It’s 2018 and we are looking at some big trends in the digital marketing space taking shape this year and for years to come. WDB Agency pulled together some of Boston’s top digital marketing consultants and agency executives with varying degrees of specialties for our annual end of the year 2017 Agency Round Table we call Marketing Advertising Sales Technology Council. We wanted to discuss some of the trends and tactics they anticipate will grow in 2018.
1. Augmented Reality
“Trends to watch are VR, AR and the rollout of 5G mobile.” (Brad Adgate)
AR is about to go mainstream. We have already had a little taste of AR with Pokemon Go and this trend is sure to continue and expand. Now that smartphones vision capabilities have evolved to the next level, Augmented Reality is going to be used more frequently by brands via social media platforms like Facebook. Facebook recently announced last month the unveiling of a new suite of augmented reality tools called “World Effects”. The technology allows the user to drop real-time 3D objects into photos or videos within the camera frame.
The competition with Snap has now started to include Apple and Google as well who have also launched their own AR platforms and features in their mobile apps and services. Facebook is launching its own AR platform called AR Studio, which will be open to third-party developers in open beta to compete with Google. Is this the start of the AR Wars?
2. Demand Generation
“In 2016/2017 there was a major shift in marketing away from just doing ‘inbound’ to focusing more on lead generation (for many of my clients) and I don’t see that going away in 2018. I predict lead generation efforts will get smarter and more sophisticated with the help of better targeting tools, data, and feedback on efforts that are already “live”, such as the different products that social sites (like LinkedIn) have designed for this specific effort.” (Brett Carneiro)
Creating new content distributed across multiple channels is on every marketer’s radar this year. Creating demand for your product or services and letting everyone know that you have the solution is a must. Sales and marketing teams will strive to be more aligned in 2018 as they implement demand generation strategies and campaigns.
Knowing your target personas and what resonates with them during the various stages of the sales funnel will be a necessity. An effective buyer’s journey is the cornerstone of a strong demand generation strategy. Delivering the right content to the right user at the right time is what is expected from consumers.
Know where your customers will be on every step of their purchase path. If you aren’t doing this in 2018 – your competition is.
3. Mobile Customer Experience (CX)
“In terms of digital trends, mobile has obviously been a trend for a while but I’m seeing more of a focus on mobile-optimized experiences. I have a small B2C client who is running call-only to focus on highly qualified, low-funnel customers. I have a B2B client who is getting smarter with the content they deliver on mobile devices.” (Jackie LaVana)
The mobile customer experience will be a major focal point for brands in 2018. According to Forrester Research, 72% of businesses say that improving customer experience is their top priority. The user journey will need to be altered or shortened to adhere to the ever-growing usage of mobile devices to consume content and make purchases. Users want to find what they are looking for fast and creating a great user experience on mobile will pay dividends.
Having a bad customer experience will not only drive users to other alternatives but will have a negative impact on brands that don’t take the CX revolution seriously.
4. Artificial Intelligence
Currently, 57% of marketers are already using AI. Artificial Intelligence or AI is gaining some serious traction. With AI, it is easy to process large data sets that would otherwise be complicated if done manually. The alignment of content marketing with artificial intelligence could be groundbreaking. With the collection of data regarding searches, buying behavior and interests, there will be more customized content campaigns for every single user.
“Chatbots, voice interface and personalization…still!” (Stephen Dill)
Chatbots is a great example of AI enhancing a user’s experience. Currently, chatbots are programmed to interact with customers based on the information received. AI will take chatbots to the next level creating personalized experiences with voice and interactions the likes we have never seen.
Users will feel like they are talking to a real person on the other end of their interactive experience.
5. Video Content Marketing
“I think that the investment in content marketing will continue to grow - particularly video marketing. The more tech/marketing-savvy real estate firms that I spoke with, in particular, are doing some great things with video. Some are creating content for not only YouTube, Vimeo, etc. but also starting to prepare for the broader adoption of VR.” (Evan Doherty)
80% of users said that they would rather watch a live video than read a blog post. Video is powerful. Look at Facebook and what they have done for video with Facebook Live. Brands now have the ability to broadcast directly to their fans and consumers. The ability to create video from your smartphone and ditch the high-end production costs of yesteryear is a game changer for new brands and old ones.
Users spend three times longer watching live videos compared to pre-recorded videos. The format has also changed and gone vertical due to social media consumption. Compared to horizontal, square footage occupies 78% more space in the Facebook News section and receives a higher percentage of engagement.
“There is no doubt that video marketing is still “king” in terms of content that everyone wants to access, and that also significantly helps increase engagement. Additionally, since the cost of making a video has come down so significantly, I believe that brands should be hiring video producers in-house who can make both short-form and long-form videos around different relevant topics. This content can be leveraged in many ways that not only help the company with factors like SEO and site authority but more importantly are tremendously beneficial for customers” (Brett Carneiro)
“Accountability. Transparency. Technology ownership. Data Interoperability.” (Rob Griffin)
When it comes to choosing to work with a business or brand, most people rely on reviews and friends before making a purchase. Brands that embrace transparency will win. And it is not just Google reviews. Social Media pages and profiles now allow users to leave a rating. Companies will need to make sure that they are staying on top of recent reviews and feedback from customers.
Consumers want the businesses they are buying from to be authentic and have some transparency when it comes to the activities they are involved in and the causes they support. Influencer marketing has grown from this quest for brand transparency.
“Search seems to be a check-the-box exercise for most marketers. It’s a missed opportunity to use search as the engine to power insights and make all digital and traditional marketing work harder. Investing in search – not just buying keywords – but educating the entire marketing enterprise about the value of search and integrating search everywhere possible should be a top priority.” (Tony Labriola)
Voice search is poised to explode with personal devices like Amazon’s Alexa leading the charge. Marketers need to consider changing their strategy and do a little search shift to make room for voice searches that will have a need for more natural language phrasing than just keywords.
Google and SERPs will continue towards wanting to anticipate an answer to the user’s questions on the search results page - without having to drive the users to a particular website for the answer. With that being said and with competition continually getting savvier, marketers need to be able to really understand the true intent of searches so they can deliver the right answers that users are looking for.
In parts 2 and 3 of our look at 2018, we will continue to discuss trends as well as some of the channels digital marketers should be looking into investing and the marketing efforts our panel believes will yield the biggest impact this year.