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7 Biggest Digital Marketing Game Changers in 2018

It’s December and if you haven’t already put together your plan for Q1 2018 you’re behind schedule. We’ve seen drastic advances in technology. From Artificial Intelligence to Blockchain to everything in between, it’s still baffling (even more so now) to see many businesses lacking any handle on their digital game. 

To get ahead of such technological changes, we compiled the top 7 digital marketing trends you need to be on top of in order to outlast your competitor and succeed in a highly intricate ecosystem.

One. Personalization & Transparency

Hyper personalization is key to capturing your ideal customer. With Gen-Z holding the majority of the purchasing power now, this generation has so much power it rid of demographics. It’s no longer about age, occupation, location, or any other traditional category previously used. Now marketing will be focused on purchase behavior, user intent and data, data, data. The best way to cater to your entire target audience while offering unique personalization is through dynamic content. For example, a customized landing page targeting a first time visitor via Instagram or a completely personalized website experience for your most loyal customer.

Customers are demanding unique experiences. Implementing a “one-size-fits-all” philosophy will only hinder your efforts in a data-driven society.  It’s important to get segmented on a micro-level of your customers and run personalized content catered to your customer’s needs.  It’s so important that  61% of customers rely more on a company that creates custom and personalized content.  This in turn converts customers into loyal returning customers.

Beyond personalized experiences, consumers demand transparency with brands. Trust has already been a big deal as users will conduct thorough research about a brand before purchasing. You should go direct to the consumer and amp up your review marketing strategy and provide a better look into you as a brand. Show who you (the team behind the brand) actually is. Humanize your marketing and you’ll see a rise in loyalty.

Two. Influencer Marketing

With the rise of ad blockers and decline in TV ads, influencer marketing has a proven track record of the most effective form of advertising. Whatever industry you’re in, influencer marketing will be key to your success. Especially if you are a brand.

If you offer services as opposed to products, influencer marketing can still be utilized to your advantage in the form of  evangelists. Word of mouth and brand awareness is still a powerful motivator. If someone loves your service, capture the testimonial in unique forms – text, video, audio, etc and spread that everywhere.

But how do you get evangelists if you don’t have any?

Build a service they will love. Remember, point #1 – the customer is crucial and your business should be customer-centric. If you provide an exceptional service that caters to an individual’s needs and desires, it’s serves as a ripple effect on its own.  If someone is pleased with your product or service, it’s nearly impossible for that customer to not share it within his/her circle. 

Three. Voice

Voice is blowing up at a rapid rate. With Amazon’s Alexa, Siri, Google Home and other voice recognition devices, it’s only obvious that optimizing for voice search is a critical must. According to Google, 20% of mobile search queries submitted via its app is done using voice and comScore estimates that 30% of searches will be done without a screen by 2020.

So if you haven’t mastered an SEO strategy for written text, you’re in for a huge surprise for voice search.  Instead of users seeing a long list of results and perusing through to pick the one that piques their interest, most voice results will just serve up one answer. Bear in mind that the types of search queries are different too. Usually, when people begin a search query on a desktop or phone via a search browser, they generally input queries such as “weather”. However, in a voice search, they might ask “do I need an umbrella today?” instead. This is useful to know as it offers more chance for brands to show up through more context.

Four. Video

Video has been huge for a few years now but it keeps growing exponentially. More people are consuming videos today than ever before. In fact, 80% of individuals said they’d rather watch a live video than read a blog.  With a video, the visually-rich and interactive elements not only depicts a proper message or story but draws the viewer into a much deeper level.  Your branding strategy absolutely must include highly-engaging videos and with so many affordable solutions at your disposal, it’s relatively inexpensive to implement video into your marketing strategy and incorporated into Facebook Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram, which makes it easier for your viewers to share.

In April, 2016, Facebook announced a staggering 1.65 billion active users watching about 8 billion videos a day. The trend of high-quality video will only increase in the future so it’s crucial you begin implementing videos now. Specifically live videos, which gets 3X the amount of views. You can use live videos for:

  • Showing off holiday sales and displays
  • Introducing your customers or employees
  • Advertise an exclusive sale or promotion geared specifically for those watching
  • A behind the scenes glimpse at an event, new product offerings, workplace atmosphere, etc

Because nearly 60% of searches conducted are from a mobile device, consider mobile video consumption to grow dramatically as well.  In fact, in 2018, mobile video consumption is expected to grow by 25%. Expect Facebook Live, Instagram Live, and Snapchat to grow but especially YouTube, which currently has more 18+ users during peak TV hours than any cable TV network. So think of video not just as a content medium but an advertising medium as well.

