Retrospect 2016: Top marketing trends that were and will be

The Big Data era has heralded the possibility of extremely large data sets of customers and prospects that are being analysed to reveal patterns, trends and associations of customers. This empowers marketers to suitably influence the behavioural pattern of customers

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Retrospect 2016: Top marketing trends that were and will be

Retrospect 2016: Top marketing trends that were and will be

The Big Data era has heralded the possibility of extremely large data sets of customers and prospects that are being analysed to reveal patterns, trends and associations of customers. This empowers marketers to suitably influence the behavioural pattern of customers

Sanjay Tripathy | Mumbai | January 5, 2016


The marketing landscape is so dynamic that the adage 'change is the only constant' truly captures the essence. As a marketer it's very vital to own the motto of 'keep up or be left out'. Though the basic fundamentals remain the same – timeless – they relentlessly acquire a new avatar with newer trends bringing about a revolution in the tried and tested.

It's become increasingly challenging to successfully engage the discerning audience. Quantum advances in technology, content generation, availability/accessibility and the fast-paced evolution in cultural trends ensured that every marketer kept a close eye to avoid falling back on dated strategies and miss the mark.

Sanjay Tripathy Sanjay Tripathy

Now the advent of the Big Data era has heralded the possibility of extremely large data sets of customers and prospects that are being analysed to reveal patterns, trends and associations, especially relating to human behaviour and interactions, thereby giving us deeper insights into his psyche. This empowers the marketers to not only suitably influence the behavioural pattern of the customers but also predict his next action.

This coupled with the onset of a media penetration blitzkrieg – both in spread and depth of the market – has opened up to accurately zero in on our target customers. This has enabled employing a variety of bylanes for reaching consumers in effective ways in a time when people are tuning out traditional advertising avenues and more antiquated digital practices.

As 2017 dawns upon us, let's reminisce some of the most indelible imprints of the marketing trends for the year gone by.

Mobile first

Unlike Western countries, India has seen internet boom majorly led by mobile. Mobile contributed 77.7% of nationwide traffic in the past three months (source: whereas it's still the second screen in developed nations. Thus, ignoring mobile by brands is akin to harakiri. Mobile being the first screen has led to a lot of innovation in advertisement formats, website design and also increase in number of apps. In 2016, Google led the way by announcing a mobile-first web index. This has made mobile search and mobile optimization a top priority for digital marketers.

We started 2016 knowing that mobile was a critical piece to any marketing strategy but it has evolved further this year and will continue to make headlines in 2017. With increased adoption of mobile as the key communication requirement even in the most remote parts of the country, it is imperative for marketers to have a mobile-first strategy and optimize content and user interfaces for the mobile platform.

Video content multiplied

Consumption of video content saw a multi-fold growth in 2016 due to improved internet access, ever growing number of smartphones, and platform innovation. With increased dependence on mobile usage, marketing too has shifted base to mobile technologies. Coupled with YouTube's unprecedented popularity as a video platform, video content is now being used as a visual learning tool, as incorporating visuals in a piece of content increases an individual's probability of reading it by 80 per cent.

Live video has suddenly become the internet's favourite. Twitter (via Periscope), Facebook, YouTube, Instagram all have released their live video offerings. People spend 3X longer watching video live versus not, and video posts have 135 per cent greater organic reach on Facebook than photo posts. In a short span its gaining popularity as it is able to break the content format saturation, especially with brands innovating in the usage of live videos.

The future of video content is bright and exciting. As the market becomes increasingly populated with video content, the shorter, more concise entries will start to stand out more. Mobile viewers have less time and less patience for longer formats (generally), so users will naturally reward the video marketers who offer shorter videos. Also, live streaming could merge with Virtual Reality to offer consumers a first-person experience in real time.

Influencer marketing intensified

Influencer marketing has been growing by leaps and bounds for a while and reached its peak, in many ways, in 2016 when Google itself acknowledged its importance.

It was already known that influencers were making an indelible mark on online business, with 51 per cent of marketers believing they get better customers from influencer marketing (Tomoson, 2015). But the vindication came in October 2016, when the biggest name in search clearly acknowledged and displayed its faith in influencer marketing's continued growth when the company purchased Famebit, an influencer marketplace. This is all because Google recognized that the customer relationship began with trust in the influencer.

Today more marketers are now making it an integral part of 360-degree marketing strategies, which will only grow more in 2017. A dominant 81 per cent of marketers who have used influencer marketing have judged it to be effective (eMarketer, 2016), proving the massive ROI potential of the module. This potential will be tested with new quantification measures that go beyond just numbers of followers and total number of post likes. Influencers will have to do more than just retweet a post.

