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Top 10 digital marketing trends for 2020

3 JANUARY, 2020

Will 2020 be the "Year of Social eCommerce"? The "Year of Messaging Apps"? Or, perhaps the "Year of Interactive Content"? The answer is no. Too often, marketers make bold, blanket statements that the new year will be dominated by a single, exciting trend. But the reality is that today's digital marketing landscape is too multifaceted to be reduced to a single buzzword. The truth is, in marketing, the theme each year is always the same: it's the "year of the customer." The never-ending goal is to reach, engage and better serve both potential and existing customers. And in 2020, there are a host of new developments across the digital marketing spectrum that are ultimately aimed at helping organizations achieve that goal.

1. Beyond the funnel: the customer-driven cycle

For those of you who still use the funnel system for your marketing strategy, it's time to step up your game. The funnel model is outdated and may be one of the reasons for the decline in your sales results. The customer-based cycle, founded by Hubspot, takes an innovative view of the buyer's journey and uses all customer-facing roles such as customer service, marketing and sales to interact with customers at every stage - even beyond the point of purchase.

The funnel model focuses on attracting new customers and engaging them in a business or service to convert them into a measurable lead. The customer-based cycle continues to attract, engage and satisfy customers even beyond the point of purchase, meaning that the company continues to interact with customers rather than treating them as one-time prospects. "Simply put, the customer-driven cycle provides a more complete picture of where your business is growing fastest, and brings the best opportunities into view." (Hubspot)

2. Hyper-personalisation

Today's consumers are inundated with marketing messages from multiple channels to the point that they have begun to disengage from them. Traditional advertising is losing its effectiveness, so what's the answer? Personalised marketing messages that forge a real connection between the brand and the target audience. In fact, 80% of consumers said they would be more likely to do business with a brand that provides a personalised experience, according to a survey by Epsilon.

Marketing personalisation is no longer just about automatically changing the name of the person you are targeting in your newsletters. Improvements in technology, such as AI, combined with increased data collection and information from social media and other sources, have made it possible to hyper-personalise everything from content and design to product recommendations and everything in between. This means it will be increasingly easy to reach consumers with messages about the products they need most in the right place at the right time. As the means of data collection and processing become more sophisticated, personalisation will gain more and more ground.

3. Messaging applications

The importance of customer experience (CX) in today's landscape has blurred the line between marketing and customer service. While many organisations know the value of CX, their customer service channels have not caught up with the consumer preferences of 2020. Since 2015, messaging apps have been steadily gaining ground as customers' preferred method of contacting businesses, and this trend shows no sign of slowing. 70% of people will now choose a 'Message Us' button over a 'Call Us' button when seeking customer service. And with messaging, customer satisfaction improves by 25% compared to phone calls. Overall, consumers are changing the way they want to interact with brands, and customer service is no exception. In 2020, messaging apps will continue to cement their status as a preferred communication channel, and probably also as an advertising channel. Companies that make this a priority in their CX strategy - and effectively integrate messaging apps into their technology stack - will be rewarded with more satisfied and engaged customers.

4. Interactive content and real-time marketing

Today's shoppers are looking for new experiences when they go online, and new technologies are facilitating an exciting evolution in digital content: interactivity. In fact, an impressive 91% of consumers are seeking more visual and interactive content. In the age of personalisation, interactive content formats are now being used to increase engagement and create immersive, individualised experiences. Shoppable posts, AR/VR, 360-degree videos, quizzes and polls are just a few examples of the formats available that turn users from passive listeners/viewers into active participants, all while boosting their interest, retention and affinity with the brand. With so many interactive content formats to choose from, the potential for creativity is at an all-time high and the possibilities are virtually endless.

At the same time, the Internet is becoming an increasingly live environment, and this phenomenon can be seen in gaming, live video and even ecommerce. Today, we see live video on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, LinkedIn and many other micro-networks, not to mention the Live Stream Shopping trend that is growing steadily in China. On average, live videos on Facebook Live and Instagram Live keep audiences watching three times longer and produce six times more interactions than recorded ones. In addition, research has shown that 80% of audiences would rather watch a brand's live video than read a blog, making this trend imperative from a marketing perspective.

5. Authenticity and Purposeful Marketing

Overly staged and heavily filtered social media posts are rapidly losing their appeal and vanity-oriented content no longer resonates as it once did. Instead, younger audiences now value authenticity, purpose and honest depictions of real people from diverse backgrounds. Essentially, it is a revolt against ostentatious perfectionism. An idealised life is simply not relatable, and brands that ignore this fact will be out of touch with their audience.

The solution? It's time to get real. Companies must put their efforts into humanising their brand, for example by adding humour, putting employees at the forefront, revealing what goes on behind-the-scenes in the organisation and celebrating diversity. It goes without saying that authenticity is essential in this context. That said, purposeful marketing and inclusion remain at the forefront of marketing trends for 2020. In response to this trend, brands must strive to gain a deeper understanding of their followers and what truly matters to them. How? By facilitating genuine marketing that resonates with people on a more personal level and aims not only to promote, but also to raise awareness of current issues (such as the environment) and inclusivity.

