Marketing Trends of 2015 and Our 2016 Predictions

Posted on January 6, 2016 • Written by Jeff Williams
Marketing Trends

The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to reflect on the marketing trends of the past twelve months (both the good and the bad) and take a moment to identify some emerging trends likely to play an important role in the new year.

As a digital marketing agency that spans everything from PR, content marketing and social media marketing to design and development, Fruition is uniquely positioned to share professional insights on a wide array of marketing topics.

Here are some thoughts our in-house development and marketing experts had on 2015’s trends and what they look forward to exploring in 2016.

Melanie Davidson
In 2015 social networks were hard at work building and adopting ad platforms and it seems it paid off for both social networks and advertisers. Marketers finally realized the value of the social ad and its ability to target the individual. Spending in 2015 is expected to be $20B, with Facebook the dominate player at 75% of that revenue. In 2016, I think we will see some of the other social networks build their ad platform market share, specifically Instagram.

I’m also looking forward to seeing how these trends play out in 2016:

  • UX/Customer Experience will dominate strategy. We all know consumers live in an “always on, always connected” world and seamlessly navigate between devices, channels and experiences. Customers will grow increasingly frustrated with bad experiences, too many clicks, nonsensical landing pages, non-mobile experiences. Brands need to experience their services and products just the way a customer would and across all points a customer will interact with a brand to make sure the user experience is smooth and easy.
  • Content optimization for speech. Content remains king but with the rise in popularity of digital assistants (Siri, Alexia) and wearables (Apple Watch) content needs to be optimized for speech. I think we will see Google introduce changes to increase ranking factors on brands that optimize for speech.

Drew Michael, FruitionDrew Michael, VP of Technology
2015 saw the mass acceptance of using CSS frameworks such as Foundation and Bootstrap for most responsive websites. This, unfortunately, has led to a situation of websites all looking similar. We also saw the proliferation of advanced JavaScript frameworks such as React, Angular, Gulp, node.js, etc. These frameworks allow for JavaScript manipulation of DOM elements via easier to use and manage functions. Some of them also allow for client-server interaction to load dynamic content on the fly. This has resulted in websites with more interactivity, animation, motion and other effects that still look great and work well on mobile devices.

There has also been the rise of Single Page Applications on the web in 2015. These are more like products than websites. Along with Single Page Applications there has also been an increase in Single Page Websites where all content is on one long page with navigation that bounces you within that page.
As broadband and mobile speeds continue to increase we have seen the quality and size of images on websites also increase. Many websites now have very large full screen images and even video backgrounds.

In 2016 I expect to see more and more products being built as web based tools. There will be far fewer programs running on your desktop computer and instead you will open a browser to do things like listen to music, manage image galleries, chat with friends, play games, file your taxes, etc.

I also expect the “Internet of Things” to proliferate in 2016. As more and more “things” get connected to the Internet they will need their own web based applications to interact with them. This world of connected devices will generate a huge amount of data so services that can store, process and report on that data are going to take off even more.

Jonathan Mills, FruitionJonathan Mills, VP of Digital Strategy
A big change we saw in 2015 was the improvement in ad platform targeting. Virtually all platforms (Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram) improved their ad platforms by allowing enhanced targeting mechanisms.

Another big change is the growth in video. Video content isn’t new, but the growth rate of video content is extraordinary. Video continues to be an effective way to engage your target audience on websites, social networks, etc.

Sara Villegas, FruitionSara Villegas, Director of Digital Messaging
One trend that I noticed – though it wasn’t necessarily a good thing – were brands trying to be a little too hip or trendy for their own good. From iHop’s controversial pancake jokes to brands hopping on hashtags that didn’t have anything to do with their core marketing messages, it was a year of brands getting a little too up close and personal. While it’s always good to meet consumers where they are and build strong relationships, brands also need to take the newest trends with a grain of salt, and analyze their worth and relevancy before jumping on the bandwagon. Also of note in 2015: huge growth in social advertising (watch for an upcoming post on that), and increased efforts to connect social consumers to CRM and email databases for even richer marketing experiences.

In 2016, I can see social becoming a space that is even more “pay to play” for brands. With limited space in user feeds and increased competition from real users and other brands, it will become essential for brands to invest in social advertising in order to keep their organic efforts healthy and growing. New ad types and even more sophisticated targeting on all networks will allow businesses of all sorts to test different campaigns and choose what best fits their goals. Also on the horizon: younger consumers will continue to steer clear of major networks like Facebook, opting instead for more niche networks like Snapchat and Instagram. It will become more important than ever to pay attention to where your customers congregate, and use the media they best respond to.

