In 1993, web publisher Global Network Navigator sold the first online ad to a law firm in Silicon Valley. Since then, the online marketing trends have evolved year after year, introducing new functionality and fresh strategies to meet the ever-changing demand. As we approach a new year, we wonder what 2016 holds in store for online marketers.

1. Focus on Earned Media

Smart consumers no longer trust the shiny quarter-page advertisements in their favorite print publications or the overblown television commercials their DVRs allow them to skip. Instead, they buy products when sources they trust make recommendations. If a Facebook friend or trusted blogger raves about a new widget, that product becomes infinitely more appealing.

In 2016, the current trend toward earned media will continue to gain steam. Businesses will seek mentions and likes from the media and other sources rather than paying for advertisements or sponsors. Twitter bird iconThey will also encourage loyal customers to recommend products via word-of-mouth advertising, whether in person or on social media.

How do businesses harness earned media?

  • Create shareable content: The farther your content spreads, the more consumers trust it.
  • Start conversations with customers: Engage with your audience on your blog, in social media, and via other online channels.
  • Build relationships with media personalities: From bloggers to TV correspondents, make friends with influential people in media.

The challenge for earned media in 2016 lies in its unpredictability. Businesses can influence and solicit — but not control — earned media. The tide of conversation might turn negative, so business owners must learn how to address those situations calmly and transparently.

2. Promotion of Wearable Technology

First, online marketers focused on the Internet—specifically websites. Then the objective shifted to mobile technology, from smartphones to tablets. In 2016, however, online marketers will face their greatest challenge yet: wearable technology. Twitter bird icon

Gadgets like the Apple Watch and Google Glass represent a new wave in media. Consumers will interact differently with those devices than the ones they’ve used in the past, so businesses must adjust their marketing campaign to reach consumers who use wearable technology.

The challenges of marketing with wearable technology include:

  • Creating content that is visible on much smaller devices
  • Providing quick, actionable answers for popular search queries
  • Focusing on location-specific ads and messages

3. Growth of Video and Interactive Infographics

Written content matters just as much now as it did 10 years ago, but marketers who neglect other types of media will get left behind in 2016. Engadget reports that the average consumer’s attention span decreases in correlation to the advance of technology. Twitter bird icon

Consumers want their information fast. They don’t want to wade through thousands of words of fluff before they get to the meat of an article. If you can present the same information in a 15-second video or a 10-inch infographic, your audience will appreciate that effort. This might be why YouTube has surpassed Facebook as the most trafficked social media platform.

4. Rise of Personalized Marketing

Online marketers now possess the tools and resources necessary to obtain detailed information about their audiences. Using complicated metrics as well as opt-in forms, you can determine your customers’:

  • Names
  • Hobbies
  • Locations
  • Professions
  • Shopping habits
  • Income levels
  • Family dynamics

The more information you gather, the easier it becomes to deliver targeted, personalized advertisements and communications. Calling the recipient by name and mentioning past purchases, for example, make online correspondence far more effective.

5. Demise of the Marketing Formula

The one-size-fits-all marketing formula no longer exists. In 2016, expect businesses to break out of their cookie cutter molds and pursue riskier and more diverse marketing strategies. Even small businesses won’t limit their efforts to single campaigns, but instead diversify into multiple areas of the marketing space.

This shift relates largely to the significant growth of mobile technology the tech world experienced in 2015. A greater number of people across all demographics own smartphones and tablets, which means they use the web differently.

As mentioned above, marketing campaigns will also include a focus on wearable technology. Companies will invest more dollars in building apps and other programs that are compatible with those gadgets.

6. Growth of Metric Accuracy and Diversity

Since many people now carry their devices around in their pockets, on their wrists, and even over their eyes, 2016 will experience a surge of growth in marketing metrics. Although the technology does not exist now, marketers will invest time and money into targeting metrics involving where customers go and how they spend their time.

For example, GPS technology allows a smartphone to track its owner’s footsteps all day long. If marketers know where their target audience goes, they can time push notifications and other correspondence with startling accuracy.

7. Development of Content Co-Creation

We’re already seeing companies and customers uniting to create content together. Expect this trend to gain traction in 2016 as businesses use mobile technology with increasing frequency and engage their audiences on social media.

This isn’t a new concept. As far back as 2004, personal care brand Dove launched the Real Beauty campaign and invited consumers to participate in a discussion about the definition of beauty. It continues to this day, incorporating hashtags and other social media constructs.

Though co-creation has a long history, it will ramp up in 2016 with renewed efforts on the parts of big and small brands alike. Engaging a digital audience creates word-of-mouth advertising and loyal customers.

