The year 2017 has seen seismic shifts in tech, business, world events, and everything in between. Whether you’re a marketer who’s just dipping their toes into the waters of digital advertising, or whether you’re a seasoned maestro of all things Big Data, your business will almost certainly be impacted by the events of 2017.

As 2017 draws to a close, we’re taking this opportunity to analyze some of the biggest tech headlines that crossed our desks over the past 12 months, and explain what they mean for marketers as we head into the new year.

The end of Net Neutrality could spell big trouble for marketers

The vote to repeal Net Neutrality by the U.S. FCC was a late-breaking development in 2017, but one that could have the biggest impact on industry and marketing in the years to come. Although the final status of this repeal decision is expected to be tied down in court and legal challenges, no one is certain precisely how long the repeal will be delayed, and when its effects will be felt by everyday business and consumers.

Modern digital marketing practices are all based around the idea of uniform availability and a level playing field — put differently, the idea that all of your potential leads and customers have equal access to the same internet. This principle is one of the main driving factors behind the recent boom in video, webinar, and whitepaper marketing content.

But with the repeal of Net Neutrality, we could be heading for a world where digital marketers will, quite literally, have to go back to the drawing board. With the advent of ISP-friendly policies like paid prioritization, content throttling, and ‘digital fast lanes,’ most marketers may end up having to pay more to reach the same audience, and may see a sharp reduction in the reach of their advertising.

With Net Neutrality in place, you could be confident that your marketing could reach as many prospects as possible; just about anyone could stumble onto your video series or whitepaper request form, and subsequently enter your sales funnel. But in a post-Net Neutrality world, things won’t be quite so simple. It’s entirely possible that large chunks of your audience simply won’t be able to reliably access your video content, for example, if the videos are hosted on a service that competes with their ISP.

And the same would hold true for high-impact content like webinars, digital presentations, and whitepapers. If your audience’s ISP decides to throttle their connections to a competitor-run service (just like Verizon did with Netflix), there’s very little anyone can do about it.

Very little, that is, besides coughing up extra money for paid prioritization. And that’s the ultimate upshot of the Net Neutrality debate for marketers, since smaller advertisers and ad-tech providers are going to be forced to pay more to stay competitive with big companies. No matter how the hypotheticals of the Net Neutrality repeal shake out, one thing is certain: The only folks who are going to be happy about it are U.S.-based ISPs and telecoms.

Big Tech’s challenges may yield new marketing opportunities

Though the largest tech firms made considerable strides in 2017, we also saw many challenging headlines and stories for companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. With these firms capturing a huge (and growing) share of the market, many commentators have responded with pointed critiques of the potential pitfalls of these platforms.

Indeed, every week of 2017 seemed to bring with it new challenges for the biggest tech companies: Too much Facebook can make you unhappy; Twitter isn’t transparent enough about their ad revenue; Google’s algorithms are being exploited to promote misinformation.

For their part, Facebook, Twitter, Google, and others have all been quick to respond to these criticisms, and have pledged to put in place new policies and technologies in order to address these shortcomings. Even so, the fact that America’s five biggest tech firms amassed $3 trillion in market value in 2017 makes them an appealing target for both critics and lawmakers.

In 2018, you can expect to see growing demand for more regulation and antitrust oversight of large tech firms, alongside calls for stricter regulation of how content is published and disseminated on the biggest platforms.

If U.S. lawmakers were to seriously move towards adopting new oversight and regulatory regimes, the end results could actually be a boon for most marketers: The Economist has predicted that forcing big advertising platforms to un-bundle their services and offer them a la carte would result in lower overall ad spends and higher ROIs. This is one area where marketers will doubtlessly want to play close attention to headlines in 2018.

Europe asserts itself as a rival to Silicon Valley

The growing dominance of the U.S. in all things tech — combined with the uneasiness of many European governments at the political clout of Silicon Valley — means that European Union nations may begin to take serious steps in 2018 to compete with America’s tech industry.

Throughout 2017, individual E.U. nations and the wider political body have taken a (comparatively) hardline stance on topics like privacy, data protection, antitrust regulation, in-market competition, and other issues. These positions were taken with the apparent intent of setting the E.U. apart from the more loosely regulated market in the U.S.

For their part, big tech firms like Facebook in Google are still embroiled in various regulatory and legal proceedings for alleged violations of E.U. law. The Alphabet company in particular has been the target of special criticism for Google’s across-the-board dominance in Europe: E.U. courts are still in the process of hashing out a potentially record-breaking fine for Google’s various alleged violations of antitrust and anti-competition laws. Similarly, Facebook has recently come under fire in Europe for how it stores and shares private user data. And come 2018, a surge of similar complaints against large tech firms are expected to be brought in front of E.U. courts.

The end result is that there’s now a lot of buzz around new and potentially far-reaching regulations that may be put in place in the E.U. in the coming years, which is the kind of market uncertainty that many advertisers dread, and rightfully so. But this may actually end up being a net positive for marketers and advertisers: Pan-European tech regulation could end up fostering greater competition and creating more opportunities for smaller ad-tech providers and startups to thrive.

For marketers, that could mean lower costs for PPC ad buys in general, alongside more competitive pricing from big firms like Google and Facebook. Even better, marketers may end up seeing more opportunities to promote their products and services through organic traffic, rather than relying on the usual pay-to-play gatekeepers.

Like so many other legal and political earthquakes that transpired over this past year, this is another case where marketers who operate in Europe will want to pay special attention.

The Internet of Things will soon cover even more Things

When it comes to the latest and greatest advancements in both hardware and software, no tech trend in 2017 has been more pronounced than the ceaseless expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT). And these developments come alongside an ever-growing cornucopia of devices on which we can share data, socialize, and buy stuff.

Odds are, you or someone you know recently picked up a wearable smartwatch, a smart home device, a wireless assistant for your office, or one of the countless other IoT-enabled devices that made it to market in 2017. You’ll soon be able to connect to social networks, stream videos, and make purchases from anywhere and everywhere you go

2018 will bring even more additions to the army of IoT-enabled devices already on the market. Apple, Amazon, and Google will all be releasing new and improved versions of their smart home hub devices. You can also expect IoT tech to make its way to previously untapped marketing channels — General Motors will begin offering e-commerce marketplace dashboards in their vehicles starting in 2018, and other auto manufacturers are expected to follow suit.

This new world of always-on IoT devices everywhere is great news for marketers because it means many more opportunities to reach your audience, which translates into more opportunities for conversions and sales. The day-to-day experience of your average consumer is going to be packed to the rafters with purchase opportunities, and savvy digital marketers should immediately begin planning their next campaigns around this new reality.

As we noted earlier this year, the mobile market is capturing a growing slice of IoT web and ad traffic, which means that mobile devices (and phone calls!) should always be at the forefront of your marketing strategy. We’ve also never been closer to seamless, human-sounding conversations with AI-powered assistants, which is another exciting new frontier in mobile marketing. No matter which way you look at it, these new developments around mobile and AI are set to shakeup the marketing landscape just as surely as the digital revolution did years ago.

With all the twists and turns we’ve seen in 2017, it can be hard to predict exactly how the market will play out in a year’s time. Still, by staying on top of tech news and optimizing your marketing strategy according to the latest trends and developments, your business will be well-positioned to thrive in 2018, and beyond.

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