6 Digital Marketing Trends to Watch Out For in 2018

In 2020 U.S. spending on digital advertising is set to hit $113.18 billion, double the amount compared to just 2 years ago.

With so many emerging technologies and platforms to leverage, there has never been a more exciting time for brands with the number of opportunities to connect with existing and future customers. However, in digital, the key to success is knowing which platforms and technologies present the best opportunities for your business and audience.

In 2018, there are a number of trends we see coming down the line that could prove fruitful if done in the right way. Let’s explore 6 of them in more detail. 

1) 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 ability to respond quickly and accurately to shifts in customer behavior will be vital in tomorrow's world as people become more demanding, as well as tech savvy. Machine learning will assist in those efforts, offering nuggets of predictive knowledge in the waves of structured and unstructured data that can be leveraged to your advantage.

Machine learning has already made an impact in healthcare and fraud detection, with PayPal using predictive technology to fight against money laundering. In 2018, it's going to take the marketing world by storm, assisting with automated data visualization as well as content management and analysis.

To paint a clearer picture of the power of machine learning in the context of digital marketing and how it can help in an industry such as healthcare, have a look at its impact in this video using the IBM Watson supercomputer.

2) Dark social

In today’s consumer-led market, people aren't just sharing links to articles, videos and images on their social platform feeds. Now they're engaging socially using other, less monitored channels, which include:

  • Messaging apps: Platforms such as WhatsApp, WeChat, and Facebook Messenger
  • Email: To protect the privacy of users, referrers aren’t shared
  • Native mobile apps: the likes of dedicated Facebook and Instagram developments
  • Secure browsing: If you click from HTTPS to HTTP, the referrer won’t be passed on

With dark social reported to be responsible for 84% of outbound sharing it’s not an area to ignore in 2018. Driven by mobile and messaging, it is gaining serious momentum - and understanding it is crucial. If social traffic is only tracked with regular web analytics, a business may dramatically underreport the value that social media adds to your brand or business.

A report from RadiumOne shows that 46% of consumers aged 55 and older share via dark social only, compared to those aged 16 to 34, where only 19% do so.

Dark social offers a world of opportunity for brands and businesses and in 2018, investing time and money into this broad range of channels will not only help you reach a host of niche demographics but expand your reach significantly.

3) Micro-Moments

96% of users reach for their smartphones to conduct research on the spot. The most successful brands will be those that have the ability to correctly anticipate and address these impulsive informational splurges, or micro-moments, by providing the right information at the right time to the customer in need.

With more people making on the spot decisions than ever before, in 2018 we expect to see a significant rise in micro-moments, and mobile-first websites will be pivotal in offering consumers instant information upon immediate request.

To help its audience tap into small segments of the colossal mounds of information it offers, the BBC employed a 'greedy navigation' technique to its mobile-first website.

The BBC's mobile site displays a navigation bar where categories are arranged according to a level of personal importance and are developed to fit the user's screen precisely, in turn making it easier to locate rich and relevant information during an impulsive or micro-moment.

BBC iPlayer image

And with more than 60 million iPlayer users outside the UK alone, the broadcasting giant must be doing something right.

4) Video advertising

The demand for video is growing at an incredible rate. In fact, 52% of marketing professionals across the globe feel that video is the type of content with the best ROI. What's more, 43% of people said they want to see more video content from marketers.

With the  younger demographic viewing more video on a wider range of devices than ever before, in 2018, video advertising will prove very fruitful for brands or businesses looking to market their products or services.

In a bid to increase usage and drive social engagement, the likes of Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter are embarking on a huge land grab for video content. In 2017, Facebook even embarked on a new format of video investing in 6-second ads developed with advertisers to hit consumers with faster messages.

To challenge the video format, YouTube challenged agency creatives and filmmakers at this year's Sundance Festival to tell a story in just six seconds. In response, they crafted films using humor, simplicity and relatable themes that fit the :06 format—a format that YouTube recently began offering advertisers in the same way Facebook plans to do.

For brands to stand out and build meaningful consumer or professional relationships, they must learn how to leverage video-based advertising across a range of channels to grab the attention of their target audience; be it 6 seconds or longer.

5) Personalization

In 2018, offering a personalized online experience will be vital as consumers demand more from brands and want to avoid the virtual ‘noise’ to purchase the products and services they want. In fact, companies are so convinced of its value that two-thirds expect a 6% increase in annual revenue from personalization, with those in several sectors —apparel, financial services and technology—anticipating increases of 10% or more.

Over the past few years, brands have utilized the power of personalization with their email marketing strategies, using automation to branch out to people based on behavior, interests and demographic. Now, this experience needs to go even further with B2B and B2C consumers expecting a personalized experience across all touchpoints in their journey. In fact, 66% of consumers say they are extremely or somewhat likely to switch brands if they feel like a person rather than a number.  

State of the Connected Customer graph

Take eyewear specialist Warby Parker as an example. Already an expert in personalized emails, the brand has extended this to its website by delivering a quality customer journey on both desktop and mobile using interactivity and data to ensure consumers find what they are actually looking for.

Warby Parker website page

Navigating the website customers are directed easily from the homepage to choose the product they want. An ‘Available for Home Try On’ option is available where they will deliver 5 frames to your home to try on. Interactivity wise a quiz helps consumers find frames that will suit them providing a tailored online service. In addition, users can upload a picture to see which glasses look best.

All of these tactics go a long way to providing a seamless customer experience and promoting brand loyalty. 

6) Chatbots

Whatever your thoughts on Chatbots, there's no doubt that they are turning heads and in 2018, will be one of the key ingredients to B2B digital marketing success.

By 2018, it's highly likely that 75% of developer teams will include AI functionality in at least on applications or service. Plus, according to Business Insider, 80% of companies want to integrate chatbots into their strategy by 2020.

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. By using AI-based chatbot functionality, prominent high street clothing brand H&M has launched a branded chatbot platform called Kik (also used by other brands) that engages with audiences and acts as a personal stylist, learning about your style by scanning your social photos and recommending outfits.

H&M Kik chatbot

To date, Kik users have exchanged around a whopping 1.8 million messages and counting - a surefire sign of the potency, potential and importance of the chatbot.

The face of digital marketing is constantly changing and as daunting as it may be, 2018 will present more opportunities than ever for brands and businesses that utilize the above trends to their advantage.

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