up with all of them, specifically the people and content that I want to see, would be awesome.

Home is Where the Smart Is


Wide consumer adoption of wearable technology like the Smart Watches and Google Glass are widely considered busts at this point - as they haven't solved for a need that smartphones can't provide. However, consumer adoption of other "smart" IoT devices continue to be on the rise. Is 2017 the year that smart devices make the leap from home accessories to fashion accessories - and will your in-home "digital personal assistant" be the one who is doing the purchasing?  If Pokémon Go was an indicator, then the consumer adoption of VR/AR headsets (Oculus Rift, Google Daydream, Samsung Gear) are poised to make a major impact in 2017.  

Tyler Barnes, Director of Search 
Home automation is going to get much bigger, and the beginning inklings of home automation ads are going to appear. Amazon, Apple, and Google are all going to be competing to win market share, pushing for interactive content and interconnectivity in the home. The rise in home automation will create more importance for e-commerce and content to optimize for voice recognition. Smart devices like Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Apple HomeKit skills will continue to grow as content opportunities for large brands  

Ryan McElhaney, Director of Client Service 
More Wearable Technology - and not just what goes on your wrist! We are going to see clothing, jewelry (necklaces) and more high-end fashion designers jumping into the wearable technology trend in 2017. From tracking our health to our moods and even our pets, there will be an increase in the marketplace for “smart” tech that we wear.  Implications would be how will we market on these devices include buyable ad-space on the devices and apps, geo-targeting locations with ever more refined messaging than we're seeing with smartphones.  High-end fashion designers are getting involved in creating more “fashion forward” and “everyday” wearable pieces. I think that will become more of a normalized trend over the next year.  Marketers will need to adapt to fit their brand into smaller screens, with even better messaging. Integrating marketing messages seamlessly into the everyday technology used by humans (and pets) is going to be an interesting trend to follow. Your refrigerator can tell you that you're out of Milk in 2016, but will it suggest a brand of Milk in 2017, along with a coupon?  

Danae Weber, Account Manager
I think that we will see new innovations in how CPG brands streamline purchasing and enable fans to purchase goods based on behaviors performed on social media channels like Instagram and Pinterest.  Similar to LikeToKnow.It, if it is as easy to "heart" an Instagram post and then receive an email with the articles of clothing from the post and where to purchase them, brands can be expected to go a step further and receive an email with the selected items. Making clothing or accessory purchase as easy as Heart. Select. Purchase. For the shopaholics out there, this could get dangerous, but it would still remain a very useful tool. Additionally, providing brands the opportunity to seize the purchase intent moment. This type of innovation would help to establish business partnership opportunities and further monetize lifestyle brand heavy channels like Instagram, and make the purchase process less fragmented by allowing users to seamlessly shop natively within the app!  

Krissy Head, Senior Account Manager
In 2017, we’ll start to see more automated employees in large retail chains, similar to LoweBots , and with that new ad placement opportunities. LoweBots were designed with customer service in mind, but they’re gathering all kinds of data with every customer interaction in the store.  I see that data being leveraged for targeting opportunities brands can tap into when planning store promotions. “You’re looking for a stove? There’s a sale going on for LG stove ranges and they’re one of our top-rated brands". Despite consumer shifts towards online purchasing versus in store, I see retail chains wanting to adopt this technology to provide another means of service to customers. It’s sort of like offering a web form instead of just a phone number on a landing page. You give someone both options to avoid sending anyone away who may be less comfortable with direct interaction.  

Jacob Greenberg, Sr. Web Developer
Digital assistants (Siri, Cortana, Alexa, Ok Google) are going to be more useful and visible in the coming year. This is in part because of AI technology improvement, more and more capable devices, and software companies opening their assistants up to third party integration. While this should be good for consumers I think it could be confusing with inconsistent support for integrations, devices, and features across the different platforms. Which digital assistant ecosystem consumers prefer could have a greater influence in purchasing decisions when choosing mobile devices, operating systems, and smart home technology.  For marketers, I think we will need to watch for opportunities for integrating with the platforms that have been opened up and also keep ahead of what is required for our product/brand/locations to appear as query results in a similar way we do search engine optimization right now.  

Lindsay Waters, Senior Account Manager
I am looking forward to augmented reality and virtual reality expanding, and becoming more of a common practice, in the marketing and digital space in 2017. I think marketers will be able to use both AR and VR to drastically enhance a consumer’s experience in industries outside of gaming...for example, entertainment, hospitality and travel, journalism/news, etc. 

SEO & Content Marketing Evolve (Yes, Again)

Content has been THE digital buzzword of the last few years, if you weren't doing it before, you've probably got on board. But consumer "content shock" (read: content overload) is real in 2016 - and that means your content needs to be better, smarter and even more mobile friendly in 2017.  Why? Well, because Google and Facebook say so. When these two Tech giants agree on something, it might as well be Dogma...until the next time they change it.

