With 2018 now in full swing, we’ve had time to reflect on the many digital prediction articles – including our own – trying to make sense of where digital marketing is heading this year.
Whilst it might seem that every year is the year of mobile, the breakthrough of artificial intelligence, and a giant leap forward for voice search, the reality is, when we returned to work in January, we continued where we left off in late December. No breakthroughs will happen overnight. There will be no sudden overhaul of digital marketing, no magic, no immediate takeover of machine over man.
Rather, I hold up my hands and acknowledge that any prediction highlighted below will most likely be a slow process of change over months and years, rather than a sudden event that will revolutionise the industry.
With the caveats and formalities out of the way, below are some of the most prominent predictions for 2018 – and beyond.
1. Keywords fade: audiences invade
The overlay of audience in search has slowly shifted from a ‘best practice’ to an absolute essential. Gone are the days of launching activity by plastering some keywords to a few generic ads, and expecting results.
Keywords are not going anywhere* in 2018. However, their importance will continue fading as consumers expect more and more personalised messaging.
Ads must be tailored to each individual at the right time in their purchasing journey. Therefore, digital agencies must continue investing effort in identifying, segmenting and overlaying audiences, to then serve specific creative that targets the right people at the right time.
As such, audiences will continue to grow in importance – more so than in 2017 – especially with the introduction of further audience segmentation such as in-market for search, household income, and similar users.
*Proponents of Dynamic Search Ad campaigns would argue otherwise.
2. We’ll fancy more transparency
As far as public perception goes, 2017 was somewhat of a difficult year for digital marketing and social media platforms, and as such, transparency will become one of the most crucial elements of digital marketing moving forward.
Before customers come to your business, they are increasingly reading reviews, searching your social media platforms, looking at your company values and stalking you all over the internet to get as much information as they can about you before approaching your business for goods and services.
Digital marketing is catching up with this trend, as various platforms now allow you to leave reviews about brands on their social media pages, for example.
As such, companies should be investing in their “behind-the-scenes” marketing strategy – be more transparent, be more human, and you will be rewarded. As this trend gains pace, be prepared to jump on the bandwagon. Risk has shifted from being first, to being late!
3. The focal is hyperlocal
Digital marketing platforms are making it easier for small businesses to compete with big brands – Google Posts rolled out to all businesses last year, whilst Facebook Local gives customers more localised experiences, for example.
With all these advancements, and small businesses increasingly stepping up their digital marketing game, global companies will be drawn to the challenge of competing locally.
Creatives and messaging must continue to reflect more and more the environment (dialects, language, images) in which they are served, whilst geo-targeting should be used regularly and granularly.
4. Press on, Amazon
Amazon could become the new Google in many ways, and the latter could find itself on the defensive more and more. Don’t call me overdramatic; again, I am not saying this will happen overnight – in fact, this is a trend that has been going on for years, but is likely to reach its peak in 2018.
A Kenshoo study found that 56 per cent of customers started their product searches on Amazon, suggesting a lower percentage did this through Google. Furthermore, with 63% of Amazon advertisers expected to increase their investment in 2018, this could only accelerate the trend moving forward.
As such, there is a potential that big brands could be adjusting their strategies (and budgets) more appropriately moving forward. Based on the 56% figure highlighted above alone, businesses will need to take more aggressive steps to make bigger and smarter investments in Amazon’s marketing programmes to gain a competitive advantage.
5. Bitter Twitter
Contrary to other social platforms, Twitter is struggling to expand its user growth, and 2017 was no different.
Last year, Twitter tried to shake up the platform by doubling its famous 140-character limit, yet the positive impact resulting from this change is yet to be seen. On the contrary, some users have argued that by expanding character limits, Twitter has lost one of its key distinguishing features from other social media platforms.
Even more, brands are no longer as precise in their messaging as they once were. This change may therefore turn out to have further negative impact on user growth, and Twitter is likely to continue receiving a smaller piece of the pie.
Instagram, on the other hand, is growing at a remarkable rate. Since introducing their latest tool in 2017, Instagram Stories has become increasingly more popular than their rival Snapchat.
As such, we expect more users to continue shifting platforms in 2018. Further, with Instagram showing better user engagement for B2C companies than any other social media platform, this will help the former become a go-to digital marketing channel in the months to come.
There you have it – five 2018 trends for digital marketing – increasingly personalised, transparent and hyperlocal advertising, with advertisers diversifying their digital marketing investment into newer and increasingly popular platforms such as Amazon and Instagram.