Marketing is an ever-changing landscape with the introduction of new technologies and techniques sometimes change daily. So as one can imagine, the evolution of the industry over the space of a year can vary quite substantially. Here are the top 16 digital trends you need to be aware of when marketing your business in 2018:
1. Personalise the experience
Taking a ‘one size fits all approach’ to marketing is just not cutting the mustard these days and now we have proof rather than just an inkling. According to HubSpot, personalised content performs 42 percent better than non-personalised content, meaning that if you’re still pushing out static content you could be HALVING your return on investment.
The key to overcoming this is an intentional shift towards providing dynamically rich content with a smart marketing automation plan that matches the specific needs and preferences of your customer.
What does that mean?
What is now becoming quite commonplace for example, is when you get someone new to your email database, you would take the opportunity to introduce them to your business and offer them a special introductory offer. You would not send the same email to someone who had been a valued customer for a while. They would receive a much more personalised email that caters to their likes (by analysing their previous purchases and website behaviour) because you would know more about them.
Ultimately the experience should go further than this in 2018, with B2B and B2C consumers offering a personalised experience across all touch points in their journey.
2. SEO and content creation go hand in hand
Search engine optimization used to be a stand alone function, whereby you would tailor your website into trying to ‘trick’ Google into ranking you higher by using specific keywords, but this is no longer working, and hasn’t been for some time. For more information on the shift in the SEO landscape check out our article here.
Now we are seeing a shift to a much better way of doing business where marketers are writing good quality content that’s specifically related to their business and fields of expertise. This not only makes it easier for Google to find you, but also provides the user with the best quality information. The benefits of good content go far beyond Google and SEO though, as it can be shared on social media and promoted to existing clients via email and other channels. This shift impacts 3 primary performance metrics, including conversions, engagement and traffic. In addition, it builds trust with the audience as you provide up-to-date and authentic information.
3. Social media marketing still a big ticket item
Facebook continues to be the top dog of the social media world, with the number of engaged users growing continually. The role of social media in business has also continued to grow as consumers’ expectations of personlised experiences across a range of touch points increases. As social media offers a more interactive experience than a website, and affords the user the ability to contribute to the brand via reviews, liking and sharing posts and commenting on content, it’s impact is unlikely to diminish.
The type of content shared by businesses, is seeing a slight shift however, to more emotionally engaging and content which utilizes storytelling as this increases the content’s shareability. Additionally, according to Buffer App by the end of 2017, we’ll likely see most of the major platforms enabling users to create and share video content, create and share live video content and discover news and what’s going on around them (based on location).
4. Video marketing just keeps growing
It is estimated that a video is worth 1.8million words *, a far cry from the old adage that a picture is worth 1000 words. By 2019 it is estimated that video will represent over 80% of internet traffic, with a large proportion of that being via mobile. Viewed another way, the internet will support 3 trillion internet video minutes per month by 2020, which equates to 5 million years of video per month, or about 1 million video minutes every second. Say WHAT!?
Additionally, the video messages are becoming shorter and smarter, with Facebook and YouTube offering video advertising spots for just 6 seconds. The format is also changing from the traditional horizontal size to square and vertical (and interestingly vertical videos actually perform better on Facebook). According to Simply Measured, video is shared 1,200% more than both links and text combined.
So the moral of the story is – if you’re not using video as part of your online marketing strategy – you should be! For more on the power of video in marketing have a look here.
5. Being ‘mobile friendly’ is now a must have
In early 2018 Google is expected to launch its mobile-first algorithm, meaning Google will give preference to those sites that are mobile-responsive, whether you are searching from desktop or a mobile. We live in a world now where more internet hours are spent on mobile than desktop, and this change is just one of many we are sure to reflect this.
Having a site that does not adjust for mobile, essentially means you will be missing out, as I know even from personal experience that if I have to zoom in, scroll and search to see what I’m trying to read because the site is not responsive, I’ve clicked off and found a site that is. Ain’t no body got time for that!
If you have a responsive or dynamic serving site where the primary content and markup is equivalent across mobile and desktop, you should not have to change anything for Google’s upcoming mobile-first algorithm. If you don’t, then get brace yourself for Winter and expect to loose some of your traffic.
6. The rise of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning
97% of business leaders feel the future of marketing will consist of clever ‘human’ marketers working in collaboration with machine learning-based automation entities. The reason being that the ability to respond quickly and accurately to changes or shifts in consumer behaviour will be vital as people become more demanding and tech savvy. The appeal of AI is in its predictive power, as it analyses scores of data and ‘predicts’ or offers the best outcome or option.
There are already plenty of services offering AI-powered solutions for marketers including:
Atomic Reach: tells you how to write, what, where, and when to publish, and what to create for best results
Phrasee: for AI-optimized email subject lines.
Seventh Sense for optimizing email send times.
Whilst AI is still relatively new, but in the next 18 months there will be many more tools available to assist with marketing, sales and even customer support.
8. Dark Sharing is becoming more common
Don’t panic, dark sharing is nothing like the dark web but describes any web traffic that’s not attributed to a known source, such as a social network or a Google search. In plain English: people sharing content in places it can’t be tracked like email, messaging apps and via secure browsing.
