2018 has been a watershed year for digital transformation. There are now more than 4 billion internet users worldwide, each spending an average of 6 hours online every day. And the explosive growth of the digital world doesn’t stop there. Today, over 5 billion people own mobile phones – and more than half of those devices are smartphones. Close to 3 billion mobile users are active on social media.
There is no doubt that consumers are increasingly living their lives online. They log over 3.5 billion Google searches a day and consume more than a billion hours of YouTube content each day. What’s more, they generated $1.474 trillion in sales revenue in 2017 – up 16 percent from the year before. The implications are clear: if you want to connect with consumers in a meaningful way and build valuable, long-term relationships, you will have to meet them online.
Doing so will not be easy. The competition is fierce and consumer expectations have become liquid. Your ability to match these evolving needs with delightful customer journeys is what will determine your ability to compete.
Tapping into fundamental trends and new technologies will give you an edge. But understanding how they mesh together and complement one another is even better. That’s why we’ve collected the most important digital marketing trends for 2019 and beyond in a single overview. These insights will help you optimize your strategy and greatly increase the impact of your marketing efforts.
01. Mobile-first marketing
In 2016, mobile internet use first surpassed the desktop on the global stage. Now, with 3.7 billion active users worldwide, mobile devices account for 52 percent of all internet traffic. But while mobile traffic grew 4 percent over the past year and the number of unique mobile users grew by 218 million, desktop and tablet traffic declined by 3 percent and 13 percent, respectively.
The people have spoken. The trend toward a greater role for the mobile platform is rock-solid and shows no signs of stopping. Earlier in 2018, Google rolled out mobile-first indexing. Where they once indexed the desktop versions of websites, the search giant will now increasingly index mobile versions. This means mobile-friendly content will perform better in search engines than content optimized for the desktop, adding extra urgency to mobile-first marketing.
In effect, tomorrow’s consumers expect mobile-first online experiences and reward brands that develop engaging mobile strategies with loyalty and recognition. Put plainly, mobile devices are responsible for more than 34 percent of all online retail purchases. Optimizing the online aspects of your customer journeys for mobile users is an essential step in claiming those conversions. Personalized mobile ads, cross-channel mobile messaging and mobile-first content are key ingredients.
But don’t forget the offline impact. 78 percent of local mobile searches generate offline sales and 82 percent of all users consult their smartphones before making in-store purchases. Mobile-first marketing shouldn’t replace conventional efforts – it should absorb them, creating an unbroken string of mobile-friendly touchpoints that add genuine value to the lives of your clients and prospects.
02. Smarter advertising
It should come as no surprise that consumers don’t enjoy being bombarded by irrelevant ads. And thanks to the introduction of adblockers for mobile and desktop browsers, they don’t have to be. Every year, more and more internet users are choosing to actively block ad content. In 2016, the number of devices with adblockers installed rose to 600 million. 62 percent of those were mobile devices.
This is a sensitive blow, both to the companies that depend on ad revenue and those that rely on ads for traffic: the global cost of adblocking was estimated at $41.4 billion in 2016 and is expected to rise further. 91 percent of consumers feel that ads are more intrusive today than they were two years ago. Auto-play audio ads and non-skippable video ads are particularly reviled, with 51 percent of users stating they have a lower opinion of brands that use them. Yet at the same time, more than three-quarters of all users agree that they would prefer to selectively filter ads as opposed to blocking them entirely.
These are clear signals of opportunity. The online advertising game needs to change. Consumers are not dismissing ads out of hand; they are simply indicating their preferences. Pop-ups and disruptive advertising are out. Smarter, personally relevant ads that do not distort users’ online experiences are in.
While some major players, like Facebook, have implemented technology to circumvent adblocking, others are taking a subtler approach by integrating advertising seamlessly in video content. Accenture Interactive has developed an AI-driven product placement technology that allows brands to embed personally-tailored ads in the background of existing video. Unobtrusive techniques like these align more closely with consumers’ preferences and are expected to; it's in the years to come.
