Even though the new year started only two months ago, it is already pretty clear there are already some digital trends marketers will not be able to ignore in 2019. While some of these trends may have only become clear within the past few years, others are trends we have seen coming for a while or concepts that are pretty much timeless. However, the one sure thing is that these trends are here to stay, perhaps even becoming more than just trends. Josh Dirks, the CEO and founder of Project Bionic, visited AMA to speak to us about these very trends and share his insights as a seasoned social media marketer.
10 Digital Trends that Can’t be Ignored
1. Artificial intelligence
AI gives marketers the opportunity and chance to finally be able to deliver on the promise of “right user, right message, right time, right place.” Forget trial and error—you can find these things through data. Artificial intelligence is a way for marketers to find this information, making it a coming trend that we will have to learn to embrace. According to Gartner, “25% of customer service will use chatbot technology by 2020, up from less than 2% in 2017.” Currently, the main functionality of a chatbot is to ask simple questions such as “When is the next train for Paris?” or for extended use-case scenarios such as “Where can I buy tickets?” However, for AI to be truly useful, we want to get to a point where chatbots can carry on intelligent and natural conversations, such as allowing customers to ask questions like “How are you? Are you a real bot?” AI is still developing and requires the caveat that a human layer is still needed for small talks, and that they must work with a human operator. Ideally, this will not be the case in the coming future, giving artificial intelligence even more promise.
2. Programmatic advertising
Almost 90% of digital display ads in the U.S. will be programmatic by 2020, but most marketers still don’t understand how this type of advertising works or the brand safety hurdles involved. Programmatic advertising is where the decision-making process of media buying by targeting specific audiences and demographics is automated, no longer requiring manual purchasing of individual ads by humans. Instead, information about what companies want, the type of customer they desire, etc., is given from ad-purchasing companies to agencies, with these agencies programming how ads begin showing up all over the web. However, a big problem with this process is that there is no type of brand guideline or brand guard rail that controls where brands show up. This means that adult products could wind up on kid channels, where it makes absolutely no sense!
3. Video marketing
Nowadays, video advertising is much more than just YouTube! Technologies in this area, such as live and 360-degree video, high-resolution pictures, real-time AI, the ability to add motion, augmented reality, virtual reality, and even drones that get unique vantage points are becoming important tools for the modern marketer. Here are some reasons why marketers need to understand where video is at:
70% of consumers say that they have shared a brand’s video
72% of businesses say video has improved their conversion rate
52% of consumers say that watching product videos makes them more confident in online purchase decisions
65% of executives visit the marketer’s website and 39% call a vendor after viewing a video
4. Influencer marketing
Did you know that influencers actually hate being called influencers? Instead, they prefer the term “creator,” because they create their own content. Instead of marketing yourself, you can pay these individuals to get the word out for you. Others care about their opinions, as “influencer marketing is a type of word-of-mouth marketing that focuses on using key leaders to drive your brand’s message to the larger market,” according to Raghav Haran. Young people see influencers as more important than even their own friends and family when it comes to influencing their buying behaviors. This is due to the fact that these creators can be seen as a human beings, instead of a company who is trying to sell you something. Here are some statistics that may convince you of the efficacy of influencers:
75% of marketers believe influencer marketing generates sales leads
92% of consumers trust recommendations from other people over brand content
93% of marketers believe influencer marketing is effective in raising brand awareness
51% of marketers believe they get better customers from influencer marketing (influencer conversions are also about 25% of the cost of normal digital conversion)
The one downside to this type of marketing is that it is still the “Wild West.” There are no platform standards that guarantee that the content provided by the influencer matches the content of the brand. To avoid mismatches, companies can consider the following:
Understand the influencers you are working with and what they stand for
Know who these individuals are currently working with
Know who these individuals have worked with in the past and the campaigns they have been involved with
5. Social messaging apps
Social messaging applications such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and others are still huge ways for marketers to get into the feeds and minds of their consumers. Individuals spend a lot of their time on these platforms, but the difficulty for modern marketers is figuring out how to tastefully interject a brand into someone’s feed without interrupting them or bothering them. With consumers being bombarded by messages all the time, how can you stand out without being annoying? In the words of Josh himself, “Get your ego out of the way and let your data guide you.” The least we can do as marketers is take the data that we are provided to guide us to targeting and catering to our customers better.
