The customer experience will dominate in 2016. Shoppers are demanding more from businesses: personalized product suggestions, helpful rewards programs and convenient payment platforms like direct debit and mobile pay. Companies must respond by focusing on consumer needs to increase brand loyalty and drive sales. Here are some of the marketing trends to expect in 2016:

Increased focus on the customer experience
Marketing is transitioning from an onslaught of ads to an element of the customer experience, said Forbes. While increasing sales is certainly still the ultimate goal, retailers are coming to understand customer satisfaction and loyalty are important to the marketing process, not just a means of achieving repeat sales. Now, marketers are interacting online with customers, using feedback and past purchases to suggest products in the future. 

A positive customer experience makes a brand's marketing tactics stand out against competitors that bombard users with info. More companies will adopt brand ambassadors to provide this experience, Forbes said. Ambassadors, similar to affiliate marketers, act as a reliable and relatable source of information.

Images become more important on social media
Social media will switch from marketing campaigns designed to increase revenue to an extension of the brand itself. Many companies have already used Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as means for interactive branding, engaging with shoppers and promoting a lifestyle on the consumer's own terms. In 2016, these promotions will become more image-based and tailored to specific social media platforms. For instance, some organizations are using multiple pictures of one subject to make interesting diptychs and triptychs on their Instagram profiles.

"It's no longer enough to just throw up a picture on a blog post," said Donna Moritz, founder of Socially Sorted, in a conversation with Social Media Examiner. Indeed, companies that are the most creative with their images will see more consumer responses.

Video, especially live broadcasts, become a new source of engagement
The rise of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime have indicated a shift in consumer interest from regular television. Some expect video content will account for nearly two-thirds of consumer traffic by the end of this year, according to Practical Ecommerce. Combine that information with the popularity of videos on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube, and one could reason videos will gain a new importance in e-commerce marketing. Many retailers already have YouTube channels, but it will be interesting to see how consumers react to live broadcasting on platforms like Periscope and Twitch. These channels let customers interact with users in real time and have been used effectively by celebrities and content creators to converse with their fans.

Ad blockers force creative content
Consumers are annoyed by conventional advertising, Forbes noted. Despite the debates over ad blockers, the fact is consumers use them to hide what they feel interrupts their Web experience and is irrelevant to their lives. This forces businesses to get creative, establishing content that merges seamlessly with Internet browsing habits. This content should be organic and apply directly to consumer needs.

Mobile will focus on lifestyles, not just purchases
Smartphones and tablets are integrated with our daily lives, and people often spend their downtime briefly checking their mobile devices. In 2016, companies will focus their attention on these "micro-moments" to promote lifestyles alongside their products, Inc. wrote. They'll create in-app games, quizzes and style guides to increase engagement.

These lifestyle promotions many not all link to a checkout page, but they will associate the brand with certain aspirations among consumers. Multichannel Merchant cited the case of Louis Vuitton, whose mobile app City Guides provides luxury culture, dining and nightlife suggestions. By associating itself with hip, trendy activities, Louis Vuitton promotes the idea that owning its product will elevate a shopper's status.

Omnichannel will collect data and promote business
2016 will see an increased focus on multichannel and omnichannel marketing. Brands will monitor consumer behavior on smartphones, tablets, desktop computers and in stores. This data enables marketers to better predict what their consumers want and to create more effective marketing campaigns. 

Brands will also use these multiple channels to create integrated experiences across platforms. Social media, online shopping and in-store experiences will no longer be viewed separately – a consumer encounter through one channel will have the exact same feel as another. Businesses will be more focused on making sure a shopper can accomplish whatever he or she wants to do through whatever means they choose, whether that's making a purchase, completing a return or signing up for a loyalty program. This also means brands will focus on providing a variety of payment solutions.

Shopping continues to go global
Alibaba is steadily increasing its reach across the globe, and more markets are opening in previously hard-to-reach locations. Even smaller stores are able to accept global payments and ship internationally. In 2016, more businesses will set their sights on consumers in other nations, increasing their reach and revenue.

Ultimately, the consumer will be at the forefront of 2016. Brands should take note of this fact and work towards anticipating and servicing customer needs.

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