Last week, we brought you the top predictions for 2018 in content marketing, advertising, video, (e)commerce, and influencer marketing.
That’s only half the story...there are so many more exciting things coming our way this year that you should know about to be able to properly prepare for the future.
Doing so will help you stay ahead of your competitors and take your strategy to the next level, so let’s dive in.
This second half of the top 2018 marketing trends will cover:
If you're dying to know the juicy details on one of these in particular, go ahead and click the topic to jump down to that section in this article. Otherwise, you're in the right place.
Ready? Let’s start with...
Marketing activities will be integrated into the customer lifecycle
This is a loaded one to start off with.
Not only will marketers be hyper-focused on nailing the experience and narrative that people truly care about, but there will be a heightened effort on finishing the customer journey in-person.
In part 1 of this marketing predictions series, I mentioned how retailers and commerce businesses are hoping to bring people back into physical stores for purchases, and part of the success of this strategy will rely on pointing customers to the closest and most convenient place for them to finish their purchase journey.
Also, more brands will likely be investing in the quality of engagement entry points of ideal customers: as the battle for accessibility rages on, brands must reduce the number of friction points between awareness and conversion to avoid losing opportunities for sales.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we can expect more and more brands to engage in customer data on-boarding. By linking offline data with online attributes, such as cookies, IP addresses, device IDs, and other non-cookie identifiers, the whole picture of the buyer’s journey will finally be complete.
We’re settling into the “post-digital” era now, making marketers’ jobs a little bit easier and their strategies more replicable.
Customer engagement strategies are about to get even more strategic
In this day and age, the more digital the strategy, the greater the brand engagement—especially when gut feelings are involved.
That’s why brands will go all-in on crafting the perfect emotional experience for their customers. After all, customers these days don’t buy things; they buy the stories, experiences, or feelings that the product gives them.
We can expect other things from brands to be ramped up, too, including faster delivery, faster and higher-quality customer service, and extra attention placed on delighting prospects to increase conversions.
With that, campaigns will likely utilize contextual targeting in place of audience targeting to show the prospect that the brand is ready to help at the right time, place, and mood—not just pestering the right person while disregarding other important factors.
More campaigns in 2018 will be focused on retention, too, as it takes fewer resources to keep a loyal customer coming back than to charm and acquire a new one.
As with any good strategy, documentation is essential: for learning, adapting, refining, and repeating what works while omitting what doesn’t.
As marketing strategies continue to mature with the availability of technology, you can bet your bottom dollar that increasingly more marketers will be documenting their work to further learn and improve.
Micro-moments are the new trendy way to engage customers
With every little moment in which you help a prospect complete an action, find a location, make a purchase decision, or get more information, your chances of converting them to a customer skyrocket—especially compared to your competitors.
If your brand can be present, helpful, and reliable while your audience is going along their buyer’s journey, your customer experience will go from standard to exceptional.
These micro-moments that happen on consumers’ devices are the focus in 2018 because marketers know that the first-to-respond and most helpful brand is the most likely to win the sale.
More focus will be on prospects’ engagement with brand websites
The website is where all the magic happens, so why not focus even more this year on metrics like time spent on page, bounce rate, and click-through rate (CTR)?
After all, the whole point of having a website is to serve its purpose for your potential customers’ journey, so the best way to know if it’s fulfilling the right needs is to monitor the metrics that describe users’ interactions.
Something that will be more of a focus in 2018 is structured data, or all the extra information that’s displayed in search results.
This can include your content being featured in a carousel at the top of the results, a knowledge graph on the side, or enhanced features such as reviews, recipe times, and more information displayed underneath the search result itself.
While structured data does provide some benefits to search engine optimization (SEO) by allowing the search engine to “learn” more about your site’s content and context, it has more of a direct impact on CTR than anything.
Even so, having a higher CTR could impact your ranking in search engines anyway, causing them to be intertwined.