6. Visual search
Visual search, or programs such as Google Lens, Pinterest Lens, and eBay’s mobile app, allow you to search for objects or other bits of information online based off images, even without text. Outside of the United States, QR codes are actually still very popular, a more basic representation of the concept. Using visual search, consumers can directly search through images to find similar images, price comparisons, local shopping results, etc. When it comes to this arena, Pinterest is miles ahead of its competitors. Its advantages include good metadata, a large user-fed database of products and services, and successful integration with SDK packs. As Josh himself said, “We are usually the guinea pigs that help feed technology,” since consumers are the ones that decide the direction technology will go next. Information from consumers and their habits give marketers the information they need to improve. When it comes to visual search, marketers can get the edge on competitors by using it to draw customers in and serve them the perfect product.
When speaking to us, Josh explained the ZMOT, or “Zero Moment of Truth,” where there are three different degrees of interaction that wind up converting a customer. It is the point in the customer’s buying cycle where the consumer researches the product, even before they know that a certain product is what they want. The goal for a company with successful marketing is to be there in that singular, exact moment where the customer decides they need to make that purchase decision. Brands need to find the little “micro-moments” where they can drop straight into a consumer’s lap as the customer is searching for the information they need to solve a problem.
8. Voice search and smart speakers
Smart speakers like Alexa and Google Home are on the rise, as 39 million Americans use smart speakers and 65% of them say they wouldn’t want to go back to life without their voice-controlled assistant. To further convince you, here are some numbers about just how prevalent these devices are:
By 2020, 50% of all searches will be verbal and spoken
20% of mobile queries on Google are voice searches
25% of all Bing searches are voice searches
For marketers, the difficulty is figuring out how to use voice search in a way where people don’t feel like they are being listened to or have to worry about data privacy.
For those of you who have been following cryptocurrency, you have probably come across the term “blockchain” at one point or another, which is the record-keeping technology behind bitcoin. So what exactly is blockchain? At its most basic, it is just a chain of digital blocks, or blocks of information, which are stored in a public database, or the chain. For example, when a customer requests a transaction or some form of validation, it goes into a blockchain when approved. Why is this important to marketing? Well, blockchain technology has allowed marketers to track where their ads are placed and ensure that real customers, rather than automated bots, are clicking on their ads.
While technology is amazing, as marketers, we must never forget that human beings are, in the end, human beings. In a sense, personalization can be defined as a function of maximizing enjoyment and minimizing search time. No matter how good technology gets, personalization will always be the key element to turning average, normal customers into raving fans.
But some things never change, like...
The Marketing Funnel
Even though the exact funnel may change and develop over time, there are concepts within it that will never change, regardless of how perspectives may. During Josh’s visit, we were reminded of something drilled into our brains as marketing students:
Awareness: This is the stage at which your customer is a stranger to your brand, but finds out about your company as a prospect. Make a good first impression!
Interest: During this time, the prospect graduates into a potential subscriber to your brand. They may become more interested in learning about you, so address pain points they may be experiencing.
Desire: At this point, the potential customer is just about ready to convert into a customer. They know the value of your product or service and how it can benefit them. Make them want your product by showing why it is perfect for them.
Action: Congratulations, you’ve convinced a prospect to convert into a paying customer or have convinced them to take another equally important action! You might have done this one of multiple ways, including showing them the benefits of your product or creating a sense of urgency through personalization and desire, but whatever it was, it worked!
Retention: It is way easier, cheaper, and more efficient to recapture a current customer or client than it is to take them all the way back through the funnel! Don’t waste your past efforts on acquiring this customer by ignoring the importance of keeping a customer around!
Thanks so much Josh for joining us and sharing your insights with us!