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37 Digital Predictions for the New Year

Posted on 12.29.2016

:: By Amberly Dressler, Managing Editor ::

Ready or not, 2016 is quickly coming to a close and like many years before it, Website Magazine has enlisted the help of fellow Web professionals to publish their digital predictions for 2017. 

What will become of artificial intelligence, predictive marketing, online video, augmented reality, responsive Web design, and other technology and trends impacting a company's 'Net success? Read on to discover how industry insiders expect the Web to evolve in the new year.

"With the continued rise in the subscription economy comes a renewed focus on post sales initiatives. As more and more revenue begins to hit the renewal ledger, the retention of current customers becomes more important than acquiring new ones. With this shift in mindset, we will begin to see companies make greater investments in customer marketing, both in technology, people and programs. Marketing will play an even more integral role in stewarding the customer experience and bringing greater alignment to pre- and post-sales functions."

"There was a lot of talk in 2016 about predictive analytics, but the predictive vendors have really been focused on a tangental space - sales. So while connected to marketing and demand gen, they are solving for sales; helping to accelerate pipeline by identifying like accounts in the market to buy. But, what we will see in 2017 is a heightened focus on predictive for marketers. What we will see is marketing automation platforms playing a role in this enablement; collecting and analyzing engagement data overtime and across campaigns to prescribe marketers with direction and insight on who to engage, when to engage and what to engage with. Marketing automation will be like the autonomous driving car (let the car drive you or take the wheel and drive yourself) where marketers can choose to leverage the prescribed course of action provided through predictive or overwrite it and use their conventional wisdom."

~ Michelle Huff, CMO of Act-On

"I think 2017 will be the year of server-to-server integrations - more advertising platforms will connect with each other to share data in real-time. While S2S integrations are more laborious, they have less latency once they are set up, and low latency is critical, especially with video ads."

"2017 will be the year that slow-to-adapt publishers finally get on the programmatic train, which will drive a spike in growth for technology providers. Marketers will continue to shift toward programmatic because it’s easier to incorporate factors like creative design and data into their advertising campaigns."

"While marketers are increasingly aware that it is critical to properly attribute mobile user actions when there are so many possible touchpoints, we’re still experiencing a big learning curve. In 2017 we’ll see a bigger push toward addressing the issue, with associations such as the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) leading the way towardstandardization through think tanks and task forces."

"With clearer definitions of viewability available and better systems in place to ensure viewability, advertisers will demand viewability, build business models to address it and settle for nothing less than viewable ads. As a result, non-viewable ads will begin to disappear."

"Desktop ad blocking may pass 50 percent by the end of 2017 and ad blockers will become an increasing concern for advertisers. Since blockers are a symptom of a bigger problem - consumers' annoyance with ads - technological solution providers and creative agencies will come up with advertising solutions that are less intrusive and more personalized, reducing the desire to block ads."

"I predict that next year, the industry will hit a tipping point and we’ll see the emergence of better, more creative ways to tailor ads to audiences. The needle will move most in video, where personalization is years behind. Companies that can figure out real video personalization and dynamic creative optimization, which requires tremendous innovation will become market leaders.”

"Fraud levels will continue to drop for two main reasons. First, there is a growing awareness of the problem and the industry is enforcing strict requirements for low fraud. Second, technological tools to monitor and block fraud (among brands, exchanges and across the ecosystem) are becoming better and more cost effective, driving high adoption rates."

~ Gil Becker, CEO of AnyClip

"Streaming video companies like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon will look more and more like production studios or even OTT providers. This evolution is now both driven by and a driver of consumer cord cutting."

"Much like Twitter is becoming the go-to for live sports streaming, other platforms will carve out vertical niches."

"The 'platformization' of videos will bring about new/different video formats as de-facto standards for specific distribution points. As Facebook’s muted autoplay drove a move to text-heavy videos and Snapchat made vertical video mainstream, more platforms will promote unique styles as a way to set themselves apart."

"Publishers and brands will add executive-level roles specifically to handle video. The increasingly complex and fragmented media landscape combined with the importance of video strategy will bring about positions such as Chief Video Strategist."

"Cross-platform measurement will improve, but monetization will still be an issue. In a similar way that 2016 brought about optimization and automation tools to better address the plurality of platforms and each’s unique parameters, we’ll see emergence of tools that can measure activity across those distribution points."

~ Dror Ginzberg, Co-Founder and CEO of Wochit

"It seems every week, we hear about some new breach or exposed vulnerability. With this comes a prominent demand for policies in security. Security, which in the past has been an afterthought at some companies, is now at the front of conversations."

"People engage differently based on the device they are using. Their goals and the value they get out of applications is often quite different. It is important that creators understand what users are trying to accomplish on the different screens, where users struggle and how creators can make the experience better for their users. Creators need to adapt their software or applications to efficiently deliver value to the users across all devices based on this data."