The reason it influences your CTR is because providing more information about your website could entice more users to confidently click on the link by allowing users to browse search engine results with more context for where the link will take them.
Another big factor that you must have in tip-top shape for 2018 is the user experience (UX) of your website.
There are plenty of things you could do to improve the experience users have on your website, and taking the time to do so will bring more happy visitors to your site, give you insights as to what’s helping prospects convert to customers, and help boost your search engine results page (SERP) ranking by boosting factors like time on page, bounce rate, and CTR.
The lines between media will blur together
The new content king for 2018 is converged media, or the mix of paid, owned, and earned media.
Now that brands can essentially also be media in their marketing efforts, the new standard is to tell a consistent and cross-channel story using multiple types of media to reach customers wherever, whenever.
Instead of focusing on siloed, disconnected channels, this change in perspective and approach focuses on the customer journey and how complex it is.
Mobile phone usage is...still on the rise in 2018
This one shouldn’t come as a surprise anymore.
As smartphones take the lead for being most consumers’ go-to device for everything, a website that’s not optimized for mobile is taking some serious hits to its potential traffic rate.
Also, the shareability of your brand’s content can play an important role in the size of the audience you reach and potential word of mouth (WOM) marketing opportunities that you can take advantage of.
If you provide share buttons for the major social media networks, users can effortlessly click the icon, craft the post to their liking, and send it off to their communities, furthering the potential reach for your brand.
A third factor that makes mobile phones so impactful on marketing is the rich collection of data that phones gather from being consumers’ best shopping buddy—you’re able to cater to prospects’ personal preferences and uniqueness, creating more of an authentic connection as a result.
Data will be the new currency in 2018
Knowing as much as you can about your ideal customers has always been a priority, but now that we live in an era where almost everything is available, data is steadily rising in value.
Ecommerce brands must centralize their customer and order data to get a full understanding of the buyer's journey and make the shopping experience more customized and natural.
Furthermore, marketers in general will put energy this year into enriching data profiles by integrating marketing, ecommerce, and back-office technologies.
The more precisely you can get to know your customers, the more likely your chances of closing the deal.
So, the less data-tech intolerance there is, the more success marketers will find in integrating different sources of data in order to focus more on conversion rate optimization (CRO), causing the sales cycle to become more efficient, clear, and precise.
Data scientists and marketers will become BFFs
So much of the realm of marketing has to do with data, so bringing together data scientists and marketers is the next logical step.
What do you get when you marry these two teams? Quantitative-based marketing, where research drives strategy.
This process can be roughly laid out in a few steps:
- Identifying the problem/goals
- Creating surveys, questionnaires, and other ways to collect research
- Collecting data
- Analyzing collected data
- Reporting and presenting outcomes
- Creating an informed marketing strategy based on findings
Besides, siloed departments are no longer efficient, so it only makes sense to bring together a data science team that excels at collecting and analyzing data with the savviest marketing team that effectively uses such information to resonate with customers in all the right ways.
Predictive lead scoring is the new secret weapon in the prospect hunt
Using tools like Infer—which requires a simple name and email to predict the likelihood of conversion—will make it infinitely easier for marketers to identify buying signals on the web from consumers’ behavior patterns.
The leads are then scored and sorted, simple as that.
No longer do marketers need to slave over manually sorting leads based on the promise of a sale, or chasing a prospect that’s not the most ready for conversion.
Better yet, lead scoring will never require guesswork again, allowing for more efficiency, accuracy, and cohesion between the marketer and consumer.
Geofencing is the new savvy location-based strategy
Geofencing is the use of location-tracking technology to create an invisible “fence” around a boundary that triggers certain actions or collects information from the entry of consumers’ smartphones within that area.
Essentially, brands can use these geofences to collect valuable marketing information about customers and then target them based on their location at the time.
For instance, if you use the navigation app Waze, you’ll notice that ads for gas stations or other businesses will pop up as you pass by their “fence,” enticing you to stop and buy.