Five. AI, Behavioral Marketing & Chatbots

The buzz around artificial intelligence has gotten many people curious and at times, worried, for many reasons. Although it’s true artificial intelligence will replace a lot of jobs, it will definitely open up new jobs and possibilities. And it most certainly will not take over the world. Some of these possibilities will drastically change the way marketers and businesses promote their products or services.  Up until now, a lot of the data collected and stored for marketing included site usage, browsing patterns, search history and customer preferences which was used to create custom and personalized messages to these individuals. Machine learning (to be used synonymously with artificial intelligence) will now enable these marketing platforms to analyze data and build segments, begin and end campaigns, create custom copy and deploy initiatives all autonomously.

As mentioned in the first point, customers demand personalization and have proven to be more loyal with brands that deliver such. One such way in which you can leverage AI immediately is through a chat bot. Chatbots have become part of the mainstream for at least some of the population in a few specific industries but this type of instant response is fast becoming a consumer expectation across all industries.

Is your business marketing with AI? Nearly 57% of marketers already do but as the technology improves, expect it to grow by 53% in the next couple of years.

Generation Z marked an end to demographics as we know it.  Spanning over two decades, Gen Z (born between 1995 and 2005) behaves much more differently than teens historically have. But having $44 billion in direct purchasing power and representing 25% of the US population, lots of businesses are shifting their marketing efforts towards them. Before, there was one segmentation but now we have smaller, more customized, more lean segments to go through that can’t be based on demographics alone. These are predominantly either behavior or needs based. So having a strategic, behavioral driven plan is crucial for small businesses and large ones alike.

Six. A Transformation of Advertising Platforms

Most users find interruptive ads frustrating and irrelevant which has led to a surge of ad-blocker software.  By 2020, expect 100 million consumers in the US to implement ad-blocking software (up from 44 million in 2016).  This will add up to more than $12 billion lost in display ad revenue. Some advertising platforms such as Facebook have found ways to disable ad-blocking on their sites, others have moved to new platforms.

YouTube is growing significantly in popularity and in general, TV is quickly migrating to the digital world. YouTube Kids is free to consumers, comes with parental controls, content preferences, time limits and reaches around 70% of the 6-12 year old audience. This is quickly prompting parents to move from expensive cables to a digital solution. Streaming ads through platforms such as YouTube or other TV streaming services such as Amazon, Netflix and Hulu will rise dramatically in 2018.

In 2017, certain AI-based companies began working on product placement technology that can help marketers navigate through ad-blocking software. Mixing extreme personalization and re-targeting, these companies will be used to quickly place and personalize logos and products that may appear in related content without it seaming like an ad. For example, if you’re shopping for a new car in one tab and decide to take a break to watch a Netflix series on the same laptop used to conduct the car search, that car could appear as a prop driving through the streets in the background of an important scene.

These type of native ads blend in such a seamless manner, consumers most likely will not interpret them as ads at all. Although seemingly deceptive, native ads has the power to put the right information in front of the viewew at the right time.

Seven. Privacy & The Internet of Things

Our aggressive progression of technological advancements has evolved our society into a world of connected devices. Known as the “Internet of Things”, our world will see nearly 25 billion connected devices by 2020. IoT is the connection of everyday devices, or “things” to the internet or one another. And with these ubiquitous connections are tremendous amounts of data. Though advantageous if utilized efficiently, data also evokes a sense of vulnerability, making us prone to cyber attacks of sorts. With 2017’s massive data breaches affecting businesses and consumers alike, consumers are on high alert and prioritize companies and products that put their information security first. This goes even further with social networks and smart marketers must use privacy protection and data security as a value proposition against all industries.

So What Now?

The monumental advancements in technology coupled with it’s democratized acceptance, enables boundless ways in which brands, small companies and marketers can reach their audience. Now, at the end of 2017, businesses need to start incorporating these trends in their strategic planning to kick off Q1 ahead of the game.

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