The speed that digital trends are changing is matched only by the importance of keeping up with all the changes that impact to your bottom line. Long-form emails, websites with massive stuffed content, and high human involvement in achieving conversions is giving way to AI-infused chatbots, programmatic advertising, and capitalizing on voice searches and smart speakers—to name just a few.
Fortunately, the payoff for engaging in the top trends of 2020 include increased conversions, improved customer experiences and retention, lower staffing costs, and increased revenue.
Here are 12 not-to-be-missed digital trends for 2020.
1 Conversational Marketing & Chatbots
The early chatbot experience was choppy, abrupt, and often frustrating because of the obvious lack of conversation inherent in trying to explain your problem or needs to a scripted robot. Marketers initially envisioned a chatbot as a decision tree that spit out canned responses, and that’s how most companies wrote them—dry and simply serving as extended site navigation or lead forms.
In 2020, brands are widely enhancing their chatbots to integrate predictive modeling and integration with complete sales data, site analytics, and semantic learning from similar anonymized conversations, giving users much more meaningful and satisfying interactions. Plus, using AI with chatbots allows much faster learning than a human is capable of, making its inclusion essential if you want to keep up to the changing ways your customers interact, complete transactions, and return for more.
Smart brands go a step further and realize that customer experience IS their brand, and all the things that influence brand style from customer personas, brand tone, messaging priorities, and reasons to believe should be baked into all digital interactions.
Chick-fil-a has created an extremely loyal brand following that’s encapsulated in one simple humanizing phrase: “It’s my pleasure”. This phrase, instead of “You’re welcome” or “no problem” indicates to customers and employees that the customer experience is the priority, rather than just running each diner through the restaurant as quick and cheap as possible. Adding a similar phrase to a chatbot’s script could present an important humanizing element—something that continues the brand messages.
At the end of the day all marketing is simply understanding and connecting with people. Real people with feelings, hopes, dreams, senses of humor, time pressures, and skepticisms. Do your customers walk away from your digital interactions feeling like a million bucks, or like they just wasted 15 minutes with the digital equivalent of yelling “representative” to a bank’s voice response system?
Whether it involves a programmed response or a real human, natural, respectful, and responsive conversational marketing is critical.
2 Technology Proliferation—Consolidation
Programmatic AdTech has generally reached a saturation point with massive fragmentation now starting to lean toward consolidation in 2020. Programmatic tools will continue to merge and die as the noise and platforms that don’t drive significant value fall by the wayside. But the programmatic explosion we have seen over the past five years is now giving way to an entirely new breed of connected marketing automation tools. Alas, the digital landscape is more complicated than ever before.
This insane “Supergraphic” from chiefmartec.com shows just how important it is in 2020 to focus on 3 things:
- Make sure your agency has a digital strategist in your corner that keeps a pulse on emerging trends and technologies that filter out the noise of excessive/redundant technologies and keep you pointed in the right direction.
- Remember that if you have a marketing challenge, it has most likely already been solved in 20 different ways with a plug and play tech solution that a savvy digital strategist can easily implement in your ecosystem. You don’t need to invent the wheel, you just need to find the right one for your vehicle.
- Focus on tangible value to your customer experience and not bright shiny objects that may not deliver. You know your customer personas and what is important to them (if you don’t, this should be one of your top priorities) and that should be the filter through which you approach the exploding digital marketing solutions that are constantly popping up.
3 Google “Position Zero” Optimization
SEO continues to be a critical digital strategy, but what success looks like has changed (of course!). The explosion of voice search, programmatic predictive advertising, and mobile on-the-go searches has created great disparity in modern search behavior. We are conditioned to digest information in either bite size 140 character social media posts or eye-catching short videos. The long-form articles and SEO-stuffed blogs that take forever to make a point no longer put you where you need to be on Google search results.
To win with SEO in 2020, brands have to enable semantic search through comprehensive featured/rich snippets.
Google is continuing to expand its usage of featured snippets that appear above all other organic search results—this is called position zero (ranking above position 1). These featured organic listings provide massively enhanced exposure on search result pages and only go to one or two coveted organic listings. According to Rand Fishkin at Moz HubSpot did a large study of high-volume keywords showing that ranking #0 produced a 114% CTR boost, even when they already held the #1 organic position.
Most customers and clients see the position zero and click on it without further investigation of page one results. To increase the probability of winning position zero for your content follow these simple steps:
- Think about your content as providing an answer to a specific question (which is, after all, what a search query is). Structure your content and copy like the answer to a question. Begin your content by repeating the question (query) prominently on the page followed by a concise direct answer. Then provide all the rest of the information videos, images, and fantastic content to completely answer any remaining details that the question poses.
- Ensure you are taking advantage of all available relevant structured data rich snippet tags that Google crawls. These snippets are particularly effective with voice searches which currently account for over 40% of all voice search answers.
