"The internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow" - Bill Gates.
'How will digital marketing change in the 2020s?' has been the centrepiece question for marketers and businesses worldwide. Although we do not have a defined answer to this question, companies must ponder it as it will impact the way we market to consumers and how consumers interact with our brands and marketplace as a whole.
In this post, I will discuss some of the forefront factors of digital marketing that I believe we will see evolve or rise to the top of marketers' toolboxes in the coming decade.
1) Artificial Intelligence (AI) With the ability to collect data, analyze it, apply it, and then learn from it, Artificial Intelligence has and will continue to transform the digital marketing landscape. Marketers are waking up to the dominance and power of AI technology utilized in digital marketing strategies and Customer Retention Management (CRM) tools. One prominent and continually rising use of AI technology is for inbox management and online chatbots when dealing directly with consumers. Many businesses are familiar with the process of setting up automatic responses for direct messages based on keywords, but Mastercard has taken inbox management to the next level with their AI integration. Mastercard has created a messenger bot for Facebook that uses conversational language processing software to interpret what their customer needs and then responds in the same conversational language to aid in payment automation.
This integration is also an example of how AI technology is and will continue to replace humans in simple digital jobs. AI will change the digital marketing field by increasing inbox management efficiency but may allow businesses to cut entry-level or part-time positions such as Social Media Assistants and those in office administration type roles.
2) Virtual Reality (VR) & 360 Video As technology evolves and the global market expands, businesses are constantly trying to discover more ways to immerse their consumers in their buyer journey and experience their products or services more in-depth. The economic impact of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality is predicted to reach $29.5 billion dollars by the end of 2020. Lowe's, the home-improvement retail chain, is an example of a company that has used VR as part of a new digital marketing campaign for first-time homeowners that are inexperienced in renovating called 'Lowe's: Holoroom How To'.
Lowe's VR video aided DIY enthusiasts and new homeowners with a with an augmented 'How To' training session that guides customers through visual and "hands-on" home improvement skills.
Many businesses in the service industry and education sector have invested in 360 tours of their spaces for remote customer experiences. For example, many post-secondary institutions including Seneca College, have 360 tours of their campuses for prospective students to view if they are unable to visit the campus in person. Future digital marketing campaigns in the coming decade will focus more budget towards 'experiential marketing' utilizing VR and 360 video technology, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic impact on the business world. Businesses are trying to find more ways to have consumers remotely experience their products and services to generate sales.
3) Personalization In recent years, the trend of personalized marketing has shown itself to be one of the most effective methods for businesses to promote their products and services and drive revenue. Personalized marketing consists of presenting the right message to the right customer and at the correct time. Following this layout helps ensure that your message hits home with the consumer and pushes them further in their buyers' journey. One company that has dominated personalized marketing is Netflix. Netflix uses AI technology in their search and suggestion algorithm that adapts to the users' viewing history to curate new content that meets their interests. "Each experience is personalized across many dimensions: the suggested videos and their ranking, the way videos are organized into rows and pages, and even the artwork displayed." This personalized algorithm ensures Netflix keeps users watching as long as possible, and has them continually returning to their service, ensuring consumers will continue to pay for their subscription.
Social media platforms like Instagram and Tik Tok are other companies with strong personalization algorithms. Providing personalized user experiences is a top goal for many businesses personalization breeds brand loyalty and increases conversions.
4) Programmatic Advertising and Digital Agency Programmatic advertising and the rise of digital agency hires has increased and will continue to increase in the 2020s because of entrepreneurs and small business owners' needs to be present online in order to compete with big corporate chain competitor brands. Programmatic advertising is using AI to automate ad buying in order to aid the advertisers to target very specific audience groups. For example, real-time bidding is a type of programmatic ad buying. This AI ad buying automation is quick and efficient aiding in better conversion rates and lower customer acquisition costs. This form of ad buying is very useful for marketers and independent ad buyers who are trying to promote their business but do not have much experience with marketing and buyer personas. Another marketing tool that we can expect a rise in numbers and a rise in use is digital marketing agencies. Digital marketing agencies and marketing agencies in general aid businesses in their marketing strategies, branding, social media management, digital campaigns, and much more. For example, entrepreneurs or business owners may contact SociallyInfused Media to lead a digital marketing campaign for them in order to boost sales conversions, website traffic, gain followers, etc. Tools like programmatic advertising and marketing agencies will continue to grow in demand and usage in the 2020s as the demand for online advertising and digital presence increases.
5) Shoppable Posts Nowadays, it is highly uncommon to know someone that is under the age of 60 without at least one social media profile. Social media has taken over the planet and with that, the rise in social media marketing and shoppable posts have too. Instagram is the most popular platform for shoppable posts due to its visual focus on the content. This represents a huge sales opportunity for businesses, especially those in retail, given that 72% of Instagram's users have purchased a product directly through shoppable posts on the app. For example, American Eagle is one of the top 'Insta Boutiques' and allows users to click on their images to see clothing pieces tagged with product names, prices, and links to purchase the product from their website. Fashion Nova is another top retail brand that utilizes shoppable posts.
These brands eliminate the hassle of users having to log onto their computer to purchase products and convinces them to spend when they may have originally logged onto Instagram without this intent. Social media offers businesses the ability to reach new customers quickly and easily, showcase their product with prices and product descriptions in-app, shortening the sales funnel. Within the next few years, every retail company will be using shoppable posts online.
6) User Experience Design (UXD) User experience design is the process design teams use when creating a product or service, with a focus on supporting user behaviour through usability, usefulness, and desirability. A huge area of UX design is focused on website design, as webpages are commonly the first interaction consumers have with your business and brand. UXD is a huge factor in enticing customers and gaining their loyalty. Easy to navigate website designs, with eye-catching features and simple checkouts are top UXD goals for businesses globally, despite the fact the 'User Experience Design' as a concept itself is fairly new. In the last 5 years, there has been a surge of new User Experience Design programs at post-secondary institutions, producing graduates to work in this ever-evolving field. For example, St. Lawrence College offers a post-graduate certificate in User Experience Design for students looking to enter the fields of marketing, graphic design, and computer programming and wanting to add in-demand skills to their personal toolbox.
Businesses need to establish what their goals are and what Call To Actions (CTAs) they have for their consumers when visiting their site. According to SociallyInfused Media, "A great website converts visitors into customers because the content gets them interested within the first 8 seconds by building suspense. Once this is achieved, visitors find it easy to navigate such a page and find the relevant information fast." Simple UXD should encompass the entirety of the buyers' journey and convert users into consumers by the end. UXD will become more well known and a demanded skillset for companies looking to hire someone to make or refresh their website, especially within the next 5-10 years.
Digital marketing will inevitably change in the 2020s, and it is important as marketers and business owners to stay on top of trends and always foster a flexible and open mindset when it comes to experimenting with new digital marketing strategies and tools. The digital landscape will only continue to grow and evolve with global demand and user trends, and who knows, maybe you're reading this post in 2026 and my list is spot-on or maybe even newer technology and trends have taken the frontline of digital marketing that we're not even familiar with yet.
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