It’s reached the time of year again when we all analyse our marketing activities from the previous 12 months and set out our plans for the forthcoming year.
If you want to continue to thrive and gain a competitive advantage in the ever-changing world of digital in 2018, it’s essential to set out a fresh plan that makes the most of the emerging trends and technologies this year.
Since consumers are now demanding a more integrated online experience, today’s forward-thinking marketers must be the ones to combine digital media with technology in order to increase the overall contribution of their digital marketing strategy.
From the rise of mobile-first sites, to voice search and personalisation, we’ve compiled some of the most prominent digital trends that we expect to see in 2018. There are some general predictions for the coming year as well as several more specific points which could help your digital business to boost its ROI in 2018.
AR will revolutionise video advertising forever
Augmented Reality means that brands can now merge real-world imagery with digital and augmented objects in a new and innovative way. Think Pokémon Go, Snapchat, and even Facebook’s newly introduced AR picture lenses which enable users to place virtual objects into the real world.
One of the most recent collaborations was Google’s Star Wars AR stickers which were designed to celebrate the release of The Last Jedi movie. The AR program works through the camera of Pixel 2 smartphones and it allows users to place stormtroopers and other characters from the movie into their everyday lives.
AR Technology is set to transform e-commerce in the new year. The tail end of 2017 saw furniture brands such as Ikea using AR with their ‘Ikea Place’ app to demonstrate to online shoppers what new furniture would look like in their own homes before even buying it.
In a similar way, John Lewis used their 360° shoppable Facebook Ads to pave the way for an interactive shopping experience through social media. This has enabled their customers to shop quickly without visiting a store and also means that they’ll be less inclined to want to return furniture items after purchasing.
As a collection of data from traditional and digital sources, big data represents a source of ongoing discovery and analysis. In other words, it’s the same old data that marketers have always used, but it has become increasingly more accessible thanks to machine learning and Artificial Intelligence.
The big data collected from social media, online purchases and mobile app downloads etc means that digital marketers can now make even better predictions about customer behaviour and ultimately that content can be fully tailored towards your specific audience. Proximity marketing enables marketers to track where their customers are via their mobile phones and send them offers and advertisements based on their location and specific interests.
In 2018, big data will become even more readily available to small and medium-sized businesses, which means more targeted strategy and less spending. Since increasing numbers of advertising platforms and marketing outreach systems are now making big data a part of their infrastructure, businesses will find it hard to stay competitive this year if they aren’t making use of the thousands of customer data points that are now available to them.
Mobile Video: Going Live
At present, over 87% of internet users use mobile devices to access the web on a regular basis. Desktop advertising is expected to decrease for the first time ever in 2018 at a rate of 6%. The rise of mobile-first advertising comes hand in hand with live video usage and viewership, which is also forecast to hit the roof in 2018.
Marketers ought to get ahead of the competition as soon as possible by planning a mobile video strategy and integrating it into their customer experience. Native content such as Snapchat and Instagram stories that can be promoted through social will become crucial.
The reason why video is so valuable is that it can be used by both brands and influencers to depict real-life stories. In fact, Mark Zuckerberg estimates that as much as 90% of Facebook’s content will be video-based by 2019. If you consider yourself to be a DIY kind of business owner then live video is a great place to start.
There are a number of new platforms you can use to grow your social channels:
• Instagram’s ‘Go Live with a Friend’ is a recent update that’s forecast to boost their go-live feature even further. This is exciting news for brands working with influencers as it means that you’ll be able to take collaboration to a whole new level for your followers to watch and engage with. This will result in a spill-over of followers and also attract new followers, which means exponential growth for both parties. It would be wise to make this feature a part of your strategy and go live every other week.
• Facebook’s Creator App has been projected by some to revolutionise the way people do live-streaming in 2018 and even overtake YouTube as a platform for influencers. The most well-known update is the ‘Live Creative kit’ which makes it easy for anyone to create videos through their brand’s Facebook page. With features such as custom frames, custom reactions and custom intros/outros, it could be one of the best live-streaming and monitoring platforms online.
Voice searches will continue to grow in 2018, which will make 2018 a very interesting year for digital marketing strategists. In fact, according to Google’s official blog, by 2020 more than half of all queries will be done by voice search, meaning a decline or at least a re-direction in text-based SEO strategy
Three dominant strands of voice queries have surfaced:
• Navigational – The most straightforward – to do with destination. The user wants to go somewhere.
• Informational – These type of requests generate direct results. They’re processed by Hound with its live API which is based on semantic understanding.
• Transactional – If someone was going to use an IPA such as Siri for a transaction then a lot of these steps could actually happen before the app was opened.
These developments in voice search are predicted to make competition in this area hyper-concentrated. In order to appear on voice search results, you’ll have to create content that answers questions. Ensure that any advertisements you have, as well as your landing page contain the search queries that your target audience could use.
Optimizing your content for voice search means including long-tail keywords and conversational phrases (eg. best pad Thai in Manchester vs. Thai Restaurant Manchester) that people would be more likely to say out loud. Content Marketing will make optimizing for voice slightly easier because it’s not as hard to work conversational keywords into a blog post as it is to force them into your website content.
Personalisation in Content Marketing
Personalising your content can provide one of the most powerful tools to boost engagement, drive value and ensure that your readers keep coming back. Personalising content means that your consumers can be in control of they type of content that they see – it’s up to you to make it accessible and timely.
As personalisation becomes more popular with the growing availability of big data, content marketing is also going to become a lot more competitive in the future. Personalisation can be easy to implement first by starting small and then investing in personalisation providers and analytics to enhance your data.
Brands like Amazon, Netflix and a number of the major social media platforms have excelled at customising individual user experiences by putting their customers’ needs above all else with personalised recommendations and offers.
Whether they’re browsing online or on their mobile devices, consumers have now come to expect personalised content, showing an obvious preference to them over overt advertising messages. Personalised content could be based on your consumers’ location or their personal preferences.
In the coming years, personalisation will need to have a clear strategy with a view of building a loyal audience and extending the time spent on their platforms.
Sharpening Chatbot Strategy
Chatbots are streamlining how we communicate with consumers – a trend that’s directly correlated with the rise in messaging platforms. AI-driven assistants can help to boost satisfaction and sales as they’re quick to use, cheap and they provide much more of a personal and direct form of communication that allows you to put the customers’ needs and wants first.
A recent survey revealed that consumers want brands to focus on digital improvement more than innovation in 2018. With this in mind, it’s time to re-examine the functioning of any chatbot type elements on your site.
The aim of a chatbot should be to capture and nurture leads, either through your website or through your social media channels. While some chatbots have a logic behind them, others have been used purely as a form-fill whilst providing consumers with extremely basic conversations.
This year, you should ensure that chatbots on your site and social channels are fully updated. This means ensuring that they ask customers more open-ended questions and that they always answer in full sentences. Even if you don’t intend on creating a full Intelligent Virtual Assistant for your brand, then developing a chatbot strategy should involve more than merely offering communication through Facebook Messenger.
Ensure that your chatbot is designed with a personality that’s approachable, fun and engaged. Interactive features should always align with the rest of your brand message. Although chatbots are great for dealing with quick customer experiences, you should bear in mind that in some instances, a phone call with a customer care professional may be required instead.
Digital marketing is constantly changing, which is why it’s vital to ensure that you regularly review and update your strategy. New technologies such as AR, voice search, mobile video and big data programmes are forecast to continue their expansion this year, which means that your business could be set to boost its ROI by incorporating them into a strategy in the near-future. Make the most of them as they become some of the most important features in digital marketing.