Technology giants found themselves at the center of media storms and received strong political backlash for not accepting wider responsibilities associated with their brands/services. From Facebook data leaks to mob lynchings in India stemming from child abduction rumors on Whatsapp, it was an eye-opener of a year, when it came to the far-reaching consequences of technology.
With the launch of apps similar to Apple’s screen time feature, users became more aware of the amount of time spent online and its impact on their health and life.
Concerns for data privacy emerged as an important factor in user decision making.
These are some of the factors that will be shaping the digital marketing strategies for this year. However, there are many more new and exciting developments to look forward to as well. Let us take a look at what we think will be the biggest, most trending trends in 2019.
AI was the fresh, new trend to watch out for last year. This year, it continues to grow in power with its numerous applications across the board. No longer perceived as a “good-to-have” technology, brand strategies are being re-designed with AI at its core. Some of the most notable AI marketing trends that are expected to grow exponentially are:
Chatbots – With their enhanced customer satisfaction as well as better response rates, chatbots are ready to take over 85% of customer interactions by 2020, based on a projection. With more and more users turning to chat for a quicker response to their queries, chatbots provide solutions that are instant and satisfying, thanks to AI.
Programmatic Advertising – Two-thirds of digital advertising spending will be traded programmatically in 2019. From automatic bidding to collecting data and analyzing results of campaigns, AI is set to deliver optimum results in an area that typically involves large spending for brands and businesses.
Internet of Things – Advances in edge computing will reduce the dependency on the cloud and bring more processing power to locations with lower connectivity and industries that require a higher degree of security. Expect a sharp increase in IoT-powered smart devices across all industries, including but not limited to, the automotive industry.
Digital Assistants – With Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Natural Language Generation (NLG) features becoming better and more accessible, voice-activated services will become the norm. More and more users are already beginning to prefer “talking” to their devices instead of giving specific voice commands. Google Assistant’s support of local languages gives it a clear edge over other alternatives when it comes to voice-activated services. Assisting with visualization and purchasing is where Augmented Reality is finally expected to come into its own. Even Virtual Reality/Mixed Reality may not be far behind!
Multichannel marketing means the ability to reach the user on as many different channels as possible. At its center is the company’s desire to widen its reach to include the maximum number of users. An omnichannel strategy, on the other hand, is a multichannel strategy with a focus on providing the user with a great overall experience. It involves ensuring that all channels are inter-related and the user can move seamlessly between them. Marketers are beginning to see the potential of omnichannel and the substantial increase in returns after making the change from multichannel to omnichannel.
Machine learning will drive the collection of big data for predictive analysis. Data onboarding, that is the use of offline customer data in conjunction with online data, will enable the creation of 360-degree user personas. Predictive customer service models will be developed based on predictive analysis to help with key metrics, such as churn rate.
Amazon and Netflix are already personalizing pages based on user history and preferences. Amazon personalizes shopping carts by giving customized shopping recommendations based on user behavior on the website. Apps like Zomato customize deals and offers based on real-time user location. Netflix gives movie suggestions based on users’ watch history. Personalization using user data is a trend that is likely to penetrate more industries and to grow with time.
The Stories format has been around for a few years now. It has been gaining traction all this while, and this is the year stories are expected to surpass feeds as the users’ preferred choice for sharing things with each other. More and more publishers are choosing Instagram to publish creatively engaging content. While feeds catered more to the desktop era, stories are more relevant to mobile users. What that means for businesses is new strategies for ad targeting as well as for user engagement through Stories.
Mega-influencers have a larger following but their focus is broad, which makes targeting difficult. Micro-influencers – who are typically defined as having followers in the range of 1,000 to 10,000 – are the new buzzword in digital marketing. Micro-influencers have a more focused approach to their niche which ensures that marketers have a properly defined user base to target. Since they also tend to be passionate about their topics and have a more personalized approach, they appeal to users as being more “authentic” and “genuine.” All of this creates a win-win situation which translates into a much better ROI for digital marketers, especially considering that the cost involved in working with a micro-influencer is much lower when compared to that of a mega-influencer.
With voice-activated products and services dominating last year, audio becomes a vital aspect of content this year. Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, and Google Assistant are among the game changers that are revolutionizing the way customers look for and find information. This means marketers need to start strategizing for voice searches. Companies will also need to increase focus on creating content, such as podcasts and audio answer snippets, which can reach the increasingly wide range of audience that turns to audio as the main conduit for information.
Faster connectivity and cheaper technology make smartphones available to a wider audience than ever before. An increasingly large proportion of these users speak vernacular languages, especially in India. Internationally too, there is an ever-increasing acceptance of technology and services that support the users’ preferred languages. Brands across the globe are going to have to consider designing their content and digital marketing strategies keeping this factor in mind.
After the massive data breaches of last year, users have safety and security at the top of their minds. This year will see brands making more effort to win customer trust, with more measures in place to ensure the safety and security of their data. The emphasis on regulations on technology and application of new data privacy laws means user data will not be easy to come by. Companies will need to re-shape their email marketing strategies to overcome this challenge and use email as a tool to build stronger relationships with existing customers.
As marketers realize that a vast majority of emails are not even opened by users, the emphasis on quality increases. On the other hand, the increase in the use of marketing automation tools means that more and more emails will be automated. This is where AI comes into play. It will be used to create more personalized, better targeted email content that is triggered at optimum points in the user journey. Data gathered and analyzed using machine learning will be put to use to ensure that the deals, offers, and products that customers see are all customized based on their online behavior.
AI will also be put to use generating leads that are highly qualified. This will ensure better targeting for higher ROI and also reducing the “junk” in the user’s Inbox. Another way to achieve advanced segmentation would be to give users more control over the content they receive.
Affordable high-speed connectivity makes live video a lucrative marketing tool this year. The fact that the content is streaming live compels instant reactions and discussion from users as they feel more like participants and less like passive viewers. The element of real-time sharing also speaks to the authenticity of the brand and builds trust among users. It helps that an increasing number of users use live video as a means of connecting and sharing with each other. Users see this format as familiar and useful. Live video enables marketers to receive instant engagement and attention at the fraction of the cost of a produced video.
From increased share ratios to better conversion rates as compared to other forms of content, video content is emerging as a clear winner when it comes to advertising tools. Video ads, which use the short form video format, are gaining in popularity as compared to another branding and engagement tool, the long form video. With the ever decreasing attention span of users and their increased awareness of the adverse effects of digital media, small mouthfuls of visual content that is entertaining as well as informative emerges as the obvious choice for capturing users’ interest and attention.
Customers are often left feeling frustrated and ignored at the end of the sales funnel. Emphasis needs to be on sustainable content that keeps providing value to customers and keeps them engaged and loyal to the brand post-sale. Content that will help a customer get the most value out of a product/service will gain in importance compared to content that has sales as the end goal.
With an increased focus on health and fitness and awareness of the adverse effects of social media, users have become more conscious of how they spend their time. This is expected to cause a decline of user interest in sensationalizing, fluff content and a move towards choosing quality, informative material. Organizations’ increased emphasis on conversion also means that they will choose to invest in relevant, evergreen content that can yield returns over long term.
2019 promises to be a year of exciting new possibilities. Many trends and innovations from last year will also continue to gain in strength and contribute to the changing landscape of digital marketing. It makes us certain of one thing above all else. The way we do business is in the process of being transformed and there may be more surprises ahead of us in the year to come.