- Follow this primer guide to ranking for position zero from Stephan Spencer at Search Engine Land
4 Live Video & Vlogging
Scrolling is becoming a habit with users of all ages and backgrounds. With only a few seconds (at best) to catch someone’s attention, you need more than the right phrase or image. That’s one reason live video and vlogging are key in 2020.
Movement catches the eye and slows the scrolling finger—or mouse. The majority of users prefer a video to text, and this is good news for marketing. A sixty-second explainer video is more valuable than 1.8 million words of text.
Think about how often you see videos, gifs, and flash images shared online. These days, videos are for sharing. Stick a quality, short video on your landing page and you’ll see an increase in conversions of up to 80%. Google likes videos too, ranking sites with videos high enough to boost organic search traffic by over 150%.
Live videos come across as genuine and authentic. The key is to focus on being entertaining and engaging. That’s far more important than perfection, which contradicts the attraction to live videos where users want authentic videos where mistakes can become part of the appeal.
How does vlogging fit in? A vlog is a cross between a video and a blog. Yes, it’s often informative, but it’s presented in a personal way—just you and the vlogger hanging out and becoming friends. Vloggers interact with their viewers through the video’s comments, creating the feeling that they are listening to their viewers and adapting their content accordingly.
If you don’t have a vlog yet, you need one! Start a YouTube channel, give your viewers real, interesting, valuable content, and make sure it’s imbedded in your blog and posted across your channels.
As in all marketing, you need to keep at the front of viewer’s minds. Post regularly, give a consistent message, but keep the content fresh and interesting. When you see a comment pop up, acknowledge the viewer and incorporate their comment into your spiel.
Another visual area that continues to generate excellent traction is tutorial videos. Everyone goes to YouTube to find out how to do things. Tutorial videos are the highest played on YouTube, even beating out music. So, if you thought YouTube was just for music videos you’ll have to shift your entire thought paradigm. Other platforms like Pinterest and TikTok are quickly growing with specific audiences. Don’t miss out if they cater to your target market.
All video content is good for increasing your SEO results, so look for what works with your business and your message and start recording!
5 Influencer Marketing
Can’t get a world-famous influencer on board to push your brand? Fantastic! In the past year, it’s come to light that not every celebrity endorsement indicates guaranteed quality. Consumers are becoming wary of highly paid influencers with global reach. What is trending in 2020 is a fascinating group of microinfluencers (or even nano-influencers).
These are smaller, often local accounts that have higher percentage engagements than the superstars. If your market is younger, take note of the fact that 70% of teen YouTube viewers are more influenced by the creators they watch than big name celebrities. Creators excel at making strong connections with their fans—something you want when they talk about your brand. Connections convert to more views, more actions, and more comments (which leads to more exposure).
Social media sharing as a whole is leading to great results, so finding the right influencer for your brand is a smart move. 81% of consumers frequently buy things they’ve seen via sharing.
Who are your local influencers? You may already follow them! A mommy blogger, food critic, or DIY expert in your area is connecting with viewers across different accounts. Just like their connections are the key to their success, creating your own genuine connection with them is important to creating the groundwork for sharing your business. Your agency should have its finger on the pulse of your market, and may already be building relationships where they can connect you to the right individuals.
There are some simple ways to identify who the local influencers are that can become strategic partners. Check your company’s reviews. Is there someone local with a following who’s already given you five stars? Where are people talking about your business? Who else are they talking with? Conduct a Google search for similar bloggers to your field, keeping your searches local. Use this as your starting point to engaging with the right microinfluencers.
6 Social Media Stories
Right in line with live video and vlogging is social media stories. Stories are really news feeds gone visual, and, like other eye-catching options, they grab attention and keep it when done right.
Stories generate high engagement. On Instagram you can add polls to your stories inspiring even more engagement while getting to know hat matters to your viewers. Because stories are temporary, they’re best used in-the-moment, creating a sense of urgency. 64% of marketers are using stories, or planning to use stories this year. Is your agency one of them?
Big brands have fully jumped on the stories bandwagon for marketing—in particular Instagram Stories. The reasons are compelling: stories are considered more authentic (no time for major editing and touch-ups), the temporary aspect of the content means it’s always current (a business can create a story that refers to a sudden hot topic), and it’s easy to interact with other accounts and businesses directly on the platform.
Consumers will expect stories from their favorite brands in 2020. Give them what they’re looking for, but always tie into your bottom line and include your CTA’s (that definitely stays the same in 2020).
7 Progressive Web Apps
Progressive web apps (PWA) give some notable advantages over native apps. Their design is not only responsive, but they perform well on slower networks, offer improved security, provide significant levels offline usability, and can be installed and launched from the home screen or the full native experience can be had simply by visiting the website on a mobile device. Progressive web apps are more cost effective in that a single application build serves the dual purposes of a standard website and the offline functionality and UX of a native app – all in one!
PWAs address consumer issues such as availability and compatibility, making them more appealing going into this year. Their speed of development and maintenance make them easier for developers and without needing to download and install like native apps, user loss is decreased by up to 20% for each step—that’s some good retention!
