The Future of Digital Marketing

Ten of the biggest digital marketing trends for the coming years

Karl Harker
Packt Hub
Published in
11 min readJul 22, 2015

In an industry that’s growing at an unprecedented rate, it’s more important than ever to stay ahead of the curve to avoid getting lost in the crowd. A report by Bell Pottinger Digital has studied the growth of key areas and identified the biggest trends we can expect this year — some you might expect (I’m looking at you, mobile) and some you probably wouldn’t (nobody expected smart toasters). Hold on to your hats as we run through a few of my personal favorites.

“While technology will be one of the biggest drivers of marketing change in the New Year, the key focus for brands will be on delivering truly integrated strategies.”
— James Thomlinson, Partner & Managing Director of Bell Pottinger Digital

It’s no secret that I play too many games, so it’s not likely to surprise anybody that I’m excited to see this particular trend on the rise. More and more businesses are employing the methodology games use to encourage desirable behavior — from those cards you stamp for free coffee to the progress bar that fills up as you provide more of your personal information.

Bell Pottinger’s report estimates that the global gamification market will grow to 68.4% by 2018 and it’s easy to see why; with gamification the audience wants to become more engaged with the company. It’s something big brands have already adopted and by 2017 it’s estimated that 80% of global organisations with have a gamified application or process in place.

We’re all familiar with Amazon’s functional and often hilarious recommendation system but why stop there? In an ideal world, every customer has a unique experience tailored for them. A lot of businesses have started experimenting with this; consider Steam’s landing page customization or Netflix’s constantly-shifting recommendations.

I’d imagine at this point any readers with web development experience are holding their head in their hands and lamenting. These kind of developments take a lot of work to implement effectively but the results are proven; companies that have latched onto personalising web experiences are seeing an average of 19% more sales and Bell Pottinger’s report states “56% of consumers say they would be more inclined to use a retailer if it offered a good personalised experience”.

At Packt we have some huge developments in personalisation planned (we’ve already successfully integrated it into our new-and-improved PacktLib subscription service). We can’t wait to reveal more further down the line.

While we still have a long way to go it’s a concept that we as an industry are getting much more adept at, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see it skyrocket as the tools to achieve it become easier to use and more widely available.

With the amount wearable tech is dominating the media at the moment you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s the biggest innovation of all time. You’d be wrong, of course (it’s diet water), but it does have a huge amount of potential.

Bell Pottinger’s report estimates that over 79 million wearables will be sold next year — that’s a fairly sizable audience. With more and more people picking up this kind of technology it’s going to be important to focus on what’s commonly known as ‘glanceable marketing’. Our messaging will need to be clear and concise, often relying on visual information to get the message across (think of it like a colorful chart over a list of statistics). The user will need to be able to get the key information from just a few seconds and be able to interact with the content with a simple tap. A simple example of this would be a bright notification screen informing a customer that an item they wishlisted is in stock, with a single tap to order it for delivery.

Users will also be providing location data at a near constant rate, which could be used for all kinds of useful services. It would be possible to set the user’s currency, provide directions to the nearest branch, suggest local sponsored events or even send an alert when they get close to a retailer that is stocking an item from their wishlist. There are a huge range of possibilities to explore in the very near future.

“Apple’s iWatch category launch will be one of its most important and brand-reinforcing launches in years”
— James McQuivey, Vice President & Principle Analyst at Forrester Europe

While it may not be growing at the same rate as wearables, mobile is still a huge consideration when it comes to marketing. It’s more important than ever before to have a strong offering on mobile devices. Bell Pottinger’s report claims “mobile internet browsing has shot up 69%, accounting for 23.2% of all usage” in the UK.

Your audience will be looking for clear, responsive presentation and a simple way to perform common tasks. The goal of marketing on mobile is to make it as simple as possible for the user to perform regular (often habitual) tasks, from checking the latest updates to tracking their purchases.

Stories are powerful. It’s been shown that we remember a story far more than a traditional pitch so it can be extremely effective to talk to your audience on a much deeper level than traditional methods. This is a fantastic way of approaching your messaging.

Large companies have begun telling their story (how they started, what they hope to achieve etc.) in an attempt to be more open with their audience. It brings a little humanity back to the company and generally improves how they’re seen publicly. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking storytelling is one-sided though. With a little encouragement your audience will often be willing to open up and talk about their experiences too. This is a great opportunity to get to know them better and listen to their views. You’ll often discover things you could be doing to improve and eventually build a business that’s working for them and reaping the rewards of having dedicated and happy customers.

“A great story is one that you tell someone, but also one that’s designed to be told to other people too. When we do that, it spreads, and we add value to our brand.” — Guy Duncan, Global Creative Director at Coca-Cola

Ideal for businesses with a strong presence on social media, real-time marketing capitalizes on current events. While this has the potential to backfire horribly it can also be an extremely effective way of gaining attention and followers. Take this tweet from Kit Kat for example — a lot of businesses would sacrifice twenty interns to the Marketing Gods for that many favorites and retweets.

