Digital marketing has always leveraged emerging technology to engage consumers. However, I’m noticing a very different trend over the last few years – technology is altering consumer behavior and forcing marketers to adjust our strategies.
I would encourage you to do more people watching in the coming year. Consumers are swiftly changing how they use the Internet. Carefully observing these new behaviors, driven by emerging tech, is going to help you to better position your tactics for a very different digital marketing landscape.
Here’s my list of trends that I think will impact our marketing decisions in 2019 and headed into 2020.
1. Voice Search
Walking the streets of New York City last week and everyone was plugged into their phones (most via AirPods) and they weren’t face down in them anymore. They were heads up and talking to them.
To be clear, they weren’t on phone calls with people. They were literally talking to the phones – getting directions, scheduling appointments, having it read text messages and emails, and researching.
This trend is being driven by increasingly capable AI assistants. The nearly ubiquitous proliferation of Siri and Google Assistant, embedded in our mobile phones and smart speakers, is altering the way people are searching and navigating the Web.
Voice UI is likely to become the primary user interface to our marketing content and offers in the very near future.
What Marketers Need to Know: We need to alter the way we structure content to accommodate a lot more questions and direct responses. Take a look at any Google search result. You can immediately see how Google is already restructuring search results to serve the AI assistant.
2. Video is Eating the Internet
All demographics are opting to learn, discover, and shop first via video content, leaving traditional text behind as a secondary preference. I just asked one of my employees last week to do some research and figure out how to do something. Typically, a request like that would be followed by, “No problem, I’ll Google it.” Not this time. She immediately, without contemplation, said, “I’ll take a look on YouTube and figure it out.”
I’m pretty convinced that YouTube It might be the Google It of the future.
What Marketers Need to Know: We need to relearn how to clearly communicate our message in this very different medium. We’ve been writing marketing copy for hundreds of years, but the video is a format that’s really only been viable as a marketing channel for a few decades. Then there is the challenge of production. We’re going to have to figure out how to make video as efficiently as written content.
3. Data-enabled/informed marketing campaigns
If you haven’t watched The Great Hack on Netflix, a documentary about the Cambridge Analytica story, you must. This gives keen insight into how marketing campaigns, for good or bad will be run in the future.
Social and search platforms make it simple to precisely target user behavior and preferences with the mountains of data they have and continue to collect.
The genie is out of the bottle.
Google and Facebook can’t get off the revenue (zero marginal cost on data inherently collected in serving their customers) crack. Consumers actually love and expect the personalized experience. And, as marketers, we can’t help but love how efficiently we can collect and influence audiences for our brands.
What Marketers Need to Know: The practice of precise targeting, retargeting, and personalization is becoming so predominant that a user experience without the infusion of consumer demographic, preference, and personalization data simple feels inferior, insufficient, perhaps even rude to the consumer – without data, your brand will lose the customer to more personable competitors.
4. Conversational agents/intelligent chatbots
Gone is “live chat” and large call centers answering the same generalized questions, with the same scripted responses, over and over again. Intelligent agents and chatbots will become the customer service of the future.
Again, as the technology has become increasingly capable consumers are adjusting their behaviors, preferences, and expectations.
What Marketers Need to Know: Consumers are no longer willing to fill out your web form and wait for answers or hold on the chat or phone queue for “live” operators to answer their questions. Likewise, they’re not willing to dig through your website and content to look for answers.
Consumers expect your chatbot to be at the ready and actually guide them efficiently to the answers or product that they want.
Atomic, micro-moment, or point solution content – small bite-size, standalone content that can be autonomously mix, matched, and served based on specific user request or situation. Significantly enhancing just-in-time and high personalized content.
5. Mobile-only experience
I can’t tell you the number of times that I hear people tell me that they don’t have access to a computer…”Can I do that on my phone?”
The mobile phone is rapidly becoming the primary and often only computing device for the average consumer. As a marketer you have to start assuming that is the experience and environment that your content and offers are experienced within.
What Marketers Need to Know: It’s not enough to be mobile responsive or pay lip service to mobile first. You have to design with the assumption that 100% of your market is engaging with you on a mobile screen, or more likely, via voice.
This means more bite-size, atomic, direct, and succinct content.
A mobile-only experience also requires you to leverage existing systems and permissions to conveniently (and, believe it or not, secondarily) securely into and through your website or application.
You must design and develop to use a variety of password management and single-sign on technologies as well as auto-complete form filling conventions.
6. Influence and influencer marketing
Social media is enabling motivated and self-initiated individuals, using easy to use media platforms and distribution, to building powerful multinational personal brands.
These engaging influencer brands are gobbling up all of the attention of the consumers that your commercial brand wants access to.
But if you want access, you’re going to have to pay up.