03. Influencer marketing
Digital marketing is facing a generational shift. The millennials are on the way up. Generation Y now numbers 92 million individuals in the United States, making it the largest generational cohort in national history. Viewed at the global level, that number rises to 2 billion. Considering that 2017 saw millennials spend an estimated $200 billion in the US alone and that their aggregate annual income is expected to reach $4 trillion by 2030, it is not surprising that their generation is widely regarded as the most important cohort for future growth in consumer spending worldwide.
Businesses are increasingly recognizing this potential and moving to tap into it. But brands must learn how to build and cultivate relationships with younger audiences. Millennials are digital natives. They are overwhelmingly mobile and social online. 80 percent of them always have a smartphone by their side. They spend more time on the internet than older generations and are far more adept at weaving through various apps and platforms to find the information they seek. Their consumer journeys are likewise diverse and multifaceted and they are more likely to make mobile purchases. 84 percent admits that user-generated content influences their buying decisions.
This is where influencer marketing enters the picture. Millennials seek social proof. 46 percent of them rely on social media to guide their online purchases. The most important influencer platform in 2018 is Instagram (99 percent), with Facebook and Snapchat in second (70 percent) and third (46 percent) place respectively. And here, engagement is what drives conversion. Millennials value natural, believable brand stories over those that feel forced and contrived. They prefer recommendations by their peers over celebrity endorsements and are more receptive to micro-influencers.
As a result, 67 percent of marketers are now convinced that micro-influencer campaigns will help them reach a more targeted audience. Additionally, influencer marketing achieves a higher ROI than traditional marketing by a factor of 11, as well as the fact that brands now earn $6.50 per $1 spent on influencer marketing.
Our interactions with technology have changed considerably over the years. The smartphone boom has given consumers 24/7 access to rich online experiences which they are pursuing relentlessly. On average, millennials check their mobile phones 150 times per day. This trend toward brief interactions has massive implications for the future of digital marketing.
Identified by Google as a new development in consumer behavior, these micro-moments challenge brands to deliver marketing messages to their target demographics in an extremely short timeframe. Google distinguishes four separate needs:
- I-want-to-know moments, which are characterized by the need for information rather than the intent to make a purchase.
- I-want-to-go moments, in which consumers are looking for specific businesses or products near them.
- I-want-to-do moments, where users need help completing tasks or solving new challenges.
- I-want-to-buy moments, in which consumers are poised to make a purchase and need help doing so.
These short bursts of specific intent provide unique opportunities for your business to connect with consumers and convince them of your added value. But in order to generate conversions, your micro-moment marketing messages must be concise, well-timed, personally relevant and immediately actionable.
05. Omnichannel marketing
We have already examined why omnichannel is the future of digital commerce and discussed which technologies your business should explore to prepare for this trend. Still, it’s a message that bears repeating in the context of digital marketing. The trend toward omnichannel solutions is a strong one, especially among global retailers. It deserves the attention of marketers as well.
Adopting an omnichannel strategy can help your business improve its year-on-year customer retention rate by 91 percent compared to businesses that don’t use omnichannel. In light of our own research on the matter, this is hardly surprising: 81 percent of consumers admit to becoming frustrated when companies do not make it easier to do business with them.
Modern consumers want seamless experiences and 87 percent believe brands should put more effort into creating them. They move freely between channels and increasingly expect businesses to keep up with them. 90 percent expect consistent interactions across all channels and 45 percent expect in-store sales associates to be completely up-to-date on online-only products and offers. Another 71 percent of consumers expect to be able to view accurate in-store inventory data.
Providing this level of seamless interaction and personal recognition will be part and parcel of competing in the 21st century. At every step in your brand journey, your customers should feel like they are walking a single, coherent path.
06. Commitment to content
Relevance never gets old. It never loses its value. And it’s becoming more important in the ongoing battle for online attention. 72 percent of marketers report that creating relevant content is the single most effective tactic for search engine optimization. What’s more, consumers agree. The word count for top-ranking content has been climbing for years, both for desktop and mobile users. And as search engines become more sophisticated, they are increasingly able to determine which content is most relevant to which specific user at which time. For example, Google now uses a different mix of algorithms for each individual search, greatly enhancing the specificity and relevance of users’ results.
