Every year January comes round, and every year the industry pundits, including me, predict the big trends in digital marketing for the year ahead. Our hit ratio has been pretty good for the last 2 years, so I thought I’d up the game a bit this year and put some very specific and measurable predictions in place. If I get them wrong I’ll admit it publicly.

The Guarantee

For each trend I describe, there will be a clear and easy to understand key point, alongside a specific prediction to allow you to measure my success. I’m more concerned about the overall trends than the specific predictions, but I’ll be happy to publicly admit if I get it wrong!

Some Terms and Conditions at the bottom for the more detail orientated amongst you…

Focus on ‘Digital Capability and Culture’

Digital projects, as a whole, do not fail because mobile/digital itself is inherently challenging or complicated. They fail because the company isn’t ready for the project – i.e. it isn’t prepared for the organisational changes necessary to make the project successful.

The problem usually lies with ‘capability’ issues, including management buy-in, sufficient allocation of resources, team skills and, the most common issue, Information Technology issues.

It was telling, that at the CIM Digital Summit in late 2015, almost every talk covered capability issues rather than any shiny new digital marketing technology.

Prediction: Digital job roles including the phrases “capability”, “culture” and “transformation” will grow more than 100% in the coming year.

You can read more on our detailed views on Digital Capability.

Adoption of iBeacons

iBeacons have been around for a while but we’ve seen extremely slow adoption. This is partially down to low market awareness and the need to integrate into the app development process. If you are not familiar, take a look at this introduction to iBeacons, but they’ve been predicted to get traction for at least 2 years now, so this will be seen as probably my most risky prediction.

However, the reason we expect much wider adoption now is simply due to their capability to really transform the retail space. We’ve seen a number of trials run for very major UK retailers with very positive results When these retailers are looking to differentiate, coupled with them moving toward managing to integrate their IT systems, we finally find ourselves in a position for wider scale iBeacon adoption.

Because of the need to integrate in store and to build into existing or new apps, this is one for late 2016, but it is coming.

Prediction: Beacon technology will be widely in-store in at least 5 of the UK’s top 20 high street retailers.

Huge Growth in Social Commerce

This one won’t be at all controversial. Social commerce via site like Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook will grow wildly in 2016. With the wider use of Instagram advertising, the introduction and growth of the Pinterest Buy button and Facebook working on various ecommerce functionality, there is only really one way this can go.

Find out more about what we think of Social Commerce in 2016.

Prediction: At least 100% growth in ecommerce sales driven by ‘last click” social media traffic sources globally.

Focus on Content Quality

This one is a bit more subjective so may cause a few more arguments. It’s pretty clear to me that as the volume of content marketing grows, the importance of high quality editorial and journalism increases to help cut through the noise. Good organisations will focus on publishing less but doing it better.

Prediction: Google will release at least 1 major update to their algorithm specifically related to filtering high quality content from the dross of content marketing.

Disclosure: I have no idea what Google are going to do, but we won’t be able to truly prove it either way very likely anyway. We’ll go with a consensus view from what Moz.com publish and think, as I respect their views.

Marketing Automation Growth

We’ve been seeing this one for a while now, so another one I’m very confident about. Marketing Automation, that is the automatic triggering of communications and customisation of content based on a users previous actions, will grow very substantially in 2016. Not only that, but we are expecting growth in both the Business to Business to Consumer markets. This will happen through a growth in the adoption of marketing automation systems, but also in the growth and expansion of Email Service Providers offering more advanced features and users adopting these features.

Dave Chaffey and I normally debate or predictions each year, and as his website SmartInsights also predicts growth in automation, I feel pretty happy.

At the heart of this for me is the growing use of Salesforce alongside the various ways it can be automated, as well as the incredible advances within Mailchimp, the most widely adopted Email Service Provider globally.

Prediction: Mailchimp will see over 100% growth in the use of their marketing automation features.

Disclosure: We may not be able to get exact figures but we’ll go with what Mailchimp are happy to give us.


Whatever happens, we’re in for another exciting year in digital. Much what happened this year we got right, but the fast moving pace of the industry is a large part of what excites me about it. I look forward to debating my correct and very possibly incorrect predictions with you!

Daniel Rowles, CEO, Target Internet.


I, Daniel Rowles, will publicly admit my incorrectness for each of the predictions made in this article that are deemed incorrect in January 2017. ‘Incorrect’ will be deemed as outside of the parameters laid out in the prediction, and will be judged against industry respected sources of data. If there is any disagreement registered by any third party to TargetInternet.com by the end of January 2017 in regard to the correctness of the prediction or the reliability of the source of data, the matter will be judged by a third party. This third party will be a senior member of staff at the Chartered Institute of Marketing and decision they reach will be deemed as final and will be made by the 14 Feb 2017.