8. Resurgence of Email Marketing

Consumers now have access to their email accounts all the time, whether they’re sitting at their desks or strolling along the beach. Consequently, 2016 will see renewed interest in email marketing with a focus on personalized missives that reflect the metrics the sender has collected. Twitter bird icon

Expect businesses to return to their roots in terms of email marketing campaigns. They’ll tell stories, offer free gifts, and distribute money-saving coupon codes to keep consumers interested. We’ll also see online marketers try multiple email campaigns and compare the results to fine-tune their strategies.

9. Precision of Value Propositions

Most businesses and online marketers appreciate the power and importance of a unique selling proposition (USP) or value proposition. However, 2016 will see a change in the way businesses develop their USPs. They’ll focus on precise, engaging value propositions that target a slimmer demographic.

As a result, we might see less volume in terms of marketing campaigns. Business owners recognize that a quality-over-quantity approach works best when it comes to leveraging the value proposition to win over customers.

As you’re gearing up for online marketing in 2016, keep an eye on these trends as they develop. Getting ahead of the curve now puts you in a prime position to make waves in the New Year.




  • Matt Christensen, December 8, 2015 @ 11:37 am

    Email marketing is back! In a way it never left, and still is one of the most simple and inexpensive ways to market, but I love how this article explains how accurate it will become with future technology because data will be gathered about real time behaviors.

  • TJ Mitchell, December 15, 2015 @ 4:23 pm

    It’s amazing how new technologies can impact the way we market. The rise of wearable technology could not only drastically change our lives, but the way that we interact with advertisers as well. Here’s to 2016 and all the changes it can bring!

  • Robin Johnson, December 15, 2015 @ 5:52 pm

    I tend to be a skeptic when it comes to spending my hard earned money (which is really interesting since I work in the marketing world). I pretty much won’t buy something unless I 1) Really love the design of the product, or 2) It was recommended to me by someone I trust and know personally. So for me, the idea that earned media will continue to gain traction. As a consumer, I LOVE that businesses can’t control it. It makes me confident that I am not being duped in wasting my dollars.

    Also, as a writer and (by default) a consumer, I really love the idea of content co-creation. I think the more you can actively engage people, the more brand loyalty you’ll garner. It’s seriously genius–the burden of generation is shared (yay!) and people become invested. It’s win-win for businesses (and for their customers!)

  • Ben Hanzel, December 23, 2015 @ 11:14 am

    I feel like wearable technology will present just as much of a challenge as mobile marketing!

  • Maria Williams, December 28, 2015 @ 3:46 pm

    This is a great Blog Laura, I think wearable technology is getting bigger and I can’t wait to see what 2016 is going to bring with marketing in regards to this.

  • Caz*, December 28, 2015 @ 8:56 pm

    Wearable technology is going to be huge! It will certainly help spawn some more finite SEO based on voice-activated key terms.

  • Caz*, December 28, 2015 @ 8:56 pm

    Do you have any 2016 predictions of your own?

  • Caz*, December 28, 2015 @ 8:56 pm

    LOVE this! The best authors respond to their commenters. 🙂

  • Andrew Williams, December 29, 2015 @ 11:22 am

    With the wearable technology and searches on mobile devices growing sites should be creating copy pages or content posts answering specific questions that people would ask about their business. It is important because with mobile and wearable technology people are asking their device something and the results are going to come up for who is best optimized for that query.

  • Laura College, January 4, 2016 @ 6:34 am

    Thanks Maria! It interests me, too, especially when it comes to security and controlling content. We’re constantly connected to all these devices, and sometimes I just want peace and quiet. I’m super interested to see what technology evolves to help consumers choose who they want to interact with and to inspire marketers to get more creative/personal in their interactions. Thanks for your feedback!

  • Andrew Williams, January 22, 2016 @ 12:43 pm

    Focus on earned media seems to be growing each year, and will continue to do so. Being able to create shareable content, starting conversations with customers, and creating new relationships with bloggers and people in the industry will go a long way.

  • Andrew Williams, January 22, 2016 @ 12:49 pm

    The growth of video and info-graphics the last few years has come a long way. People like interesting unique things and adding videos and info-graphics to your site can really help you stand out.

  • augenthaler, January 29, 2016 @ 10:31 am

    Hey Laura,

    Some great content and thinking here. A couple of thoughts/and observations:

    1. The demise of the content formula. I agree that marketers and brands will continue to diversify and experiment but not sure the formula goes away right away. It will take a while for new, proven formulas to rise to the top. This is not unlike the investing world where some trading strategies work well for a while until everyone starts using them. New ones emerge or old ones come back into style as the environment permits.

    2. Development of content co-creation: This is a great point and thanks for bringing it up. It gave me some new ideas to present to some clients! Its not unlike the investment world analogy I used above. Its been around for a while but this might be a great environment to bring it back to the forefront.

    Keep it up!


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