November 30, 2016

Can We See the Future? Looking Back at Experts' 2016 Predictions

The Best Way to Predict the Future Is to Create ItHindsight is 20/20 but foresight can be too. 

It's that time of year: when everyone announces their predictions for the next year. But before we do that, we wanted to see what predictions marketing experts made last year and evaluate how close they came to the reality of this unpredictable, unexpectedly raucous year. So we revisited an article by Leonard Kim in Inc. last year to see what some of our industry's biggest thought leaders saw as noteworthy for 2016. 

What They Got Right

In short? Almost everything, in part because the panel's predictions aligned so neatly. Nearly to a person, the 10 experts Kim interviewed mentioned the rise of video, particularly streaming video like Facebook Live

Streaming Video

Joel Comm, entrepreneur and author of The AdSense Code, suggested 2016 would be the year of live video: "(W)ith the addition of easy-to-use live streaming apps like Periscope and Blab.im, we're going to see more content marketers delivering their message across these channels." Even though Blab.im didn't quite work out, using live video to deliver content marketing took off this year. "2016 will be the year when video becomes a primary content marketing consideration for all brands--even B2B," agreed Jay Behr.

"People want to see who you are and hear what you're about," suggested Peg Fitzpatrick, co-author of The Art of Social Media, and video makes that easier to do than any other channel. 

Getting Real

Video lends a sense of authenticity, another trend correctly guessed by the panel. "(B)eing real, raw, and transparent in your business and the content you share is paramount to attracting your ideal client or customer," said Instagram expert Sue Zimmerman. Another panelist, Tamara McCleary nodded at the importance of authenticity when she suggested the rise of employee advocacy, particularly on social media. 

Authenticity also inspired Kim himself, who suggested that Quora, with its user-generated questions and answers, would become a force in content marketing, due to its strong traffic and SEO, something that has become very true this year.  

What They Missed

This group of experts mostly hit the mark when they looked ahead to 2016. What is more striking is what the panel overlooked versus those predictions that didn't come true—Chris Brogan's prediction that junk content would disappear seems nearly laughable as Facebook and Google struggle to contain an avalanche of fake news.

Virtual Reality

Chatbots weren't invented this year, but their adoption by Facebook's Messenger app last spring turned them into one of the bigger marketing trends, particularly for consumer-facing brands. Bots can answer simple customer service queries, notify customers about shipping or product availability, educate consumers on a brand's history or even serve as a virtual fitting room. 

Few prognosticators saw the popularity of Pokémon Go coming, yet marrying VR to GPS information in a gaming app now seems a no-brainer. Pokémon Go's daily usage on U.S. iPhones has waned, with just about 4% of its peak of 10 million last August, but that means 400,000 people play the game each day. It came first and burned brightly before fading, but Pokémon Go won't be the last app of its kind. Expect more VR apps to connect to the real world in the future. 

Mobile Takes Over

Glaringly, none of the ten experts discussed the rise of mobile. This could be a case of bias—most experts in marketing and technology lead mobile-first lives—but it doesn't recognize the growing role that mobile plays in marketing to Americans. Pew found in 2015 that 72% of Americans own smartphones and Zenith's Mobile Advertising Forecast predicts 75% of Internet use will be mobile by next year. Mobile accounted for 55% of online traffic on Black Friday 2016, according to Retail Dive. Innovation is ripe in m-commerce, however, as Retail Dive also noted that mobile conversion on smartphones was less than half of desktop conversions, often due to a lackluster experience. 

So What About 2017?

The hard thing about all of these end-of-year prediction wrap-ups is that no one can see the future. But it turns out the present does provide a few clues—as evidenced by the Inc. panel's accuracy and aligment around the rise of video and authenticity. As we close out 2016 and look to the next year, expect experts to put on their fortune teller hats and point in the direction of virtual reality, chatbots, and mobile payments.

Stay tuned to the Persio blog, as we'll be sharing our staff's best 2017 predictions in the next week.