"Until now, data and reporting has been the catalyst of business decisions. In 2017, there will be a shift to predictive decisions from real-time or near real-time data. Decisions will be made faster and in a lot of cases actions will be taken automatically to adjust business strategies to meet goals."

"In the world of product success – onboarding will become a core requirement of every product design. Often, there is a strong correlation between the success of the onboarding process and likelihood of ongoing retention of a customer. Tracking a customer’s product usage during the onboarding process and using that data to improve the onboarding process will be a big push for product designers. By optimizing these early touchpoints, customers will reap the rewards in terms of retention and revenue growth for months or years to come."

~ Todd Olson, CEO of Pendo

"While virtual reality (VR) is once again a hot topic – remember the VR hype in the early 1990s? – 2017 will be really be the year of augmented reality (AR). The barriers to entry for delivering a quality AR user experience are much lower than for VR because the VR experience still suffers from a variety of issues, including stutter and motion sickness. As a result, VR will remain a toy for high-end gaming, especially given the current price-point and hardware requirements."

"Machine learning has gotten good enough to spot trends and make predictions that could not have been illuminated any other way. As a result, machine learning will become table stakes for analytics and marketing technology solutions. The real opportunity, however, in this area lies in experimenting with the underlying algorithms. In a typical big data use case, an algorithm is developed and becomes a fixed aspect of the solution, always looking at the data the same way. Over the next year, we will begin to see developers and analysts start testing algorithms against each other to determine what works for a given use case, and then continue to experiment with the algorithms over time."

~ Ryan Donovan, Senior Vice President of Product Management at Sitecore

"Top-tier marketing organizations will see a strong departure from static, labor intensive testing roadmaps and rules-based platforms toward leveraging machine learning to continuously optimize every facet of the user journey based on nearly infinite combinations of behavioral dimensions and messaging permutations.

With this shift, the value of big data will finally extend beyond BI. Global investment in big data is predicted to reach $114 billion in 2018, and marketers will finally be able to take advantage of these investments.

Instead of relying on integrations between their data systems of record and their publishing systems of engagement, a standardized machine-learning digital intelligence layer will emerge to manage nearly every digital consumer interaction within the Fortune 500 landscape."

~ Matt Fleckenstein, CMO of Amplero

"Rather than forcing them to pretend to be data scientists or spend all their time writing complex marketing automation rules, machine learning frees up marketers to drive creative and strategic initiatives that improve customer experience and true marketing performance.

More than half (54 percent) of companies say their biggest challenge to data-driven marketing success is the lack of data quality and completeness. Machine learning technologies will automate much of the manual, repetitive data-centric work. Because of this evolution, the required marketing leadership skillset will pivot back toward more creative strategy pursuits versus the current data technologist paradigm.

And the world will be a better place for it."

~ Olly Downs, PhD, CEO of Amplero

"Through complex, machine-learning technologies, marketers will have the sophistication to not only target customers, but also to map campaign impact throughout a user’s broader influencer network.

A new study released from Columbia University demonstrates a 28 percent campaign lift multiplier on non-targeted, first-degree connections of targeted consumers. This capability alone will drastically transform the way campaigns are designed and executed by marketing leadership—particularly within subscription-based industry verticals like telecommunications, financial services and gaming."

~ Glenn Pingul, VP of Scientific Marketing Strategies at Amplero

"Google’s switch to mobile indexing means Web professionals will have to balance creating a mobile-friendly, conversion-focused experience with authoritative and comprehensive content. This could prove to be a bit of a challenge because text that isn’t well laid out on mobile can be a conversion killer."

"The website design industry will head further down the mobile-friendly rabbit hole and Google will keep using its influence to push Web designers to create better mobile user experiences."

"HTTPS will continue to be pushed for increased security and it’s likely we’ll see this given more weight as a ranking factor."

"There will be an increased importance of structured data (schema) within websites to help search engines drive ultra-personalized search results."

~ Itai Sadan, CEO of Duda

"I predict that Amazon AI will serve as a wake-up call for retailers as they take a step back and analyze their business and where they have the ability to invest. In the upcoming year, it will be important for these organizations to have a significant tech budget allocated to innovative AI processes so that they can integrate deep-learning functionality within their software infrastructure.

As AI technology takes on a more dominant role in the retail industry, we can expect to see a sense of urgency across retailers to incorporate this tech into their platforms in order to meet increasing consumer demands for tailored experiences. Clearly Amazon has made this strategic investment given industry trends and expectations; and if retailers don’t listen and jump on this technology now, I fully expect them to fall behind."

