Four Trends Poised To Shake Up Digital Marketing In 2018

Looking back, several incredible advancements changed the way marketers operated in 2017.

Automation started to crawl and then rose to its feet and took off in a sprint. Politics got heated, and brands chose sides, with everyone from Apple to mom-and-pop stores weighing in on President Donald Trump’s immigration ban. Livestreams became commonplace, coinciding with a rise in mobile user experiences. Google read the tea leaves, rolling out a mobile-first index that emphasizes mobile content more than ever before.

While we cannot afford to forget the lessons of yesteryear, there are numerous new challenges and opportunities shaking things up in 2018. To stay ahead of the game this year, marketers need to embrace trends such as growth hacking, voice control and programmatic marketing.

Beyond the inevitable continuation of influencer marketing’s rise, there are a number of trends primed to change marketing for the better in 2018:

1. Growth Hacking

Marketers already work with everyone in the office, but growth hacking has transformed cooperation from a duty to a necessity. By rapidly experimenting across product development and marketing channels, companies are able to identify the most efficient ways to grow. Marketers can team up with developers, designers and other departments to collect the targeting data necessary to design marketing experiences that capture customer attention.

Larger companies like Uber, Dropbox and Airbnb have blown up using this technique. When you join Dropbox, you’re given a free gigabyte of space. If you want additional free space, you simply need to convince your friends to join the service using a link specific to your account. Your friend gets a free gigabyte of space for using that link, Dropbox gives you another free gigabyte of space, and Dropbox gains yet another user. It’s a win-win-win scenario.

I think 2018 will be the year smaller companies adopt a similar approach. This is largely because tools have emerged that make growth hacking possible without a strong coding background. Companies that don’t have the budget for growth hacking can find more affordable options by conducting some research.

2. Programmatic Marketing

Most marketers have heard of programmatic marketing at this point, but few know how to do it well. That will change by the end of this year, particularly for B2B companies.

New exchanges for programmatic are on the rise. Many long-term holdouts, such as LinkedIn, have begun to offer improved options for targeting audiences. Smaller publishers still struggle to match the targeting capabilities of the big fish, but more accessible tools mean programmatic literacy will become essential.

Considering some reports suggest that programmatic could account for more than 80% of all advertising by 2019, it’s obviously in for a big 2018. We now have the ability to have automated advertisements adjust across the internet. This includes smart TVs, Pandora, Facebook, Google and countless other avenues. These ads can use artificial intelligence to fine-tune themselves based on what works and what doesn’t.

3. Facebook’s Real-World Tools

Digital marketing mostly lives online, but Facebook (full disclosure: my company is part of Facebook’s Small Business Council) is providing tools that will take the physical world by storm. Store visits, for instance, allows companies with multiple locations to easily promote their businesses to people in the area. We’ve started to use this tool to manage advertising for about 30 Dairy Queen locations along the west coast, sparking much higher ROI conversions than usual.

Facebook has also rolled out an offline conversions tool, which helps companies see which transactions in physical locations stem from people engaging with Facebook ads. This eliminates any guesswork related to advertising ROI, allowing you to see exactly how much business your online ads generate.

4. Voice Control

Google is piloting a service that allows large stores to track conversions based on data from AdWords and store visits, though it’s not the only company to offer something like this. For instance, Zenreach empowers smaller operations to quickly collect customer data that they can later use to reengage those same shoppers.

Amazon Alexa and Google Home have truly arrived. As more consumers become comfortable hosting always-on microphones in their houses, marketers will soon have opportunities to take advantage of this unprecedented access.

How can your brand leverage voice? Think about natural questions your customers might have, and find ways to capitalize on them. For example, Tide has created an Alexa skill that enables people to ask the device how to remove various stains. When someone asks how to remove a pesky wine stain, Alexa might toss in a subtle Tide recommendation. Think about the ways people might use voice control, and work to deliver solutions.

Voice control will complicate some aspects of marketing, particularly search engine optimization. When you say, “Hey Alexa, I need new deodorant,” it’s going to go ahead and send you the first option to show up in a quick search. The brands that pay to be at the top of those search results will likely see an uptick in business. It’s similar to the candy bars and soft drinks we see when we check out at grocery stores – those companies pay for that premier placement. I suspect we’ll see more companies investing in voice control as a result.

Undoubtedly, a few surprise trends will make waves before the end of 2018. While it’s impossible to predict everything in the fast and frenzied marketing climate, these four trends are likely to change things. By staying on top of these trends, digital marketers can get a head start on the marketing world of tomorrow long before it comes.


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