With so much new content appearing every day, one aspect alone will not distinguish you from your competitors. Businesses must develop robust multi-platform content strategies that are varied and diverse, allowing for consistent communication with online audiences on a regular basis.
Only 1 in 10 blog posts are compounding, which is to say that their organic search traffic increases over time. But those posts are responsible for 38 percent of all traffic. Additionally, companies that publish more than 16 posts every month receive 3.5 times more traffic and 4.5 times more leads than companies that publish 4 posts or less. Disturbingly, however, while 63 percent of B2B marketers agree that their organization is extremely committed to content marketing and 68 percent believe they are realistic about what it can achieve, only 34 percent describe their strategy as effective.
07. Video, video, video
Video may well prove to be the defining trend in digital marketing for the next several years. There is ample evidence that consumers respond more viscerally to video than to any other type of content:
- Facebook users watch more than 100 million hours of video every day.
- 82 percent of Twitter userswatch video content on the platform.
- YouTube boasts 1.5 billion logged-in users per month, watching more than one hour of video content on average via mobile devices alone.
- Video content is projected to account for 79 percent of all global internet traffic in 2020.
- Almost 50 percent of all internet users look for product or service videos before making a purchase.
- 53 percent of people would like marketers to deliver more video content.
- Four times as many consumers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it.
- 51.9 percent of marketing professionals worldwide consider video content to have the best ROI.
It's clear that if you want to connect with consumers, your digital marketing strategy will need to include video. Video content provides you with the opportunity to tell uniquely compelling stories, but you will still need to get creative to be successful.
As with any other type of content, you should always aim for relevance and quality. Providing viewers with valuable information they can’t get anywhere else will greatly improve your brand recognition and customer loyalty. Concentrate on explainers, how-to’s, product demos and testimonials. Also, keep in mind that your audience has a short attention span. There’s a reason that 56 percent of all videos published in 2017 were less than two minutes long.
When deciding on your video marketing strategy, you must also remember that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat are all starting to prioritize video content in their algorithms. Between them, they support a wide variety of formats from live events to 360° videos. Leveraging this diversity in a mobile-friendly manner will allow you to connect with your audience at various stages along their customer journeys and drive engagement.
08. Brand storytelling
Everybody loves a good story. It’s an intuitive truth, but one that is supported by the depth of history as well. Since time immemorial, we’ve used stories to evoke powerful emotions, build human connections and create a sense of community. Ever since we started painting our stories on cave walls, their impact and staying power has quite literally been legendary. And now you have an opportunity to combine that power with the endless possibilities of the digital revolution.
Consumers are receptive to convincing storytelling. In fact, 92 percent of them want brands to make their ads feel more like stories. 68 percent prefer content that is informative and educational, while 17 percent prefer entertaining stories above all others. But regardless of your angle, the impact will be dramatic: stories are up to 22 times more memorable than the bare facts.
Of course, effective storytelling requires a mixed approach. Audiences show an overwhelming preference for visual elements, and with good reason. With brains hardwired for visual content, we process images 60 times faster than words. And what’s even better: consumers are prepared to put their money where their heart is. Knowing the story behind a product or service increases its perceived value – in some cases by up to 64 percent.
Again, none of this is particularly new. The trend toward storytelling in digital marketing isn’t that brands have suddenly remembered that stories exist. It’s that brands are learning to use stories in new ways. Don’t focus blindly on calls to action. Instead, use stories to create clarity for your target audience. Weave a narrative that captures their imagination and guides them toward your brand across the ever-growing ocean of content. They’ll be thankful for it.
09. Engaging diversity
It’s no secret that Accenture is committed to inclusion, diversity and equality – not just in our organization, but in the global society as a whole. Refreshingly, that trend is gaining traction in digital marketing as well. It’s a gradual change, but a meaningful one. And embracing it will help your business forge enduring relationships with rewarding new audiences.
Some simple statistics for you to consider: women make up 49.6 percent of the global population, and yet only 37 percent of the people in ads are women. Making matters worse, women in advertising are still often cast in stereotypical roles. 85 percent do not recognize themselves in the images that are presented to them. It goes without saying that better representation and recognition will have a positive impact on the perceived value and relevance of the ads in question.
