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Part one: 54 leading digital marketing experts give their predictions for 2016

4 January, 2016

54 digital marketing experts give theirpredictions for 2016

What do 54 leading digital marketing and technology experts predict will be the next big thing in 2016? Find out this week in our special new year three-part blog post.

David Bain, founder and host of Digital Marketing Radio, produces excellent programmes on all aspects of digital marketing and technology.

Regular readers will know I often take part as a Digital Marketing Radio expert speaker, including this discussion on the rise of growth hacker marketing.

In December 2015, David Bain broadcast a mammoth two-hour episode in which he interviewed 54 leading digital marketing experts and influencers about their predictions for the future of digital marketing in 2016. You can watch the video in full here.

Every year I normally post my own New Year digital marketing predictions. But this year, we are instead treating our readers to the 2016 digital marketing predictions of more than 50 leading digital marketing experts – now, how’s that for a Happy New Year gift!

As there’s so much to take in, we’ve split this blog post into three parts, which we’ll release over the course of this week: on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Sign up to the blog to make sure you don’t miss any!

Please do share your comments – and share this on social media too!


 (1) Quality counts

Alexandra Tachalova from believes there will be more quality, data driven content as this is what allows you to stand out. This is just as achievable for small businesses as it is for larger corporations with big budgets because quality, rather than quantity is what counts.  She personally prefers to use social media like Twitter and Facebook to stay connected.

(2) Substance over sizzle

Saul Colt from product information platform Hubba predicts that in 2016 we’ll see people turning away from fads and seeking substance. Marketing will be less about broadcasting and more about connecting with customers (which is why everybody got into social media in the first place).  He believes the digital marketing industry has forgotten why social works so well – it’s a way to learn more about your customers and create connections. He thinks brands will move away from distracting customers with “sizzle” and in future will give a little sizzle followed up with lots of substance.

We’re likely to see longer-term customer advocacy programs being used to create meaningful experiences at every touchpoint and relationships will drive the bottom line.  He warns that this won’t be easy to do but that the companies that manage to do this successfully will be the winners in 2016.

(3) Conversion conversion, conversion

2016 will be the year of conversion rate optimisation (CRO), says Calin Yablonski from Inbound Interactive. In 2015 the digital marketing industry adopted content marketing, using it as a tool to drive traffic to websites (via resource development blogs, podcasts, videos, e-books, etc.). In 2016 we’ll see people taking control of that content and converting it into sales leads, product sales, subscriptions, etc. People will adopt platforms like Unbounce and Leap Pages at a higher rate and transition to platforms such as Infusionsoft and marketing automation software like Hubspot in an effort to leverage full value from the traffic that they currently drive to their websites.

David Bain commented that because driving traffic is so expensive, more conversions must be made to ensure that profitability does not decrease. ‘Cost per click’ advertising such as AdWords and Facebook has slowly started to ratchet up the price; the only way to combat this is to increase the conversion rate on your website. 2016 will be all about CRO.

(4) Video killed the radio star

Amy Schmittauer from Savvy Sexy Social expects to see more video in 2016.  Now that live streaming is so popular, those holding back from publishing videos because they’re not perfect or polished or because of “analysis paralysis” need to take the plunge. The accessibility of mobile video will drive more brands to create their archives on YouTube. Amy believes it’s best to invest in video which enables you to create archives that can work to benefit your brand and business.  Live streaming is a powerful way of crushing the sales funnel to make it a lot smaller than usual and YouTube archives can be worked for many years, so we’re likely to see both big and small brands profiting from that. 2016 will be the year when all businesses jump on the video bandwagon.

David Bain pointed out that Facebook is also bringing in live streaming, which has the potential to really ratchet up the game. Amy agreed and revealed that in the past she’s stuck with using YouTube only but she’s now started to syndicate her show on Facebook: uploading videos direct to Facebook is getting her a ton of brand awareness and if that’s the ROI that Facebook offers, then she measures that accordingly and uploads her videos direct. She thinks that video on Facebook will be a “huge force to be reckoned with”.

(5) Going mobile will be essential

Susan Baroncini-Moe from Business in Blue Jeans agrees that streaming video is really coming into its own now. Clients who were previously focused on doing social and content marketing are more interested in an ROI and have become more data focussed and data driven, she says. Clients are looking at the payoffs and the return they get from their investment. It’s not enough nowadays to tell clients that we’re going to do all these different things, we’re having to show clients that there are going to be real results and tangible yields from the efforts we make. Mobile overtook desktop in 2015 and Susan thinks we’ll see that trend continue so we need to ensure that all businesses have mobile friendly sites: too many small businesses have still not made that leap.

Making sites mobile friendly in 2016 is going to be vital, especially after Google announced it will rank mobile friendly sites more highly.

mobile phone

(6) Big data to become bigger news

Susan also highlighted the big push around Big Data. But although people are talking about it, many still don’t know what it means nor what to do with it.  Susan thinks this is an area that will continue to progress, and I agree.