Alex Boyer, Digital Content Coordinator 
Now that content marketing has become a widely accepted practice, I believe the big trend will be trying to automate the process as much as possible. The goal is to automate and procedurally generate content that is not only valuable but highly customized for the consumer. This doesn’t mean our blog posts will miraculously start writing themselves, but I think new tools will emerge that make it faster and easier to identify blog topics, research, link and optimize everything you create to market your business. It’s up to marketing professionals to leverage these tools, compensate for their shortcomings and determine their role in the creation of content moving forward. After all, a computer will never be able to completely market your business automatically, unless, of course, we actually build SkyNet.   

Jacob Schwartz / Development Director
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). You might recognize the little lightning bolt that gets attached to AMP links on Facebook. Basically, your developer creates a specialized separate version of your web pages, and these pages load a lot faster on mobile devices. AMP has been around for a while but hasn’t supported a lot more than the most basic article / blog content until recently. Increasingly, the idea of a complete AMP website is possible. We saw a huge move away from separate mobile sites a few years ago. AMP provide excellent performance on mobile devices, but I’m a bit conflicted because a separate AMP version occurs in addition to (and undermines) responsive development. For the time being, we’re probably going to be working extra hard to do responsive desktop/tablet/mobile sites, as well as a separate AMP version.  

Mike Tipton, Business Development Director
Content Types will start to be correlated with stages of Marketing and Sales Funnels. The ability for search engines to understand and pull results based on site/blog images will allow marketers to identify which types of content correlate best with where the site visitors are in their purchase journey. Someone who is just starting their research may be more attracted to infographics or video, while someone who is further down in the purchase funnel may be spending a lot of time on written content and white papers.  While we all know to create content targeted toward the audience (often seen in general, high-level “Top 5” or “How To” articles ), the next understanding to emerge will be what content types are most likely to resonate with potential customers at various stages of their decision process.  

Alan Schieber, SEM Analyst
In 2017, a major focus of SEO and Paid media will be to corner success in Local Search. With Google’s new algorithms they are putting even more of an emphasis on local search, helping consumers find "places nearby". Google is being purposeful when emphasizing local, as it goes hand in hand with the rise of consumer smartphone usage for shopping and finding destinations in their vicinity. To be successful, advertisers will need to focus efforts on both SEO and Paid Media, and by doing this they will see increased placement with the right consumers and an improved ROI.

Time for Traditional Advertisers to 'Get Smart'

2017 is trending to be the first year where digital ad spending will surpass Television. This is a massive milestone for marketers and a $200 billion wake-up call for traditional advertisers that saw digital overtake print 5 years ago and passed broadcast TV less than 3 years ago.  It's also happening a year before experts expected (eMarketer). Ad channels aren't the only mainstays that are rapidly evolving. Robots are finding their place in retail for customer assistance, Chatbots are replacing customer service reps.  

Chris Cacioppo, COO
I’m looking forward to an innovation in cable TV advertising. Up to this point, the Cable provider heavyweights (Time Warner, Comcast, DirectTV, Google Fiber…)  haven't evolved their capabilities to deliver targeted advertising and reach consumers at the same level that other digital channels have. They will need to evolve or see continued declines in ad revenue, by delivering targeted ads directly to viewers. Otherwise, these traditional ads will continue to get tuned out and act as TV's version of spam. The antiquated "spray and pray" approach,  hoping to catch consumer attention isn't sustainable.  Television advertisers can right the ship - as it's (currently) still the largest ad-revenue channel. But the shift needs to happen quickly or they'll continue to lose advertising revenue to channels that are more cost-effective, have better targeting and personalization and can associate a true, trackable ROI.  

Trevor Stille, Sr. Growth Strategist
I am looking forward to the progression of data sets that will reveal the impact of offline advertising to online channels and how the great divide, narrows.  As Google expands its Fiber Network, they will have increased consumer data and insights around viewing habits  to bridge this gap further between the never ending offline / online reporting war. The emergence of these types of data sets will allow advertisers  to more effectively position messaging and more efficiently place media across all channels to maximize consumer engagement levels and drive conversions.  

Fritz Stahmer, Senior Digital Strategist
Mid to large size Business owners have had a history of trying to find the results with digital they have both read about and consistently heard about at seminars. In 2017, I expect to see a trend of these business people demanding tangible results tied to their bottom line and not just an occasional report telling them they should be happy with all the impressions they got.  Part of this trend in demanding a true ROI comes from business people that are tired of being burned by digital firms that are a little more than sales organizations with low levels of expertise in actually executing the concepts they present. Hopefully, this 2017 focus on results and transparencies will weed out those digital companies that are just profit focused versus client ROI focused.


There you have it. Five pages of brainpower from our variety of experts. What digital or tech trend are you keeping an eye on for 2017? Let us know in the comments - we want to hear about it! 





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