Looking at the global LGBTQ community, we see a similar picture. Researchers estimate the annual spending power of LGBTQ consumers at $5 trillion. Yet despite the fact that the public as a whole is strongly in favor of more representation, almost 32 percent of surveyed brands still haven’t made plans to include LGBTQ individuals in their marketing efforts.
These numbers clearly show that inclusive marketing doesn’t only make sense on the human level, but on the business level as well. Diversity represents a growing opportunity for your business and it doesn’t take much to get started:
- Take an inclusive approach to talent and assemble diverse-by-default marketing teams.
- Look outside your organization to discover new insights into inclusive marketing.
- Select images with diversity and balanced representation in mind.
- Focus on inclusive copywriting to make your message resonate more with a wider audience.
At the end of the day, recognition will make your brand resonate all the more strongly with your audience. And as society becomes more diverse, your avenues for building relationships diversify also.
10. Privacy protection
As consumers continue to enrich their digital lives, they are placing greater value on personal privacy. There have been many high-profile privacy scandals in recent memory, from the Equifax breach, which compromised the personal information of 145 million Americans, Britons and Canadians, to the Cambridge Analytica breach in which data from 50 million Facebook profiles were harvested without permission. These and other events have elevated the importance of online privacy in the public consciousness and ignited a fierce debate about prevailing digital marketing strategies.
In Europe, the introduction of the GDPR has imposed strict new requirements on businesses that handle personal information. Failure to request explicit consent or to provide transparency and adequate privacy protection will increasingly be met with heavy fines and other penalties. Similar legislation is under development around the world and will continue to be advanced as digital transformation marches forward.
We have already discussed how your business can prepare itself for the GDPR, but privacy protection is more than a legal commitment. It’s a mindset, a way of thinking that your business needs to embrace fully for it to work. Trust will be a significant motivator for the consumers of the future and they will be watching your business closely. Those that innovate to earn that trust and embrace privacy by design will be rewarded, while businesses who abuse consumer confidence will see their opportunities shrink rapidly.
11. Shifts in social media
The titans of social media are waging a battle for the hearts and minds of consumers. Facebook is leading in absolute numbers, with over 2.1 billion users reported in 2018. But the platform is not the fastest grower. Between 2017 and 2018, Facebook saw its user base increase by 16 percent. In that same period, Instagram grew 30 percent, leaping from 600 million to 800 million users. Meanwhile, LinkedIn added 154 million users to its ranks, achieving a whopping 145 percent growth.
For other platforms, growth has flattened out. With 330 million users, Twitter only managed to grow 4 percent over the past year. Snapchat is flagging as well. These statistics reveal the shifting sands of social media.
Live stories and the fear of missing out
It’s fair to say that stories have taken social media by storm. Snapchat ignited the revolution with its 'My Story' feature, but Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube were soon to follow. In November 2017, Instagram Stories had 300 million active users – more than Snapchat’s entire user base. Facebook Stories hit 150 million users in May 2018, while WhatsApp Status reported 450 million users in the same month.
Regardless of the platform, it’s clear that online audiences are responding positively to social media stories. Not only do these live videos capture the best moments of a day – they disappear after a set time. This creates FOMO, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it attraction that draws consumers into content for fear of losing the opportunity. The format creates a binary opportunity for marketers that will prove impossible to ignore in the coming years: capitalize on social media stories via advertising or create bite-sized experiences of your own.
The tidal wave of messaging
Social messaging apps are thriving. As of Q4 2017, WhatsApp’s 1.5 billion active users are sending 60 billion messages each day. Facebook Messenger comes in a close second with 1.3 billion active users. The speed at which consumers are adopting social messaging is staggering, as is the sheer volume of interactions that take place via these new digital communities.
As messenger applications become ubiquitous, consumers are expecting their favorite brands to follow their lead. Given the choice, 49.4 percent of users would rather use social messaging apps to interact with businesses than talk on the phone. It’s a clear indication that tomorrow’s consumers prefer a different type of conversation, one where immediacy, convenience and personal relevance prevail.
