ClickZ Live Chicago: What are the big trends to look out for in 2016?

There’s still another month of 2015, but marketers are already looking toward next year. What are some of the big industry trends going to be?

During the finale of ClickZ Live Chicago, our Editor, Melanie White, along with a panel of marketers from Leo Burnett; BuzzFeed; Donuts, Inc., a domain registry that has nothing to do with doughnuts; and commercial real estate company JLL,  speculated.

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From left to right: Melanie White, Jeff Davidoff, Anna Ferguson, Jason Parker, Tom Lombardo. 

“If there has ever been a time for advertisers to buckle in, 2016 is the year. Marketing will evolve with the continued explosion of the digital economy. At its center, it will still be about building trust by providing value; some things will never change. What will transform is the ability for digital marketers to track their advertising campaigns across channels such as Web, email, mobile and more recently, social,” said White as she opened the panel.

“As new martech capabilities are born, old ones will wither on the vine. Those that learn to adapt and are able to attribute their successes in the right ways, will survive. Those that can’t may lend themselves to darker destinies,” she added.

Here are some of the predictions from the other panelists:

Anna Ferguson, vice president of brand strategy, central region, BuzzFeed

BuzzFeed’s aim is to “make a different impact across the world through content.” And anyone who’s been on Facebook or Twitter in the last few years can vouch for the company’s success. BuzzFeed is everywhere, and that’s not a coincidence.

A listicle entitled, “26 Things Only Anxious People Will Understand” garnered 10 million views, and was then repurposed in other content formats, such as a video and a Snapchat GIF. As the consumption of content continuously evolves, Anna Ferguson sees the trend of repurposing for numerous publishing platforms being a big one next year.

“Buzzfeed now has teams that are writing for people just on Facebook, or just Snapchat. What we see is a cross-platform distribution network where we’re publishing to people where they’re consuming media,” says Ferguson.

For example, the madness about that dress earlier this year started on Twitter, which Ferguson sees as “a sourcing social platform that feeds into the rest.” The dress took the Internet by storm that night, making its rounds of other platforms like Facebook and Pinterest, and yes, BuzzFeed.

Mobile video is another large trend that Ferguson sees. The company is currently experimenting in order to find out the optimal time that a video should be for maximum engagement on mobile.

Jeff Davidoff, chief marketing officer, Donuts, Inc.

Dot brands have already started growing in popularity – Taco Bell’s Ta.co and Zappos.shoes, for instance – and Jeff Davidoff doesn’t see the not com revolution” slowing down in 2016.

“We want to give awareness and credibility where there used to be scarcity. Not coms offer opportunties for brands to help them stand out. Now marketers can be very creative to the left side of the dot, while also being specific to the right side of the dot,” says Davidoff.

Donuts, Inc. recently worked with the Petfinder Foundation and launched Myrescue.dog. Users could post pictures of dogs or vote for their favorites, and those actions triggered donations to local animal shelter. After 30 days, the site generated 500,000 votes and achieved an Alexa ranking of 11,000.

“If you want to start a movement, tap into the things that feel like a movement: consumer-generated content, social sharing, a passion point like how much people love dogs. Raising money at the same time was the cherry on top,” he says.

Domains like .TV have had spotty performances in the past, which Davidoff attributes more to a lack of effort than anything.

“Some things come out in drips and drags, and I don’t particularly think there was any value added. Now businesses can brand themselves as who they are, while creating a much more memorable and authentic experience,” he says.

Jason Parker, senior vice president, strategic innovations director, Leo Burnett

Data’s always been around – since the caveman days, even – but the ways in which it’s used is still very limited. Jason Parker sees the rise of “the physical web,” a Google project that connects offline objects to the Internet, making more of it useful for marketers.

“When we think about beacons, the biggest barrier is apps. Every beacon technology has its own app or its own ecosystem of the Internet of Things, so the problem is, who’s going to have all these apps?” notes Parker. “What if there was a way to interact with stuff that didn’t rely on apps?”

For example, if you walk into a drug store, you may not be able to find the vitamins you’re looking for on the crowded shelves. Through the physical web, you could pull up the product on your phone, scan it, and watch the shelf light up where it’s located. The physical web will be a much better version of QR codes, comments Parker.

“We’re hoping that the logo [indicating the physical web] works much like the Wifi logo did a few years ago when it wasn’t so commonplace, yet be much more interactive,” says Parker. “You’d walk into a Starbucks, see the Wifi logo and say, ‘Ok, I can access the Internet in here, great.'”

Tom Lombardo, chief operating officer, digital and mobility marketing, JLL

Like Parker, Tom Lombardo sees an explosion in beacons in the future, however he goes one step further and predicts that smart buildings and intelligent offices will be the real trend. He works in commercial real estate, where beacon technology has been utilized for some time.

According to Lombardo, sensor technology is being used to monitor commercial buildings and control things like air conditioning, lighting and fire safety. As the technology gets cheaper and adoption grows, people will get a lot more used to using them, creating an abundance of data opportunities that marketers can benefit from.

Beacons technology is customizable, allowing consumers to choose what’s sent to them, as opposed to the “bombardment of brand messages all day long,” as Lombardo calls it. He thinks beacons will be invaluable for the data-hungry marketers, but also beyond.

“As you’re walking past a retail store, an app that has beacon-based offers sends you what deals are going on, but it also gives you the floor plans of the building. Some of these apps will even tell you if you’re lost, how to get there,” says Lombardo. “They offer more value beyond just a marketing message.”

*This story was jointly written with Mike O’Brien. 

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