digital marketing trendsMarketing is continually in a state of flux, responding to changes in both consumer behavior and technology. In the last few years, digital marketing has experienced significant changes. So much so that brands frequently have trouble keeping pace with the evolving technology inspiring those changes.

With 2016 looming on the horizon, brands must now begin to develop the strategies necessary to remain competitive.  Now more so than ever before, it is vital for marketers to strive to stay ahead of the curve instead of simply jumping on board with everyone else. Take a look below at four critical marketing trends that will change the way brands reach out to consumers in the coming months.

1. Building Loyalty through Relationship Marketing

As mobile usage continues to become more widespread, the need for brands to connect with their customers on-the-go has never been more important. By next year, some 2 billion people around the world are expected to own a smartphone.

Relationship marketing has shifted away from the concept of individual sales and engaging with customers in the short term to a focus on building customer loyalty through long-term customer engagement. As a result, brands are able to build stronger connections with their customers, resulting in improved lead generation opportunities.

One company that has succeeded quite well with this approach is Krispy Kreme, which launched a Red Light App to allow users to map the nearest location using their smartphones and receive notifications when a Hot Now red light is activated, indicating that a batch of fresh, hot donuts is waiting. As part of their strategy to leverage the immediacy and reach of mobile marketing, the company encourages customers to use the hashtag #KrispyKremeMoment to pass the word on to others. Forrester reported that without spending a single dime on marketing, Krispy Kreme witnessed nearly a 7 percent increase in same-store sales after the app was launched.

2. Automated Marketing

Gone are the days when marketers needed to spend hours scheduling posts, segmenting contacts, managing content, and tracking customers as they made their way through the sales funnel. Automated marketing makes it possible for marketers to save hours while focusing on building highly focused marketing campaigns.

A $5.5 billion industry, marketing automation is now leading the path in prospect nurturing. Now that marketers are under more pressure than ever to connect and engage with customers at every available opportunity, automated marketing helps marketers to do precisely that. Tools such as Marketo are leading the way in marketing automation. The easy-to-use tool boasts a plethora of services, including CRM integration, lead nurturing and management, automated email marketing, and sales cycle management.

3. Location Marketing Tech

In the past, it was often hit-and-miss as to whether you would reach a customer. Today, marketers are able to leverage the power of location-based marketing technology to create interactive experiences and connect with customers at the point of engagement. New technology, such as iBeacons are becoming increasingly popular in marketing campaigns. Small and relatively inexpensive, these transmitters are able to detect when devices are nearby. As such, they are ideal for using in merchandising areas and point-of-sale displays. Radio Frequency Identification devices are now also being increasingly used in cards, wristbands, and apps, providing marketers and event organizers with chances to boost likes and shares across a multitude of social media platforms. There has simply never been a better time to connect with consumers in real time. Companies like Beacon® are making that possible with tools that allow marketers to monitor consumer in-store entrances and exits and shopping habits.

4. Content with an Expiration Date

Evergreen content is no longer the standard. The upcoming trend is a focus on exclusive content that expires within a specific timeframe. While Snapchat may once have been regarded as a passing fad, with more than 100 million users per day, it has now evolved into a definitive standard marketing platform that is here to stay. In order to reach a more connected and younger generation of consumers, whose attention is often split among a multitude of platforms, this is a marketing model that works well. The benefit of this type of advertisement is that it only takes up a small segment of your audience’s time, something that is tremendously appreciated by consumers who are often pressed for time. Each message, picture, or video posted on Snapchat only lasts for a matter of seconds. As soon as it has been viewed, it disappears. The fast pace offered by this marketing medium is precisely what consumers appreciate. In order to succeed with this approach, it is important to focus on an organic approach and being concise while communicating in real time.

With all the changes going on in marketing and consumer behavior, brands must continually stay ahead of the curve to remain competitive, along with using innovative communication approaches to reach out to their customers in real time.