Marketing can be a bit like gambling.
You test out one advertising channel and measure your results.
Every so often, a new marketing channel or program becomes available. Eager marketers jump at the new opportunity and gamble some of their ad budget into it.
Some of those gambles crush it because they struck gold with the new channel connecting with the right audience.
Each year brings a few of these big new opportunities. This post will outline some of our predictions for those new opportunities and trends that will emerge into 2018.
What predictions came true and which ones started with a bang, but ultimately fizzled out? Let’s take a closer look:
1. Blended Marketing Will Continue to Dominate in 2018
Just as the incredible rise of ad blockers on the web has filtered out much of the advertising noise, so too are consumer bombarded by omni-channel offers that don’t really meet their needs, or happen at inopportune times.
As a result, consumers are being much more selective about the apps they install, the sites they visit and the emails they receive. If you’re not doing enough to stay at the top of their minds in ways that aren’t intrusive, you’re giving yourself a one-way ticket to UnsubscribeLand.
This is why many businesses look at omni-channel as more risk than reward. Do you really want to be everywhere the customer is all the time? Does the customer want you to be? Are you more of an elegant butterfly in their minds, or a pesky fly? If you don’t take the time to refine and chart your marketing course appropriately, they’ll make that decision for you.
Social media and mobile media continued to blur the lines with integrated shopping, recommendations, videos and reviews – creating an even greater push to get noticed among the amalgamated chunk of product pitches, retargeting ads and “I’m-an-authority-look-at-me” videos. As more and more advertisers step up to the plate, they look at what others are doing and then copy their efforts – rather than test on their own to see what their unique audience would respond to.
And, in an effort to get in on this big, blended push, Google shifted its search results to include video, recent news, location information and other details to help match the user with their search request even faster and more thoroughly than before.
So if everything’s coming together in a more finely-tuned customer experience, what didn’t really take off as well as we expected it to?
2. Chatbots Will Grow into More Businesses and Sectors
In the years since their inception, they’ve grown from a few e-commerce stores using them to a more wide adoption.
And they’re not going away anytime soon. They’re on our 2018 marketing predictions list because we believe that these bots will increase their penetration in our daily lives.
Think about it – if you call a customer service line, you’re frequently first talking to what is essentially a robot. They’ll ask you a question, you answer it, and the programming in the background will try to solve the problem for you. (I’ve had this experience myself when chatting with the Comcast support line).
If the bot on the phone cannot help you, the last resort is to transfer you to a real support person. Now we just have that through our messenger apps, but it’s going to go father than support.
Bots can help you conduct research, qualify leads, personalize the user experience, sell more products, and much more. Expect to see more of them on platforms outside of Facebook Messenger Ads.
3. From Lifestyle Apps to Augmented Reality
I had originally predicted that 2016 would see the rise and greater adoption of lifestyle apps – meaning apps that people installed as a reflection of who they were. These could be a combination fitness-weather-diet tracker app rather than having apps for all three of these items. But the looming spectre of data overages constantly nipping at their heels means developers have tended to go easy on what’s available via app versus the much more open and accommodating web.
What stirred everyone’s imagination was augmented reality. The undisputed summer hit of 2016 was Pokemon Go, but it, too, failed to gain much traction after the initial buzz wore off. Still, it was a masterpiece of gamification and as mobile becomes more powerful, we can look forward to seeing what augmented reality can do – particularly when you’re able to bring together the aforementioned apps into an all-in-one experience that isn’t just helpful, but subtly addictive too.
And Tim Cook isn’t alone. Mark Zuckerberg has really started all this with his Oculus acquisition. Zuckerberg’s bet into AR has only intensified recently with the poaching of an executive from Google.
Expect to see more from these companies in the year about how AR will impact it’s users and advertising partners.
4. Talk To Me – Dash Buttons and the Internet of Things
Voice-guided search, wearable devices and innovations like the Amazon Alexa and Google Home are starting to bridge the gap between the internet you access on your computer, and the internet you access everywhere.
Awkward attempts to blend e-commerce with that always-on, on-demand functionality has come out in the form of Amazon Dash buttons – WiFi connected devices that let you instantly order your favorite household products, but they’re more of a novelty than a really useful and innovative design. Watch them become as memorable and curious as the CueCat.
