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Analysis

3 (Data-Backed) Digital Marketing Trends You Must Prepare For by 2019

Stay ahead of the curve by absorbing the freshest changes in our fast-paced digital world — next year’s marketing results depend on it

Sam Hurley
October 29 2018

Yes, it’s that time already.

Almost another year has passed, and Digital Marketing never fails to keep us on our toes…

As we rapidly approach 2019, are you confident your marketing strategy is robust enough to contend with your competitors’ plans?

Whatever your confidence level, I’m going to uncover the latest digital trends you need to (at the very least) be aware of — if not implement — to remain on top.

You’ll also be glad to hear this isn’t yet another zero-evidence ‘trends piece’ that merely lists a few extremely obvious marketing strategies.

I get tired of those, too. 😉

Before diving in, let’s briefly set the virtual scene.

The proliferation of Digital Marketing is unquestionable:

“Total Digital Marketing spend is forecasted to hit $118 billion by 2021.”

(Source: The Drum)

(Graph Source: Vox Media via MAGMA)

(Graph Source: PQ Media)

(Graph Source: Mediakix)

This nature of outstanding growth is seen across the board for nearly all types of modern online marketing disciplines.

To sum up — if you’re not applying Digital Marketing today, what the heck are you applying?

Interestingly (yet perhaps not surprisingly), attention spans are progressively dwindling as a result of information overload and the modern generations’ over-exposure to marketing / advertising:

(Graph Source: Social Report)

Marrying the data leads to a couple of overarching conclusions.

1). The Digital Marketing landscape is saturated

and

2). To truly succeed, you need to find a way to stand out

[Note: Consistently be aware of the industry’s motions, but don’t get obsessed with new shiny objects! Find what works, and always stick to your plan.]

It’s no longer viable to just ‘do marketing’; customer expectations are increasingly higher, while B2B technology (specifically martech) floods our world. You must design a clear-cut Digital Marketing strategy that utilizes the best methods and tools to specifically suit your business.

Use resources like this to guide you through the noise…

Here is a selection of fundamental changes to keep in mind, spanning both audience-focused and technology-orientated trends.

TREND #1: The Uptake of Blockchain

Along with Artificial Intelligence, blockchain has been one of the most talked-about topics throughout the last couple of years.

And also similarly to AI, the general depth of understanding hasn’t quite matched the level of buzz surrounding it!

(Image Source: CNBC)

But beyond the hype, it’s only now we’re finally beginning to witness both technologies in real purposeful action.

Let’s cover blockchain first…

What is it, and why is it applicable to Digital Marketing?


(Source: Marketing Week)

A blockchain is a type of database that is distinctively structured to allow multiple parties to record and share information with each other on the fly and without mutual trust (which could be said to be the defining purpose of blockchain).

You did read correctly. Mistrust is actually a key component!

Blockchain databases are shared by multiple ‘writers’ — they can all directly modify these databases, but never edit existing entries.

So, how exactly does this produce reliable data?

You may have already guessed that money (and other rewards such as status and access to valuable data) is involved; each party is cleverly incentivized to produce accurate entries through the receipt of tokens (currency) or other exchanges.

In fact, blockchain is the very technology that makes cryptocurrencies possible — such as Bitcoin, Ripple and Ethereum.

[Marketers: Stay with me past the head-scratching. Your part is on its way…]

(Infographic Source: Blockgeeks)

In a nutshell, this is the best explanation I have ever come across, courtesy of MultiChain:

“Blockchains truly shine where there is interaction between the transactions created by writers.”

“Transactions created (by different writers) depend on one other. Alice sends some funds to Bob, then Bob sends some on to Charlie. Bob’s transaction is dependent on Alice’s, and there’s no way to verify Bob’s transaction without checking Alice’s first.”

“Because of this dependency, the transactions naturally belong together in a single shared database.”

Now that you know its DNA, here are some ways blockchain is currently being used in the marketing industry:

  • AD TRANSPARENCY & ROI

In a world rife with click fraud, there’s a blockchain solution for that.

Unilever is already collaborating with IBM on a project to design true digital ad transparency — you realize it’s serious when colossal brands get involved!

However, they aren’t they only leaders jumping on this issue; adChain thankfully boasts a trusted blockchain ad space that ensures impressions and click-throughs are authentic. BitTeaser offers the same.

  • AUDIENCE INCENTIVIZATION

As discussed, it’s becoming increasingly harder to get noticed through all the noise. Wouldn’t it be great to overcome this saturation and gain loyalty at the same time?

