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James Parnwell

James Parnwell

Executive Guide to the 10 Hottest Digital Marketing Trends of 2019 

Digital Marketing is an ever-changing industry. The technical tactics that work today may not work tomorrow. However, I believe the fundamentals of Marketing are timeless, the ideas that we are appealing to core human needs and desires using clear and compelling messaging haven’t changed in centuries. It’s still possible that what worked in 2018 may not work in 2019. Marketing is not something you can set up and leave to run itself. It requires constant work and improvement to keep up with the digital world.

Here are my top tips for marketing in 2019.

Authentic customer-based marketing is back in vogue  

Marketing is trending back toward authentic customer-based tactics and away from techno babble shiny nonsense. There has been a big focus on AI and Machine Learning and other new breakthroughs which has taken our focus away from what really matters and gotten many people obsessed with technical application. I believe that 2019 will see a further shift back towards acknowledging that whilst the tools are great, understanding your customer is the primary concern and should stay at the heart of all marketing efforts.

Personalise your message to a person, not a group of people

This quote puts it all into perspective:

“The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.”

The surprising thing is that this was written by Socrates in 400 BC.

The best way around this is to figure out exactly what problems you are solving for your customers and focus your messaging on that. Don’t make your message too broad but make sure it’s personalised, for your specific customer. It’s important to target your marketing to the actual people, rather than a group, which is why chatbots are sure to increase in popularity in 2019.

Chatbots are changing how we communicate with clients  

There are currently two kinds of chatbots: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Static.

Chatbots are changing the way we communicate with clients, saving time and money

AI chatbots learn from the responses received, gathering information and formulating specific answers to each individual question. AI chatbots are quite complicated and can be very expensive to build but save companies a lot of time and money by filtering through leads and answering a wide variety of questions, before people-power is needed.

Static chatbots are built like decision trees – they ask a question and if answer A is given, this happens, or if answer B is given, that happens. Eventually a static chatbot may lead the conversation to a real person but is limited by the fact that it is unable to learn from itself. Static chatbots can be built relatively simply and cost effectively.

Chatbots can be used for customer service purposes, to help visitors navigate live events, to create quality customer experiences and journeys, to help build a customer list that can be sent further messages or updates, sort through leads, share specials with clients or even to make sales. Of course, the AI chatbots are more interactive and can be built for just about any digital purpose.

We are becoming more comfortable with Artificial Intelligence 

Over the years, there has been talk about AI taking everyone’s jobs, curing cancer and deleting human existence from the planet. But lately, the conversation has changed. The Gartner Hype Cycle tells us that when new technology arrives we all get a little over excited and optimistic about its potential; we then discover that it wasn’t all it was hyped up to be and get overly pessimistic about it. The final stage is when we realise that the technology is useful but with limitations and so we land in a more balanced place. And while we’re many years from AI moving to general application, it continues to be a helpful tool in a widening variety of ways.

We’ve already seen what AI can do with chatbots. It can also can manage bids, split test ad copy and help design marketing strategies. Despite recent advances, abstract thinking and creativity still needs to come from humans – and it’s set to stay that way for quite some time.

There’s no need to be afraid of AI. The more we use automation, the better it will become, allowing us to focus more time and energy on other strategies, rather than working on the small details.

Automation is advancing  

In 2018 we’ve seen great progress in responsive ads, allowing marketers to enter a number of variations, which Google then combined, learning which is best for each potential customer. This is set to continue and increase in its performance in 2019. Smart campaigns are getting smarter and the more these smart formats are used, the faster Google learns.

Bidding automation is also improving, allowing us to worry less about adjusting bids, so we can focus on ensuring we are sending the right message in our ads and marketing efforts.

We’re accepting the vagaries of Attribution 

Once upon a time, we thought we could measure everything, but it turns out that we can’t and probably never will. And we’re finally coming to terms with that (Bill Bernbach knew it, back in the 1950s):

“However, much we would like advertising to be a science — because life would be simpler that way — the fact is that it is not. It is a subtle, ever-changing art, defying formularization, flowering on freshness and withering on imitation; where what was effective one day, for that very reason, will not be effective the next, because it has lost the maximum impact of originality.”

– Bill Bernbach

We still have the scenario where Facebook and Google don’t want to share data so we can’t make the link between someone viewing a Facebook Video and later Googling the brand and making a purchase. Equally we can’t track very much offline at all. If someone follows you on Instagram then buys your product while at the Supermarket we can’t (and may never) be able to attribute this. In the past this has meant many people have thrown out upper funnel branding and awareness as it has appeared to deliver a poor ROI. We are being reminded that the process of “getting to know each other” in marketing is still crucial. It takes between 8 and 13 messages to burn a new neural pathway in the brain so slamming someone with a buy now message as a once off is only going to work for a minority of products and services.

