Every business is trying to find that edge that sets them apart from competitors. Digital marketers are constantly looking at new channels and techniques that haven’t yet reached a point of oversaturation, and with more advertising dollars being spent on online mediums, these are becoming increasingly difficult to find.
2020 has brought its own set of challenges for digital marketers. Email service providers have reported a four point increase in open rates, conversion rates have plummeted in certain industries, and for the first time ever both Google and Facebook have reported quarterly declines in ad revenue.
While the goalposts have shifted, there have been a number of emerging digital marketing trends that we’ve seen innovative marketers adopt with early signs of success. Here we’ll discuss 7 digital marketing trends that every business should explore.
1. Conversational Marketing
We’re increasingly seeing conversational marketing make its way into businesses’ digital marketing mixes. While this is not a brand new trend in 2020, it’s definitely something that more businesses are trialling as barriers to entry are reduced and customers become more comfortable with the interactions.
It’s difficult to put an exact definition on conversational marketing, but the term essentially covers the use of conversations between brands and customers to personalise each step of the buyer journey. It commonly involves using targeted, personalised messaging combined with chatbots to engage with users via your website, your social media marketing pages, and anywhere else where conversations with customers take place.
In today’s always-on world, innovative marketers have looked to adopt conversational marketing to provide customers with an instant stream of personalised information. The effectiveness of such messages is unquestionable, with message platform open rates north of 70% and clickthrough rates averaging around 20%. Customer service is also becoming more comfortable with assisting clients via conversational marketing, with surveys showing that 54% of customers would prefer to choose a chatbot over a human if it saved them time.
Despite this, the potential of such technology is still being realised. Take Facebook Messenger for example, where over 1.3 billion people use the platform. Facebook has 9 billion advertisers, yet the last reported number of chatbots was just 300,000.
Chatbots are moving beyond a mere text offering as well, with voice-based chatbots with advanced speech recognition capabilities set to become commonplace in 2021. We’ve also yet to see smart speakers such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home introduce conversational ads delivered by these devices. With voice search growing year on year, most believe it is only a matter of time.
There isn’t a trend that has captured the imagination of digital marketing publications more in 2020 than personalisation. It’s usually a bit of a concern if too many marketers are all focusing on the same idea, but there’s no doubt that there are some definite benefits to having customers experience your products and services through a personalised lens.
We’ll see many businesses try to personalise experiences for each individual customer with one key aim: conversions. As competition for customer attention continues to increase, any friction one can remove from the customer’s decision journey is an advantage. A web experience that focuses on showing you listings based on your preferences and previous activity will reduce the path to purchase and help to increase retention and customer loyalty.
When we think of personalisation we immediately think about some of the titans of the industry. Netflix has a hand-picked selection of shows for me at any moment, as does Amazon when it comes to products, or Spotify when it comes to songs. There’s also examples such as Cadbury, who recommended products for customers based on their Facebook profile, or even new influencer marketing tools like Influencersphere, which recommend Instagram influencers for your business based on your account.
A Gartner study showed that companies making investments into personalisation technology are outselling competitors by 30%, and while many of us won’t be able to create recommendation engines, personalisation efforts can still be useful and effective. Companies such as conversational platform Intercom have adopted personalisation into their selling by sending prospects video demos of how their software looks when embedded into their website. There’s also software such as Bonjoro that allows you to easily send a quick personalised video to your customers or prospects to delight and convert.
3. Smarter Bid Strategies
There’s a lot more to Google Ads than just keyword bidding these days. The introduction of Smart Bidding allows advertisers to leverage Google’s machine learning and automate their bidding based on their advertising goal. It then looks to optimise towards a goal by adjusting bids based on a range of user signals, including location, time of day, audience interests and the type of device used.
Many ‘traditional’ digital marketers have steered away from smart bidding with a preference to own more control of their client’s budget. However as Google becomes more and more precise in their ability to predict, this is becoming harder to ignore. There is simply no match for a real-time bidding engine that works 24/7 to bring you the best results.
Facebook has followed suit, announcing a strategy at the end of 2019 called the Power 5. The Power 5 tools place great emphasis on simplifying your ad account setup in order to best leverage the platform’s machine learning and drive better results.