Well, blockchain is being applied in a way that rewards engagement!

As a quick example: That means watching an entire branded video ad can result in some form of payment.

i.e. Businesses can use the Basic Attention Token (BAT) to literally pay for people’s attention.

To observe this concept in fully-working action, check out Steemit — a blockchain-driven Social Media platform that rewards awesome content.

I’m sure this will blow your mind if completely new to you.

  • AUDIENCE TARGETING

Would you be surprised to hear that approximately 70% of digital advertisers fail to accurately target consumers, by not using behavioral data?

This is why we are living in the era of ad agency death.

In place of these somewhat obsolete agencies, BitClave is the most exciting development to date. It’s a decentralized search engine that makes it easier for digital advertisers to get their message delivered to target audiences.

There is even chatter of this happening:

(Image Source: Scott via Crypto Croc)

The most appealing component of BitClave is the fact it also applies audience incentivization (described within a couple of points above) which rewards users who click ads of interest, meaning they will see more of those topical ads — while advertisers continuously reach the right people.

Beneficial for all parties…

The potential is huge; there’s an apparent advantage over Google’s business model, which could be said to be outdated in comparison.

Did you ever think those words could be written?

  • DATA COLLECTION

Unless you’ve been living under a rock and never heard of Facebook, you will know that most of our precious personal data can be bought and sold on to advertisers. (Gasp.)

The Blockstack platform allows app creators to help ‘build a new internet’ — one that prevents data leakage and misuse.

How?

Because with this particular blockchain technology, user data never physically gets transferred!

Users keep hold of their information, only temporarily accessed then verified by apps, as and when they use them…

There are no permanent traces recorded.

“Users run decentralized apps through the Blockstack browser and give explicit read/write permissions to their data. Information is encrypted and stored on users’ personal devices. There are no middlemen, no passwords, and no massive data silos to breach.”

(Source: Blockstack)

Since marketers have only recently (almost!) become accustomed to intricacies of The GDPR, this will surely be sending virtual shockwaves through the internet very, very soon.


(Graph Source: Statistica)

“The number of blockchain-related LinkedIn job postings more than tripled over the last year.”

(Source: The Enterprisers Project)

“The blockchain industry has grown over 200% each year for the past two years.”

“A recent IBM study found that one-third of C-level execs are either using or considering blockchain tech.”

(Source: Adebisi Adewusi via PostFunnel)

“The industry is going to see rapid adoption in 2019.”

(Source: Daniel Gouldman via Campaign)

You get the picture.

As a marketer (or anybody involved in business) blockchain certainly isn’t to be overlooked.

Stay educated by visiting sites like this, and decide whether the relatively new technology is a game-changer for your brand.

If the answer is no, that’s absolutely fine.

Remember: Shiny objects? ☺

Just be sure to remain in the loop as blockchain uptake swiftly progresses in the near future, because it undeniably has legs.

Its impact may transform everything we do online, whether you choose to become professionally involved at the moment, or not.

TREND #2: Visual Search Experimentation

Moving into the realm of AI — (which will also continually converge with blockchain, by the way) — the scope for business and marketing use is immeasurable.

Visual search is another revolutionary development that is powered by Artificial Intelligence/machine learning, allowing us to search by inputting images instead of text.

“The future of search will be about pictures rather than keywords.”

(Pinterest CEO, Ben Silbermann)

Our digital world is moving fast, right?

Despite its infancy and experimental standing, visual search is changing the face of ecommerce and tech, while still showing vast potential.

The old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words” pretty much sums up why.

(Check out Google Lens & Bing’s Visual Search)

We are inherently visual creatures — we ‘saw’ long before we knew how to speak or write with any meaning — not to mention today’s mobile obsession, selfie culture, and habitual snapping or recording of practically everything.

“90% of information transmitted to the human brain is visual.”

“The human brain can identify images seen for as little as 13 milliseconds.”

(Source: MIT)

Visual search caters to our very nature, and increasing expectations for speedy results via less effort.

It’s future-proof.

Currently, you will find comments scattered around the web suggesting this tech doesn’t quite work properly — and they’re correct.

However, keep your finger firmly on the pulse because visual search is only here to stay…


(Image Source: TechCrunch)

So, how does this apply to (or affect) your Digital Marketing strategy?

Firstly: There are obvious uses in verticals like décor, homeware, transport and fashion. If a prospective customer spots a friend wearing an immaculate dress they crave, a photo can be uploaded from their mobile to your visual search engine, and et voila — the same dress or similar alternatives will be suggested.