6. Data Privacy and Brand Transparency

The enactment of GDPR in 2018 had a direct effect on the business world. Companies were faced with the daunting task of updating their systems and operations to comply with the rules. In addition, the Cambridge Analytica case triggered a consumer "awakening" regarding personal data, leading to a heightened sensitivity to the issue of data privacy. Despite this, consumers are still quite open to sharing their personal information with companies, as long as it is for a good reason. Deloitte found that 79% of respondents would be "willing to share their data if there was a clear benefit to them". So if you want to collect personal data, you have to earn it.

Furthermore, 73% of consumers are willing to pay more for a product that offers full brand transparency. This is because they want honest products from conscientious companies whose passion and values are authentic. While it may seem daunting to reveal flaws and create transparent content, it is possible to create more brand transparency and a more trustworthy brand image by aligning values and marketing with authenticity first in mind.

Ultimately, in 2020, organizations must be vigilant about enforcing data regulations and ensure that their third-party suppliers do so as well. Exhibiting high integrity standards can help build consumer trust and reinforce brand image. In addition, these new regulations will inherently require a greater focus on collecting higher quality data, subsequently enhancing any personalized marketing initiatives.

7. Social eCommerce

Social media is no longer simply a virtual platform for chatting, browsing and sharing, but a place to shop. This represents a tremendous opportunity for businesses, given that 72% of Instagram users have purchased a product on the app. Even more impressive, a survey of over 4,000 Pinterest users revealed that 70% use Pinterest to find new and interesting products. Social platforms are striving to evolve into marketplaces with native shopping features. A range of new features have been emerging, and in 2020 this presents an exciting opportunity for ecommerce brands to drive sales in creative ways.

With the click of a button, users can go from browsing Instagram to filling in their credit card information and completing a purchase. Shoppable posts have shortened the sales funnel by eliminating steps from awareness to point of purchase. Ecommerce are taking advantage of this trend by using Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and TikTok to take their audiences from being potential buyers to customers with a simple click of a button. Shoppable posts have been gaining traction for a couple of years now, and will undoubtedly be the norm for 2020 marketing strategies.

8. The evolution of SEO: Social Media Optimisation (SMO) & Voice Engine Optimisation (VEO)

SEO and social media can no longer be considered as completely separate disciplines. Today, there is significant overlap between the two and the relationship is multifaceted. Social media and SEO are increasingly intertwined, and brands that understand this fusion will have an advantage in 2020. So, while traditional SEO is built around keywords, the same principles now apply to social media optimisation (SMO) in the form of hashtags, keywords and trending phrases. And, consequently, increasing the engagement of your SMO efforts can yield more traditional SEO benefits (e.g. backlinks and SERP rankings). Driving visitors to your brand's social profiles can now be just as valuable as driving organic website traffic. For some brands, social media is an equally valuable source of new leads and revenue, making 'social SEO' a high priority in 2020.

Similarly, even if a brand is not ready for smart speaker advertising, it is important that its content is optimised for voice search, or VEO (Voice Engine Optimisation). Voice search engines use search differently. They use longer, more conversational queries, so targeting content to serve these queries, as well as answering questions directly, can help make it more visible to voice searches. This also has the added benefit that the content is more likely to be picked up as a snippet or to rank zero in Google.

9. Online reputation management

Social proof is one of the most influential factors in modern consumer behaviour. On average, people read 10 online reviews before making a final purchase decision. In 2019, 94% of digital shoppers reported that positive customer reviews increase trust in a brand. On the other hand, 89% of those same shoppers lose trust in a brand with negative reviews. Ultimately, what your customers say about you is far more powerful than what you say about yourself.

In addition, Google's algorithm penalizes you for every bad review and rewards your competitors when they receive positive recommendations. It is estimated that reviews are the second most relevant factor in Google's local rankings. For these reasons, online reputation management has become a critically important effort in 2020. To address this need, companies will need to equip themselves with tools and data that enable them to effectively monitor their brand's public image online and in social media.

10. Integration and diversification of payment channels

In 2020, the integration and diversification of pay channels will be impressive. Instead of looking at each channel as a separate entity, advertisers in 2020 will need to focus on overall results. They will do so by considering all the ways their business can grow as a whole, and then determine how to fit the PPC channel into that overall business growth, including strategy, creative and reporting. Creating multi-channel plans and integrated campaigns will be at the forefront; we only need to look at Google Smart Shopping to see how the channels work best together: PLAs, dynamic remarketing and cross-network audiences all rolled into one. Still thinking Search, Social and ecommerce separately? Think again, as they are all merging. We've always seen cross-platform feature adoption within search engines (Google ads, Microsoft ads) and within social ad channels (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.), but now we're starting to see search engines adopt social targeting, and social channels add keywords.

In conclusion, we are seeing a massive shift in beliefs about what marketing is really about. It's no longer about trying to convince people to buy your products or work with your company. Instead, the priority has shifted to providing fantastic customer experiences that will keep people coming back for more. In a way, when a company focuses on building a positive business culture and providing great service, marketing almost takes care of itself.


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