Virtual Reality, Social Discovery and More Trends to Watch for in 2016

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By Laura Desmond, Publicis Groupe CRO and SMG Global CEO

Throughout 2015, several trends impacting our industry began taking root. Below are four we see maturing in real time as 2016 unfolds.

Virtual Reality Goes Mainstream: From Hollywood movies and mainstream media outlets to tech companies and venture capitalist, everyone seemed to dip their toe in the virtual reality waters in 2015. This year VR is poised to make even bigger waves as more and more creators, manufacturers and financiers dive in. Samsung, Facebook, Google, HTC and Sony all have or will release new VR gear. Expect more experimentation around premium content creation in areas like gaming, shopping and live events to drive consumer adoption.

Media and Commerce Journeys Collapse: Retailers and payment partners continue to shrink the “last four feet” of commerce. Visa Checkout, tap-to-pay, digital wallets and buy buttons on social media platforms are all about reducing the distance between wanting something and buying it to one click for mobile-first consumers. Starcom Worldwide research shows that one-third of consumers want increasing ability to make mobile payments, and in 2016 we expect to see that need met via more commerce distributed to multiple channels rather than a specific destination. The merging of media and commerce provides an avenue for brands to reach consumers at the precise moment they want something.

Social Signals Overtake Search: Social media is replacing search as the dominant method for content discovery, according to a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of BuzzFeed and SMG. Millennials, in particular, have little patience for desktop content in a mobile world: Our research shows they are 15% more likely to find device optimization to be an important aspect of the content they seek compared with 35 to 55 year olds. As social signals overtake search, expect publishers and brands to tap into the social networks of power sharers with snackable content optimized for mobile devices.

Dynamic Content Countering Ad Blocking: Our research also shows that 54% of 18- 29-year-old males and 41% of all Millennials globally are using ad-blocking software. Clearly consumers are frustrated with irrelevant ads cluttering their screens. But a recent IAB report found that 60% of consumers say they’re open to ads that tell story versus just trying to sell a product. By creating better experiences with content that informs or entertains, ads will be blocked less and have more impact. Marketers can further combat ad blocking by optimizing ads for digital formats and employing ad tech to avoid sites with clutter.

From virtual reality and one-click shopping to social discovery and dynamic content experiences, 2016 will bring a world that continues to be more optimized, immediate and customized to the individual than ever before.