Mobile and Voice search is increasing in importance 

With 74% of millennials saying they’d rather text than talk, mobile and voice search options are becoming vital to any marketing campaign. The optimisation of campaigns for voice and mobile searches are now really important and as products such as Amazon’s Alexa, iPhone’s Siri and Google’s Home begin to make waves, this is a trend which is only going to increase and gain momentum. This is particularly important for optimising SEO.

Use questions as headings whenever possible. Headings which include questions capitalise on voice search. Most people ask questions when using voice search and more and more are asking questions when doing general searches as well.

Black Hat SEO is dead 

To my astonishment I still hear about people trying to implement strategies to try and trick Google into ranking them. Please please please stop wasting your money on this. Google’s Algorithm is far too smart for this and has been for some time. Make sure your SEO efforts are focused on optimising for good keywords, creating interesting and engaging content, making sure your customers have a good user experience and your site loads quickly. Forget Private Blog Networks and other outdated ideas and just look after your customers.

By 2020, online videos will make up more than 80% of consumer internet traffic

Videos are non-negotiables 

Videos – and in particular, live videos – are now an essential part of any marketing strategy. According to, 78% of us watch online videos every week, while 55% view online videos every day. By 2020, online videos are expected to make up more than 80% of all consumer internet traffic.

In short, if your company isn’t creating video content, you’re already behind. Video marketing has been an ongoing trend for a while now and will continue to grow for a long time to come. Every year, its reach and use grows, to the point where videos are now seeing more engagement than any other digital content, by a long shot.

Pay to Play is more important than ever 

The algorithms of the major social media platforms are heading back to the original idea of social media platforms being social – what a great idea! Because of this, the platforms are doing everything they can to ensure users are seeing more updates from their friends and from the people they’re specifically interested in. This makes it harder for businesses to get their content into feeds.

The best way around this is to pay for advertising, which means you’re basically paying for a slot in a person’s newsfeed. With the constant and varied algorithm changes, paying for advertising on social media platforms is more important than it ever has been before.

When it all boils down, good content is still king and while having good organic content is important, it needs to be in conjunction with a paid strategy to make sure it is seen.

Dynamic Advertising – watch this space 

It’s been around for a little while now but has been mainly limited to Facebook. Despite the fact it’s been a bit clunky, the improvements we are seeing in dynamic advertising mean that this is a bandwagon you’re going to want to jump on.

Dynamic advertising is a highly interactive form of marketing which involves structured and strategic information being entered into a program, enabling the platform (eg. Facebook) to directly and individually target your market. For example, a company can now enter all the details of their catalogue, including prices and availability. This information works with the dynamic advertising features on Facebook, for example and can be set up to target all the people who have been on the company’s site in the last 14 days and have not made a purchase. Facebook will go and find these potential customers and will show them the most appropriate ad, selected just for them.

Dynamic advertising is an incredibly clever development and is set to become even more user-friendly in the coming months. Definitely something to keep your eye on.

Generational Analysis is helping us understand our markets 

Every generation is entirely different to the next. Not only do they buy differently, but they respond differently to marketing campaigns. Millennials are currently the biggest generation on the planet and soon, their spending will be the largest we’ve ever seen. Generational analysis helps us know exactly what they want, how they want it and when they want it.

Thanks to generational analysis, we know that millennials don’t like to cook and that even though they work less than any of the other generations, they eat out more often and purchase pre-prepared food more than anyone else. Having said this, they’re also very health conscious and eat more vegetables than the other generations. They don’t trust a brand simply because of customer loyalty but are more likely to make a purchase based on a review posted by a complete stranger. If you’re in the restaurant industry, this information in particular is vital, but generational analysis is relevant for every industry.

We’ve ignored the vastly different needs of the different generations for long enough. Generational Analysis is a must-add to your 2019 marketing toolkit.

I really hope you exceed all your marketing goals in 2019, that you navigate the maze of understanding your customers first then demystifying the technology second – and in the process, that you grow your business.

We value Learning at TheOnlineCo. so if you have any questions or if there’s any knowledge we can pass on to you please feel free to reach out. Don’t be a stranger!

James Parnwell
James Parnwell

James is the Managing Director and resident strategist at TheOnlineCo. He is clever and creative with a flair for making complex things sound simple. He has been in the marketing game for over 2 decades and has watched the landscape slowly shift. James has his finger on the pulse of every aspect within TheOnlineCo, meeting with all clients as well as every core team member and strategising a specific plan tailored to each client.

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