Every year, our teams of dedicated analysts, researchers and writers come together to map out the digital trends set to shape the year ahead. In 2016, we witnessed the rise and fall of some of the world’s leading brands, we saw the marketing industry evolve dramatically in response to the growing rise of consumer power, and we watched as emerging digital trends either cause the world to take notice, or fail to stand out in an overcrowded market. Based on our Trends 17 report incorporating active data across 36 countries and over 4,500 data points, we’ve mapped out the ten most game-changing trends for every brand, advertiser and marketer to watch in 2017.

1. Video is Victorious

The explosion of video has presented an obvious opportunity for brands all over the world. For social networks in particular, video sharing has become a clear metric to watch with over half of Facebook users now watching videos on the platform, and live-streaming quickly becoming a requisite. Not only does this mean that competing brands will need to develop a strong video offering to get their share of consumer attention, but that video marketing is becoming more of a staple to every marketing strategy than ever before.

2. The VR & AR Question

In 2016, most consumers experienced the world of VR & AR for the very first time. But is this just a passing fad, or is it here to stay? Across our 36 markets, around 4 in 10 internet users report an interest in using VR headsets in future, but many obstacles stand in the way of the trend achieving mainstream adoption. The lack of quality, compelling content is one key factor, but its potential is clear as it takes the next step with a move to mobile.

3. Facebook 2.0

Still retaining its title as the world’s largest social network, as the global online population grows, so too does Facebook. Now setting its sights on video and commerce, its movement into emerging markets and its success in the social video boom spells exciting times ahead for Zuckerberg whose planned developments make this an important one to watch. In its ongoing quest to popularize true social media commerce, could the Facebook marketplace bridge the ever-present gap between research and purchase?

4. The Future of Free

The continuous rise of the ad-blocker has put more power into the hands of consumers. With the online population becoming less and less open to interruptive advertising, and the right to free online content now seen as sacrosanct, marketers and advertisers are under pressure to take a new approach. But with large numbers of ad-blocker users still willing to engage with ads, this doesn’t spell the ‘death of the banner ad’ just yet. Rather, it pushes advertising further down the path of relevant and non-intrusive ads, bringing us closer towards the consumer-driven, content-powered world of marketing than ever before.

5. Snap-tastic Wearables

In 2016, Snap Spectacles made their debut as Snap Inc. moves into the elusive wearable space. With obvious similarities to Google Glass, Snap Inc. took a more niche approach, marketing their wearables as a fun, stylish and affordable way to capture video content. With almost 6 in 10 internet users now uploading videos each month, a figure rising to over two thirds among millennials, this presents a key opportunity. Better positioned than its previous counterparts, could Snap Inc. be the ones to finally kick-start the wearable revolution?

6. The Smartphone Squeeze

As mobiles reach saturation point in the west, emerging markets could hold the key to renewed smartphone sales. On a global scale, our research suggests year-on-year purchasing of mobiles to be slowing down, despite the shift to a mobile-first world. China still represents the world’s largest smartphone market, while India has the fastest growing online population across all of GWI’s markets. And with the Philippines and Indonesia set to become crucial contributors to the smartphone marketplace, it’s clear these will play a major role in the future of the smartphone.

7. The Competitive Messaging App

With social networks now emerging with more varied and specialized services, our research shows users are becoming more passive than ever, unwilling to share personal updates on the bigger networks. As this trend continues, and we move more towards more feature-heavy services like that adopted by Snapchat, we run the risk of encouraging more of this passive behavior. Messaging apps, however, appear to be somewhat immune to this so-called Context Collapse, with key players like WhatsApp retaining an edge over its feature-heavy competitors in its simplistic nature. So will these apps continue to retain their edge, or will we continue to see a rise in passive social networking?

8. Mobile Ad-Blocking Moves West

As the mobile ad-blocking revolution spreads west, a new wave is on the horizon. The arrival of in-app ad-blocking could be a game-changer here, meaning apps would no longer remain protected against this threat in the advertising world. Again pushing consumer demand for less interruptive messaging, and more relevant content, this spells a necessary shift in approach for mobile advertising in order to push back the tide.

9. The Mobile-First Landscape

Mobiles have become more important in the lives of internet users around the world. Across the 40 or so cross-device behaviors tracked by GWI, some have already migrated to mobile, with others closely following suit. As this indicates, we’re quickly entering a mobile-first landscape, meaning those brands who fail to prioritize mobile run the risk of not only missing key opportunities, but jeopardizing their relationships with younger consumers. Understanding the needs of your Mobile-First consumers is now more important than ever, a growing trend, only moving in one direction.

10. Gaming Gets Competitive

With the migration of gaming activities online, and the subsequent expansion of the gaming community, spectator gaming has quickly gained traction. As our data shows, 1 in 4 have watched a live gaming stream in the past month, with 17% having watched an eSports tournament. These behaviors have brought the gaming industry ever-closer to the world of marketing, with eSports in particular evolving as a major platform for brands to consider.

Want to know more about the biggest trends shaping 2017? Download our full Trends 17 report for everything you need to know about the year ahead.

Trends 17 infographic


Written by

Felim is Senior Trends Manager at GWI. He oversees the Trends team who produce a wide range of off-the-shelf reports and infographics along with our Chart of the Day series. Moving to GWI after completing a PhD, Felim specializes in writing about online consumer behaviors and digital trends.

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