As news cycles go, 2017 was a fairly tumultuous year. Fortunately, when it came to digital marketing things were a little less bumpy…a little less.
Major brands got tough on display advertising budgets and demanded better ROI, voice assistants started connecting the dots on the internet of things, and chatbots became useful. Marketers focused on live visualizations, streaming, UGC collection, and results-driven marketing that was innovative and interactive.
And 2018 promises to be just as exciting, and turbulent. Here’s my digital marketing trends and predictions for the year ahead.
1. Stories becomes the new newsfeed and brands respond
Storytelling has always been imperative for brands, and social stories, particularly on Instagram and Snapchat, as well as Facebook and WhatsApp, truly enables this like few other mediums.
Live streaming, quirky videos and fun snaps showing a little bit of personality away from the traditional advertising tropes will be one of the major marketing trends. It’s a recipe for increased engagement.
And with Instagram Stories boasting a whopping 300 million unique daily users, and Snapchat 178 million, it’s a vital marketing tool for commerce too. However upon swiping up on a brand sponsored story, to see more, or access an offer on your mobile, all too many users are served with clunky, responsive websites that take an age to load in-app, and are cluttered with needless website navigation.
2018 will be the year brands focus on UX and continuing the journey from stunning story to mobile optimized, in-app pages that load instantly without website clutter, with an experience that matches the content they swiped on. Through this, brands will see a huge uptick in engagement and time spent on content in Stories than they will with newsfeed ads. You heard it from me first, but it will be the stand-out success of social advertising in 2018.
2. Major brands will shift millions in digital ad spend from interruptions to experiences
Even well placed ads, that are rich with relevant content get ignored. Forrester in their digital marketing trends report ‘The End of Advertising as We Know It’, stated that CMOs are shifting billions from ‘ad interruptions’ to interactive digital brand experiences.
In 2018 the digital ad industry will finally respond, by opening up their ad-units to be powered by martech vendors like Wayin. Giving brands the power customize their own interactive experiences inside the ad unit real-estate.
The days of spamming prospects with video and image based ads that consumers can’t interact with and don’t collect any data, however well targeted, are hastily drawing to an end. The experience brands deliver inside ad-units, and the value exchange they offer for engaging with the ad is what will ensure they rise above the noise.
Andrew Essex, 10 year CEO of celebrated Advertising Agency Droga 5 in his recent book, ‘The End of Advertising and the Creative Resurrection to Come’, positions it best:
“Microtargeting people with ads they don’t want is merely a more elevated form of junk mail. A targeted coupon or contextually relevant promotion is a far superior idea.”
Simply put, the AdTech ecosystem have been treating digital ads like TV with better targeting. 46% of the world’s digital advertising spend, which is predicted to be $335bn by 2020, comes from just 100 advertisers. Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer at P&G, has been most vocal of the need for change, and 2018 will be the year that the AdTech industry responds by giving brands the creative flexibility they need to usher in a new era of digital ad innovation.
3. GDPR will drive vendor consolidation in digital marketing
GDPR is the new Brexit. Everyone has an opinion, everyone is talking about it, there’s lots of misinformation and no one knows what it actually means. But one thing is for certain, it will come into force on May 25th 2018, and many brands, and rightly so, are beginning to fret.
But for proactive marketers, it’s a real opportunity to improve data quality, transparency and relationships with customers. That means using GDPR compliant tools and solutions, as well as making sure your prospects opt-in to campaigns, and there’s no surreptitious tactics to hoodwink them into doing so.
Right now, marketers need to ensure current systems are GDPR watertight. But post May 2018, every campaign, every promotion, and every interactive experience run by them or in their name on any channel also needs to be done in a GDPR compliant way.
The status quo of letting agencies use their own tools and technologies for marketing initiatives is over. The brand is ultimately liable. To add complexity to the issue, there are many SaaS marketing tools out there that sell on the data they collect on your behalf to boost their margin. Making not just them, but you, non-compliant. And the era of a slap on the wrist is over – non-compliance penalties are hefty, and then some. Marketers will be spending 2018 making sure that them, and their service providers’ practices are watertight. Nobody wants to be footing the bill if they’re not.
4. Brands will focus more on live experiential events that mix the physical and the digital
Marketers and commercial teams have long found live events one of the more effective engagement tools, and this isn’t a marketing trend that’s bucking anytime soon. Real life, interactive experiences are more profound than cold emails or digital ads.
However events are seldom cheap, and marketers always need to prove and further drive ROI. The key will be the meshing together of the physical and the digital to amplify events and deliver value before, during and after the event itself. Venues will boast large interactive digital signage that can bring social conversation to life, maximize engagement and drive data acquisition. Displaying UGC, interactive polls, digital scavenger hunts, live data visualizations, heat maps, and the latest innovations, that event participants can engage with via their smartphones.
We will also see an increasing use of VR and AR to deepen the brand experience, giving experiential agencies a bigger share of marketing budgets in 2018.
5. Instagram becomes a more valuable marketing channel than Facebook for an expanding demographic
It’s not just brunch pics and duck pouting selfies. With greater advertising controls for marketers than it’s rivals, Instagram is poised to become the go-to channel for brands interested in social media marketing.
It’s comfortably the channel most widely adopted by millennials and gen Z, and seamlessly allows brands to capture and benefit from an array of valuable UGC that drives engagement, conversions and measurable ROI. As Stories become the new newsfeed, a marketing trend will see a larger demographic shift their attention from Facebook to Instagram. This can be seen as part of the evolution of how the camera has become the dominant UI for sharing, over type-pads and keyboards.
6. Personalization becomes explicit
Ok, we’ll be honest, personalization has been in every digital marketing trend since the millennium bug came and went, but it’s as relevant as ever. Just not in the same way. Traditionally, personalization has been driven by looking at data and behavior, evaluating click-stream paths, search terms, purchase history and other indicators to try and ‘second guess’ the intentions and desires of the buyer or potential customer. The problem with this implicit personalization is that it’s still guesswork, and often wrong.
In 2018 we will see the continued adoption of explicit personalization. This is where brands build interactive experiences that actually ask the consumer questions in real-time, that empower brands to recommend products, services and content that is truly personalized. This explicit personalization can be delivered online, in social channels, through digital ads and via touch-screens in retail shops. It’s the future of personalization.
7. Messenger apps, Chatbots and AI will become marketers favourite ‘test budget’
Not just weekend weather forecasts or how many days until Christmas, chatbots will become more than a talking Wikipedia. Whilst in 2017 the test budgets for chatbots were focused on bridging the gap between customer service expectations and delivery, 2018 will see marketing use cases come to the fore.
Chatbots will be leveraged in marketing campaigns to gain rich audience insights, learn customers habits, preferences, pain points and provide another channel of explicit personalization to lift sales. Chatbots will increasingly become a driver of traffic to marketing destinations that provide contextually relevant audio and visual experience to augment the chatbot interaction.
With internet users spending more time in messenger apps than on web pages, embedded conversational forms will build marketing lists, and drive engagement where consumers spend their time online.
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