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Whether you’re already immersed in the world of digital marketing, or you’re looking to dive in this coming year, the landscape is so versatile and constantly changing, that it’s imperative to always keep on top of the trends. Not only is it just good practice in its own right, but it will allow you to be of benefit to the clients and businesses you’re involved in.
Coming into 2018, we’re focusing on UX on a whole new level in the digital marketing sphere, focusing on customer experience, functionality, micro-moments, highly targeted advertising. Most of these innovations are being continuously refined through the use of AI.
Here are some of the most important and exciting trends digital marketers should be keeping an eye on and thinking of ways to incorporate into their own strategies. These are going to be the baseline of what keeps the digital sphere moving forward into 2018 and beyond.
Though it may evoke images of the robot boy from a 1980’s movie, the field of artificial intelligence is actually quite broad, even in the context of digital marketing itself. In the digital marketing context, a lot of what AI is doing is meta-analysis of broad-spectrum data sets and then using that data to make its own decisions.
While the technology is still in its infancy, we’re already seeing some pretty major examples of this in the day-to-day world. Self-driving cars are already being sold, for instance. And both Amazon and Netflix already have built-in AI features that help with recommendations and transactions. We’ll continue to see it being used in a range of up-and-coming marketing applications, including content creation, voice and face recognition, chatbots, digital assistants, and highly targeted marketing strategies.
AI will become the norm in terms of marketing strategy because of its increasingly accurate ability to analyze consumer behavior and feed into a better, more interactive and personalized purchasing experience.
2. Personal Digital Assistants
You’ve probably head of Alexa and Google Assistant by now, AI-driven personal assistants designed to stay connected, on a personal level, to people at all point in their day-to-day lives. This market is predicted to double next year and reach 1.6 billion users by 2020. Devices made by different companies are even able to contact each other for information--yes, they’re actually collaborating.
Day-to-day users of these devices will be able to watch AI evolve in play on a personal or business level. This technology will continue to improve on a number of levels, including voice recognition (Alexa recognizes 10 voices), and more personalized services, many of which are based on data analysis of consumer behavior.
They are also becoming integrated with various productivity and business programs and software with the goal of helping us be more productive.
3. Social Media Will Shift in Function
There’s not so much one social media innovation that you should know about in terms of an actual platform, but it’s more that the whole spectrum of how we’re using social media is about to see a huge shift. Social media is no longer being used for its original purpose, at least not the way it once was, which was to interact with peers. It’s also likely a response to the fact that users want more control over what they see and are seeking more user-focused, less ad-focused ways of being entertained and interacting with peers.
More people are spending more time on social platforms, but the way we are using them is shifting. For instance, we’re watching more videos and other media than specifically using them for “social” reasons. Users are looking more towards entertainment and new technology like virtual reality and are seeking ways to do this separately from their socializing. Social media leaders and up and comers are separating these two areas, and Facebook is also introducing a new newsfeed option (“Explore”) that separates social feed and ads.
In addition, personal blogs and websites are becoming less popular as a means of interacting online, and fewer people are using instant messaging. This means that digital marketers need to keep an eye on the (shifting) ways that social media platforms are choosing to incorporate explicit advertising strategies, as well as understanding new ways to collect customer information implicitly to direct their strategy.
4. Blockchain Technology
Blockchain is a hot topic these days, and it’s one that’s not about to go away. It refers to a decentralized digital leger that is the basis for anonymous and highly secure applications. It’s also unregulated, which makes it not a great idea to immerse in now on a business level, but understanding the possible business opportunities here is important as it develops.
In a business context, this type of technology could serve to be an extremely effective way of preventing fraud and ensuring security with customer transactions across almost any industry. In this, it could be used for brand building and customer loyalty programs, for instance, especially in B2B when frequent and large transactions may be the norm.
As AI advances, chatbots will become more able to have “real” conversations, thus potentially improving the landscape for UX in a big way for digital marketers. They will continue to evolve into more practical, versatile tools for both businesses and consumers. The next year is a promising one in terms of integrating chatbots across many industries and platforms and by 2020 they will most likely be a normal part of the average user experience.
One way that chatbots are making a splash these days is via brand-focused chatbots in social messaging platforms. Facebook is currently busy leading the charge as they are creating a bot specifically designed for businesses to integrate into their messaging service. Marketing professionals should stay on top of this incoming trend and use it to their advantage if they’re already heavily reliant on Facebook and Facebook messaging for marketing activities.
6. Voice Search
Those considering going into a specialty that’s focused on SEO should have at least a basic understanding of how voice search and speech recognition can shape their brand building. One study points to the fact that over 40% of teens and adults are using voice search daily and this number is growing.
What does this mean for digital marketers? A marketer’s ability to optimize their strategy to accommodate voice search for SEO success is about to become an even bigger deal. One thing that this may mean to content marketers and strategists, in particular, is focusing more on long-tail keywords and detailed search phrases.
7. Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is the concept of using “influential” people to explicitly and even implicitly market products and services, and has seen huge success specifically in social media channels. This will continue to grow and evolve in 2018 in both B2B and B2C. So far it has mostly been used in light of specific campaigns, but it’s likely to grow into a continuous strategy rather than something that focuses on, for instance, a single product.
Marketers, especially those in the millennial and Gen Z demographic, will want to consider building relationships with influencers, both on the micro- and macro- levels. This can easily take place across social media channels by, for instance, finding up-and-coming YouTube stars.
The reason why this is so effective is that there’s a built-in audience, which means you have the opportunity to build quality leads easily.
8. Micro-moment Marketing
This type of marketing is very consumer-focused and is based on the fact that consumers have so much choice and power in their behavior and buying these days. Essentially, it’s no longer about ads reaching consumers as it is consumers doing searches on their own terms.
They’re using mobile almost exclusively for a lot of their research, and they’re able to do research at the touch of a button---so basically, they don’t need ads.Think with Google breaks this down into three key points: consumers are “well-advised,” “right here” and “right now.”
The challenge for marketers is to be able to essentially be able to “catch” their target buyer in the small window of this moment. Businesses need to figure out how to keep themselves visible and engaged based on this new type of consumer behavior via, for instance, single-touch (mobile-friendly) offerings and ensuring they can still hold their own in search rankings (versus Amazon). Highly customized content (via AI) is one way that businesses may be able to compete
All digital marketers need to stay on top of the trends listed above to ensure that their marketing strategy is staying competitive. Marketers will need to have a clear vision and goals and keep a somewhat flexible longer-term strategy to incorporate some of these trends. They always need to be thinking, learning, and testing in order to accommodate new technology as it becomes increasingly affordable and accessible.
If you’re looking into getting more training and have an interest in some of these up-and-coming fields, it’s never too late to start learning.