Digital marketing hasn’t seen any major shifts in a while. Sure, we had to optimize our websites for mobile user experience, tweak SEO a little as the algorithm gods required and make a few other minor changes. Social media has been booming, too — but nothing very thought-provoking.

This new year is bound to be a different story, and we can’t sit around and wait. Look at what’s already happening: social media is changing, the law is changing, and there are murmurs about how net neutrality (or lack thereof) will affect digital advertising. It’s easy to predict the industry will face significant changes in 2018. Here are four key aspects that will shape the new landscape.

1. Privacy.

One successfully could argue the internet is funded mostly through ads. Websites use cookies that allow companies to target their customers based on what those consumers view in their own browsers. But users constantly are changing devices, and that makes it difficult to keep track of all the consumer touch points. Even savvy marketers are working hard to determine the channels with the most impact and justify their methods to clients.

Still, it’s doable. Robust marketing tools can track and connect user data to target individuals. But certain privacy concerns make this a little harder for internet advertising.

Ad blockers are just one of the challenges. According to a PaigeFair report published in January, 11 percent of internet users employ some type of ad blocker — a 30 percent increase from the previous year. Consumers want to protect their privacy, security and time from ad interruption. To curb this, some websites use walls that prevent browsers with ad blockers from viewing their content. These sites ask users to manually disable the blocker, but 74 percent of people in the PaigeFair report simply abandoned the site.

Related: Digital Marketing Channels Are Flatlining. Here’s What to Do to Stay Afloat

2. Live video.

Visual content has become more popular on the internet, and many companies are poised to make this their primary communication tool in 2018. That means rich media, creative videos, GIFs, memes and more are bound to be trendier this year. And there’s a good reason for it: Users interact better with visuals.

Of all the options, live video is the one to watch. A 2016 Buffer survey discovered more than 80 percent of marketers wanted to create more video. At the time, an impressive 42 percent wanted to target live video. In the same year, Facebook reported live videos were seeing as much as triple the watch time as traditional video. It also was garnering 10 times the comments. Live video is so effective because it’s authentic, human and littered with errors.

It’s not just live video versus recorded video — it’s live video versus everything. According to Livestream, 82 percent of users would rather watch a brand’s live video than read the same company’s social-media posts. A close 80 percent would rather tune in to a live video than read a blog post.

Related: How to Ride the Livestreaming Wave to Marketing Success

3. Artificial intelligence (AI).

Think it’s too early to talk about AI’s impact on marketing and advertising? Think again. AI already is entrenched in our daily lives, and it’s quickly becoming a rib in marketing. Worldwide, 58 percent of chief marketing officers believe companies will have to compete within the AI space to succeed in the next five years.

Enter AI marketing. This is how to bridge the gap between data science and marketing. Technology enables marketers to sift through a drastically multiplying data load to unearth insights that will help them provide value to target customers while gaining returns on their investments. Even better, this form of marketing doesn’t have to to take up all their time — they can automate much of the tasks to run in the background. With so many benefits, why would AI be incorporated into marketing strategies? 

Related: 4 Ways You Could Be Incorporating Artificial Intelligence Into Your Marketing Strategy

Over to you.

Whether 2018 turns out to be a good or bad year for the industry wholly depends upon the stakeholders in this marketing disruption. Professionals must begin to study the trends (if they haven’t already) and adjust their current strategies. What they have right now might not get them past the first quarter of what’s sure to be a highly competitive year.

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