Business.com's resident thought leaders chime in on the question: what trend impacted your business most in 2015?
The year 2015 was definitely one for the record books.
Technology is moving at such a rapid pace and disrupting industries left and right. We saw a steep rise in the "sharing economy," rapid adoption of wearable technology, advertising innovation and Millennials invade the workplace. Lead generation transformed into demand generation, the importance of social media marketing shifted to content marketing, mobile traffic surpassed desktop, and video became the media darling.
For this month's "Ask the Market Experts" column, we asked our resident thought leaders which business trend had the most impact on their business in 2015, and what that means for them in 2016. Here's what they had to say.
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Mari Smith: Facebook’s Live streaming video feature that launched for public figures with verified pages in August 2015 has been a game changer for me! I love the ability to broadcast live from my various events across the country, and to have my online audience enjoy behind-the-scenes experiences. I also like to share my take on breaking news for Facebook and Instagram marketing through the Live video stream feature. I will be getting camera-ready a lot more often in 2016! Facebook Live is now rolling out to personal profiles as well as more pages.
Tom Drake: The continuing growth of social media has had the most impact on my online business this year. I haven't put much effort into social media as a source of website traffic, but in 2016, I am planning to put more emphasis on Facebook advertising and developing a Pinterest strategy. This will help to grow my business with new sources of traffic, and reduce my dependence on Google's search results.
Zac Johnson: Content marketing. It's one area where you can consistently go toe-to-toe with your competition by simply creating better content. Provide the best content for your audience and your brand and search rankings will improve with time.
Todd Mumford: Content marketing was the biggest single impact to our company in 2015 – developing high-quality content for our target audience, and actively sharing that content, repurposing in ways that make it accessible to them in a range of formats. I believe 2016 will see a continued increase in high-quality content strategy for most brands, and ours is no exception.
Lisa Schultz: Content marketing has been the most impactful trend for our business in 2015. Going into 2016, we have a clearer picture of what we want and where we want to be. We've made plans and carefully strategized our content marketing approach to help our company reach our goals.
Craig McConnel: Telling an impactful story was the focus for most marketing agencies in 2015. This trend will continue as online searchers evolve and the marketplace becomes more cluttered with volume based content strategies. A branded story that stands out will mean success for 2016.
Mobile Marketing & eCommerce
William Gallahue: Searches like 'hotels near me' and 'restaurants near me' grew exponentially in 2015 and businesses without claimed and optimized local listings are going to miss out on significant amounts of mobile traffic. Our focus moving into 2016 is now helping local businesses pivot effectively from the desktop to the mobile age.
Seth Rand: The increase in consumer e-commerce shopping has been great for our business, as more manufacturers and retailers, such as InvictaStores.com and SwissGear.com, are turning to us to build mobile responsive fast loading e-commerce websites while increasing conversion rates, and provide the relevant search engine marketing, shopping feed management, social media marketing and dynamic remarketing to drive targeted traffic to those sites. Based on this trend, we are organizing our 2nd Annual eCommerce Expo South Florida for February 17th to be three times the size as our previous one, and will be exhibiting at IRCE for the first time, to maximize the growing demand within this industry.
John Meyer: In 2015, we continued to see a rise in mobile traffic to Incorporate.com. We adapted to these changes by making sure the website was built in responsive design as well as exploring new marketing channels. Marketing will continue to evolve as consumers clutch to their smart phones and spend more time in apps as opposed to search engines.
Sherice Jacob: The most impactful trend to my business has actually been people's realization that conversion optimization is not just "nice to have", but as crucial as optimizing for search engines. I'm so glad to see this kind of awareness is spreading and people are learning that a design made for "eye candy" isn't always going to convert as well even though it looks nice.
Fergal Glynn: Marketers are more and more being measured on revenue contribution. In my job as VP of Marketing, it means I report pipe by source, with a forecast close rate, every single week. And for Docurated's customer (because we help Marketers), this focus on revenue contribution is a real positive as they are able to tie the value of their work back to revenue.
Greg Hickman: The biggest trend for me is focusing on ONE sales and marketing funnel that converts vs having a handful. That means continually working to optimize the one I have until I know it's converting well before starting to create another.
This requires a focus on conversion and engagement throughout the funnel to see what's working and what's not. Building one successful funnel after the other is better than having multiple that are only ok.
Jason Parms: I am finding that online businesses have been facing lots of security issues and cyber criminals are more advanced than security experts. As a result, the cyber world is a suffering from the havoc of threats, malware, hacking and other malicious attempts that ruined the prestige of many enterprises and organizations. Rising security concern impacts the whole business environment and the battle will go on even in the upcoming year. So, prepare your workforce and customer to fight against forthcoming and rising dragon. Cyber security awareness will help to keep the business environment secure and help to grow persistently.
Google Knowledge Graph
Mike Wood: 2015 was the year of the Google Knowledge Graph, most recently touted by Neil Patel in Forbes as a “big deal” in the world of digital marketing. It has by far become one of the most sought after online marketing tools. Since the information for the Graph is generated primarily from Wikipedia and Wikidata, people began seeking out these services. As one of the few agencies that provide a reputable service for creating and editing entries in both Wikipedia and Wikidata, I saw an uptick in business which I anticipate will follow through into 2016.
Related Article: Ask the Market Experts: What Is Your Most Utilized Business Tool?
Tomas Laurinavicius: Must be mindfulness. We have seen a huge increase in companies focusing on building happiness culture and developing satisfying work/life balance. Personally, practicing meditation and mindfulness helped me to cope with stress, anxiety and pressure to perform at the highest level. In 2016, more people and companies will be looking at ways to regain head space through mindfulness.
Deborah Sweeney: Establishing strategic partnerships has been the most impactful business focus in 2015. As businesses that work with other small businesses find synergies, they are able to build and grow their client base. When business find the right synergies, they can truly grow their business offer and help customers solve business needs at the same time. This is a trend as business owners look to optimize their marketing spend in 2016 and beyond!
Richard Smith: Customer Divergence impacted me the most in 2015, making me realize that whatever we are selling shouldn't be categorized as a commodity. In 2016, my firm will look to strike the cord between price and value, tilting towards either one of these on business demand.
Andrew Weisblatt: The reduction in oil prices has a very large impact on the legal business. As the economy cools clients will be more cost conscious than in boom times. In 2016, we will focus harder than ever in the care and feeding of client relationships and to focus on providing the most efficient legal services possible.
Julie Ellis: The forthcoming year will be the start of the new marketing era. 2016 will take Generation Z to the spotlight. As this generation would be into the Internet even more than the previous one, imagine what an influence they can achieve through the web? As they start to share their opinion on the world around, the markets are getting ready to satisfy the taste of the Z babies in everything from computers, content to clothing.