8 Trends & Takeaways from Digital Summit

Published 9/21/16
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This summer I attended Digital Summit, a marketing conference with industry leaders that covers everything from content to email, social media, UX and design trends, mobile marketing and so much more. I attended sessions and roundtable discussions with experts from Microsoft, Apple, Pinterest, Instagram, Shutterstock, StumbleUpon, BlueHornet and many other significant players in the digital space. 

Here are my top trends and takeaways from the event:

#1: Email is Alive and Well

Ask anyone—Gen Y, Millennials, Boomers—and the one thing they can agree on is that email is here to stay, and they plan on using it to communicate for years to come. In order for you to successfully reach these key audiences, you need to ensure your email marketing is Portable, Personal and Prescriptive. 

     Portable: “The thumb is king.” Your email must be able to go where the user goes; if it can’t follow the user through his/her day, it’s no longer relevant. If your email looks bad on mobile, consumers delete it.

     Personal: Your email must cater to the individual needs and desires of every user — and the experience must be unique to each individual. BE RELEVANT OR BE DELETED.

     Prescriptive: Brands are no longer in control of their email conversations with people. Let people take control or risk destruction of a valuable channel.

#2 Social Media is the New Smoke Break

Social media is not a content distribution tool, it’s a playground – a place where your brand should be fun, colorful and playful. People come to social because they want to trust the brand. So be informative, engaging and authentic.

     Facebook is the nucleus of where your brand should be.

     Twitter is where you have a conversation with your audience.

     Pinterest is where people discover your brand.

     Instagram is also a discovery place with curated content.

     LinkedIn is for the B2B business consumer.

#3 Pokemon GO is Here to Stay

Why? Gamification. The massive social phenomenon is worth $30 billion dollars –Nintendo stock went up 40% and is now worth more than Sony! – and has the possibility of several business applications. The platform is ideal for events, parks, historical places, and promotions with opportunities for geo-filers and ad overlays. This is the just the beginning for widespread VR. 

#4 Facebook Video Will Dominate

At the end of 2013 Facebook announced it was making improvements to the Newsfeed algorithms to create better UX. This change resulted in most brands seeing decreases in organic reach. As the algorithm change played out it became apparent that native video content was favored by Facebook and resulting in comparatively higher organic reach. So far in 2016, native video generates 135% higher organic reach to other content types. 

Why? Millennials watch more than 2.5 hours of online video each week (and 1 in 3 don’t watch TV). Video viewing is up 55%+ so far this year, and generates higher organic reach compared to other content types on Facebook. So if you’re not playing in the video space, consider yourself irrelevant. 

#5 Optimize for AI Now

Welcome to the dawn of AI. The average person makes 35,000 decisions a day, and AI brings anticipatory experiences to life through user-centric, machine learning tools. RankBrain is Google’s new machine-learning algorithm with artificial intelligence at its core, which better interprets search queries and learns from each action taken by searchers. In 2015, “a very large fraction” of the millions of queries a second that people type into the Google’s search engine were interpreted by RankBrain, which measures user behavior, learns from data and alters the results to show only what is significantly relevant. According to Greg Corrado, senior research scientist at Google, “In the few months it has been deployed, RankBrain has become the third-most important signal contributing to the result of a search query.” 

#6 Banner Ads are Dead

Users are 64 times more likely to climb Mount Everest than click on a banner ad. It’s time to let them go.

#7 Millennials Rule

Millennials are now THE primary market: In 2015, Millennials officially surpassed Boomers at 75.4 million and are expected to reach 81.1 million by 2036. Millennials are hungry for content, and they have very different behavior and expectation as consumers in that they demand authenticity, relevancy, efficiency and creativity without the use of over-designed marketing. They have short attention spans and spread activities between multiple devices, quickly moving from “mobile first” to “mobile only.” Nearly one-quarter of Millennials aren’t using desktop computers for online searches at all.

They are both trendsetters and trend-destroyers, the first to jump in – and out – if something doesn't immediately meet their needs and expectations.

#8 Be Empathetic

We all need to feel special at the same time we want to feel connected. The key to this is Behavioral Design. Think of it as the Nordstrom experience (comfortable, curated and relaxed) versus the Wal-Mart experience (aggressive, generic and in your face). It’s important to be observant and to identify latent needs (machine learning is great for this). Also, STOP GUESSING: ask people. Get to know and understand your audience, and how they want to communicate with you. When you map out the customer’s journey with your brand, think about the entire storyline. And don’t call your customers “users” – they aren’t drug addicts. 

Interested in checking out Digital Summit for yourself? Find a list of upcoming Digital Summits happening around the country at TechMedia.