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Every year, our dedicated teams of analysts, researchers and writers come together to map out the digital trends set to shape the year ahead. In 2016, we saw the marketing industry evolve dramatically in response to the growing rise of consumer power, and we watched as emerging digital trends either caused the world to take notice, or failed to stand out in an overcrowded market. Based on our Trends 17 report, which incorporates active data from36 countries and over 4,500 data points, we’ve mapped out the ten most game-changing trends for every brand, advertiser and marketer to watch in 2017.

1. Video is Victorious

The explosion of video has presented an obvious opportunity for brands all over the world. For social media in particular, video sharing has become a clear metric to watch, with over half of Facebook users now watching videos on the platform, and live-streaming quickly becoming a requisite for social networks. Not only does this mean that competing brands will need to develop a strong video offering to get their share of consumer attention, but that video marketing is becoming more of a staple to every marketing strategy than ever before.

2. The VR & AR Question

In 2016, many consumers experienced the world of VR & AR for the very first time. But is this just a passing fad, or is it here to stay? Across GWI’s markets, around 4 in 10 internet users report an interest in using VR headsets in future. But many obstacles stand in the way of this trend achieving mainstream adoption, particularly the lack of quality, compelling content available. Could mobile be the real winner as VR & AR evolves?

3. Facebook 2.0

As the world’s largest social network, it’s now the case that as the global online population grows, so too does Facebook. And now it's setting its sights on the worlds of video and commerce. Its success in the social video boom spells exciting times ahead for Zuckerberg & Co., and in its ongoing quest to popularize true social commerce, could Facebook Marketplace bridge the ever-present gap between research and purchase?

4. The Future of Free

The continuous rise of the ad-blocker has put more power into the hands of consumers. With the online population becoming less and less open to interruptive advertising, and the right to free online content now seen as sacrosanct, marketers and advertisers are under pressure to take a new approach. But with large numbers of ad-blocker users still willing to engage with ads, this doesn’t spell the ‘death of the banner ad’ just yet. Rather, it pushes advertising to become more relevant and non-intrusive, bringing us closer towards the consumer-driven, content-powered world of marketing than ever before.

5. Snap-tastic Wearables

In 2016, Snap Spectacles made their debut as Snap Inc. moved into the wearable space. Spectacles has taken a different approach to its predecessor, Google Glass, by emphasizing fun, style and affordability. With almost 6 in 10 internet users now uploading videos each month, a figure rising to over two thirds among millennials, there is clear opportunity here. Better positioned than its previous counterparts, could Snap Inc. be the one to finally kick-start the wearable revolution?

6. The Smartphone Squeeze

As mobiles reach saturation point in the west, emerging markets could hold the key to renewed smartphone sales. On a global scale, our research suggests year-on-year purchasing rates for mobiles are slowing. While China still represents the world’s largest smartphone market, it’s India, Philippines and Indonesia that are set to become crucial contributors to the smartphone marketplace.

7. The Context Collapse Spreads

As messaging apps open up their platforms to more functionalities, do they run the risk of encouraging more passive behaviors? Passive networking has been a major trend on larger social networks for some time now, with some users becoming less likely to share personal updates. So far, messaging apps appear to have been somewhat immune to this so-called ‘Context Collapse’, but as they evolve and expand could we see activities on these apps becoming more passive?

8. Mobile Ad-Blocking Moves West

As the ad-blocking revolution continues in the West, a new wave is on the horizon. So far, mobile ad-blocking has been an Asian phenomenon but it’s only a matter of time before digital consumers in Europe and North America become comfortable with these new tools.  Again, less interruptive messaging and more relevant content is the necessary shift in approach for mobile advertising to take in order to push back the tide.

9. The Mobile-First Landscape

We’re quickly entering a mobile-first landscape, meaning those brands that fail to prioritize mobile run the risk of not only missing key opportunities, but jeopardizing their relationships with younger consumers. For this reason, understanding the needs of your mobile-first consumers is now more important than ever.

10. Gaming Gets Competitive

With the migration of many gaming activities online, and the subsequent expansion of the gaming community, spectator gaming has quickly gained traction. As our data shows, 1 in 4 have watched a live gaming stream in the past month, with 17% having watched an eSports tournament. These behaviors have brought the gaming industry ever-closer to the world of marketing, with eSports in particular evolving as a major platform for brands to consider.

Want to know more about the biggest trends shaping 2017? Download our full Trends 17 report for everything you need to know about the year ahead.

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