~ Kerry Liu, CEO of Rubikloud

"From Facebook Live to Snapchat’s spectacles, savvy marketers will be designing campaigns around ephemeral, live-streamed content and will need to make sure the infrastructure of their Web properties can support these marketing efforts. More companies will turn to WordPress to leverage the strong selection of live streaming plug-ins available and ecosystem of managed hosting service providers who can help speed sites and safeguard against traffic-crashes – a real risk with live video."

"Google has been a key driver behind the renewed focus on websites, championing Progressive Web Apps with Mozilla, and giving search ranking preference to mobile-first sites, among other initiatives. Thus, companies will focus on better optimizing their websites for mobile, as opposed to traditional native apps which have a high drop-off rate with consumers and pose limitations to developers for things like SEO, third-party integrations and UX."

"Brands now have the ability to tap into signals of intent when people are talking online about everything from car shopping to eating lunch, and leverage that data to target consumers at specific points in the customer journey. As a result, marketers will seek to diversify creative assets and increase investment in third-party data partners to take advantage more opportunities for content tied to conversion."

"Additionally, online stores that don’t natively support mobile payment platforms like Apple Pay and Google Wallet/Checkout will be at a significant disadvantage. WordPress ready one-tap payment API’s like Google’s Payment Request API will drive the rise in mobile conversion, which has historically been lower than desktop site purchases. With mobile better equipped to expand beyond the discovery phase of the customer journey, companies of all sizes will prioritize investment in mobile."

"WordPress will power 30 percent of the Web in 2017, driven by projected global enterprise expansion from 3.4 to 3.6 percent and the easy, cost-effective integration of WordPress into multi-million dollar Web content management (WCM) systems. Global expansion means internationalized campaigns, websites and other digital marketing involving local agencies in various countries. The world-wide ubiquity of WordPress proficiency and practical utility for global execution, makes WordPress the obvious choice for growing enterprises."

~ Jason Cohen, CTO of WP Engine

"Businesses, especially SMBs, are beginning to embrace partnering with and selling across all of the major platforms including Amazon, eBay and Facebook, as well as their own e-commerce sites, delivering more opportunities to independent retailers. Thanks to technology integrations from SaaS-based providers, smaller online retailers can successfully partner with and compete against the mega-retailers across all major channels from their own branded website and Google Shopping, to Facebook, Amazon and eBay. Because of the innovations provided by technology partners, retailers can easily customize their pricing, branding and customer relationship strategies for each channel while being fully integrated on the back-end with inventory management and fulfillment systems. By employing this nimble, omnichannel approach, retailers can expect to earn up to three times as much via increased sales than what could be achieved via one-off, in-house integrations or optimization directed at only a few, discrete channels."

"Marketers will increase influence over retail technology spending, gradually shifting spending from managing IT and developing in-house technology to focusing on what they do best: merchandising and selling their goods. Market metrics show that mid-market companies are reducing IT expenses, including traditional software licensing and maintenance, in order to fund increases in advertising and marketing budgets, driven by cost-effective outsourcing of technology infrastructure to third-party providers. Online retailers can now access world-class e-commerce technology without a single IT professional on payroll, at one-fifth the cost that it would take to do it with in-house resources, thanks to SaaS-based e-commerce enablement providers. Not only more cost effective, SaaS-based partners offer reductions in complexity and integration, continuous innovation and better uptime, response time and security, all of which enables retailers to sell more effectively."

"The most successful SMBs and mid-market retailers will wait to adopt nascent, emerging technologies, including AI and bots, because merchants won’t see positive ROI from these development projects. Instead, the best strategy to ensure success is to go ‘all in’ with advertising on platforms that already feature best-in-class AI, including Google and Facebook, while also selling on the platforms that have the strongest AI and bot capabilities including Amazon and eBay. By employing a true omnichannel approach that combines selling and advertising, merchants can take advantage of the best technology in the world, without having to directly invest on their own brand websites."

"Mobile wallet and payment adoption will increase in 2017, leading to higher mobile conversion rates. This year’s Cyber Week data demonstrated that mobile visits to SMB and mid-market retailers’ e-commerce sites are on the rise, but the majority of purchasing is still done on the desktop. In 2017, mobile users will find it even easier to purchase goods on their mobile device, thanks to the rise of a wide selection of effective mobile wallets including Apple Pay, PayPal One Touch, Android Pay, VISA Checkout and more.

Leading retailers — those with fast, mobile-optimized websites and a wide selection of mobile-friendly checkout options — will see mobile share and conversions outpace mobile laggards. Leading SaaS-based commerce enablement platforms will make it easy for merchants to adopt all the newest wallet options. Be sure to look for a partner who is ahead of the curve and aggressively integrating leading wallets as they come to market, which allows for easy adoption. Merchants not working with SaaS partners will be forced to integrate each new wallet pay option one-at-a-time, making it a cost- and time-prohibitive exercise."

~Brent Bellm, CEO of BigCommerce

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