Google Lens makes the whole process even easier with the input of augmented reality. A photo doesn’t need to be physically taken — because it just requires too much effort to click a button in 2018+. 😎

Pointing a phone camera will return one or numerous points of interest to explore, depending on how many places or objects are shown on screen. I’m sure you can ‘see’ the scope for products stocked in brick and mortar stores, too!

[Don’t forget the mammoth size of the offline market — only 8% of the total $3.7 trillion in retail sales total is generated online. Wow.]

In combination with AR, the whole customer experience is completely immersive.

Clearly, this is what people desire.


(Image Source: WIRED)

And the possibilities are endless; the above is merely one application.

Forever 21 is an innovative fashion brand that is applying visual search in a way that allows customers to choose clothing attributes that would otherwise take a ridiculously long time to categorize (a task that would never be complete, as new items continuously go on sale).

Instead, the visual tech from Donde learns and recognizes slight details in merchandise imagery on the Forever 21 website:


(Image Source: WWD)

“In 1 month, Forever 21 saw an increase in sales conversions, and a 20% increase in average order value.

“Early data shows this is one of the most important innovations in the ecommerce space.”

(Source: Alex Ok, President of Forever 21 via WWD)

Here are several vendors offering intelligent visual search products:

It could be the same case with cars, holiday destinations, cooking utensils, you name it.

The search criteria will only expand.

That said, take a peek at Bing’s Deep Search where you can crop anything in a detailed picture to then search.

Also try out Pinterest Lens:

It’s going to pay your business dividends to 1). Visually show up in search engines, and 2). Provide an owned visual search component wherever relevant, especially at a time where the product is somewhat fresh and market penetration is low.

Do you personally know somebody focusing immensely on image search, or implementing visual AI search into their brand..?

The chances are slim; get ahead ASAP.

“There are now 600,000,000+ visual searches on Pinterest every month.”

(Source: Search Engine Watch)

“Pinterest is projected to surpass $1 billion in annual ad revenues by 2020.”

(Source: eMarketer)

“62% of millennials want visual search over any other new technology.”

(Source: ViSenze)

(Graph Source: eMarketer)

As this technology improves and vendors multiply in number, considerably more verticals will likely adopt this new standard of search.

The biggest fashion brands, digital marketplaces like eBay, and our go-to search engines have begun incorporating a visual search element throughout 2017/2018 (while Snapchat partnered with Amazon), so ‘watch’ this advancing space in 2019 onward.

I’ll stop with the puns now! Eye promise.

The next few lines are deadly serious.

Vitally, toward the beginning of this #2 trend write-up, I mentioned two words with regards to the introduction of visual search:

  • Apply

and

  • Affect

If you are in a vertical that you don’t believe is worthy of applying owned visual search (on your website etc.), it’s still imperative to optimize for it on search engines.

All three trends in this piece are massively shifting the digital landscape we know, and the collective stats show they will affect us all at some point.

Think about this:

In a few years, what if textual search is a thing of the past?

How will you gain visibility for your products and/or services?

A scary thought, but one that should encourage any business owner or marketer to promptly equip their business in preparation.

Visually-oriented ads across various platforms are an option; Pinterest’s figures and forecasts are promising:


(Graph Source: eMarketer)

Organically, SEO will be a different ball game for many — although achievable via structured data, highest-quality imagery and the usual image optimization — the layout of future SERPs (search engine results pages), the search engines we view them on, and subsequent level of competition, is anybody’s guess.

Visual search isn’t the only valid reason to prepare, either…

TREND #3: The Continual Rise of Voice Search

As we experience the trials of visual search while it improves, there is another digital beast reaching boiling point — and similarly, it is evolving ‘the old SEO’ we once knew.

Voice search has almost become second nature for a sizeable portion of people.

“39 million Americans now own a smart speaker.”

(Source: TechCrunch)

“40% of adults now use voice search once per day.”

(Source: Edit)

While text-based search is still integral in 2018, the state of marketing is rapidly shifting beneath our feet; the act of literally conversing with devices is becoming a part of everyday life.

Digital assistants Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Cortana are gaining virtual ground as you read.

“Bing’s Cortana has 100 million active monthly users (a third as many as Twitter).”

(Source: Edit)

But increasingly (and notably), screens aren’t used to search at all…

Dedicated voice assistant devices are making their way into countless more homes, and typical engagement is much higher than usual; smart speaker voice assistants are used 2.88 times per day, while smartphones a measly .33 on average.

