The 10 top digital marketing trends for 2020

ANNA MARTINI

MARKETING MANAGER

7 January, 2020
Will 2020 be the "Year of Social eCommerce"? The "Year of Personalization"? Or, perhaps the "Year of Interactive Content"? The answer is no. All too often, marketers make bold and general claims that the next year will be dominated by a single, exciting trend. But the reality is that the current digital marketing landscape is too multifaceted to be reduced to a single buzzword. The truth is that, in marketing, the theme of each year is always the same: it is the "Year of the Customer". The ultimate goal is to reach out, engage and better serve both potential and existing customers. And in the year 2020, there are a lot of new developments across the spectrum of digital marketing that are ultimately aimed at helping organizations achieve that goal.
  1. Going beyond the funnel: the flywheel approach

For those of you who still use the ‘funnel’ approach to marketing, it’s time to step up your game. The funnel approach is outdated and may be one of the reasons for the decline in your sales results. The Flywheel marketing approach, founded by Hubspot, takes an innovative perspective of the buyer journey and uses all client-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 turn them into a quantifiable lead. The flywheel approach, on the other hand, continues to attract, engage, and delight the customers even past the point of purchase, which means that the company continues to interact with customers instead of treating them as one-time-only prospects. “Simply put, the flywheel is a more comprehensive look at where your business is growing fastest, and it reveals your biggest areas of opportunity.” (Hubspot)

2. Hyper-personalization

Today’s consumers are flooded with multi-channel marketing messages to the point where they have begun to disconnect 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 personalized experience, according to an Epsilon survey

Marketing personalization is no longer limited to automatically changing the name of the person you address 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-personalize 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 collecting and processing data become more sophisticated, personalization will gain more and more ground.

3. Messaging apps

The importance of the customer experience in today’s landscape has blurred the line between marketing and customer service. While many organizations know the value of CX, their customer service channels have not reached the consumer preferences of 2020. Since 2015, messaging applications have been steadily gaining ground as the preferred method for customers to contact businesses, and this trend shows no sign of slowing down. 70% of people will now choose a ‘Message Us’ button instead of a ‘Call Us’ button when seeking customer support. 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 consolidate their status as a preferred communication channel, and probably as an advertising channel too. 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 buyers are looking for new experiences when they connect to the Internet, and new technologies are facilitating an exciting evolution in digital content: interactivity. In fact, an impressive 91% of consumers are looking for more visual and interactive content. In the age of personalization, interactive content formats are now being used to increase engagement and create immersive, individualized experiences. Shoppable posts, AR/VR, 360 videos, quizzes and surveys 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 its highest 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 live video, games and even ecommerce. Today, we see live video features 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 the audience watching three times longer and produce six times more interactions than recorded videos. 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 standpoint. 

5. Authenticity and Purpose-driven marketing

Overly staged and carefully filtered social media messages are rapidly losing their appeal and vanity-oriented content no longer resonates as before. Instead, younger audiences now value authenticity, purpose, and honest depictions of real people from diverse backgrounds. Essentially, it is a revolt against glossy perfectionism. An idealized life simply isn’t relatable, and brands that ignore this fact will fall out of touch with their audiences. 

The solution? It’s time to get real. Companies should put their efforts into humanizing their brand, for example, by adding humor, putting employees at the forefront, revealing what is going on “behind-the-scenes” of the organization, and celebrating diversity. Needless to say, authenticity is essential in this context. That being said, purpose-driven marketing and inclusion remain at the forefront of 2020 marketing trends. In response to this trend, brands should 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 that aims not only to promote, but also to raise awareness on current issues (such as the environment) and inclusiveness.

6. Data privacy and brand transparency

The enactment of the GDPR in 2018 had a major impact on the business world. Businesses faced the daunting task of upgrading their systems and operations to meet the standards. In addition, the Cambridge Analytica case sparked a consumer “awakening” with respect to personal data, which led to greater sensitivity surrounding the issue of data privacy. Despite this, consumers remain 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.” In other words, if you want to collect personal data, you have to earn it. In addition, 73% of consumers are willing to pay more for a product that offers complete brand transparency. This is because they want honest products from conscious companies whose passion and values are genuine. While it may seem daunting to reveal faults and create transparent content, it is still possible to create more brand transparency and a more reliable brand image by aligning values and marketing with authenticity first in mind.

Ultimately, in 2020, organizations must be vigilant about the implementation of data regulations and ensure that their external providers do so as well. Displaying high integrity standards can help build consumer trust  and reinforce brand image. Moreover, these new regulations will inherently require a greater focus on collecting higher quality data, further enhancing any personalized marketing initiative.

7. Social eCommerce

Social networks are no longer simply virtual platforms for chatting, browsing and sharing, but a place to shop. This represents a tremendous opportunity for companies, given that 72% of Instagram users have purchased a product on the application. 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 shoppable features. A range of new features have been emerging, and in 2020 this presents an exciting opportunity for ecommerce brands to drive sales creatively.

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 sites are taking advantage of this trend by using Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and TikTok to take their audiences from potential buyers to customers with the click of a button. Shoppable posts have been gaining traction for a couple of years now, and will no doubt be the norm for marketing strategies in 2020.

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

SEO and social networks can no longer be considered as completely separate disciplines. Today, there is a 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. Thus, while traditional SEO is built around keywords, the same principles are now applied to Social Media Optimization (SMO) in the form of hashtags, keywords and trending phrases. And, consequently, increasing the engagement of your SMO efforts can produce more benefits traditional SEO benefits (e.g., backlinks and SERP positioning).  Driving visitors to your brand’s social profiles can now be 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 optimized for voice search, or VEO (Voice Engine Optimization). Voice searchers use search differently. They use longer, more conversational queries, so targeting content to serve these queries, as well as answering the questions directly, can help make it more visible to voice searches. This has the added advantage that the content is more likely to be picked up as a fetured snippet or to be in Google’s zero position.

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

10. Channel integration and diversification

In 2020, the integration and diversification of payment channels will be impressive. Instead of looking at each channel as a separate entity, advertisers in 2020 will have 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 the PPC channel fits into that overall business growth, including strategy, creativity and reporting. The creation of multi-channel plans and integrated campaigns will be at the forefront; just look at Google Smart Shopping to see how the channels work best together: PLAs, dynamic remarketing and cross-network audience targeting, all into one. Still thinking of Search, Social and eCommerce separately? Think again, as they are all merging together. We have always seen cross-platform adoption of features within search engines (Google ads, Microsoft ads) and within social ad channels (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.), but now we are beginning to see search engines adopting social targeting, and social channels adding keywords.

In conclusion, we are seeing a massive change in beliefs about what marketing really is. It’s no longer about trying to convince people to buy your products or work with your company. Instead, the focus 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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