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9 tech trends modern marketers can't ignore in 2016

9 tech trends modern marketers can't ignore in 2016 Tom Edwards

2016 is poised to be a year that features truly transformational innovation. With many claiming virtual reality as the next evolution of computing, we will see how consumers respond. Will they be ready to embrace immersive experiences beyond simple curiosity and engage with brands?

We will also see the continual shift from social media to social messaging, the rise of branded podcasts, the return of the native app, and much more as we look at nine tech trends that marketers can't ignore in 2016.

Virtual reality

On a recent earnings call, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg called virtual reality (VR) the next evolution of computing. Coming out of CES, one of the key trends was definitely tied to virtual reality. Now we're on the verge of VR hardware being readily available for early consumer adopters.

VR replicates an environment that stimulates physical presence in real or imagined worlds. It will enable brands and marketers to drive attention and enable consumers. VR experiences are ideal for branded integrations, as they are tied to the mobile device and can extend immersive content experience.

As virtual reality hits the consumer market in 2016, having the ability to refine the experience will be key for brands and VR experience creators. Moving from passive to active viewing is one of the primary goals of VR experience creators.

The key to active VR engagement will be based on additional motion sensors that allow depth-based interaction in the experience. At CES 2016, the ecosystem of suppliers providing sensors to enhance the experience was on full display.

As more brand marketers begin to experiment with virtual reality, it is important to realize that the experience should go beyond simply consuming content and strive to provide interactivity.

Shift from social media to social messaging

Facebook is a microcosm for what's happening in the industry. They have over one billion users engaging monthly, yet they are laser focused on evolving beyond social media and are doubling down on social messaging.

Facebook sees that consumer behavior is shifting towards intimate connection vs. broad-reaching social platforms. As a result, messaging apps, like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and SnapChat are dominating engagement with key demographics.

In addition to stickers, animated GIFs, and emojis, messenger applications will also focus on enabling customer service to serve as a primary commerce hub for publishers. Facebook has already tested programs connecting local service providers with consumers through Messenger, as well as enabling third-party developers to create new experiences that enable the messaging experience.

From a marketing perspective, messaging apps require an "enabling" approach vs. social personification or brand messaging. Consider sponsored brand chats, stickers, and emojis to connect with consumers via these platforms. Also, we will begin to see the rise of micro-messaging branded applications similar to WeChat campaigns.

Branded podcasts

With the success of podcasts like Serial and The Nerdist, 46 million Americans and 100 million globally listen to podcasts each month -- and the number is accelerating. Accessibility to episodic content has been a key driver in consumer podcast engagement.

A larger number of companies such as General Electric, IBM, and Callaway Golf are investing in content creation on the medium. The key to executing successful brand podcasts is to understand the potential audience and create a compelling experience that consumers will want to engage with.

It is a medium where a brand can experiment and see what resonates, then build towards a sustainable audience.

The return of native apps

2016 will see resurgence in native branded mobile applications. With advancements in mobile in-app search indexing including non-installed apps, deep linking, actionable notifications, and invaluable behavioral and usage data, the role that mobile apps play will be critical for brands in 2016 to further link online and offline behavior.

It is important to understand the shift towards app-based content discovery, especially with pending ad blocking of the mobile web. Reconsider your mobile app strategy to align the seamless connection of online behavioral data with location to drive real-time marketing experiences.

Dark data

Dark data is operational data that is not being used. 2016 will see a rise in solutions that leverage dark data.

The key is to align and understand consumer patterns and habits through the analysis of machine learning algorithms that drive real-time decisions.

Dark data can incorporate online behavioral data and location to create exceptional experiences.

Consider defining a data strategy that maximizes key insights from dark data to create compelling mobile moments.

Voice query optimization

2016 will see the need to define predictive search strategies based on the rise of voice query input devices.

Siri, Amazon Echo, and Cortana are all voice-enabled virtual assistants that will power a shift in search discovery.

Begin considering a predictive search strategy, such as integrating with Google Now in preparation for this pending shift in consumer behavior, and expand beyond traditional search and retrieval optimization.

Sequential storytelling through video

Investment in video creation and distribution will continue to increase in 2016. We will see the rise of non-linear interactive video platforms such as Interlude.

Brand marketers are turning to platforms that can support non-linear video viewing, which opens up new possibilities to create unique contextual paths and experiences for users to engage with the video storyline that is most relevant for them.

Giving the consumer control over interactive video provides higher engagement rates when compared to linear video. Consider how non-linear storytelling can optimize your existing linear content.

360-degree video

Facebook launched support for 360-degree video last September, and recently announced that it is now supported via mobile.

Videos can be viewed without a VR viewer, but the experience is ideal with some form of VR hardware.

Brands such as GoPro, Discovery, and Star Wars are all experimenting with immersive 360-degree content. If your brand supports events, is an extension of lifestyle, or has a unique presence that 360-degree video can enhance, then it may be worth testing.

Light-based communication

One new technology trend for 2016 is leveraging light as a means of communication. I recently connected with Basic6 to review their GeoLifi solutions.

GeoLifi delivers targeted information to shoppers through GeoLifi LED lights. You can dynamically change messages and promotions, and consumer data is streamed to a cloud-based system to track users' patterns and activity.
GeoLifi works for both consumers and in-store associates as a means to creating a highly engaging experience based on where the user is located. No Beacons required as light and the existing infrastructure support the experience.

In conclusion, 2016 will be a dynamic year for marketing technology and its ability to drive the customer experience. We will see advancements in data solutions, new platforms for immersive content, and new and innovative channels to deliver contextual content that creates immersive experiences.

Tom Edwards is chief digital officer, agency at Epsilon.

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"Business analysis" image via iStock.

Epsilon is a global leader in data, marketing and technology enablement. As the Chief Digital Officer for Epsilon’s agency business, Tom is guiding Epsilon agency clients as a trusted advisor to meet the business needs of today while...

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