(The Google Home Mini Device)

Amazon’s Echo device is crushing all competition, with Google Home in 2nd place but lagging far behind:

(Graph Source: Business Insider)

While everything ‘visual’ is cooking, voice search is set to take the reins over the next few years.

It can be deemed the most important marketing consideration for now and the near future; 20% of all mobile searches on Google are already made via voice, which equates to over 60 million people (in the U.S. alone) using digital assistants today.

By the year 2020, there is estimated to be 200 billion voice search queries per month.

Let’s put that into perspective.

Mary Meeker, a successful tech enthusiast who was listed as Forbes’ 77th most powerful woman in the world 2014, timelined Andrew NG’s projection of at least 50% of all searches to comprise of visual and voice search by 2020:


(Graphic Source: KPCB)

So, what may the % split look like?

“30% of all web browsing sessions will be made by voice-activated searches by 2020.”

(Source: Gartner)

Astounding, but switching back to the hard facts…

Beyond any degree of speculation, here is actual data demonstrating the past growth (and conclusive magnitude) of voice search:


(Graph Source: ReferralMD)

(Graph Source: Hitwise)

(Graph Source: Business Insider)

“By recording one month of sales rates for 2,000 products listed on Amazon, OC&C Strategy Consultants reported that voice-powered commerce accounted for $1.8 billion in U.S. retail revenues in 2017.”

(Source: Forbes)

How exactly do you tackle this as a marketer?

To accommodate, be sure to add rich Schema markup (JSON-LD) so Google et al and devices like Alexa can truly understand your content, infinitely better than plain HTML text on a web page.

Structured Data is true search engine language, so it’s a good idea to become fluent!

Provide reliable answers within your material that are formatted in both back-end code and visible page text (e.g. by using bullet or numbered points) and ensure they are succinct for an audible response.

This is key to securing future visibility and gaining the so-called ‘position zero’ featured snippet results in Google (shown above and below).

Even though it appears that voice assistant devices will take most, if not all the credit for answers at the moment — just ensure you show up.

Because right now, it’s the best you can do.

“But what about videos?” I hear you cry!

[And I’m glad you did, as you will notice a very recent influx of video featured snippets if you use Google on a daily basis.]

Optimize self-hosted videos like this, and YouTube videos like this.


Win big by answering small: Dig deep into the long-tail, conversational queries (sentences) your target audiences are using. You can use a combo of Google Search Console and a tool like LongTail Pro for this research.

There are also user-friendly SEO tools that assist the aforementioned tasks, such as WordLift for WordPress.

[It’s a plugin that optimizes your content using Natural Language Processing, drawing a crystal clear picture of your content for search engines to easily interpret.]

Regardless of tools, SEO is transitioning at an alarming rate — so hold on tight.

Industry whispers speak of a possible ‘one result’ world, where voice assistants are so accurate and popular, only a single ‘perfect’ result is required…

Others suggest a reality where Google is no longer on the throne.

Of course, there is also capacity for voice assistant ads.

The real truth is, nobody yet knows the outcome. But has Digital Marketing ever been easy, and have we ever owned a working crystal ball..?

Embrace the era with open arms, and take advantage of the wealth of opportunity that exists around us.

Tick off the following list to be in with a fighting chance of organic visibility in 2019+.

BONUS: 10-Point ‘Voice Search Visibility’ Checklist

  • Maintain a high level of overall SEO — Google featured snippets are mostly ranked in the top 10 results before appearing in ‘position zero’
  • Use logically-ordered paragraphs, bullets, numbered points and tables
  • Research and optimize existing featured snippets won by competitors
  • Analyze the ‘related search’ function on Google for additional ideas
  • Optimize paragraph answers so they are 45 – 97 words in length
  • Publish long-form content that applies NLP; aim for at least ~2,400 words in total (with a concise, optimized answer to the search query)
  • Answer multiple similar questions within your topical pages, focusing on conversational ‘who, what, why, where, and when’ responses
  • Consistently keep your pages updated, including imagery
  • Attract high-authority links to your finest, optimized pages
  • Apply Structured Data and test it using this tool

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Sam Hurley

Sam is a passionate 'people connector', Personal Branding expert & Founder of OPTIM-EYEZ. He has achieved success for SMEs, national and international organizations, while being ranked as the world’s #1 digital influencer by Webinale, #2 most influential digital marketer by Onalytica and world’s #3 content marketing influencer by ScribbleLive. Sam loves a high-octane action movie and his all time favorite supercar is the Lamborghini Aventador! Catch him on social for cosmic amounts of Digital Marketing tips.

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