“Not a problem” you might think, but dark social is reportedly responsible for 84% of outbound sharing. This means that businesses could be drastically under reporting the value of its efforts. Additionally, dark social data gives a detailed representation of consumers’ real interests, which could allow your business to access a targeted audience of connections, and in age groups hard to get to (its reported that the biggest culprits of dark sharing are 55 years and older).
9. Chatbots & Messenger Apps paving the way for more conversation
Chatbots are intuitive, equipped with the ability to improve their efforts from continual learning algorithms and serve to meet the demands of the fast-paced, hyper-connected digital realm in which we live. They are best used (and most commonly used) in aid of customer service and marketing efforts, and are sure to become an essential tool for modern in-bound marketing campaigns. In terms of messenger, the stats are staggering, with 3 billion users now active on Facebook Messenger, and they’re exchanging more than 2 billion messages per month with businesses.
In the inbound marketing new world order, people get bombarded with messages via email, internal messaging systems (e.g. Slack and SalesForce Chatter), external messaging (from Messenger, WhatsApp, iMessage), website chat, and social channels like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. People want to communicate anytime and anywhere they want, and those messages will have to need to be assesed, directed to the right people, and responded to. This is obviously where a chatbot comes in very handy too!
10. Micro-moments are majorly important
Ever think of something, like “I feel like cooking Thai food tonight” and quickly jump on your phone to find a recipe before heading to the grocery store? If you have then congratulations, you just had a micro-moment! According to Think with Google, micro-moments are highly critical and evaluative touch points where customers expect brands to cater their needs with reliable information, regardless of the time and location. Whenever a customer feels the need to inquire about something, an astounding 96% of users reach for their smartphones to conduct the required research at that very instant. The trick for marketers is to anticipate this by providing the right information at the right time to the customer. Plus, every micro-moment is a build up; it builds brand trust and ultimately long-lasting relationships.
With more people making on the spot decisions than ever before, in 2018, we’re likely to see a significant rise in micro-moments, and mobile-first websites will be pivotal in offering consumers instant information upon immediate request.
11. The best way to be seen is with native ads
There is a fine balance between getting someone’s attention via advertising and downright annoying them with obnoxious ads that pop up everywhere. Native advertising doesn’t interrupt the user’s experience, but flows with it by seamlessly blending into the environment. For example, an advertorial, content article or sponsored post like in Facebook and Pinterest.
The point of native advertising is to put the right information in front of the right viewer when they need it or might be interested. It’s also worth noting that native ads have much better CTR (click-through-rates) than other advertising formats.
12. Use the power of the influencers
Who better to sell your products and boost your brand than people who love you! Even the best salesperson doesn’t compare to someone who genuinely loves your product or service and shares their experience with all their friends. Influencers are like word-of-mouth for the digital era, but on steroids because its like they have a megaphone. For example, if someone has 10,000 Instagram followers and plugs your product you’re winning without even trying!
Converting customers into mighty influencers is one of the most low-budget but indispensable ways to encourage your recognition of your brand. You can even hire more ‘elite’ brand ambassadors in the form of celebrities and artists, and even well-known bloggers or YouTube sensations.
13. Why understanding big data means big business
There is now a saying that modern marketers have to be part creative – part scientist. This is because with the rise of the information era, the sheer volume of data available to marketers in terms of how their products perform, in what contexts, on what platforms, with particular people is insane (in a good way)!
Highly data-oriented organisations are 3 times more likely to improve their decision-making processes, because they are more informated about where their customers are at. In addition, they are able to offer a far more personliased experience (which as we stated earlier is a big draw card).
14. B2B Marketing in unexpected places
We all know that when it comes to B2B (business-to-business) online connections, LinkedIn is the frontrunner, but many people forget that Facebook is a great platform for B2B marketing too with over 2 billion monthly active users!
Professionals are still people at the end of the day, and they use Facebook too, if you just know how to find them. It does require a bit more finesse and research in terms of targeting, but if you get that right Facebook is a legitimate channel that all B2B marketers should be at the very least giving a go.
15. There are still people behind all those devices
We say it to our clients all the time, and it’s a big part of our brand that marketing needs to be about PEOPLE before technology.
It’s easy to forget that behind all those profiles and screens are actual people, with interests, real flesh-and-blood friends and desires that need to be met. For this reason, knowing your ideal marketing personas is a key ingredient to success, but more than that getting your messaging right should be your primary focus before you pour thousands of dollars into advertising!
With the ever-growing bells and whistles of modern technology and its capabilities for marketing, its too easy for marketers and businesses to get lost with the ‘shiny’ things, and not focus enough on the actual customer. Thankfully, with personalised marketing, we are seeing a shift away from blanket or static advertising and focusing more on the actual people behind those screens.
16. These times they are a changing – and getting more complex
Marketing today is not simply about starting a business and putting your name on the door like it was 100 years ago. Now it is a fine balance between content creation, social media publishing, email marketing, landing page generation, marketing automation, website creation, SEO, and a whole host of other activities. This is enough to fry anyone’s brain!
This means that people need to upskilling all time and have a willingness to learn and adapt to new situations, new techniques and new technologies. With the digital marketing, sales, and service landscapes changing so rapidly it’s increasingly difficult to know what’s trending, what new tools are out and how to use them. It’s even more difficult to know which tools and technologies might be a good fit for your organisation, and what opportunities they offer.
This requires a regular and ongoing assessment of your needs and business performance in order to determine if you’re at the top of your game or if you’re ultimately missing out on a truckload of new business and sales.