Digital trends 2015 – what happens next?

What digital trends should marketers be looking at 2015? Learning from news and statistics from 2014 is a good start. Mobile adoption worldwide, social shopping, digital advertising, and one-on-one communication have been playing and will continue to play a major role in the digital landscape this year.

What can we learn from 2014?

Last year, mobile adoption continued to soar, with 1,6 billion people owning a smartphone at the end of 2014. By 2016, that number is expected to grow to over 2 billion smartphone owners worldwide – with emerging markets playing a key role in the fast rising numbers. This is  effecting e-commerce around the world, with mobile shoppers taking over, putting pressure on e-retailers to quickly adapt their web shops to the mobile screen.  Amazon’s 2014 Holiday season saw mobile shopping approach 60% of the total value. (So if you haven’t already – make sure to make your site responsive now!)

In 2014 we also saw an ever rising boom of social advertising sweeping across the world. More marketing money is being put into social advertising due to better analytics data and proven ROI. That means that social media is becoming an even more accepted marketing channel, even for the older generation of more traditional marketing directors.

During 2014, we saw people returning to one-on-on communication, with Snapchat being the app on everyone’s lips all year round. During the fall, Instagram surpassed Twitter in number of users – now boosting over 300 million active users uploading more than 70 million photos and videos per day. At the same time, Tumblr overtook Instagram as the fastest growing social media platform, while Snapchat was crowned fastest growing app. Even Pinterest grew steadily throughout the year, and both Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger boosted 500 million active users.

So, what can we expect for the coming year?

More one-on-one communication

Facebook has ruled the social world since 2007. More and more social media platforms have grown in size and we’ve become accustomed to telling the whole world what amazing pasta we just ate for dinner or that we just landed that awesome job we’ve been striving to get. Smiling selfies go on Instagram, happy #win tweets on Twitter and a ”feeling excited” status is uploaded to Facebook. I’m not saying we’ll stop yelling out our successes, thoughts and predictions to everyone in our network on the larger social media networks, but I think that 2015 will be the year when even more of us actually start focusing on communication one-on-one through mobile messaging apps instead of always posting everything on the more traditional social media platforms. This is already happening in Japan and South Korea, with LINE and Kakao-Talk each being the some of the largest players on the market. Facebook buying WhatsApp for record-breaking 19 billion US dollars is also a sign that even the biggest players on the markets are realizing the trend that is coming.

Also – we won’t only see people talking more one-to-one, we’ll also see companies using messaging apps in new ways to talk directly to their customers. No mass post on Facebook where getting likes, comments and shares is key, but rather quality information going out personally to followers on messaging apps. Offering coupons, special deals or sharing information on a product update or company announcement. Look at it as email marketing but in a shorter SNS messaging format. Most probably bound to generate better results than just plain social media posts.

Update: Don’t miss the article “Why Apps for Messaging Are Trending” by Mike Isaac and Michael J. de la Merced for New York Times.


More emojis and stickers to the world

Communication with emojis and stickers (basically larger emojis portraying different emotions and situations) has already been the way to communicate in Asia for many years. I believe that this form of visual communication will not only become bigger between friends chatting, but also between companies and consumers.

Japanese mobile app LINE welcomes anyone to sell stickers through their messaging platform at LINE Creators Market. Already in August last year, the market place had over 149 000 creatives from 124 countries selling over 10 000 different sticker selctions to LINE’s over 400 million users worldwide. Creator’s are offered 50% of the revenue from sales (that usually land at about $1 per sticker set). As LINE is expanding in the US (where stickers are already taking off according to the app), I’m sure more social media companies will follow the same pattern and welcome creator’s to sell their art work through their platforms. And the more great content there is out there, the more fun it will be for users to use stickers in their everyday communication, not only here in Asia.



Social shopping

Merging social media and e-commerce into one site is not something new, but I’m sure even more companies will start embracing the benefits of social shopping this year. Last year I was in contact with both Australian start-up Trendii and Swedish start-up Apprl, both aiming to revolutionize the online shopping experience for users by creating platforms where trends, social and shopping are all collected in the same space – making the whole shopping experience more social. Twitter also introduced a “buy button” on their site, and will most probably continue exploring the realms of social shopping during 2015.

Omni-channel has been a buzzword of 2014. Basically, it means that you target your audience across several channels to create a relationship with them on different levels. A brand can reach their users both in-store, in email newsletters, on social media networks and through both traditional and digital ads to become a top-of-mind product and in the end, also claim the sale.

In Japan, fashion site ZoZotown has created the app “Wear” – currently the largest lookbook app in Asia, allowing users to upload their outfit of the day in an Instagram-like environment where they can gain both likes and followers. Outfits are then connected to retailers selling the different clothing items online at

Just like LINE letting creator’s sell stickers over their social platform, Yahoo have also started letting photographers sell their photos directly through their photo sharing site Flickr.


