8 Marketing Trends to Watch in 2018
The world of marketing moves quickly. While it's important to stay up-to-date, more immediate issues always crop up and other aspects of the business will inevitably take priority. With all those distractions, it's easy to fall behind the latest marketing trends. As another year dawns, it's a good time to play catch-up and make sure your own marketing plans align with your industry and what's going on in the wider world of marketing. Having already covered the marketing stats that sum up 2017, we thought it would be useful to provide eight of the most promising marketing trends to watch out for in 2018.
Marketing Trends for 2018Although it's late in the year, it's never too late to add new elements to your New Year marketing plan. Review these eight aspects of marketing that we expect to be big news in 2018. If you can fit them into your strategy, all the better!
1. Content Marketing Gets More ComplicatedIf you thought using content to promote your business was tough in the past, you might want to sit down for this one: it's only going to get more complex in 2018. Sorry! With 2017 confirming to marketers that video content cannot be ignored, any business that hasn't invested in video yet will need to get started this year. Across Facebook and YouTube alone, statistics show that almost half of users watch at least one hour of video content every week. On Facebook, videos uploaded directly have reach 10x more people than YouTube links and 85% of them are watched without sound. Factor in live streaming and video ads tacked onto the content of third-party channels and you have a complicated environment that is evolving rapidly. This shouldn't put you off, however. Any foray you make into video marketing is likely to put you ahead of many competitors. At the very least, a consistent video content strategy will help to distinguish your business from those who publish only sporadically. We suggest coming up with 5-10 ideas for short video clips, picking your most valuable social platform, and committing to create one or two videos a month over the first few months of the year. This will help to ground you in the basics of producing your own videos, which will quickly get better and give you a foundation to build on when you're ready to try things like live streaming, online events, and other initiatives that require more planning.
2. Chatbots and AI (Aren't Quite Ready)For all the excitable coverage you're going to be reading over the next twelve months, the benefits of artificial intelligence (AI) aren't going to be accessible to regular business owners in 2018. You might try out a chatbot for your Facebook page or find an interesting piece of third-party software that leans on AI, but it's unlikely your business will lean on these developments in any significant way this year. That being said, it often pays to be ahead of the curve, especially in a field with as much promise and cost-saving potential as AI-based customer assistance. Watch this one closely for possible applications in your industry, but don't expect to dive in significantly until 2019 at the earliest.
3. Marketing on the MoveWhat mobile devices started, other channels are set to accelerate in 2018. In-vehicle apps, home assistant technology, voice commerce and more affordable tablets all have the potential to drive significant sales and brand attention in the year ahead. One caveat is that some of these technologies may be too early in development for many businesses to take advantage, but the wider concept of marketing on the move needs to be acknowledged. First, consider whether you have the foundation for reaching busy consumers out in the real world. Do you have a mobile-friendly site, perhaps even an app to help customers connect with you for important tasks? Are your contact details and domain name memorable so that people can easily remember to call or bring up your site when it's convenient? Perhaps most importantly, do you have team members or third-party contacts with the skills to create next-generation marketing tools like Alexa skills, Apple HomeKit apps, and anything else that might rise to prominence in the year ahead? If the answer to any of these questions is no, 2018 is the year to add these items to your task list.
