Our Biggest Digital Predictions for 2016


It’s a New Year, so we decided to take a close look at digital trends from the last year and make some big, bold predictions of what you can expect to see in 2016. 

So here goes!

Biggest adoption: Vids on vids on vids

So long, carousel. Adios, hero image. In 2016, get ready to see the static landing page banner replaced by video. And the reason is simple, really – video is capable of telling a more powerful, complete story than a static image can. 

Video used for native advertising will continue growing in 2016, with many brands embracing video on social networks, live streaming apps and as their primary way of sharing content. A study run by Ebuzzing and Nielsen shows that 51% of viewers like native video, while 31% prefer it to any other online advertising format. 


This Purina and BuzzFeed video collaboration racked up 4 million views in two weeks.

How-to & tutorials, product reviews, and case studies can often work better as video than as static editorials, for B2B and B2C marketers alike. The video format often makes  content easier to comprehend. And – maybe the biggest benefit – more enticing for users to share on social.

Buzzfeed’s Tasty Channel shares simple and tasty video recipes, with a following of nearly 19 million on Facebook. 


Biggest opportunity: Let’s get personal

Personalization was talked about a lot 2015, but frankly, few companies were doing it well – or at all. In 2016, this will begin to change. 

A lot of brands already have a ton of customer data: Age, sex, gender, where you live and where you travel, your past purchases, what newsletters you’ve signed up for, what coupons and discounts you’ve used, your social networks and activity, and so much more. When used successfully, companies can build a robust customer profile to offer hyper-targeted content and incentives. Creepy? Maybe. But powerful? Hell yes.

In 2016, marketers should finally be able to integrate reliable cross-channel, cross-device data into their customer journeys, and connect the dots to offer the incredibly local, timely and relevant and content and offers. From in-store to online, mobile to desktop, expect smooth, sophisticated digital experiences to be the norm, not the exception.

Search is getting personal, too. Many platforms that provide search and display can now leverage this data to micro-target individuals, groups, households and everything in-between to deliver focused, personalized results. We briefly touched on this topic a few months ago, and we’ll see it more in 2016 – Searching will now be relevant to a specific audience, rather than a general user persona. 

With newer technologies like iBeacon and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), location-based marketing technology will become more widely used in 2016. iBeacon uses transmitters to detect nearby devices at point-of-sale displays and in retail stores, while RFID are electronic devices that provide a unique identifier for a specific tag, like a wristband, card or app. These technologies will allow companies to interact with customers in real time, connecting with them at the highest point of engagement. 

Personalized emails from Airbnb, Priceline and Sephora, based on recent activity and purchases.


Biggest threat: Rise of the ad blockers

One of the biggest threats for advertisers and publishers in 2016 will be ad blocking software. With Apple’s latest OS release, permitting ad blockers on iPhones and iPads, this update marks a big shift in thinking – prioritizing a user’s experience and putting the consumer’s desires first. And what they want is a fast, clutter-free web experience, without feeling tracked or constantly cookied.

Ad-block users are typically younger and tech-savvy, according to Sourcepoint. Among 18-24 year olds, over 35% use some kind of ad blocking software, and 25-34 year olds follow closely behind, at around 30%. This should be of concern to advertisers who are primarily targeting millennials.

To counter this, advertisers and publishers need to put a greater effort into creating valuable native advertising and compelling content. This also may mean that advertising budgets will likely shift from traditional digital display towards social channels.

A web without ads, as shown above.


Biggest fragmentation: Social spending

While social media spending will continue to grow in 2016, don’t expect the most popular networks, like Facebook and Twitter, to keep all the market share. Many businesses are starting to consider Instagram, Vine, and Snapchat as social platform alternatives, opting for shorter, more fleeting messages to engage consumers, who often have limited time and shorter attention spans. I’m looking at you, Founders.

Not only will social budgets be stretched by the sheer number of social networks, but also plan for live streaming options to also take a slice of the pie. Platforms like Twitch (purchased by Amazon in 2014 for $970 million) and Periscope (acquired by Twitter for $100 million in 2015), will fight for advertising dollars, which allows brands to create their own live, video content without paying prime-time dollars for their spots. 

Sour Patch Kids, Free People and Heineken all use Snapchat as part of their social strategy.


Biggest mainstay: Design and UI Standardization

You’ve heard it before. How every website is starting to look, well... the same. 

And you know what? You’re right.

And these are just the websites designed for churches. Image courtesy of Jordesign.

While it’s true that a lot of websites are looking more and more alike, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Here me out. 

From the inception of the web to the early 2000s, most websites were bad – sloppy, poorly designed and difficult to navigate. Designers and developers called for standardization, and guess what? Now we have it. Responsive websites, HTML5 video, flat design – all these technologies helped shape the web of today. Users have come to understand the average website – they know how to navigate, where to look for what, and how to get what they need, quickly. And that’s a great thing.

Consider the typical automobile. It has wheels, tires, pedals, seats, mirrors, and so on. But even though these parts are all fairly standard, it’s the FEEL of each vehicle that’s totally unique. You can take the same exact skeleton, and through the design, you end up with totally different machines.

Convention doesn't necessarily limit innovation, but it does make it easier to be lazy.

However, this standardization does mean the bar is set higher. Sites like Squarespace are a great option for the creator who has an eye for design, the available imagery and a simple idea for a website. Where an agency can help is figuring out the big idea – and then what goes in all those boxes. Maybe it’s a photo with a gradient overlay. But maybe it’s using the best merging of imagery, messaging and interactions to tell a brand’s story.


Biggest Flop: Virtual Reality

It’s a bold prediction, but I predict 2016 will not be the year that virtual reality takes off. People are hyped about Oculus Rift, which is set to launch in May 2016, at the mind-numbing cost of $600 per headset. There are a handful of other VR devices posed to launch this year, as well. 

Virtual reality had a moment in the 1990s, when 3D graphics were all the rage, and people donned goggles, gloves and full body suits (and overlooked how dorky they looked.) While the period may have been destined to fail two decades ago, this time around, Facebook has ponied up $2 million dollars and seen great potential in virtual reality technology, with Zuckerburg stating, “Oculus has the potential to be the most social platform ever.”

RIP: Mid-90s Virtual Reality gear


Our money is that this trend will be a temporary fad, and won’t really take off in the mainstream for several more years, if at all.


So, what do you think? What’s going to take off in 2016? What will come to an end? 
Tweet us @elevatedthird and let us know!