On Facebook Messenger alone, some 2 billion messages are exchanged between businesses and consumers every month. In 2017, the platform rolled out new advertising features to support targeted messaging campaigns. In the upcoming years, these messaging apps will provide more room for growth in social media marketing. All things considered, it’s no wonder that 24 percent of marketers plan to include messaging apps in their content strategy.
Integrating social customer service with CRM
Social customer care is hailed as the next evolution of digital marketing. 90 percent of social media users have used social platforms to interact with brands and 63 percent expect companies to provide customer service on social media. These numbers highlight the potential of social customer service, but they also illustrate the importance of doing it right. After all, 71 percent of consumers say they are likely to recommend brands to others if they have positive social customer service experiences with them.
Making those positive experiences happen is easier said than done. While 42 percent of customers who raise issues via social media expect a response within one hour, the average response time from businesses is five hours. Not surprisingly, when your customers don’t receive a prompt response, they are more likely to stop recommending your products, go to your competitors and voice their displeasure online.
To avoid this, companies are increasingly integrating social customer service data with their existing CRM solutions. Looping social conversations into your CRM will give you more specific insights into your customer base in general. With 90 percent of businesses estimated to use social media for customer service by 2020, it makes sense to start learning as quickly as possible.
12. Artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence has been making waves in almost every industry and the AI revolution shows no signs of stopping. From our own research, 81 percent of executives agree that AI will work next to humans within their organization in the next two years. Businesses are catching on that AI can drive profitability in radical new ways and as a result, interest in artificial intelligence is growing exponentially.
Digital marketing is certainly no exception to this trend. As touchpoints proliferate and the desire for personally relevant content increases, marketers face mounting pressure to interpret diverse customer behaviors, deliver personalized journeys and optimize an ever-widening range of campaigns. And while they do that, they also need to keep track of the big picture. As it stands, 80 percent of marketing professionals believe their efforts to generate new leads are only moderately effective.
But machine learning and artificial intelligence offer promising solutions. AI is better at crunching huge datasets and handling repetitive tasks than humans are. Machine learning can help predict what your customers want and match suggestions to their interests at every touchpoint. It can handle A/B testing on a massive scale, optimize paid advertising campaigns for higher profitability with minimal human intervention and help drive better user interfaces. This all reduces the cognitive load on your marketing talent, freeing their minds for more creative and strategic thinking.
13. Voice Search
Few trends are expected to change the face of digital marketing as significantly as voice search will over the next few years. It is estimated that by 2020, 50 percent of all searches will be voice searches. In fact, 30 percent of all searches are expected to be screen-free. This will be driven in part by the rising popularity of smart speakers. In the US alone, 47.3 million adults had access to one of these devices in Q1 2018. And ownership is expected to reach 55 percent among broadband households by 2022, if not sooner.
This rapid rise of voice search is a textbook example of technological convergence. In this case, the joint evolution of artificial intelligence, natural language processing, voice emulation and next-gen microservices has paved the way for digital assistants that feel almost human. They already help us retrieve information and purchase products and services online. And in the near future, solutions like Google Duplex will unburden us of routine tasks, working in the background to set appointments and interact with businesses on our behalf.
As digital assistants learn more of these new tricks, voice search will become a core aspect of online user experiences. Many of your future customers will not be looking up your website directly. Instead, they will ask their trusty voice-enabled devices to do it for them. This raises new challenges for marketers, who must learn to communicate effectively with these devices without alienating human visitors in the process. Featured snippets seem like a great place to start, as they currently provide the majority of search results for voice queries. But with many new developments on the horizon, your marketing strategy will have to take a comprehensive approach to voice search if you want to stay part of the conversation.
14. Visual Search
A picture says more than a thousand words, so it makes sense we’d use images to find what we’re looking for online. Now, visual search as a concept is not necessarily new. Google has offered a reverse image search feature for ages. But changing consumer attitudes and the way search engines and social media platforms are approaching visual search make this trend a force to be reckoned with – especially in e-commerce.
Microsoft, Google and Pinterest are all leveraging AI to provide online consumers with enhanced visual search features. Among other uses, Google Lens combines the power of computer vision with Google’s algorithms to help users find products that match their personal style. Bing is trying to do something similar, albeit with mixed results. And as a visually-oriented platform, Pinterest has seen visual search skyrocket over the past year, with its Lens tool now racking up 600 million searches each month. The number of visual categories available to advertisers has likewise exploded.