What will be changing for marketers is an increasing investment in understanding analytics and getting a truly cross-channel view of the consumer. Rather than throwing out a bunch of things that the company “thinks” the customer might want, they’re finally gathering enough intelligence (and enough of an understanding to know what to do with it), that they can track a consumer from a search on their home computer to a product description page on their mobile phone, to an order form on their company laptop.
This is known as advanced attribution, and it’s going to change the way we market to customers in ways we probably can’t even imagine. But think of the potential of engaging that consumer at the right time and place, on the right device, when they’re at the right stage of the buying cycle, and you can see precisely how much of a game-changer this technology is.
5. A Bigger Focus on Tools and Services that Fill in the Gaps
Things like predictive analytics and personalization tools are great – but they’re mostly in a vacuum. That means you can’t really leverage them to see the big picture, as well as the granular details you need in order to make decisions with confidence.
Expect innovations in 2018 to help bridge the gaps with many of these services, allowing for greater integrations with existing systems and a better, visual picture of what all that information really means.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced that they’re doubling down on Alexa. More companies are putting their voice (so to speak) on Alexa.
Other types of services that are not even part of the analytics industry are popping up to fill in the empty spaces left by other innovators. Uber, Airbnb, Amazon Echo/Google Home and many other services like these are becoming ubiquitous in our lifestyle because of the service they provide — a service we never even knew we needed until we saw its potential.
Tools like these are poised to change the way we market on the web, and you can expect even more integrations with popular software and SaaS products to broaden their reach and capabilities.
6. The Power and Passion of Social Media – Who Decides What You Get to See?
Although this doesn’t just apply to marketing, the U.S. election was watched, dissected, ranted and raved over across social media platforms. So much so, that “fake news” and allegations started littering people’s news feeds.
But this then begs the question – should you encapsulate yourself in a bubble – seeing only what you want to see, or should companies give you a little bit of everything and let you choose accordingly? Who decides? Social media has a very powerful and passionate audience on its side – and a significant amount of data that it’s going to have to make some definitive and perhaps unexpected decisions on. After all, not offering a balance can affect user engagement, and losing user engagement is the one thing that no social network wants to imagine – it’s their lifeblood. How they plan to approach this particular conundrum remains to be seen, but you can bet that eventually they’ll be forced to decide – and not everyone may agree with the results.
7. Influencer Marketing Will Grow Even Further
In a world filled with ad blockers and DVR, it can be difficult for marketers to get their message through.
The workaround many marketers are finding effective is going around traditional channels like TV ads and banner ads and moving towards selling their products through a conduit known as an influencer.
These influencers typically have a large enough following on social media that they’re able to sell a post, tweet, or image to all their followers. These aren’t blocked by ad-blockers, and they’re “blended” into people’s social feeds so all their followers see them.
Some big corporations use influencers in their TV ads, others use them on the websites. Local businesses reach consumers through local influencers – people on radio or TV.
2018 will only see this grow. It will spread to other industries and reach more people than ever. Teens on their Snapchat will see the celebrities they’re following promoting the latest product or movie.
Instagram will have influencers holding their products that marketers are paying big money for. More and more tweets will have the #ad placed next to it.
.@oreo and I share a birthday … and a love of giving away 1 Million free OREO Chocolate Candy Bars! #OreoBirthdayGiveaway #ad. No purchase necessary. https://t.co/V7YyRqpl06 pic.twitter.com/E5TfWhVaYD
— SHAQ (@SHAQ) March 6, 2018
8. More Advertising Programs on Instagram Will Become Available
The war between social media apps Snapchat and Instagram will continue into 2018. Expect Facebook to continue efforts to further monetize Instagram.
In the last Facebook earnings release of 2017, Sheryl Sandberg said Facebook had 2 million advertisers on Instagram, compared to 6 million on Instagram. I expect Facebook will try to increase this number through new advertising programs and platforms available to marketers.
At the time of this writing, they have 4 different advertising products available. If you’re a daily Instagram user, you’ve probably seen all of them – photo ads, video ads, carousel ads, and video ads.
Expect to see some more innovative ad products created in the future.
What Do You Think is in Store for 2018?
Do you think we’ll see some surprising changes on how we market to consumers in 2018? What do you think will happen? Share your own predictions with us in the comments below!
About the Author: Neil Patel is the cofounder of Neil Patel Digital.