What Marketers Need to Know: Dig into your product or service niche and look for people that already have the hearts and minds of your customers. Discover how you can partner or assist these influencers in advancing their business goals, serving their audiences, and at the same time advancing your own strategic market position.
This can be tricky to do without appearing over promotional or making your influencer look like a sellout. That’s why I emphasize focusing on how you can advance the influencer’s goals first. Then see where the opportunity is for you.
7. Omnichannel marketing
Picking a channel and doing it well is no longer a reasonable strategy. Today’s consumer is consuming an intertwined spaghetti of content. No longer is Google search our primary means of discovery.
Let’s consider a very typical few minutes of idle time. We scan through Linkedin to see what our colleagues are up to, who has a new job, and who has the job we aspire to. We bounce over to Facebook to check-in on friends, family, and (sadly, yes) as a source of news. Then we flip through Instagram and Pinterest for a little inspiration. Finally, many of us then dive into Twitter to check on more news, monitor a local event, or as a dual-screen experience while we watch a favorite show or sporting event.
What Marketers Need to Know: Our multitasking phones and increasingly distracted nature makes it essential for marketers to engage us in multiple channels. Getting those seven to eleven impressions necessary to register our brand in the consumer’s mind requires a presence in each of these channels.
8. Social media stories
This is probably a component of a lot of trends, but the theme here is allowing people, influencers, and brands to quickly share tiny insights. Our content creation is becoming shorter, but richer. Stories is leading the way micro, rich content is produced and distributed.
Do you want proof that this is important? Ask anyone under 30 about a trending news topic. Then ask them where they hear about that topic. More than likely it will be from someone or some brand’s story.
What Marketers Need to Know: Capture and distribute your message as micro-moments. Don’t over produce this content, but clarity and brevity are essential. To make this form of marketing effective, you’re going to have to really brush up on storytelling skills.
Getting a highly distracted user, with an average of 60-90 other apps on their phone at the ready, to click through your story and take an action is an incredible feat of digital marketing. Practice and refine this skill of designing Stories and you will be in incredible demand and have a huge audience, convinced of the absolute truth of everything you say.
9. Programmatic advertising
Advertising and the placement of your marketing has traditionally been facilitated by the relatively analytical process of identifying well-targeted placements, affordable inventory, and then optimizing creative based on performance. This required a fair amount of training and expertise in learning the advertising platform. Discovering what features were the most effective and then how to tweak your creative to get the most engagement from each ad feature. Then you had to be a data scientist to pull the data from the platform and perform the necessary spreadsheet ninjitsu to determine winning tactics that you can scale.
Fast forward a few years and these platforms now have enough data on consumers and enough training data from us as marketers to unleash AI and machine learning algorithms. Now, given an objective and some targeting preferences most of these platforms will optimize for the best results, given your creative. Some more advanced platforms – and unquestionable the future – will also test and optimize your creative for better results.
What Marketers Need to Know: Wall Street has been leveraging programmatic trading for years to detect, react, and optimize for market trends that even the most experienced traders can miss or be too late in reacting to be effective. As marketers, we should take a page from this playbook.
By using programmatic advertising we can get the edge on the vast majority of competitors who still think they can outsmart the advertising platforms’ algorithms when they have all the insights. Let the algorithms optimize targeting and focus your attention on the creative. Even better focus on designing atomic creative that allows the algorithms to optimize your creative too.
10. Browsers are full of rich consumer data
The consumer’s browser is a treasure trove of consumer preference and behavior data. This makes the browser a juicy target for marketers.
I know, as a consumer, your first reaction is privacy! Consumers will be mortified. I would submit for your consideration the golden rule of human behavior:
If you promise me dancing pigs, I will gladly accept any (unread) Terms of Service to get to the dancing pigs.
With that objection out of the way, let’s think about why this important to consumers and marketers. First, the browser is becoming the core operating system for most people. As such, they are expecting it to do everything possible to make my online experience familiar and uninterrupted:
- Get me quickly to my favorite and most common destinations,
- Remember all of my passwords (remember dancing pigs) and log me in,
- Notify me when something is happening in my digital world, and
- Finally, wrap me in my comfortable cocoon of brands, celebrities, and news perspectives.
This all sounds counterintuitive to what consumers say in privacy surveys but audit the behaviors of those around you and you will quickly realize I’m correct.
What Marketers Need to Know: Begin to embrace technology that allows you to gain a favored position in your customers’ browsers. Make sure you’re placing tracking and remarketing pixels for your favorite advertising platforms. Begin offering your visitors the option of getting browser push notifications from your website.
Technology is always interesting, but as you are designing marketing campaigns, tactics, and strategies for the future think more about consumer behavior.
The psychology and sociology of consumers is what truly drives consumers to consume. Start there and then find the technologies that are most effectively enabling them to do the things they desire.
What technologies and tactics are propelling your most successful digital campaigns?