2016 saw the fruition of various trends in our industry, amongst them; the continuing rise of content marketing, more brands exploring ‘big data’ with actual results and, the increasing need for retailers and brands to adopt new ways of working to better connect and engage with consumers.

With attention now turning to next year, what exactly can we expect to see within digital marketing as we step into 2017?

Further spread of consumer-generated content

In 2017, we will continue to see the importance of Consumer-Generated Content (CGC) being realised – especially from retailers and brands who look to become more sophisticated with their use of it. I predict that it will be used, not only to facilitate social strategies, but also to promote conversion, increase trust, and push urgency in purchase. We can expect to see CGC spread from the confinements of the product page to taking pride-of-place positioning across category pages, email marketing and even in-store. This shift is just one of many ways that retailers will look to unite offline and online strategies to create an integrated shopping experience, using earned media.

Real-time/Live content

I hope to see many marketers move beyond ‘personalisation’ to focus more on ‘relevancy’ in 2017. Mail merge has been successful for quite some time - but let’s be honest, it’s not very sexy and it certainly does not increase engagement on its own. The only way to increase engagement effectively is for marketers to become better at being “contextually relevant” across all their communications, in real-time. This means taking an insight-led approach to how and what should be communicated at any one time.

Marketers who adopt a contextual understanding of their consumers’ desires and preferences of will be better-positioned to be successful. It goes far beyond knowing who your customer is and where they are located. Taking big data such as behavioural, transactional, social media profiles and much more can be used to create and curate content that is not just relevant and valuable for potential customers – but an ongoing conversation. By creating these moments in real-time, marketers can better recognise, deliver and capitalise on the experiences of their consumers.

Native advertising

Display is dead, native will continue to rise. We have already seen successful investments in publishing content and we expect to see this continue. An example of this is the hugely successful ‘Tasty’ – which is part of publishing powerhouse BuzzFeed. Its recipe videos constantly spread virally across its 77 million Facebook fans (the main BuzzFeed Facebook page is dwarfed in comparison at 9 million fans). Examples such as ‘Tasty’ are surefire ways to create and spread content that may not necessarily fit under editorial guidelines on a main publication, but creates an environment to share rewarding content with a similar target audience. Even BBC news has altered its social media approach, taking a much more native advertising style.

A consumer-first marketing approach for 2017

Marketers need to understand that in a world where consumers are bombarded with 5000 marketing messages a day (a tenfold increase in forty years), we have a responsibility as an industry to treat our most precious recourse with respect and integrity – the attention of our audience.

Consumer-first marketing helps brands build relationships on consumers’ terms. It is a marketing approach based on empathy towards the consumer. And an important part of this approach is a deep respect for consumer preferences, meaning that marketers only communicate using consumers’ content preferences and settings, and have the courage to cease or dramatically dial down communication, if required.

Marketers who are able to recognise and react to consumer preferences in a timely fashion with the right tone will ultimately delight customers and create winning campaigns. Marketing within the moments of a consumer’s life with relevancy and context is key to building valuable and long-lasting customer relationships in 2017.


By Christopher Baldwin, head of UK marketing at Selligent

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