(7) Know your customers

Kevin Krason from BizNet agrees that data-driven and marketing automation will be big news in 2016. He believes that future marketing will be based on behaviour driven actions. This means using the behaviour data collected to fine tune the communications, because that’s now the most effective method of getting people’s attention. The communication needs to be personalised and in alignment with expectations, desires and needs; it also has to be timely. All of this is very relevant. Personalised doesn’t mean just knowing a customer’s name but knowing their needs and basing future communications on their previous actions. This means watching and listening before engaging – knowing how and when and with what to engage your customers based on the behavioural data that’s been collected. [Read more on email marketing personalisation here]

(8) Audience driven content is king

Ryan Buchanan from eROI thinks the focus on audience-driven content will increase. It’s more important than ever to know our audience, says Ryan. Analysing data derived from both mobile and web and looking at all customer touchpoints along their journey will help brands create a seamless marketing strategy.

Campaigns like Dove’s campaign for “real beauty” are examples of getting to that universal truth of consumers wanting to be known and loved. It’s all about marketing integration, knowing exactly where someone is likely to be exposed to your brand, what you do and where you are physically as a person. The brands that are able to do are going to win in 2016.


(9) Be real – and don’t forget email marketing!

Alita Harvey-Rodriguez from Milk It Academy predicts we are on the verge of one-to-one marketing conversations and it’s all going to be fuelled from the email address, agreeing with Ryan Buchan that the audience will be driving content.

Marketers need to find new ways to get past adblockers and create authentic one-to-one relationships. We’ve seen panic in the past year about Facebook’s rapid decline in organic reach and the face of social media is changing. The way for brands to push through and create real influence in a market is as Trevor and Ryan said, to connect with audiences and build authentic relationships for 2016.

Alita thinks we’re poised on the tipping point of really tapping into this one-to-one conversation, which is going to drive the future of digital marketing in 2016 and beyond. The phrase “every digital marketing executive needs a 21 year old” is true: 20% of the US population is made up of millennials and we need to build authentic communications with them.

Alita loves email marketing and encourages marketers to be focused on collecting email addresses. But we’re not just about the inbox anymore, we’re talking about multiple platforms and email driving that singular communication right to your face. Authenticity is the name of the game in 2016.

(10) The human league

Ilise Benun from Marketing Mentor thinks people need to get comfortable with going live in 2016. There’s so much content bombarding us. But most is scripted, recorded and edited and, therefore, fake. She thinks people crave and are drawn to what is live and (usually) imperfect because this is authentic.  Authentic means being human. So many businesses want to present perfection and this stops them from marketing their services effectively.

(11) Go live and stream

Kamila Gornia from agrees that video and content will be big in 2016. Her prediction is that live streaming will increase – she’s been using Facebook Live (launched for celebrities last August, and now being rolled out to other users). The purpose behind all of this, says Kamila, is transparency and authenticity – because people can spot if a video is edited and super-perfect and this prevents people from relating to you.

People relate to authenticity – if you trip up, say something wrong or display a quirk, that’s what people connect to – the human side of you rather than a brand.

(12) The timeliness of ‘moments’

Following some technical difficulties with the audio, David Horne from thinks that we’re looking at more of a slow web, delivering experiences that are timely, rather than in real time. We need to start meeting customers where they’re at instead of being bullish on the platform that we want to use. We need to be finding out where our customers are and reaching out to them there. Timeliness being more relational than real time, which can sometimes feel transactional.

This marks a change, David Bain noted, from years ago when it was all about being in as many places as possible: syndicating the content rather than really communicating with real people and forming real relationships.

(13) Customisation: the power of combining metrics and interactions

Liam Martin from thinks that customisation will be key in 2016: the ability to work with many different stakeholders, understand where they are and be able to communicate with them uniquely.

On the day of the radio broadcast, Liam revealed that he’d already dealt with 246 different customers through a combination of CRM and email. In each case, he was able to use data gleaned from previous interactions with each customer. He knows when each customer last logged into the website, how long they spent on which particular page, who they interacted with while on that page, and who they communicated with in the past – all within 30 seconds to a minute.

Liam believes that combining metrics and interactions is the most important and powerful thing that has done in the past year in terms of customer service – it’s both useful and profitable.


(14) The power of podcasting

Mike Russell from New Media Europe predicts that the advertising agencies will become significantly more interested in podcasting in 2016. He recently attended RAIN Summit (an industry event for traditional radio and new media professionals) in London, with plenty of advertising agencies and big radio groups in attendance. Podcasting was by far the most common topic of conversation, even from the radio groups, David reported. Advertising agencies believe that podcasters need to be more organised – this means that podcasters will become more organised in 2016 (despite the fact that they love disorganisation and doing things their own way).  Podcasting is now real business and it’s set to make its mark in 2016.

(15) …with Bluetooth as an enabler and sponsorship opps as a result

Dave Jackson from the School of Podcasting agrees that podcasting will continue to grow. US podcast listeners have doubled since 2008 mainly due to the smartphone and an increase in Bluetooth, especially in connected cars. He thinks that Bluetooth will help and Google Play is finally getting into the game. There are now so many more people producing professional audio quality that the serials and NPRs (National Public Radios) are starting to increase connection with people.

