Digital marketing often feels like a moving target, but it’s no longer optional for brands who are serious about moving their business objectives forward. It’s an industry that’s ever-changing and full of guesswork, but there are still clear trends that will define online marketing in the coming months and throughout 2015. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a digital novice, it’s important to keep these 10 key trends on your radar over the next year.

1. More User-Generated Content

Content became king in 2014, and now it’s time to look toward the kingdom at large to source new, diverse content. The responsibility will always be on brands to own the high-quality content on their channels, but customers and followers are eager to contribute to the conversation too. Whether it’s as simple as a branded hashtag or as in-depth as tapping a group of ambassadors to post on the company blog, content will always be stronger when it embraces the conversation and creates new opportunities for engagement.

2. Advancements in Social Advertising

Organic social reach is constantly changing, so brands are increasing their social advertising efforts in order to maintain and grow their presence. Luckily for the advertisers, social sites have also been making improvements to their ad platforms. Twitter rolled out new features that will allow advertisers to tailor ads based on mobile data, while Facebook made ad creation easier for brands by partnering with Shutterstock to offer access to millions of images.

Over the next year, Facebook will continue to innovate on its ad platform with more emphasis on autoplay video ads. New players in the social ad space, including Instagram and Snapchat, will also likely expand their offerings in 2015, unlocking access to rapidly growing audiences.

3. Make-or-Break Native Advertising

Native advertising was one of the most controversial trends in 2014, and it will either rise to the occasion or flounder into the archives in 2015. There is a lot of potential and the benefits of native advertising are obvious to marketers, but if brands and media companies don’t begin to regulate themselves, native ads could be stopped in their tracks by government regulation in some countries.

4. Mobile Optimisation

Mobile web traffic outnumbered desktop traffic for the first time in 2014, shattering any last doubts about the power of smartphones and tablets. With mobile devices now the go-to choice for many users, there’s increasing value to the idea of mobile-first products, which are designed and produced for an optimal experience on smaller screens. With the fast release schedule for new devices, however, marketers and developers will behoove themselves to invest in a responsive design that won’t render their product obsolete when the next big thing comes out.

5. Focus on Content Marketing

BuzzFeed VP of Agency Strategy Jonathan Perelman was the first to coin the phrase, “Content is king, but distribution is queen, and she wears the pants.” While some marketers still have their pants on backwards when it comes to content marketing, 2015 is a prime time to refocus efforts in this area. Quality content is being created all over the place, by both brands and media companies, and finding new distribution methods will be the key to a company’s content success. In 2015, brands (both big and small) will need to embrace paid content distribution and syndicated social ads to bolster the reach of their owned channels.

6. Micro-Targeting

In the past, marketers have been tasked with developing programs to convert, and then delivering those programs at-scale to a mass audience. But with the recent rise in big data, 2015 will see marketers segmenting those mass audiences and speaking to consumers with custom messages that resonate on a personal level. Micro-targeted campaigns are most easily implemented on email and paid distribution channels, where access is controlled. It’s finding ways to replicate those intimate, targeted messages on social and owned content channels that will present a challenge for marketers in the next year.

7. Wearable Technology

One of the hottest industries to be in right now is wearable tech: Internet-connected devices for our arms, legs, and eyes. Marketers who are ready to pounce on early opportunities in the wearable space will see chances for massive reach and impact as the industry continues to see explosive growth in 2015.

8. In-Store Mobile Campaigns

A 2013 study from the Google Shopper Marketing Agency Council and M/A/R/C Research revealed that 84% of smartphone owners use their phones while shopping in a physical store. Retailers like Spar and Ralph Lauren at Harrods have already launched initiatives aimed at in-store mobile users, and with advancements in beacon technology, the potential to create meaningful in-store experiences is ripe for the taking. More marketers will start exploring this idea in 2015, taking advantage of the opportunity to use mobile to close sales instead of just distracting shoppers.

9. Increase in Video Production

New studies continue to reveal that online video is the key to driving brand awareness, audience engagement, and even purchases. 2015 will be the year that companies (not just the big players) finally dedicate resources to integrate video into their marketing strategies. While smaller brands take their first steps into video marketing this year, large brands who’ve already been working in the space will begin to advance their usage, working video into their marketing automation, paid campaigns, and mobile promotions.

10. Emphasis on A/B Testing

With all the data available these days, it’s just silly for marketers to still be making all their decisions based on intuition. Marketing winners in 2015 will be those who set out with a structured approach to testing, relentlessly trying to find new ways to gain traction from existing assets. The availability of A/B testing tools makes it easier for marketers to tackle testing on their own if faced with limited design and development resources.


By Sarah Maloy, Content Marketing Manager at Shutterstock.

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