Sylvia Pankiewicz
The largest, most obvious trend in 2015 was the move to mobile-first for all digital. From “Mobilegeddon” that occurred in April 2015 to mobile friendly tags on mobile search results and various additional updates, it was clear Google was focused on bringing relevant results and websites to the growing mobile audience. While I believe this was the smart move and began urging clients as early as 2013 they needed to be thinking about mobile audience and pushing mobile strategy to top of mind, I believe that most sites still fall short in this arena. Mobile-friendly sites can be very different from mobile-first strategy and thinking about actual behavior for your audience and making relevant points and content readily available. Most sites I visit from my phone leave me frustrated trying to find the right information, even when the site responds or displays well on mobile. There will be a need for many companies to improve on and really think through their mobile strategy in 2016 in order to improve mobile behavior, analytics and sales/stats.

I believe that 2016 will be a year where we need to think more ‘smart’ in relation to SEO and how Google displays results. By smart, I mean moving beyond keywords and specific terms that relate to your service or product and thinking more around the larger picture of meeting your customers’ needs as it relates to your niche industry. This involves enhancing content on site and really driving a developed, expert content marketing strategy. Google is beginning to showcase more results and answers directly on their search engine, as well as even answers to related questions. They also recently announced the release of RankBrain, an AI system that is part of their search algorithm that sorts through and interprets queries and websites to help determine relevant results from billions of searches conducted. While this information/strategy to move away from a keyword-focused strategy is not new to 2016, I believe this year will be a breakout year where companies that are smart in this content-forward approach gain digital authority and space in search results.

Patrick Yuan
While a lot of emphasis on search is placed on organic algorithms, the search engines make their money off paid ads. It is in their best interest to make paid search as profitable for as many people as possible so more money is spent on paid ads. To make this more profitable for users (while raising costs per click), search engines have made huge strides in making this ad option more profitable in 2015.

  • Paid ad space became more prevalent. Search engines are consistently making paid search ads look more like organic results, adding in more and more options for ad extensions and integrating with Google business results. If you do a search for anything on Bing, you are hard pressed to even get to the organic results.
  • Updated user intent algorithms to show ads more likely to convert
  • Updated their user data for display marketing to make targeting more accurate

As a paid search marketer, these trends are exciting because it means more and more businesses will turn to PPC or increase their PPC budgets. Just as search engines enhance their organic algorithms to get better, they are enhancing their paid algorithms to show the right ads to the best customers.

As more and more success comes from PPC, I expect more budgets will be focused on emerging paid strategies in 2016. Last year (2015) saw a huge increase in video ads and social advertising, I suspect these trends will also continue.

Jamie Saine, Content Manager
2015 was all about listicles, listicles, listicles. This content is easy to produce and easy for readers to consume, meaning it got a lot of traction and eyes. Unfortunately it’s also typically super shallow content, which doesn’t actually help the brand or further a message in a meaningful way. A ton of content was created in 2015, unfortunately quality took a major hit. If companies want to be successful with content marketing and use it to drive brand awareness and the bottom line they need to take a step back and evaluate content creation and traffic versus payoff and lead quality.

“Interactive content” has been floating on the edge of becoming a buzz word for a while now but I think 2016 will finally be the year it breaks through. So many people have adopted content marketing that teams will need to figure out a new way to stand out and make their content rise to the top. Consumers love interactive features (hence why Facebook and Buzzfeed quizzes are so popular) so capitalizing on that to share insightful data will be a big win. This type of content takes more time to create well, but organizations that invest the time and resources to do it will move ahead of the pack.

While I think we’ll continue to see a lot of fluffy content and content published to the wrong channels in 2016, I think we’ll also begin to notice true content marketers digging deeper to produce higher quality pieces shared where they should be. (Don’t put your quiz on LinkedIn!)

In 2016, there will be more livestreaming, and more social selling. In 2016, we will also know the ROI of social sales, and can hope to demonstrate how that will work for our clients. I predict that livestreaming will continue to be a trend, and something we will want to connect our clients to.

Zan Barnett, Production Designer
Design definitely moves in trends and waves and I saw a few distinct approaches really come into play in 2015.

  • Flat design: No gradients, no dimension. Overall I really like this style but it is becoming saturated to the point where it’s almost the default solution for graphics and interfaces.
  • Full Bleed Images (usually for web): This is a great look as well, but like flat design, it’s starting to be done to death. It’s everywhere, usually with white type or logo overlayed.
  • Mobile-Friendly Everything: This one is obviously important and not going anywhere. Type, logos and icons are being designed with tiny sizes in mind, which is definitely needed in today’s design world.
  • “Vintage” Logos: These are still super-popular but I think this is fading a little bit. I’m not a huge fan, but I’ve definitely done a lot of things in this style, it’s an easy crowd-pleaser for now.

Some of the biggest trends I see taking hold in 2016 have already been on the design scene for a while, but I expect we’ll see a lot more of it and greater emphasis on these approaches in the next 12 months.

