4 Trends That Will Shape Marketing in 2016 Marketers are likely to get better at using the piles of customer data available and new tools will help them adjust to how customers interact with brands online.

By Chris Lucas

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


It's that time of year again, and I'm not just talking about the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping and ringing in the New Year. I'm talking about the thrill and stress of reflecting on one year and planning for another.

For marketers, it's crucial to spend time reviewing data from 2015 and attending strategic planning meetings to build momentum for 2016. But it's also important to consider marketing trends and forecasts that may impact your team's plans. Are experts predicting any major shifts in the industry over the next 12 months?

Here are four changes marketers will encounter in 2016:

1. Digital and mobile will no longer be standalone efforts.

Heading into 2016, marketers must jump on board with the notion that digital marketing and mobile marketing do not exist. It's all just marketing. Seventy-three percent of U.S. households own a computer with an Internet connection, and 68% of Americans own a smartphone. This means your company presence should be equal parts digital and traditional and automatically optimized for mobile.

Prospects must be exposed to your brand via as many touch points as possible. And although a digital strategy should be part of your overall marketing plan, you should still focus on the specific channels your target audience frequents. For example, if your customers are mainly males over the age of 55, emails and traditional advertising might resonate better, whereas millennials are more likely to notice a sponsored social ad.

The key is to understand that a marketing strategy must include digital and mobile components. There should be no more negotiations about additional budget dollars for digital and mobile marketing—they are now one with the marketing budget. The sooner businesses and marketing departments can unify all areas of marketing, the quicker revenue will increase.

Related: Create a Better Digital Marketing Strategy With These 4 Tips

2: Data analysis tools will become more sophisticated.

Over the past couple years, a lot of marketers have been using business intelligence (BI) tools to gather important data insights that help them make better strategic decisions, scale and improve marketing efforts, and increase their bottom line. But mining, analyzing and understanding mounds of campaign data can be tough. Many marketers use multiple data analysis tools, which means they are faced with a lot of cluttered data to sift through and organize.

In 2016, BI tools will come to maturity, and more will be developed that both aggregate and analyze the data available. This will lift a weight off many businesses and marketers who need just the essential information about their customers to make real-time decisions about their marketing strategies. These more sophisticated tools will give marketers all the details they need to quickly customize their marketing for different target audiences.

Related: 4 Marketing Analytics Tools That Are Shaping the Industry

3. Marketing strategies will reflect a multi-touch, multi-stage customer journey.

Let's face it: A prospect's journey is no longer linear or funnel-like, but rather multi-stage. Consumers need many interactions with your brand, via a variety of mediums, to convert to paying customers. This means 2016 will be the "Year of a New Marketing Game Plan."

Marketers will need to dig into data to evaluate the success or failure of various efforts and eliminate those that have been unsuccessful. To do this, you'll need to figure out the best way to populate your sales funnel with more and better quality leads.

For instance, you might try centralizing your lead capture and putting metrics in place (like lead-to-sale conversion rate) that allow you to pinpoint your best strategies and scale them for more profitable lead capture.

4. Advanced CRM tools and features will emerge.

According to a 2015 Lead Nurturing Benchmark Study from DemandGen Report, 42 percent of marketers have been implementing lead nurturing tactics for more than two years. In 2016, these marketers will be looking for tools that help them better qualify leads and ramp up their nurture efforts. In particular, marketers will be looking for Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools and integration that provide detailed information about where the best leads are coming from.

In the coming year, more tools will develop functionality to address the data loss that many businesses experience. New features and integration will allow marketers to track lead sources and see that information in a sales CRM. This will help marketers better scale their highest performing campaigns, and it will bridge the gap between marketing and sales teams.

Related: Is Your CRM User Adoption Low? Here's Why and How to Fix It.

Chris Lucas

Vice President of Marketing for Formstack

Chris Lucas is the vice president of marketing for Formstack. He is passionate about setting the vision for Formstack’s marketing and sales departments, as well as discovering new ways to drive web traffic and leads. 

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