Digital advertising and marketing automation will explode (again)

We’ve been seeing a steady increase in social advertising the past couple of years. Starting of with Facebook and YouTube ads, Twitter’s set of different ads (that now also grant you access to Twitter analytics) as well as Instagram ads being introduced in even more countries, makes it easier for companies to invest their ad spend on digital advertising. Analytics improving, making it easier to see the actual ROI on each spent ad dollar, also makes the social and digital advertising all the more interesting.

Automation technologies in social advertising will also play a key role. With both ads, newsletters and posts being optimized through big data analysis to make sure that the right info reaches the target group with the best message. VentureBeat predicts that 2015 will be the year that marketing automation really catches on – it’s getting cheaper and it’s offering better results. Forbes provides a guide on how to use social media to elevate your marketing automation here. eMarketer also offers a free roundup guide to the state of marketing automation for download here.

Today, Canada’s advertisers spend more dollars on digital ads than TV commercials – leaping 115 % during the past year. In the APAC region, mobile ad spend is predicted to rise by 30% in Japan, 60% in South Korea. Worldwide, USA, China and the UK are the biggest digital ad spenders. Use eMarketers tool to rank countries against each outer here: Worldwide Ad Spending: Rank the Countries.


Analytics still on the rise

I thought 2014 would be the year that social analytics would explode, but somehow, I feel that we are not quite there yet. Twitter introduced their analytics platform, and Facebook updated their own metrics to make it easier for marketers to analyze the numbers. Of course, people are using Google Analytics to get the bigger picture of impact, referrals and conversions coming from different marketing activities to their websites. And when it comes to analytics on the actual social media platforms we’re also seeing a couple of larger social analytics players like Hootsuite, Buffer and SocialBaker offering analytics for several platforms on the same site. There’s a bunch of articles out their listing the most useful social analytics tools – like this one from social technology company Brandwatch: “Top 8 Great Value Social Media Analytics Tools” or PR Daily listing “19 free social media analytics tools“. But what platform is the best? And what is it that we’re actually measuring? What is the industry standard?

It’s still hard to get a concrete overview of what’s really going on everywhere on each channel – and even more specific, how that Facebook fan really compares to that retweet or an Instagram comment. What’s the value of a repin? Of a 1+ or of a reblog? I think we’ll see more and more of smart analytics solutions this year – especially since more and more marketing money is being invested in social advertising – it’s key that markets can present what effect their ad spend is generating. Which also is in the best interest of the social media platforms themselves, that of course want to claim as much of those digital ad dollars as possible.


We all know about them, but only a few of us actually own them at this moment. How will the likes of Apple Watch and Samsung Gear come to effect our everyday lives? Wearbles will start of as a must-have accessory of the tech savvy early adopters, but I’m pretty sure spotting a smart watch on someone’s wrist, seeing someone check their health of a smart bracelet, or catching people in connected clothing is not so far off. Just see how the activity bracelet has exploded this past year (in Sweden it was the “Christmas gift of the year 2014“).

According to a GlobalWebIndex study conducted with 170,000 adult internet users across 32 markets, less than 10% own a smartwatch, compared to 80% owning a smartphone. It is predicted that 17 millon Brits will own wearable tech within three years. And 43% believe wearable tech may be the key to a longer life. According to WearbleNow, wearables will reach a 28% adoption rate by 2016.


Traditional newspapers will say bye bye to paper and focus all on digital

Journalism is changing, and we’re already starting to see publication after publication abandoning their paper editions and focusing all on digital. The problem is, ad revenue on digital is not even close to what a publication can make from offline advertising – which results in cuts of staff. However, as the market is changing, so is the marketing budgets from companies that are realizing that the biggest effect of their marketing ad spend is best spent on digital – larger reach and cheaper prices. Plus, you can analyze every last view, click and conversion. Unfortunately, as money rule the world, this means that we’ll be seeing less of our favorite magazines in the magazine racks at the local store. Then again, this means more production costs will be spent on making mobile, tablet and websites look absolutely amazing. And hopefully, with the upswing of quality and ad dollars being put on digital marketing, we’ll also see journalists and editors that are loosing their jobs today coming back to their jobs tomorrow. The world will always be in need of good quality journalism, no matter what.

Other things to look out for in 2015

Mobile search will surpass desktop search in 2015. Interesting start-ups coming not only from the Silicon Valley; start-up hubs like Taiwan will revolutionize the world. And also how email will change thanks to prioritizing smart mail boxes such as Inbox by Google. All in all, digital will of course, by no surprise, keep on revolutionizing the way we live our lives even in 2015.

Update: To get a great overview of where we are right here and now, check out We Are Social’s annual report with over 300 slides of data: Social, Digital & Mobile Worldwide in 2015.


Emelie Fågelstedt

Independent communications strategist supporting organizations with their digital business and communications strategy since 2010. Founder of digital agency Fågelstedt Kommunikation and co-founder of Svenska Nomader, Sweden's largest platform for digital nomads. Public speaker on tech, social media, e-commerce and the future of work.

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