This could be very valuable for brands to catch consumers in a moment of, “I’m already close by, might as well...” and potentially win out over competitors that are further away from the consumer’s location.
Geofencing can get creepy, however, so reel it in and find a good balance of being timely and helpful without crossing the boundary over to stalker-like status.
How creepy are we talking?
I once saw a Facebook ad for a shirt with one heart in Chicago, where I was born and raised, and another in Colorado, my current home.
Needless to say, I decided not to buy a shirt that was so eerily accurate...
Artificial Intelligence is moving in for good
Artificial intelligence (AI) being applied to marketing is an exciting development—literally—that will continue to grow in 2018.
First of all, personalization is expected to appear everywhere and become automated with the utilization of machine learning algorithms.
Some may think the idea of computers studying our buying habits and adapting to them is creepy, but it’s quite efficient on both ends—consumers’ searches are shorter and more relevant with recommended products, personalized search results, and site search capabilities, and marketers spend less time trying to analyze consumers to figure out what makes them click.
Machine learning and marketing automation will also be impacted positively, too, as the data recorded in the human-triggered sales cycle will automatically guide the consumer long after the initial consultation happens.
The more natural-feeling the campaigns are thanks to AI, the more consumers will feel personally empowered to buy from particular brands.
Even better, imagine not having to then manage your ads and optimize ad spend manually—you’ll save so much time for other marketing tasks!
Being enabled by AI to make better decisions with the gift of predictive analysis is another huge perk for marketers.
Some things that will be made simpler with this tech are predicting consumers’ propensity to purchase as well as being better able to analyze product sales and integrated digital marketing campaigns.
AI also has a significant effect on how ecommerce businesses in particular attract and retain customers, working as a sort of assistant in understanding patterns and preferences of consumers to allow brands to specially cater the experience to each person.
The final impact that AI will have on marketing is that website instant messaging will be taken to a new level: live-chat tools will help your online customer service become more timely, which could make a positive impression on your website’s visitors, increasing the likelihood of a conversion.
More buy-in for marketing departments is on the horizon
As marketers’ digital processes mature and gain credibility in an increasingly digital world, we marketers have less of an uphill battle in getting our bosses to increase our budget or approve new strategies.
The more access to analytics and clear proof of return on investment (ROI), the easier it is to convince the C-suite of the importance of certain marketing tools and strategies, allowing for more robust campaigns, content marketing strategies, and so much more.
Silos are crumbling down
Marketing is everything, and everything is marketing.
Marketing is everything, and everything is marketing.
I’m not even being dramatic this time—so many components of marketing and the customer journey intersect with other departments that it’s more inefficient to keep everyone separate than it is to engage in some quality teamwork.
The less companies have departmental silos, the more of a seamless digital customer experience they can deliver to prospects.
Cannabis marketing is on the rise
As the taboo culture of cannabis decreases steadily with each state’s legalization, you can expect to see a lot more products made with the very useful stuff.
The experts predict that the health and beauty industries, namely skincare, will be the first to take to this cultural shift.
It’s important to consider the volatile state of federal legalization, however, as one powerful “no” can dismantle this trend entirely and put brands that put all their eggs in the cannabis basket to suffer.
Cryptocurrency is going mainstream
Ever since the big drama with Bitcoin erupted in late 2017, people won’t stop talking about the growing popularity and value of cryptocurrency.
It’s safe to say that this upward spike is a lot more than a mere fad, so expect to adapt for an alternative currency very soon.
This will especially be important in email marketing as inboxes may become sorted by paid and unpaid campaigns. You can learn more about this in the content marketing section of this series' part 1 article.
The Bottom Line
Times are a-changing, and the excitement is almost too much to handle.
The most important thing you could do to properly prepare is to keep up on the marketing and tech news, start to implement new tech as it becomes more readily available, and just keep on learning every day.
Marketers, what are you most excited for this year?
Are there any other trends that you’ve read about for 2018?
Share your thoughts in the comments below!