These shifts to account simplification mean that the barrier to entry for new advertisers is significantly reduced. Take Google for example, where advertisers are now able to use the latest Smart Bidding strategies by simply providing a list of keywords to target and some ad creative to support this. The use of such technology puts greater emphasis on the quality of products and services and the usability of the website to ensure performance targets are achieved.
In a Smart Bidding digital marketing landscape where we are all optimising towards ROI, it will become increasingly difficult to cut through the noise and have your message seen. This is likely to continue a shift back to the importance of effective creative that can stand out and pique your audience’s interest.
4. Interactive Content
Content marketing is here to stay. While buzzwords come and go from surveys looking at marketers’ focus for the year ahead, content is one of the few constants in every top digital marketing strategy.
The content marketing trend to watch relates to interactive content. I’m sure you’ve all had some kind of experience with interactive content, whether that be a poll, a quiz, a survey or something else. Interactive content is an attempt from marketers to cut through the clutter of content now available at our fingertips. Instead of writing another blog post on a topic, interactive content gives marketers the opportunity to keep their audience engaged for longer and have a more long-term impact on their decision making.
DemandGen found that interactive content delivers twice the engagement compared to that of static content, and we’ve seen the top platforms follow this trend as a means of keeping users engaged for longer. In the video marketing space, Facebook has rolled out video poll ads while YouTube announced in June 2020 a new ad format that turns video ads into shoppable experiences for viewers.
While the future of interactive content may lie in augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) experiences, there are some easy ways to see if interactive content will work for your content marketing strategy. Companies such as Typeform offer free, easy solutions for making quizzes while we can all run polls across Instagram Stories or Facebook Stories.
5. Marketing Automation
A study by Invesp found that 63% of marketers planned to increase their marketing automation budget in 2020, and despite everything that’s gone on throughout the year it’s hard to see a more pertinent use of these funds.
Never has there been a greater emphasis on marketing to your existing leads and customers. With advertising budgets reduced across the globe there’s been a shift in focus from organisations towards keeping customers engaged in an effort to increase lifetime value.
Marketing automation can cover all stages of the customer journey, although where it is most commonly utilised is at later stages of the customer lifecycle to prompt interactions that help us to gauge how warm the prospect is. This has seen marketers look to break apart the customer journey and create an omnichannel marketing experience, in which they include themselves as part of the conversation by means of email, content, social, push notifications, and retargeting. It also allows marketers to personalise the messages customers are receiving and to segment based on previous behavior.
While this is commonplace among larger organisations, there is an increasing number of self-serve platforms that are bringing these capabilities to businesses of all sizes. Software such as Kit allows Shopify store owners to automatically send emails to customers based on their purchasing behaviors, while self-serve email marketing providers such as Mailchimp allow you to retarget customers you have sent emails to on Facebook with a few clicks. All signs point to a more even playing field in which those failing to automate are left behind.
6. More AI in Marketing
Applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) are already widespread in marketing, and Gartner recently predicted that 80% of digital technology will be built on an AI foundation by 2021.
AI is already being leveraged to help B2B marketers score leads, converse with customers via chatbots, and improve conversion rates through variation testing. OpenAI’s GPT-3 technology has written content articles published by many organisations (including The Guardian) and companies such as VWO are A/B testing GPT-3 copy against human copy to determine which has a better impact on conversion rates.
As the data gathered from marketing campaigns and platforms continues to increase, AI in marketing looks set to grow exponentially. We’ll soon be able to hyper-personalise campaigns at scale, provide comprehensive persona research, and even use predictive scoring that could estimate the future value of your existing customers. This will help marketers to seamlessly create an effective infrastructure for their marketing strategy to be built on, allowing teams to focus on delighting the customer at all stages of the purchasing journey.
The bar is rising in digital marketing. Technology has made it easier than ever to connect with customers online, and with customers’ attention being increasingly divided, digital marketers are required to do more than just ‘show up.’ Audiences are expecting more of brands, and we need to shake up our digital marketing strategy in order to delight them in new and exciting ways. It’s time to take action before you get left behind.