User generated content amplified

2016 showed that in many ways, consumer is still the king. This was never more evident than in the rising trend of interactive and advocacy marketing. Thanks to the massive popularity of features such as contests, sweepstakes and giveaways, consumers have become increasingly engaged with marketing materials and campaign components. These types of elements often require users to submit their own photos or other materials to become eligible.

Another avenue – advocacy marketing – too saw an increase in 2016. Leveraging a brand's most loyal customers, this modality often helped craft effective campaign messages and input, blogs or articles, and other forms of content.

360-degree strategy integration

Till 2016, traditional marketing, social media marketing, influencer marketing, content marketing, etc., were perceived as separate strategies. But this viewpoint has undergone a radical change, with advertisers and promoters focusing on a macro strategy to see that all of these practices are merely appendages of the same organism.

This change, in many ways, can be attributed to various research tools that track various channels and strategies, simultaneously, allowing the different aspects of marketing to be truly intertwined and interconnected.

Conversational commerce

Chat Bots have been in the internet space for some time now and the early adopters of bots are travel, e-commerce and BFSI sector. Every business today understands the power of bots because of the increased number of similar daily interactions with customers which are predictable and can be automated. Providing services like movie suggestion on Facebook, booking a flight ticket on Google Allo is also increasing the scope of conversational commerce.

Though “User Acceptance” remains most critical to this technology growth, chat bots are still not ready for mainstream. Most of them are not “really intelligent”, takes a lot of to and fro for addressing queries, etc. But given its application advantages, it's a trend that will be accepted by multiple businesses.

Purpose-driven marketing

Purpose-driven marketing, very simply put, is a way for brands to engage and bond with their audiences based on mutual interests and needs – including the need to support a cause. While a lot of companies are becoming socially conscious and increasingly understand the value of 'giving back', most haven't figured out how they can engage their audience and secure their participation and support.

Ola saw a real need during the floods in Tamil Nadu and used it as an opportunity for people to help each other by pooling Ola boats. It was a great match because the need was at the heart of what Ola offers to its customers as a service. Ariel's 'Share the load', Dove's 'Chubby Cheeks, Rosy Lips' or the '#Like a Girl' campaign by Always had one thing in common: it came from a strong social insight and created dissonance and, hence, a mass movement. It is thus vital to create a right strategy and bring it to life in a manner that invokes the need to be a part of it.

Jumping the demonetization bandwagon

With an overnight ban of 500 and 1000-rupee notes on November 8, the entire nation was in frenzy. India has been debating this move for the last two months with no clear verdict. But one thing is clear: the move could simply not be ignored! With a sudden influx of cash in the banking system, Paytm and other online cash services took the stage by storm and online wallets were seen as an alternative to cash. With the cashless economy conversation from the PM's office, several financial services companies jumped on to the bandwagon. This coupled with several financial inclusion and awareness drives by the government, 2017 will see tremendous opportunity for the marketing fraternity as a whole.

Some past trends that continue to be relevant:

  1. Content Rationalization by brands: With the internet boom, information too exploded into the mainstream media. A consumer has to make his/her buying decision based on a quantum of information that is difficult to parse through. To ease their decision-making process, brands must rationalize the amount of information that needs to be provided in order to convince the consumer.


  1. Real time consumer decision making: Research has become the most important part of the consumer buying process, especially comparative research. Third party reviews are particularly influential in this. Even for a regular purchase such as soap, now includes at least some amount of verbal enquiry and comparison. This puts an even greater emphasis on tailoring marketing execution to be at the right place at the right time.
  1. Seamless cross-channel experience:

Customers can now buy products and services through a variety of distribution channels, including the web, mobile and tablet applications, email, kiosks, online chat, and by speaking with customer representatives in a physical location or over the phone. No longer do customers identify a single channel for purchase, be it the online channel or the retail channel. They only see it as one of the many interactions that make up their overall user experience with the company.

And players are moving in to address the opportunity provided by these gaps. This is evidenced with players in the Indian financial services sector, introducing services such as tab banking and video branches, which aim to provide a seamless cross-channel experience.

  1. Accessing customer information without spooking them: Big data is the name of the game. But, lately, what the marketer does with that data is even more vital. Providing customized, tailored experiences to customers may be vital to the marketing strategy, but misuse of it will lead to customer paranoia about all their information being available with companies. This will ultimately lead to a push-back from them that can already be seen with the anti-trust suits against Google in Europe in 2014. To prevent this from becoming a phenomenon, brands have to choose and develop better ways to collect customer data, with their consent and without intruding on the customer's privacy.

(Sanjay Tripathy is Senior Executive Vice-President, Head - Marketing, Analytics, Digital & E-Commerce, HDFC Life.)