Coming soon to more mobile devices near you:

  • A mashup of the real world and digital graphics, brought to you by a favorite brand or business.
  • Apps that know what you want to buy before you do.
  • Branded content that passes the “fake news” smell test better than some journalism.
  • Bite-sized yet compelling live marketing video delivered on your favorite social network.
  • Did we say “mobile devices?” We did, and that’s your desktop receding further in your rearview mirror.

Your fingernails are still recovering from trying to hang on as technology rocked marketing in 2016. We suggest you keep your seat belts fastened, because there’s every indication that this year will be just as bumpy a ride for businesses and their marketing professionals wondering if there’s a place for them in the latest digital trends.

It’s true that not every white-hot technology is a perfect fit for all businesses. A lot still depends on budgets, staff resources, know-how and buy-in from top executives. But those execs may be pleasantly surprised to find out that some of these cool developments can be accessible to SMBs, while other advances won’t necessarily break the bank.

 

Is This Real Life? Using Augmented/Virtual Reality Without Chasing After Pikachu

 

Even though the Pokemon Go phenomenon has cooled off considerably since its launch last year, there’s enough heat generated by the first successful commercial use of augmented reality (layering computer generated images onto reality) to get marketing pros and their IT colleagues thinking about its impact on businesses. Imagine other kinds of games that use your smartphone’s GPS and software-created graphics to entertain users while rewarding loyalty with discounts. Meanwhile, virtual reality (dropping the viewer into a completely CG world) is now within consumer reach thanks to Samsung, Oculus, Sony and HTC, with Microsoft joining the VR club soon. AR/VR doesn’t have to be just about gamification: The only limit to how all this can result in real customer immersive interaction is the imagination of those same marketing professionals.

 

Machine Learning/AI/Big Data/Whatever: I For One Welcome Our New Software Overlords

 

To paraphrase Netscape co-founder and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, software is still eating the world, but now it’s working on dessert. That means artificial intelligence and machine learning, and how they are crunching the terabytes of Big Data generated by us all (and our technologies.) It’s apps that learn from past consumer behaviors for better real-time recommendations; automated marketing tech that helps target higher-quality leads and gives more in-depth metrics for determining ROI; predictive analysis of user data and how it can boost loyalty. A growing number of software startup companies are focusing on these solutions, and marketing pros are quickly learning which ones could help their clients/founders.

 

It’s The Quality of Your Content Marketing, Not The Quantity of Your Blog Posts

 

Yes, content marketing (or brand journalism) isn’t exactly a new trend, but its importance will only grow in 2017 as everyone starts to question the veracity of what’s read, seen and shared online. Google and Facebook are working hard to deal with the “fake news” issue, but their preference was always toward rewarding authentic, non-promotional business-generated content with better search results and placement on news feeds. Small/mid-sized B2B companies should be looking hard at implementing a content marketing strategy if they aren’t already doing so. There’s no time like now to start sharing your deep knowledge of your particular industry.

 

Live from Your Smartphone: It’s Your Social Video Strategy!

 

Live video was officially A Thing by the end of 2016, thanks to most major social media platforms either introducing or boosting features built around real-time broadcasting. We’ve written recently about Facebook Live and Snapchat, thanks to both diving deeper into waters already bubbling with the likes of Periscope and Instagram. While most of these have shown their usefulness when it comes to breaking news, we are already seeing more brands and businesses experimenting with live social video – or for that matter, any social video – for marketing purposes. Since it’s live, it doesn’t have to be slick and produced to within an inch of its life; the you-are-there immediacy lends itself to product launches, reaction to industry developments and showing off hard-working employees.

 

It’s Not Your Smartphone, It’s A Customer Soapbox. Hence Your Need For a Mobile Strategy

 

All the trends we’ve covered are either enabled by or complement mobile devices. You do have a desktop shoved into your coat pocket or purse; it’s called a smartphone, and this is where more of the processing, storage and software magic is happening as we zoom towards the end of the second decade of the 21st century. It’s where purchasing and content-viewing habits now reside. It’s a gaming console and a movie theater, but it’s also a research tool for price comparisons and customer/influencer reviews. The 2016 holiday shopping season was bigger than it’s ever been for m-commerce, and B2B companies are exploring more mobile marketing options. So tell us again why your website isn’t mobile-ready?

 

As always, predictions are hard, especially when it comes to the future. (Sorry, bad jokes will always be around.) Any of these trends could be replaced by something that’s still a messy pile of algorithms, or a scribbled-on-a-napkin concept. That is the nature of technology these days. The one thing we can always count on is someone figuring out a way to apply it to business.

 

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