The inclusion of push notifications is an important component of PWAs. Push notifications bring the user’s focus back to your brand. They get people to re-engage, and increase sales and other conversions. Users tend to see push notifications as helpful reminders that require immediate actions. An eye catching notification about a time-limited sale is enough to drive traffic back to your site and inspire action related to the notification.
Compare push notifications to emails. You may/may not have your email subject hit your customer’s field of vision. And from there you need them to click and read. A push notification shows up on every client’s personal device, and from there will generate more than double the engagement of an email. It’s a smart use of your marketing budget, making your investment go further for less.
8 Social Commerce & Shoppable Posts
Instagram’s Checkout turns one year old in 2020, and it’s proving that letting customers complete purchases within the app is a winner. Without having to switch apps or sign into a store site, customers can now (almost) instantly buy whatever they see.
Shoppable posts make the purchase process not only easy, but part of the social media experience. Scrolling, shopping, and scrolling some more becomes a daily activity. 90% of Instagram’s users not only follow shopping brands, but visit these brands daily.
Even a user who is new to the shopping experience will easily identify the shopping bag on a post as an opportunity to find out more about how to buy the items they see. Once they click, they’re provided with the information to buy the item instantly, and they’re offered other relevant products. It’s shopping gratification at it’s finest.
Because Instagram is the leader in shoppable posts, 75% of US businesses will use Instagram in 2020. Are you one of them?
With 5G becoming mainstream, we’re entering another significant change in how we connect with our customers and how everyone connects with each other. 5G will bring high-speed data lanes to rural customers and open new markets worldwide (the connection speed and quality removes the need for fixed broadband even in remote areas). Adage suggests that 5G may even disrupt Google and Facebook’s duopoly by giving telecom companies direct access to massive data for ad services.
5G is so powerful, it’s paving the way for an entire augmented reality industry that spans the markets for everything from entertainment to personal safety. Are you ready to drop your jaw? This technology may power a one hundredfold increase in the number of connected devices. Not double, or triple… one hundredfold.
The increased speed and bandwidth will likely mean that users won’t be charged for data usage anymore. This opens up new opportunities for streaming, augmented reality, and technologies that haven’t even been created yet. It will also allow for actual conversations through smart speakers, and use for a variety of easier consumer activities.
However, as 5G rolls out, many mobile users will remain in the 4G world. Balancing marketing activities for 5G while continuing to connect with 4G customers may create a challenge in 2020, and perhaps even into 2021.
With more, faster access comes the increasing concern of privacy. Data breaches can cost big money—both in fines and in lost consumer trust. While governments are focusing on tightening privacy laws (California’s Consumer Privacy Act comes into effect this year, despite Silicon valley’s protests), it’s marketers that seem to take the blame much of the time.
In 2020, earning consumer’s trust by protecting their privacy is essential. All agencies need solid, clear plans for generating trust, ethically gathering data, and protecting the data they hold.
A visitor’s first impression about the security of your website will determine whether they stay. High bounce rates may be an indication that you’re not doing enough to convey your commitment to privacy and security, and must be addressed. The best content, snippets, and videos don’t have any value if visitors quickly leave your site.
11 Google Analytics is No Longer Enough
Vanity analytics that show things like page clicks and bounce rates just don’t cut it anymore. Companies need to quickly quantify outcomes, and machine learning is helping identify important data. Effectiveness of social media campaigns requires monitoring conversations, engagement and growth. Customers engage with brands on up to six touchpoints before making a purchase and you need analytics that can give you accurate cross-channel data.
The emerging essential is having a central place where you can access all your data from every platform where you have a presence, and use that information to make decisions for both short and long-term business success.
Leadfeeder is a B2B analytics provider that supplies data on the companies visiting your site. Critical information like how they found you and what they’re looking for help you know your future customer in ways that weren’t previously possible. Not only can you contact leads faster than your competition with this data, you can create custom sales pitches with the knowledge you have about each company.
Using intensive data across platforms gives a competitive advantage—companies that do so significantly outperform their competitors.
12 Bonus Round – Strategic Grounding for 2020
With the rapid advancement of automation and technological capabilities we see, everything still boils back down to the basics: really knowing who your customers are, what they want, and obsessing over giving them the perfect experience.
AI is your friend in 2020. Used well, it will take over tedious tasks and provide better data than you’ve ever seen—data that can give you the insights you need into your customers. For any of the amazing new marketing opportunities to work for you, they must be built on the foundation of customer knowledge and desired experience.
What worked last year will be different this year, and the challenge of following trends and adapting to them is the bread and butter of those who love meaningful marketing and the death knoll of everyone else. Make sure your agency partners are challenging your thinking, bringing fresh solutions, and are providing you with actionable optimization recommendations to ensure that you are capitalizing on the opportunities that will bring you the most benefit in 2020.