It’s been shown by the Bell Pottinger report that customers are 22% more likely to consider your brand as a result of real-time marketing, which would explain why “21% of agencies and brands have budgeted for real-time marketing in 2015".

It may have a long way to go (I’m still waiting for my Holodeck) but we’re already seeing Augmented Reality being put to use in some extremely innovative ways. Take Mitsubishi Electric for example; sales representatives are able to use AR apps on their iPads to show customers what air conditioning units will look like in their home without any kind of installation or props. Mitsubishi have also developed an app with Metaio which shows customers how to maintain and repair their devices. They’ve released a video showing how it works — it’s well worth a watch if you’re interested in seeing Augmented Reality can be put to a practical use.

Augmented Reality is set to explode in popularity as the rise in mobile and wearables (let’s not forget Google Glass) will make AR accessible to almost anybody with access to a smart device with a camera. Bell Pottinger’s report estimates that “by 2017 more than 2.5 billion mobile AR apps will be downloaded”.

It would be crazy not to take advantage of such a popular medium, especially one with so many interesting potential uses. Perhaps you could consider using AR to overlay house availability/prices as a lettings agency, showing users what’s available in their area as they travel around. Another example could be to reward customers with discounts as they visit locations tied to the company, such as the app detecting which branch of Starbucks they’re in and providing a free coffee once they visit three. There are so many possibilities we have to explore — I can’t wait to see what we come up with in a few years’ time.

“We used to say seeing is believing. Now we have to say experiencing is believing.”
— Shuhei Yoshida, Head of Sony Worldwide Studios

It’s very easy to become focused on everything outbound when marketing; we tend to forget how important our own internal communication is. The truth is, it’s easier than it ever has been before to communicate effectively at work. Not only are there fantastic platforms available, the rise of mobile has made it almost impossible not to stay up to date with what’s happening wherever you are.

“By 2015 half of devices on a corporate network will be mobile.”
— Bell Pottinger Digital

Services like Slack (a Medium favorite) and Todoist make it easy to keep everybody updated, share files, search conversation history, keep a to-do list and more to ensure everything runs smoothly. Here at Packt we’re using a combination of Bitrix and Slack, which seems to work best for us. With plenty of free services and trials around, it’s worth exploring to find what’s right for you.

We’re living in exciting times; we’ve already come to the point where we can unlock the front door, turn on house lights, turn up the heating and play ambient music just by pulling into your driveway. This is all made possible through the Internet of Things (IoT) — a series of interconnected devices that are linked to the internet. This ranges from creating a motion-sensor activated home security system to a smart toaster that prints the local weather onto your breakfast.

Bell Pottinger suggests “4.9 billion connected ‘things’ will be in use in 2015, reaching 25 billion by 2020". If we can embrace the IoT there’s a huge potential market to explore in which we can reach customers in a physical as well as a digital space. Many businesses have caught on to this up-and-coming trend, with an estimated spend of over 40 billion dollars designing, implementing and operating the Internet of Things in 2015.

“[Nike] goes from being just a shoe brand to a socially connected digital fitness service. It is no longer a shoe people buy and take away, it is an ongoing service they subscribe to”
— Andy Hobsbawm,

If you’re reading this on Medium, you’ll already be aware of just how valuable content marketing really is. Bell Pottinger’s report states B2B businesses with blogs generate 67% more leads per month than those without, so it’s well worth investing some time and budgeting into content marketing (you’ll also be joining 58% of B2B marketers who plan to increase their content marketing budgets this year).

Why not combine this with our section on Storytelling and write a blog about how your company got started and what the future holds? Perhaps you could write about how your product is made to show customers how much effort and care goes into providing the product they enjoy? There are a huge number of topics you could talk about — my advice is to write about something you’re passionate about and enjoy the rise in customer engagement you’re likely to see as a result.

In Summary…

It’s clear that our industry is shifting at a rapid pace; if you can stay ahead of the curve, you’ll reap the rewards. We’re witnessing a lot of these trends just starting up — we still have a long way to go until we fully realize the potential of what we’ve just been given access to. The next few years are going to be extremely exciting as we see businesses find innovative new ways to approach these ideas and I sincerely hope you can join us as we try to be among them.

“Every year new hardware and software appears, but the most successful brands in 2015 will be those that harness new technology to deliver a single experience to consumers wherever they are in their journey.”
— James Thomlinson, Partner & Managing Director of Bell Pottinger Digital


Bell Pottinger Digital | Calisle and Gallegher Consulting Group | Canalys | Content Marketing Institute | Desmart | Digital Marketing Bureau | Forrester | Gartner | Google | Marketer | Marketing | O2 The Rise of Me-tail | Real-Time for the Rest of Us, by Evergage | | StatCounter | Statista | Swirl Networks | The Big Data Market: Business Case, Market Analysis & Forecasts 2015–2020 | The Guardian



Karl Harker
Packt Hub

Senior Digital Marketing Executive at Packt Publishing. Lover of game design, video production, psychology and photography.