Before we get stuck into looking at the 2019 Digital Marketing trends let’s first take a look at the year that was.

2018 was a rocky year for some (hello Facebook and the now infamous Cambridge Analytica data scandal) and in some cases it still continues to be (hello Facebook’s recent data breach in Sept that saw over 50 million users’ data compromised). 2018 definitely shone a light on customer data, how it was being used and at what cost. As marketers, this meant more transparency and a renewed focus on building trust with our customers, with these data breaches leaving a sour taste in the mouths of everyone in their wake.

On the flip side, increased access to data for marketers meant better targeting, personalisation and segmentation. So, alongside the growing frustrations of data breaches was the growing need of our customers to expect highly targeted relevant messaging – something impossible to do without data. A classic modern marketing catch-22. With increased access to data came an increase in more elegant list building. And knowing how to use those lists to communicate to our customers at exactly the right time in their buying journey was something both marketers and consumers simply became to expect.

Email continued to remain one of the strongest communication tools however our customers expected that emails be tailored specifically to them, to their needs, their actions and to even be able to anticipate what they might want in the future. Brands got comfortable with using emoji’s in their subject lines with some reports even indicating an increase in open rates due to these expressive little icons.

Handy shopping cart reminders, conversational emails written in the voice and personality of brands who really knew who they were (see Go-To skin care example below), friendly and transparent opt-ins or opt-outs were all favourites of ours in 2018. Valuable information that was targeted, relevant and timely was spared the dreaded ‘unsubscribe’ tap. (Our condolences to any brand that didn’t get this right in 2018).

Go-To Skin Care email example

In terms of social media, Facebook still ruled the roost.  However, it was reported that most age groups usage remained static or were in decline, with the exception being the older demographic (55+) which is now the biggest group overall.

Instagram continued to grow across all age groups with the largest being the 25 to 34’s. Snapchat matured a little with an increase in it’s 25 to 34 age group proving the platform isn’t just for teens.  A Merkle report of their clients’ investments showed that while Facebook ad spend grew 40 per cent year over year in Q2 2018, ad spend on Instagram jumped 177 per cent during the same time period.

In terms of search, it started to become even harder to get on Google’s first page with an increase in paid ads, knowledge panels, maps, videos, featured snippets etc. For marketers, understanding user intent and semantic search along with context, mainly driven by Google’s algorithm updates meant that well-executed, in-depth and comprehensive content was what really blew Google’s hair back.

Google also launched its new Google Marketing Platform which saw AdWords renamed to Google Ads and the Doubleclick ad platform and analysis tools like Google Analytics, Data Studio, and AB testing all becoming closely integrated.

In 2018 we became obsessed with Chatbots, with most brands trying their hand at integrating their own digital concierge to answer their most common customer requests. Nike launched one of the most advanced chat applications and set the benchmark for how this tool can be used to drive customer engagement and sales within this space.

Nike chatbot example

And to conclude our 2018 recap just a quick note on mobile. According to Mary Meeker’s 2018 Digital Trends report, 2018 was the first year that mobile purchases stabilised – hinting that we may have reached peak saturation. Google officially announced mobile-first indexing in 2018, opting to crawl the mobile version of a website over the desktop version. This sent minor panic ripples across the digisphere with brands confused on what they needed to do to ‘be ready’ for the change. Basically, if your site was mobile optimised and had the same awesome content as your desktop version then you pretty safe. Phew.


So what does 2019 have in store?


The emergence of the nano and local influencer

We’ve all heard of influencers, you’ve seen them on the Gram, half-naked tanned and toned bodies casually posing in their bathrooms surrounded by boxes of slimming shakes with hashtags for days. But unless you have thousands or even in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars the influencer space seems out of reach. Enter the nano and local influencer. Partnering with local like-minded people who have a decent following (1000 – 10,000) can be just as effective if you’re a local business or service and are willing to invest some time to create campaigns based on honest relationships. Customers are starting to see through the ‘influencer’ style posts so we believe transparency, honest connections and authentic advocacy will be on the rise.

What does this mean for modern marketers?
Start by making a list of some of the nano influencers in your industry and area. Take a look at what your competitors are doing, search hashtags, check out podcasts, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram and other platforms. Approach this naturally like you would a normal relationship, get to know them and then reach out with a casual message. You’ll be surprised how many people are keen to receive free product, free food or free services in exchange for a check-in, post or mention. Word of warning though, try to get some guarantee that your new found friend will deliver on what they have promised. Sending out a bunch of product can be timely and costly.  You need to make sure your efforts are worth it.