Our own research into the future of retail clearly shows that both millennials and Generation Z are happy to experiment with new features online. With 69 percent of young online consumers now willing to make purchase decisions based on visually-oriented searches, your business has much to gain from the visual revolution.
Imagine a customer service representative that was online 24/7 and could engage with multiple users instantly across a wide range of languages and geographical regions. Can you picture it? In fact, customers are starting to expect nothing less. 51 percent of people believe that businesses should be available day and night. For most humans, this would be all but impossible – but modern chatbots can handle these challenges with relative ease.
Of course, the use of chatbots has been a rising trend in digital marketing for several years. In 2016, Accenture already reported on the potential bots held for customer service applications: with proper design and implementation, digital agents were capable of satisfactorily resolving 80 percent of chat sessions. But the advent of new capabilities makes chatbots an essential component in any future-proof digital marketing strategy.
Today’s chatbots have grown well beyond the realm of customer service. They drive engagement with hyper-topical alternate reality games and interactive branding tie-ins, field general questions about products and services and even close deals with prospective clients. 47 percent of consumers are now willing to buy items from chatbots. And what’s more, the bots are convincing enough to hide in plain sight while they do this: 63 percent of users have no idea that they are using AI tools.
Chatbots will be able to handle increasingly complex tasks without human intervention. Consumers will receive responses faster than ever before and resolution times will plummet, increasing brand loyalty and satisfaction. Meanwhile, customer service costs will drop as well. In 2022, chatbots are expected to save $8 billion per year in the banking and healthcare sectors alone. And that’s just looking at customer service applications. Not surprisingly, CIOs and CTOs see chatbots disrupt their industry, while 57 percent of surveyed CTOs and CIOs also confirm their ROI is large compared to the minimal effort it takes to implement chatbots.
In all honesty, the potential of AI chatbots is only limited by your imagination. Unique opportunities exist across the board and they have the full weight of tomorrow’s leading consumer cohorts behind them. 60 percent of millennials have used chatbots. Of that group, 70 percent reports positive experiences. And half of those that haven’t used them yet are interested in doing so. In that light, finding a place for chatbots in your digital strategy is less a leap of faith and more a step of certainty.
16. Personalization and Big Data
The days of scattershot mass marketing are numbered. Modern audiences crave a more personal touch. Accenture’s research shows that 91 percent of consumers prefer brands that remember who they are, recognize their interests and offer recommendations that are relevant to them personally. Perhaps unsurprisingly, marketers agree: 98 percent believe that personalization has a positive impacton building and maintaining strong relationships with customers. 56 percent believe that the impact is significant. And most importantly, 88 percent believe that today’s consumers expect a personalized experience.
So, mission accomplished? Not quite. Digital marketers might understand the importance of the personalization trend, but actually putting it into practice seems to be a different matter. Our research also shows that 48 percent of consumers have exited websites and ventured to other businesses because the content was poorly curated. What’s more, that statistic is on the rise in every region we surveyed. Digital experiences, it seems, are not moving in the desired direction.
Why is this? The data itself is not the issue. 83 percent of consumers are perfectly willing to share their data if it will get them a more relevant, personalized experience. Handling the data isn’t the problem either. Edge computing allows businesses to process information faster, helping them respond to evolving consumer needs at a moment’s notice. And privacy concerns alone are not hurting the chances of personalization.
Instead, it’s the personalization strategies themselves that need to change. Consumers don’t want to be boxed in by predictions. They want their favorite brands to design digital experiences that let them carve out their own journeys on their own terms. Engagement is a two-way street, and businesses who invite the dialogue will have a bright future ahead.
17. Marketing automation
Time and creativity are finite resources. In an ideal world, your marketing talent would be able to invest the majority of these resources into high-value strategic work that raises your online profile. But in the real world, these resources are diverted to repetitive tasks. 60 percent of creatives were forced to abandon great ideas last year because they lacked the time to pursue them. A whopping 87 percent of B2B marketers struggle to create content that resonates with potential clients.
