6 Digital Trends in 2016

08 Jan 2016

The Internet was actually invented in the 16th century.

Or more precisely, it was foretold. Because that's when Mother Shipton, a famous English soothsayer, wrote these now eerie lines:

Around the earth thoughts shall fly
in the blinking of an eye.

Now, I’m not a soothsayer; I’m the president of a digital firm in Austin, Texas. But here, at the beginning of 2016, I’d like to take a crack at predicting the future of my industry in the coming months. I’m happy to present to you…

6 Digital Trends in 2016

1. ROI for MVP!

John Wanamaker, who helped pioneer advertising and marketing in the middle of the 19th century, once proclaimed: “Half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the problem is, I don’t know which half.”

And he was right. But John Wanamaker didn’t have analytics. We do.

In 2016, business owners can instantly identify the return on their marketing investment. Channels that underperform will be dumped. Platforms that create leads and paying customers will get all the attention.

This is kind of incredible, when you think about it. Because just a few short years ago, organizations were flying blind, more or less. Sure, a website that sold fancy socks could look at its sales numbers and see, “Wow, we sold a lot more socks in December than in November,” they couldn’t bring magnascopic clarity as to why.

Now, if you have a seasoned and savvy team of digital marketers tending obsessively to your organization’s online presence, you can know, down to the tenth-of-a-penny how your efforts are paying off.

So while yes, in the endless experimentation that is digital marketing––e.g., AdWords, landing pages, re-marketing, SEO, etc.––you’ll sometimes stumble into one of Wanamaker’s dreaded black holes of advertising, unlike an actual black hole, you can quickly scurry away and not waste much time or money pursuing a fruitless strategy.

2. The End of Redesign

When a sailor pulls his ship into port, he doesn’t make a beeline; he makes dozens of small, back-and-forth adjustments. He’s constantly moving his ship to its slip.

The same goes for websites.

At TradeMark, many of our clients’ websites––or, more accurately, online presences––are designed and built iteratively––i.e., in small pieces. Instead of doing ground-up, scorched-earth, start-from-jumpstreet website redesigns, more and more organizations are choosing to start with a light redesign, followed by regular and ongoing improvements.

The benefits of this approach are obvious:

  • The iterative approach is more cost-effective.
  • The iterative approach is more flexible.
  • And, most importantly, the iterative approach to Web design forces organizations to regularly think about and engage with their users.

The iterative approach is especially relevant to online marketing efforts, where tending one’s digital garden needs to be a weekly, if not daily, activity. Content needs to be honed. Strategies need to be tested. Search terms need to be analyzed. Landing pages need to be sharpened.

3. Mobile Apps on Life Support

As recently as 2013, one of the most common questions I got was, “Can you build me a mobile app?” In 2016, I wonder if I’ll hear that question at all.

Why? The need for mobile applications is shrinking as more and more functionality can be created in the browser itself––made possible by Advanced Javascript, HTML5, and hooks between your smartphone’s hardware and the browser.

Further blurring the line between mobile applications and Web applications is the fact that with a single click, you can add a website to your phone’s screen as an icon.

In fact, unless your project needs to access the hardware of a mobile device––e.g., the camera, GPS, voice, etc.––it probably doesn’t need to be an app; a mobile responsive web application is preferable, cheaper, and quicker to launch.  

4. The Internet of Things

At the TradeMark offices, we have the Nest thermostat. It’s connected to the Internet––and it can send me an alert if the temperature is getting low enough to burst our pipes. I can check our usage and trends via the Nest website.

The Internet of Things means the Internet is connected to … stuff. It’s on your watch, in your car, on your gaming console. It’s on your thermostat!

But the Internet of Things is no longer the playground of well-funded start-ups and Tony Starks. In 2016, more small-and-medium businesses will begin to think seriously about how to engage the Internet of Things for their purposes. They’ll ask, “How can we engage and serve our users thru this plethora of new channels?”

5. Because ... Content

Why do people use the Internet? Because content.

Content content content.

Videos of baby rhinos on YouTube. Articles about Donald Trump on Vox.com. And, of course, Facebook. In the same way that without food a meal would be impossible, so too is the Internet dependent on content.

This isn’t exactly news. “Content” has passed the buzzword phase and is now being used regularly by professionals who’ve never even touched their company’s website.

OK, so everyone knows that content is king, queen, and Supreme Purpose of the World Wide Web. What now?

Now, we do two things: (a) create better content than our competitors and (b) design around content. At TradeMark, we call that second part content-first design, and it’s how we approach almost all of our projects these days.

As for the first part––creating better content––we do that, too. We’ve beefed up our resources around creating, curating, and crafting great online content––whether it’s a homepage, a Tweet, or a Google AdWords landing page.

Because with the glut of content that is the Internet these days, there is room for impressive growth for organizations that are willing to dedicate the resources-–namely, time––to content marketing.

But even organizations that don’t or can’t toss resources at content creation, promotion, and maintenance still recognize what a lynchpin it is.

6. “What’s a laptop, anyway?”

In 2015, Google announced that in 10 countries, mobile Internet traffic was greater than desktop traffic. That trend line is pointed solidly skyward, and right now, there’s no reason to think the growth of mobile browsing will slow.

What does this mean for the average organization looking to improve its online presence?

First, you’d better have a mobile-friendly website. And I use the word “friendly” instead of the more common “responsive” on purpose. Because it’s one thing to have a website that responds to the device–-whether desktop, tablet, or smartphone––but it’s equally important that your Web presence embrace the mobile experience.

We’ve shifted our design approach accordingly.

Now, how a website looks and behaves on an iPhone or Android isn’t the second or third thing we consider. It’s considered in tandem with the desktop version, and sometimes even more important.

In fact, $10 says you’re reading this email on something other than a desktop computer. ($20 if you have a floppy disk drive.)

The Final Word

I believe in metrics, in measurement, in letting “what works” be my compass. So 12 months from now, I’ll send you another email that describes how accurate these predictions are––or aren’t.

But what I want to know is: What am I missing? Because you’re clearly a clever user of the Web. And so what do you think will happen to this beautiful, revolutionary, sometimes-infuriating thing we call the world wide web?

Nick Weynand

Founder, President, & Strategy Director

Nick is TradeMark's founder, president, and the Director of Strategy. He's seen everything the Internet has to offer.

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