  • Hand-Lettering/Type: This is super popular and probably not going anywhere for a while. I like it if it’s well done, but I feel like every designer thinks they’re a calligrapher now too. Lord & Taylor’s new logo is an example of how this can go wrong.
  • User Experience and Responsive Design: How does a user feel when interacting with the design? These have always been important considerations but as everything moves more and more digital and mobile this will probably be the most important “trend” of the year.
  • Bright Crazy Colors: It’s starting to happen now, but I think everything is going to get brighter and more like the 80’s color palette in 2016.

Nathan Winter, UX Designer
Material Design, a new style language launched by Google, caught on in 2015 and has mostly received praise from the web design community. I’m also a big fan—Material Design utilizes shadows to create designs that appear more realistic to the user. It’s similar to Flat Design but simulates much more depth and movement.

Animation became more common last year thanks to newer technologies like CSS animation. It’s easier than ever to add animations without the need for plugins or long loading times. Animations help enhance a site’s visual storytelling and makes for a much more enjoyable interactive experience.

We’ll continue to see flat designs in 2016. The flat design style has been around for a while and it’s probably going to stick around for quite some time due to the fact that it’s highly compatible with other trends such as Material Design and responsive web design.

The hamburger menu icon has gained a lot of popularity in recent years but more and more big players seem to be ditching this UI pattern for simplified menus. Both Facebook and YouTube have tossed out the hamburger menu on their mobile apps in favor of traditional menus. I think we’ll see more designers throw out the burger in 2016.

Dan Seibert, Lead Magento Developer
We saw a huge trend in 2015 to use more javascript frameworks to do dynamic updating of pages. Frameworks like Angular and Backbone are very popular and are making development of the basic tasks much faster.

I’m guessing we will see a huge trend in customizable products on the e-commerce development side. Frame Destination is a great example where you can completely customize your frame and it shows a live preview of what your frame will look like. This opens up so many opportunities for companies that custom build products to be selling online.

Jon Jordan, Web Developer
Fonts have completely replaced sprites as the ideal way to display icon images. This trend is here to stay because it ensures 100% image clarity, especially as displays have higher and higher resolutions. It is also much simpler from a markup perspective. Certain icons will become a part of our standard lexicon (hamburger icon, shopping cart, etc), and designers can feel more comfortable using them in their designs.

Speaking of fonts, Google fonts is probably the most popular source for web fonts. I predict many fonts will be added to the Google font library in 2016, some good and some not so good. I also predict that we may see web designers taking advantage of the new system UI fonts that are shipping standard with different operating systems/browsers. Gone are the days where we’re limited by the system standards of Arial, Lucida, Times New Roman, etc.

SASS and LESS preprocessors make styling a website much quicker and simpler. The Fruition drupal team uses LESS almost 100% of the time on our new website builds. I predict there may be some improvements in the speed of LESS compiling.

Bootstrap framework will continue to be a popular responsive framework.

Long scrolling websites are also trending these days. In many ways this trend is great because it reduces the number of decisions/clicks a user must make. But sometimes the infinite scroll approach (ie. Facebook, Pinterest) can backfire as it becomes hard for users to find content from earlier. As its novelty wears out, I think designers will stop defaulting to this approach and start reverting back to pages in certain circumstances.

Tony Diaz, FruitionTony Diaz, Video Editor and Web Admin
More companies are requesting video on their webpages. Videos are a great tool to get the word out- testimonials, how-tos, about videos were particularly popular in 2015. It’s getting to the point where if you don’t have company videos you’re falling behind.

I see this trend picking up steam in 2016.

Kara Galvin
Content is not a new concept in SEO but it still reigned supreme in 2015. The big shift I saw was sites changing their attitude about content creation. The sites that thought of themselves as publishers won. Publishers talk about a wide variety of topics of interest to their audience. They dive deep into topics. They use infographics and other visual tools to explain a concept. They pounce on news items and publish their opinions on how it impacts their industry. No longer can a website just create content about the company. Successful sites now need to expand the breadth and depth of what they publish to include lifestyle and bigger picture topics.

In the coming year I expect to see Digital PR become an even more important activity for every business to engage in. Since old fashioned link building has been ‘out’ for a while and even harmful to traffic, landing ‘digital ink’ on highly valued websites is a major factor in ranking success and referral traffic. Having a PR strategy includes selecting a list of publications/websites that are a top priority and building relationships with writers at those sites as well as using PR tools and software programs to expedite and organize the process. You won’t strike any digital gold like a link on Huffington Post or the Wall Street Journal without a solid plan for 2016.

Jeff Williams

Written by Jeff Williams

Jeff Williams is an SEO Project Manager at Fruition. He uses his deep understanding of SEO and internet marketing to guide clients, optimize websites and ultimately improve search rankings. Jeff continues to focus on understanding the technical aspects of SEO factors that affect website rankings in the major search engines. He has recently found a passion in local marketing and helping business carry out effective digital marketing strategies, taking a lead role in developing Fruition’s local SEO services.

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