4. Physical and Digital Marketing AlignIf you still run separate teams for online and offline marketing campaigns, now's the time to bring them together; one marketing team to rule them all! Why is that? If you think about your customer's journey to purchase - or even your own when buying almost any product - it's rarely an exclusively physical or digital process. Buying in a store? Chances are you've done some research online, checked stock before you've headed out the door, or even completed the transaction online and registered for in-store pickup. Conversely, items you buy online will often be informed by real-world marketing like TV ads and billboards. You may even have visited a store to touch and try out a product before ordering it from (such a common practice that retailers have a specific term for it: showrooming). This trend will accelerate in 2018, so be prepared by mapping out your most common customer journeys. Once you understand the many ways in which people connect with your brand, your business will be better placed to integrate the physical and digital marketing tools that convince your customer to buy. [search-tag]
5. Broaden Your Communication ChannelsThe sheer number of apps and platforms across which customers can connect with your business officially reached "overwhelming" status in 2017. From the everpresent channels of e-mail and phone calls to all of the social networks and apps you've heard of - and many more you probably haven't - it might feel impossible to choose. The good news is that you can guide customers towards your preferred channels. As long as your choices align with the spaces in which most of your customers congregate, you can promote those places via your marketing materials and online calls to action. Remember our tips to connect with customers and the need to meet them halfway on the most popular social networks. This should help you cover at least 80% of your customer base. Unfortunately, we can't rest on our laurels and let that remainder get away! Make sure your customer service teams spend some of their time every week monitoring lesser known channels to check if your brand is being mentioned. Isolated comments may not require a strategy for that platform, but if you notice a regular flow of requests on a specific channel, it's a sign that you need to expand your service strategy to include that platform.
6. Marketing Tools Are More AffordableWith so much to consider for your 2018 promotional plan, it’s not unreasonable to expect some help from marketing automation along the way. Thankfully there are some powerful tools available to every business owner, often at a price that won’t obliterate your marketing budget. As more and more services have sprung up to meet the needs of online marketers over the years, the competition between them has driven prices down significantly. Most services now offer a free trial somewhere between 7 days to a full month, giving you plenty of time to make sure that the tools you choose work for your business and play nice with each other. The best way to navigate the thousands of marketing tools available to you is to identify the most time-consuming elements of your online promotions. Do you spend all your time sending follow-up e-mails to potential customers? Use a tool like MailChimp to build pre-defined drip campaigns that are sent automatically after days, weeks, or when the customer completes a specified action. What if the hours are drained from your day by coming up with social posts and posting them across all your networks? Consider a tool like Buffer to push content into a pre-determined post schedule, allowing you to publish as you read interesting articles, rather than keeping them filed away for later. With the market for these tools now quite mature, there's likely to be a service for any task you can think of. Take a look at Neil Patel's 10 recommended tools as a starting point, monitor platforms like Appsumo for deals, and you'll quickly create a suite of services that work well for your business.
7. Brand Promises Become IndistinguishableThink about your holiday shopping. If you're anything like the standard American household, you did some or most of it online in 2017. Now think about why you chose the retailer and brands you went with. Chances are you saw many of the same deals and simply went with the deepest discount (or the one you're already locked into, in the case of Amazon Prime). That's because the sellers are all on the same page in terms of product demand and shoppers can compare prices in seconds, tracking discounts until they find the deal that they want. With similar shipping options (fast and free) and generous return policies, it's becoming increasingly difficult for retailers to stand out. That same issue will spread to businesses of all sizes in 2018, as more consumers find anything they want online in seconds. Less tangible factors like exceptional service and local expertise will come into play, meaning that smaller businesses have an opportunity to stand out. With that in mind, it's more important than ever to build a positive online reputation and encourage customers to spread the word when they enjoy your products or services.
8. Big Data Gives Way to Deeper AnalysisAfter years of proclaiming the era of Big Data, it turns out most business owners had more than enough already. The important part is turning that data into information. Meaningful, actionable information. Analysis of increasingly large datasets is big business in itself, worth somewhere in the region of $200 billion. For SMB marketers, it is an evolving discipline that should be explored in the same way that e-mail analytics and e-commerce metrics have been refined over the past decade. It offers a fresh way to look at different aspects of the business, especially in examining the complex behavior of consumers. The trend towards applying data-driven solutions to common marketing questions is in full swing and should be more accessible to businesses of all sizes in 2018. However, data analysis is far from an exact science and shouldn't replace the kind of instinctive answers that come from years of experience in your field. By all means, explore your data in more depth this year, but let it inform rather than rule your decision-making. What factors and developments do you see influencing marketers in 2018? Let us know what you think on Facebook, Linkedin, or Twitter.
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