Top 5 Trends in Digital Media for 2015

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“May the odds be ever in your favor.” – The Hunger Games

Predicting the future is never easy, but it’s always interesting – regardless of whether you’re envisioning a chilling dystopia or a brave new world. 2015 is going to be a bit of both in Digital Media, the convergence of a brand’s website, social media, mobile marketing, games and apps. Smart publishers and marketers will anticipate industry changes and take advantage of new opportunities – before they become the standard.

Here are 5 trends you’ll see in Digital Media in 2015:

1. Mobile-only/Mobile-first will be the rule, not the exception. In 2015 every website must be mobile-ready because everything’s shifting mobile. What’s more, according to Ovum, one billion people will use mobile as their only form of Internet access in 2015.

These mobile-only and mobile-first consumers stand to influence online media in a number of ways. User experience is everything in mobile and the focus must be on sophistication and simplicity. Companies spend tons of time and millions of dollars perfecting their brand story and brand DNA, only to have it dashed in literally 3 seconds by a complicated, or lazy mobile experience.

And everything changes on a tiny screen. Do not be the brand that simply imports your website to mobile – you will lose points immediately with consumers if your fonts are tiny and it’s hard to navigate. It’s too easy for consumers to move on to another brand that ‘gets mobile’ and leave you in the dust. Watch for mobile pay to ramp up big time in 2015, with the battle for the backend processing heating up between Apple Pay and everyone else.

2. Pretargeting is the new real-time. Pretargeting and pretargeted ads use big data to predict a buyer's preferences with relevant and smart messages while they're in the buying phase, not after it.

In 2015 we’ll see many big data efforts finally pay off and move from being a “black box mystery” to a benefit for consumers. At Cannes Lions earlier this summer, Keith Weed, Unilever’s chief marketing and communications officer, summarized what this might mean: “We talk a lot about big data, but what this is big insights with real consumer benefit.”

He was referring to Unilever’s YouTube Page, All Things Hair. Today, there are over 11 billion annual searches for “hair.” Unilever partnered with Google to use data to predict a trend before it actually happens. Google then forwards these queries on to a team of video bloggers who create instructional films. The Unilever/Google team says it can predict with 90 percent accuracy what the next big trend is three months before it happens. Using this information, the CPG giant started a YouTube channel called All Things Hair featuring popular video bloggers. Launched in two markets in 2013, the channel became the #1 hair care channel in those markets with over 17 million views.

3. The democratization of content creation changes everything. 2015 is shaping up to be the year when everyday users begin to harness the amazing capabilities of technologies like GoPro and Hyperlapse to produce truly amazing content. The ease of use of these tools and the spectacular, high-quality content they can produce could turn the content marketing world on its head. Visual storytelling, the ‘secret sauce’ of agencies and brands, is now in the hands of everyone.

Agencies and publishers will do well to act both as creative director and content consultant to harness this content. They’ll also need to have a good working knowledge of how these new visual tools work – especially in the hands of consumers.

Next, they should help clients think through how to strategically use these new technologies to increase interest in their brand. GoPro’s own marketing strategy proves that tools in the hands of a brand advocate – whether an amazing athlete or a regular user – can produce marketing gold. As Fast Company reports, “This is the new media reality … Regular customers have become advertisers on a smaller scale, shooting high-quality video, loading it onto YouTube and social networks, and advertising the capabilities of the cameras to friends, family, and complete strangers.”

4. The IoT and wearables are about to get really interesting. No question that Internet of Things solutions is changing our personal and business lives. From smart thermostats to smart cars, consumers are intrigued by managing their own ecosystems via their connected devices and smart phones. Accenture research confirms that adoption of wearable IoT technology such as smart watches and fitness devices is also expected to gradually increase, with nearly half of consumers already owning or planning to purchase in this category in the next five years.

Businesses are reshaping their processes and ramping up everything from improved supply chain management to efficiency on the hospital or manufacturing floor with smart, connected devices and employees.

2015 will see the addition of wearables into the mix in a big way. Gartner vice president David Clearley says, "Phones and wearable devices are now part of an expanded computing environment that includes such things as consumer electronics and connected screens in the workplace and public space. "

Everything from glass apps on the shop floor, to smart watches, to fitness and health devices, consumers seem ready to incorporate technology into their everyday lives with wearables. And companies like Salesforce are early proponents. This summer, Salesforce announced a developer initiative called Salesforce Wear, which, according to Datamonitor is “a new initiative designed to fast-track the development of apps that link wearable devices to the company's market-leading business cloud ecosystem. The aim is to build contextually-aware, frictionless apps that complement the unique user experiences (UX) that wearables provide.”

5. Advanced analytics are like Moneyball in Digital Media. In 2015 we'll see smart media companies adopting data-driven strategies that move beyond just accessing ‘big data’ to actually integrating data into everyday marketing decisions, product development and campaign planning.

Two things are coming together: A robust growth in data sources, and the need to turn that data into actionable insights. According to Gartner, in 2015 a full 65 percent of packaged advanced analytics programs will come embedded with Hadoop, an open source programming framework for large-scale data analysis that’s especially adept at analyzing poorly structured data, text, behavior analysis and time-based queries.

Bottom line, this means that big data and advanced analytics can be used to drive sales growth through more effective marketing and advertising. Identifying the right prospects and presenting them with the right offers and prices – at the right time – is the holy grail of advertising.

What’s on your radar for 2015? Let us know in the comments.

Beverly Macy is author, educator, and thought leader in social and digital business and a frequent contributor to Say Daily. She is also the author The Power of Real-Time Social Media Marketing and teaches at UCLA Anderson School of Management.

[Photo credit: Hunger Games, Mockingjay]