[updated for 2021]
We’ve recently spent a lot of time gazing into our crystal ball, envisioning the future of digital marketing and how it will evolve over the coming years.
Perfecting your digital marketing strategy can often feel like swatting wildly at a moving target, and we truly sympathize. Just when you think you have a plan dialed in, trends change, and your shiny new strategy suddenly looks outdated and inadequate. With new technology, social media fads and consumer behavior evolving daily, how can we plan for the year ahead?
Marketers often struggle to choose which bandwagons to jump on and which ones you should let ride off into the distance. The problem is you don’t know where each wagon is headed. Adopting the latest trend early could well carry your business into the promised land. But it’s equally likely that that same bandwagon is destined to drive off the edge of a cliff, with a good chunk of your marketing budget strapped in behind!
One thing’s for sure, though, and that is that there are certain tools, strategies and trends in digital marketing that are here to stay for the long run. If you can master these and use them to their full advantage, you’ll go a very long way to keeping your brand and business in the spotlight, and thereby in demand.
Why Pay Attention to Digital Marketing Trends?
In this post, we will investigate nine contemporary marketing trends that are here to stay for the foreseeable future. These are the ones that digital marketers worldwide are using to great effect already — tried and true techniques that are proven to work.
The reason why? They’re based on age-old marketing principles and genuine buyer psychology. While the market and business landscape may be evolving by the second, human beings still behave in predictable ways even as the environment around them changes. Let’s look at nine ways to keep ahead of the curve using digital marketing trends that aren’t just flashes in the proverbial pan.
1. Ease up on Traditional Advertising
In the rare case you haven't noticed, the internet has quite a few ads these days. As you navigate through the web doing almost anything (except maybe burrowing down a Wikipedia hole), you’re bombarded with banners, targeted ads and more.
There has been a slow and sometimes imperceptible decline in the efficacy of traditional marketing. Of course, marketing agencies still place ads on the TV and radio, for example, and billboard space is still sold worldwide. But the modern marketing industry knows that ad spend is often better used elsewhere. Because while this type of traditional marketing still holds some value, systems like PPC (pay per click) pride themselves on showing up where they are not organically invited and attempting to steal attention. That doesn't work too well in a hyper-focused world with limited attention to spare.
Instead, try parsing marketing dollars towards alternative marketing methods, such as inbound marketing. Inbound marketing uses content like blogs and videos to educate, entertain and persuade users that are already on the hunt for solutions related to the brand offering the content. This allows a brand to gently and organically introduce itself as a relevant problem solver for the user by becoming part of their journey, not interrupting in.
As you continue looking for ways to bring more awareness and traffic to your business, we suggest your team continually embrace this type of change in the coming year, and diversify your marketing strategy; it’ll pay off.
2. Video: The New Normal
Videos are here for the long haul — you can trust us on that one. What used to be an (often expensive) added bonus to your marketing effort has now become a staple. Video marketing is by far the biggest (relatively) recent trend in digital marketing. So much so that it's hardly a trend — it's an expectation.
Videos are more entertaining for your visitors than written content or images, and far more memorable. People engage much more with them and are far more likely to watch a video until the end than they are to sit and read text until completion. It's an ideal opportunity to get your message out in a short, concise format. They are a powerful way to truly convey your brand message and promote your products and services while engaging your potential customers with a fun and interesting piece of media.
Millennials (and the generations after them) consume massive amounts of video content each day. For longer content, they use streaming sites like Amazon Prime and Netflix. But they also watch shorter videos all day on social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram. Suffice it to say that this demographic is primed for this form of digital marketing, and conversion rate statistics back this up.
Lastly, don't let the idea of creating video scare you. Gone are the days when you need a crew, thousands of dollars worth of equipment, and fancy editing software. Today, the majority of video content is created with an iPhone and a simple app or two. So get out there and shoot more video content, and remember to have fun with it!
3. Chatbots: Talk to People How They Want, When They Want
Once seen as clunky and slightly creepy automated messaging services, Chatbots have come a very long way, and they’re getting more advanced by the day. Not only that, but consumers now accept them, if not expect them as a channel for customer service. The beauty of this always-increasing digital marketing trend is that customers can get concise, personalized answers to their questions whenever they need them, and you save on customer care costs.
As time goes on, these chatbots improve in their ability to converse with customers. And with the refinement of artificial intelligence, they’ve become genuinely useful and helpful to the customer. This means that many people now use them as their first port of call for queries and comments, and this trust is set to increase as the technology further improves.
4. Voice Search and Its Impact on SEO
Siri, Alexa, Google and all their extended voice-assistant distant cousins are continuing to help people navigate their day-to-day lives. And as long as they continue to make our lives easier, they’re sticking around.
As with chatbots, this technology is improving by the day, and advancements in the artificial intelligence and machine learning behind these voice assistants are now taking their power and functionality to the masses. More than half of households are predicted to be using voice assistants by 2022, so this is definitely not an area of digital marketing that you want to overlook.
The simple truth is that people are typing and reading less. They’re watching videos (as we covered above) and speaking to their devices when they want information. Remember, however, that when someone uses their voice assistant, they don’t have to look at their screen, so they won’t see your brand messaging, links or images. They simply hear a response in Alexa or Siri's voice from their smart speaker or mobile device.