Enter marketing automation. This trend is all about working smarter, not harder. There is no point in throwing precious human hours at something that can be handled just as easily by machines that never get tired and will never miss a deadline. And the results are quite convincing: 64 percent of businesses that implemented marketing automation saw results within the first six months. 80 percent of marketing automation users saw the number of generated leads go up, and in close connection to that, 77 percent recorded an increase in the number of conversions.
Of course, the benefits don’t end there. 68.5 percent of professionals in the field report that marketing automation improves targeting. Programmatic advertising is proving itself especially useful in this regard. By allowing marketers to automate the ad purchasing process, it helps target specific audiences while simultaneously reducing customer acquisition costs. In the United States, 84 percent of display ads will be programmatic by 2019. Meanwhile, the size of the global marketing automation industry is expected to double over the coming years, from $11.4 billion in 2017 to $25.1 billion in 2023.
These forecasts cement automation as a driving force in tomorrow’s digital marketing strategies.
18. Virtual and Augmented Reality
If you had to pick sides in the digital revolution, the smart money would be on visual content. It has taken over the web thanks to its ability to engage and captivate audiences and communicate value efficiently. The overwhelming success of images and video has left both businesses and consumers hungry for more. We are visual creatures, after all, and we long to interact with the digital world in a way that feels as natural as our real-world interactions.
AR and VR are helping us do just that, creating an Extended Reality that paves the way for new digital delighters. Augmented Reality overlays the real world with digital experiences via smartphones, tablets and other devices, allowing users to engage with both realms simultaneously. Virtual Reality, on the other hand, uses dedicated hardware like headsets to transport users into a fully virtual environment. There, they can enjoy experiences that would otherwise be impossible in the physical world.
Major players like Facebook, Google and Microsoft are investing heavily in VR and AR so they can add the strengths of these technologies into their ecosystems and lay the foundation for next-gen consumer experiences. Snapchat’s Bitmoji and its 'Shoppable AR' feature are already giving advertisers new opportunities to connect with young audiences.
Meanwhile, retailers are seizing new opportunities as well. IKEA has introduced Place, an app which allows consumers to preview furniture within their own homes before buying it. Gap has developed an AR app called Dressing Room in collaboration with Google, allowing shoppers to try on clothes without having to visit the store. On the VR front, Marriott has introduced its VRoom Service, giving guests the ability to experience distant destinations without ever leaving their rooms. And Volvo has leveraged Google Cardboard to take prospective customers on virtual test drives.
All these innovations have an air of experimentation about them, but that’s exactly the point: they show us what can be done when businesses decide to weave AR and VR into their digital marketing. And make no mistake – that trend has only just begun. Spending on Extended Reality is expected to increase dramatically over the next few years, from $11.4 billion in 2017 to $215 billion in 2021. That’s a lot of room to grow, and a convincing reason to get started with AR and VR if ever there was one.
19. Growth hacking
Taking a leaner, meaner, more collaborative and more experimental approach to digital marketing isn’t just for lean startups or tech juggernauts anymore. Growth hacking is rapidly becoming a focal point for companies of all sizes. The fact that many organizations are creating and appointing Chief Growth Officers to shepherd them into the future shows that growth hacking is not a passing fad.
The prime advantage of growth hacking is that it offers the same benefits and opportunities at any scale of implementation. Companies like Dropbox, Uber and Airbnb have all used it to great effect. Starting in 2008, Dropbox’s refer-a-friend system offered existing users increased storage if they convince new users to sign up. The results were extraordinary: the number of registered users skyrocketed from 100,000 to 4 million in fifteen months. Referrals accounted for 35 percent of all daily signups. Meanwhile, Airbnb used a similar approach to increase user signups and bookings by 300 percent.
Obviously, success stories like these are the stuff of legends. Growth hacking is not the result of a specific method or technology, it's a mindset. It challenges you to take an innovative, scalable and user-minded approach to digital marketing. Why spend months hammering out an elaborate strategy that looks great in theory when you could be testing assumptions on a weekly basis to find a strategy that works great in practice?
