Author of A Paperboy’s Fable: The 11 Principles of Success
It’s difficult to predict which methods will connect with consumers most effectively in the ever-changing landscape of marketing. Just when marketers believe they understand their audience, a new technology, new behavior or even an entirely new audience alters everything.
That said, it’s practical to reflect on the past year’s patterns and pay attention to growing trends that will influence next year’s success.
Here are 10 marketing trends you would be wise to keep your eye on going into 2019.
1. The marketing funnel is shifting.
The current marketing funnel accepts anyone, assessing them for profitability and rejecting them if they’re deemed unfit. As John Hall writes in Forbes: “Too many companies see customers as gatekeepers to wallets; meanwhile, customers feel ignored at best — and insulted at worst — when the journey ends.” Rather than opening up a marketing funnel that swallows whoever it can, businesses are starting to efficiently leverage content to target niche audiences.
Reaching out to people who are more likely to be interested in your brand is not only more cost-efficient; it’s also more sustainable and less time-consuming. Consumers do not want businesses to gloss over them; they seek legitimate trust and genuine relationships.
2. Content is everything.
In the current climate, content is everything. You already know that you need to entice your audience: inspire them, provoke their thoughts, excite them or appeal to their emotions.
The goal is not to simply put content in front of people and hope they respond to it, but rather to encourage them to share and engage with it. Content — whether it’s an article on an outlet or a video on social media — opens the door for two-way communication, which is crucial for building trust and letting customers know that you appreciate their business.
3. Chatbots aren’t going anywhere.
Customer service is essential, but not everyone feels comfortable talking to a real person on the phone or has the time to do it over email. That’s what makes chatbots so convenient. These are little AI helpers integrated into websites that can answer questions and fulfill requests quickly — and many can accomplish this without sacrificing personality.
Grand View Research reports that the worldwide chatbot market will reach $1.25 billion by 2025, growing at an annual rate of 24.3 percent. Forty-five percent of end users actually prefer turning to chatbots for customer service, so if you have one, you can win the allegiance of people who enjoy interacting with these little programs.
4. AI continues to grow.
On a related note, artificial intelligence is growing in prominence. It makes data analysis more efficient, can target potential leads rapidly and can perform tasks that humans struggle with. Sometimes it takes the form of advanced machine learning, but even Netflix’s recommendation system that suggests new TV shows to watch is technically AI.
AI can also monitor consumers’ online patterns and help you understand their behavior in real time, though there are legitimate concerns about whether this is ethical or not. Even if you decide not to take advantage of AI in this way, however, it’s smart to pay attention to how consumers react to it and whether your competitors use it.
5. People are cautious about security.
Every company should ensure that its security is thorough. Even if customers do not notice it, they deserve the utmost respect when it comes to their privacy, data and financial details. Not every company promises this, though — and customers are starting to notice. With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) taking effect in Europe this year, consumers are beginning to pay more attention to how businesses handle their information.
Talk about your security with customers. What makes it better than others? In an economy where people are rightfully cautious about hacks, leaks and theft, they will favor establishments that can promise them the safest business experience.
6. Voice search is getting louder.
According to Search Engine Land, voice-based commerce sales in the United States reached $1.8 billion in 2017 and are projected to reach $40 billion by 2022. Yep, that’s 40 billion! This trend means 2019 is the year to get ahead of the game.
Voice searching is an ingenious bit of technology. After all, who doesn’t like being able to simply say out loud to the nearest smart speaker, “Place an order for school supplies”? Not only does voice searching make it easier to find information online without pulling out a device; people love it because it reduces their screen time. Next year, make sure you’re optimized for voice searches.
7. Vertical video is on the rise.
You already know that video is imperative. It used to be one aspect of your marketing strategy, but now you need an entire strategy just for your videos! People watch countless hours of video every day, and YouTube is the largest search engine after its sibling Google. Whether it’s on Facebook, Instagram or some other platform, video is not going anywhere.
However, people do not always like turning their mobile devices to the side. Instagram — one of the most popular social media platforms at the moment — launched IGTV in June for the express purpose of watching videos in vertical mode. IGTV allows longer content, so you could publish animated videos, demos, interviews, case studies, 360-degree virtual reality, live streams and more. Your social media strategy needs to keep vertical-form IGTV videos in mind.
8. It’s time to focus on Gen Z.
Gen Z is getting older, which means they are beginning to enter the workforce and possess buying power. You might recall how marketers scrambled to understand millennials (there didn’t seem to be an industry they didn’t kill — but hey, they’re just broke and much harder to lie to), so now is the time to pay attention to Gen Z.
It is impossible to make monolithic statements about members of the second-youngest generation, but you should remember a few things: they seek authenticity, and they prefer socially responsible businesses. They’re growing up in a scary world and a struggling economy, so they’re more likely to turn to companies that make the world a better place.
9. Visual searches are taking off.
Besides voice searches, can you name another kind of search method on the rise? Visual. Google has long enabled reverse-image searches, but new camera technology makes it possible for people to take a picture of something in the real world and find information about it.
Pinterest launched its Lens feature back in February, and the social media platform reports that its users conducted over 600 million combined monthly searches with it. To leverage the power of image searching, don’t neglect Pinterest in your marketing efforts, and optimize your site (and social) images for SEO.
10. Influencers have different identities.
Influencer marketing is also a classic social media strategy, but who influencers are is beginning to change. Companies previously relied on celebrities to convince people that products are worth buying, but consumers are now leaning toward their peers.
The frozen-food retailer Iceland, for instance, recently switched from celebrity marketing to partnering with “real” people (micro-influencers) because their customers — mothers, in this case — trusted other mothers above brands and so-called industry experts. Next year, adjust your influencer marketing strategy according to who your audience is most likely to respond to.
Marketing is becoming increasingly complex, so it’s practical for marketers to keep their eyes on emerging technologies, methods and patterns.