The vast majority of voice search results are taken from the top five hits on Google, so getting to the top ranks is, as always, indispensable. To keep on top of this digital marketing trend, research what questions people are asking about your service, and publish content that will answer those questions concisely. Also, take some time for SEO optimization to incorporate voice keywords, thus ensuring maximum visibility, or in this case, audibility.
5. Automation, Automation, Automation
Artificial intelligence continues to grow and develop, and there’s no sign of any slow down in its steady march into our daily lives. We’ve spoken about its use in the world of chatbots and voice assistants already, but AI in the automation of your digital marketing strategy has also come on in leaps and bounds.
Previously, most AI tools were focused on taking over the drudgery of repetitive tasks, like email scheduling or manually curating a Spotify playlist (the audacity, right?) However, automation tools are increasingly capable of highly advanced tasks and processes. These include discovering new customers, as well as nurturing target audiences and retaining existing clients. Augmented reality, virtual reality and ‘programmatic’ ad buying are all areas to keep a close eye on too. Embrace automation in the near future by using automated marketing campaigns, email marketing sequences and personalized client communication.
If you have questions about where to start, our automation experts can give you some tips. Just let us know what you need, and we can come up with a solution. We've spent years figuring out what works and what doesn't, so we'd be more than happy to share.
6. Valuable and Educational Content
The modern consumer is highly informed and “marketing-wary.” They’ll spot a mile off that you’re trying too hard to sell to them and then run a mile in the other direction. That’ll mean they’re two miles away, and converting at that kind of distance is a challenge, even for the best marketing marksman.
What people want is for you to answer their questions and make them smarter. They’ll make a decision to buy a product based on the information they’ve been given, and will rarely submit to traditionally pushy sales techniques.
This is why valuable and educational content will always be part of the future of digital marketing. This marketing trend is less of a trend and more of a pillar of good content marketing. “Teach, don’t sell” is a great mantra to keep in mind.
If people learn something from your site, and feel genuinely more informed by your interesting and enlightening content, they’ll trust that you really know your stuff and thus engage with you commercially. Be a guest on a podcast, produce some case studies that describe awesome customer journeys, or write some interesting posts on your LinkedIn. Keep that great content coming; this 'trend' isn’t going anywhere!
7. Webinars: Establishing Yourself as the Authority in Your Space
You’re an expert in your field, and you have the power to share that expertise with a huge audience through the power of a webinar. With just about everything going online these days, webinars have skyrocketed in popularity.
By hosting and attending webinars and other virtual events, you position yourself as a trusted expert in your area, while also taking advantage of an awesome opportunity to showcase your products or services. Like we talked about above, the modern consumer wants information, and what better way to share all about what you do than in an online course or seminar?
The marketing capital found in a webinar cannot be understated.
• Firstly, you have an ideal email capture method as people sign up, and you already know that these people are genuinely interested in what you have to offer.
• Secondly, with direct access to your captive audience during the seminar or course, you have ample opportunity for calls-to-action and to showcase and market your product or service.
• Thirdly, by taking part in a webinar, you truly get to know your customer base — what they want and what makes them tick — which is invaluable to your future marketing efforts.
Take full advantage of this powerful marketing tool by being part of a webinar as they continue to gain traction in the coming year.
8. Influencer Marketing: The Rise of the Micro-Influencer
No matter your personal opinion of social media influencers, the numbers show that they’ve become hugely powerful marketers, and an important tool for many businesses. A subsection of this world, the 'micro-influencer' is a more accessible, small-scale version.
Micro-influencers are defined as having between 1,000 and 10,000, or even 100,000 followers on their social media channels, depending on who you talk to. Their principal advantages are trustability, local influence and a lower cost to you.
While consumers may be dubious about an international celebrity’s product recommendations, they’re far more likely to engage with and believe someone they know (or at least know of) personally. Rest assured that partnering with these influencers shows all signs of remaining a highly lucrative marketing strategy in the years ahead.
Encourage micro-influencers by offering paid partnerships, freebies, promos and inviting them to leave reviews (especially videos, as we saw above). You can think of influencers as brand ambassadors, as they will often help educate customers and can end up doing a lot of the hard work of marketing your product for you.
9. Interactive Content: Fun Ways to Increase Customer Engagement
Interactive content, such as quizzes, polls, surveys and contests is a marketing trend that looks set to continue steadily growing in the coming year and many thereafter.
Interactive content, first and foremost, improves the customer experience. It should be fun and engaging, or at least useful. Take a free loan calculator, for example. By including content like a calculator, survey, quiz or poll, you’ll also get an ideal opportunity to collect more data about your customers. People are only willing to volunteer their information in return for something valuable, be that entertainment, information or a handy online tool.
By employing interactive content, the user experience is also prolonged, meaning that people spend longer on your website, which search engine algorithms love to see. We’d call that a win-win.
Keep up the Good Work
While it’s impossible to see into the future of digital marketing, we can take a very educated guess that these nine strategies aren’t going anywhere soon, and will continue to reap handsome rewards for marketers that employ them. These tips aren’t rocket science, and they’re all easily actionable, achievable steps you can use to stay ahead of the competition.
COVID-19 has given e-commerce a massive boost, and ‘offline’ sales are dwindling. Whether you’re a start-up or an established business, it’s vital to concentrate your efforts on your online marketing strategy, and keep a close eye on your metrics to ensure it’s paying off.
If you have questions about how to effectively use these strategies or want to speak to one of our strategists, contact us here. You don’t have to try and navigate it alone.