Dave thinks we’ll also see more companies sponsoring podcast shows as they start to understand the true connection that podcasters have with audiences and the influence they have to recommend brands to their listeners.

(16) Better analytics and measurement tools

Alex Harris from Alex Designs reckons that the focus will be on data-driven and conversion rate optimisation. He thinks there’s going to be progress in the systems and the tools that people use for conversion rate optimisation.  The bigger companies and agencies are already doing this.

However, we’re now looking for alternatives to Google Analytics – other tools that can be used to get that quality of data + the quantity of data and mix it together to track and segment users at a more granular level. He says that services like MixPanel, and LeapAnalytix will be increasingly popular, with even Adobe moving in on this. Then there’s Hotjar which is a great mix of the qualitative and quantitative aspects.

He thinks people are going to be looking for alternatives to Google Analytics – as he said, large companies are already dong this but he thinks more smaller businesses will want to track their data in alternative ways other than GA.

David Bain summed this up effectively: in the future if you don’t know who your customers are and don’t track your data, you’re going to fall further behind. Alex agreed and says he thinks we’ll see more software that will combine the data from different platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and AdWords.

(17) A return to ‘all-in-one’ marketers

Olga Andrienko from SEM Rush says that data driven marketing will become more important.  She’s currently seeing social media marketers who are not particularly tech savvy and just focus on one niche, ie social media. Olga believes there will be a retrograde move to all-in-one marketers who integrate every process, work together and understand about the other marketing channels.

(18) Social proof

Olga also believes Social Proof will become more important. Social proof (also known as informational social influence), is a psychological phenomenon whereby people assume the actions of others in order to reflect the correct behavior for a given situation. “Everyone is social and everyone is mentioning brands, so Social Proof is big right now.”

(19) More specialisation – even for SMEs

In contrast, Danny Ashton from NeoMam predicts that we’re going to become a lot more specialised, especially within the SEO space.  The move away from full service agencies running everything for companies will continue and we’ll see a lot more internal teams working on the marketing, something he’s seen increasing in 2015.

Big brands have always created their own SEO teams and allowed them to set the strategy on how they want to produce content and other forms of promotion. How will search engine marketers (SEMs) with smaller budgets will manage this – will they have the resources to employ a team or will we see them using existing employees and adding this responsibility to the tasks they already have?  Who will provide the training for this and how much will the training cost? Is this likely to be cost-effective for SMEs? Danny believes that smaller businesses will want to build their own teams too and business owners nowadays need to have an understanding of SEO, PPC and possess the ability to strategize.

(20) The opposite of inbound marketing

Jamie Turner from 60 Second Marketer had three predictions. Firstly the importance of video marketing and video engagement, as discussed, with brands now starting to use it to engage with customers and prospects. Secondly, it’s the opposite of inbound marketing. Inbound marketing is drawing people into your website or blog and using LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc. as a hub and spokesman. Now we’re seeing the opposite, where we’re going out to meet the consumer in the digital social sphere. Thirdly, like Susan Baroncini-Moe, Jamie thinks mobile will be massive. He’s organising an event in May next year called Mobile X Festival in Atlanta and he’s been amazed at the number of people who have jumped in on that.

David Bain highlighted the ‘relationship building’ element’ of Jamie’s predictions. When you drive people to your website and then try to create a relationship, you’re creating a relationship “in your house” whereas if you build a relationship in their house, they’re more relaxed, more comfortable and more open to conversation with you.

Watch the full two-hour video below or on YouTube here.

Or come back read part two on Wednesday this week, and part three on Friday this week.

Don’t want to miss it? Sign up to receive the blogs direct to your inbox.

  • What do you think about these predictions?
  • Do you have any of your own predictions or new year resolutions for your digital marketing campaigns?

Please do share your comments below!

  • […] On Monday, we published the first 20 predictions [read PART ONE here]. […]

  • David Bain says:

    Jonny, thank you so much for having this written up! I should have done it but I’d SO glad that you did! It was a pleasure having you on – hope you had a great Christmas & New Year and I look forward to having you on more shows in 2016!

  • […] Can you cast your mind back to Monday 4th January? The first day back at work after the festive period for many, but it was also the day that we posted the first in a three part round up of the digital marketing predictions for 2016. […]

  • Andy Kuiper says:

    Cool to read as we go into 2017 – looking back… 🙂

    1. […] On Monday, we published the first 20 predictions [read PART ONE here]. […]

    2. David Bain says:

      Jonny, thank you so much for having this written up! I should have done it but I’d SO glad that you did! It was a pleasure having you on – hope you had a great Christmas & New Year and I look forward to having you on more shows in 2016!

      1. Jonny Ross says:

        David, I had to, it was too good not too!! I loved it and amazing to have so many experts give there predictions! Part two went live today here!

        watch out for part 3 on Friday!
        Thanks again for having me!

    3. […] Can you cast your mind back to Monday 4th January? The first day back at work after the festive period for many, but it was also the day that we posted the first in a three part round up of the digital marketing predictions for 2016. […]

    4. Andy Kuiper says:

      Cool to read as we go into 2017 – looking back… 🙂

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