The rewards of growth hacking go hand in hand with your ability to adopt an agile mindset throughout your organization. The big, sweeping plans of the past will have to make way for the pragmatic, test-improve-deliver approach of the future. Leveraging AI and machine learning is the logical next step.
What makes growth hacking such an essential trend in digital marketing is its ability to cut through traditional silos and combine various aspects of your business into a single user-oriented objective. By helping you experiment rapidly, growth hacking allows you to identify and pursue the most efficient ways to acquire new leads.
Leading the charge in next-gen digital marketing
The digital world is always in flux. Change is in its nature. As exciting technologies continue to converge and intertwine, and a new generation of consumers takes the reins of the global economy, the pace of that change will only accelerate.
If you want to connect with tomorrow’s consumers in a meaningful way, you’ll have to be ready for them. Keeping an eye on the leading trends in digital marketing is an important piece of the puzzle:
Mobile-first marketing is a must. Mobile devices drive 52 percent of all internet traffic and that number is rising. Creating mobile-first touchpoints will allow you to capture that value.
- Online audiences want smarter advertising. Ad-blockers are more popular than ever – and there’s good reason for that. Consumers want ads that don’t distort their online experiences.
Influencer marketing gets results, earning brands $6,50 for every $1 spent. Just remember to keep things micro: Gen Y and Z value believable, natural stories over celebrity endorsements.
- Understanding micro-moments will help you connect with modern audiences. Millennials check their smartphones 150 times a day. These are key exposure moments for your brand.
Omnichannel marketing is the future of commerce. Today’s consumers crave seamless experiences. 87 percent believe that brands should focus more on creating them – that’s your cue.
- Make a commitment to content. 72 percent of marketers agree that relevant content is the most effective SEO tactic. Develop a robust multi-platform content strategy and keep delivering it.
Video is on fire. It will make up 79 percent of global internet traffic by 2020. 50 percent of all internet users look for video content before making a purchase. Just keep it short and you’re good to go.
Brand storytelling resonates with online audiences. 92 percent of consumers want brands to make their ads feel like stories. 64 percent say that knowing a brand’s story increases its perceived value.
- The time for diversity in digital marketing is now. 85 percent of women don’t recognize themselves in ads. LGBTQ representation is likewise lacking.
- Privacy isn’t just a word anymore. Scandals like Equifax and Cambridge Analytica have awoken the public. Laws like the GDPR are just a reminder: future consumers want privacy-by-design.
Social media is changing across the board. Live stories draw consumers into limited-time narratives. Messaging is opening up new marketing tactics. And social CRM is on the way up.
Artificial intelligence is one of the most exciting digital marketing trends. Not only will it help deliver personalization and new added value – it will let your talent return to creative work.
The future of voice search is looking bright. By 2020, 50 percent of all searches will be voice searches. If you want to stay part of the conversation, experimenting with voice technology is the way.
Visual search is likewise making waves. Google, Pinterest and Microsoft are all using computer vision to help consumers find what they need. Time to show your users what you’ve got.
The chatbots are here. 47 percent of consumers are willing to buy from bots directly. 51 percent believe your business should be available 24/7. Reason enough to start using smart digital agents.
Consumers like personalization. 91 percent prefer brands that make personally relevant offers. But they don’t like being boxed in. Personalize the journey – just let them make it themselves.
- Marketing automation is eliminating repetitive work, giving talent more time to be creative. Want to generate more leads and increase conversion? Just give it a try.
Extending reality has its benefits. AR and VR are laying the foundations for next-gen consumer experiences. Learning about this tech today will help you seize the opportunities of tomorrow.
Growth hacking isn’t just for startups anymore. It’s the ideal mindset for a data-driven world. These iterative, collaborative approaches will boost your marketing efficiency dramatically.
But you’ll also have to implement these cutting-edge technologies and best practices effectively. That means your business will have to embrace an experimental mindset. You’ll need to get comfortable in increasingly dynamic environments – and find partners who are equally at home there.
We will update these trends as new developments arise, ensuring you always have direct access to the insights you need to prepare for the future of digital marketing. And if you ever need more hands-on assistance, all you have to do is ask. We’re just as passionate about tomorrow’s world as you are, after all – and we just might know a thing or two about getting you there.