The three Vs of search

In 2019 Voice, Visual and Vertical search will emerge as important areas to consider when it comes to your search marketing.
In her 2018 Internet Trends report, Mary Meeker comments “With voice, we’ve hit technology liftoff with word accuracy and we’ve certainly hit product liftoff with Amazon Echo” but as marketers in 2019, we’ll start to figure out how to harness the true power of Voice search. We know that verbal interaction with our devices is on the up. I don’t know about you but I’m a big fan of asking Siri to set a timer for me when I’m in the kitchen.

Visual search will continue to increase in popularity with platforms like Pinterest who pioneered the functionality start to fine-tune their offering and other platforms like Google and Amazon starting to get on board.

And lastly Vertical search basically any other platform with a search function that isn’t a search engine. Think e-retailers like Alibaba and Amazon, Apple and even Facebook. All of these platforms have their own unique search algorithms that we’re only just starting to tap into. Furthermore, Facebook just announced the return of Search Ads proving this is continuing to be an important space for them.

What does this mean for modern marketers?
In terms of voice search, we need to start to think a little differently about how people search using their voice compared to a typed search. Voice queries tend to be more question based and informational style queries – How, who, what? Ánd unlike a text-based search that provides pages of results, a response from a verbal query may only return just one response, or at most a couple. This means we need to start thinking about how we can optimise our websites and ensure we are using structured data on all relevant elements of our content. Developing FAQ pages will be super important and a great opportunity for brands to leverage question-based queries. Local businesses will also win if listings are up to date and 100% correct.

To harness the powers of visual search SEJ recommends we

“Follow Image Optimization Best Practices. The information retrieval process for visual search is similar to that of image search, so the first step is to ensure your images can be served for the right queries. Once more, structured data, load speed, and descriptive metadata are essential. We wrote about Google’s published image search guidelines earlier this year.”


Google E-A-T 

While on the topic of Search let’s also talk about E-A-T (expertise, authority, trustworthiness).

Google’s number 1 job is to provide search results that are relevant and accurate and are the absolute best of what is on the web. Google wants to be certain that the results it shows prove that you are an expert in your field, that you are an authority in your field and that you can be trusted.

As a result, Google’s recently updated Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines placed more focus on expertise, authority, and trustworthiness, or E-A-T. We think this actually rings true for all channels, not just Google.

What does this mean for modern marketers?
To get on Google’s good side you need to ensure that your content and your website are showing proof of E-A-T. Here are a few tips:

Expertise – Google wants to see that you are an expert in your field. Think about the type of expertise your site might require so that from Google’s perspective you are better than your competition. For example, if you are an accountant – do you have the relevant qualification listed? Are you offering medical advice? Then Google wants to see that your content is written or produced by people or organisations with appropriate medical, expertise or accreditation. It should be written or produced in a professional style and should be edited, reviewed, and updated on a regular basis.

Authoritativeness – You need to show Google that you are an authority in your field. How do you do this? By having people link to your site! Remember every link to your site is a ‘vote’ showing Google you know your stuff.

Trustworthiness – Google wants to be reassured that the user can trust you. If the user clicks on your URL will they feel safe? Can they trust you with their information? Factors like making sure your site is secure by having an SSL Certificate will help this. The trustworthiness of the creator of the content as well as the content itself is also a factor.

These guidelines are written for the human algorithm raters rather than the algorithm itself, but many SEOs are using this as a clue to where Google is headed in terms of its ranking signals.


Facebook killed the video star

According to Mary Meeker’s 2018 Internet report, video (in particular, mobile video) is still on the up with data usage growth year on year continuing to accelerate. As access to the internet is now ubiquitous we are consuming more video content via our mobile phones than ever before.

While we believe mobile video will continue to be a major player in 2019 (and beyond) a new way of thinking around distribution is needed. We’ve seen one of the biggest players in the social media space Social media examiner make a drastic decision to cancel 3 long-form content shows that were produced specifically for Facebook after they were receiving only 4-6 views. This is from a page that has 536K likes. This insight caused them to ramp up their activity on other platforms like YouTube and focus on distributing content only on platforms where people are actually watching! That said, Facebook continues to spruik it’s Watch platform as well as IGTV, playing into the perceived demand of long-form video so this might offer some new opportunities for marketers.

What does this mean for modern marketers?
If you are spending time making video content- look at your insights and analyse what is happening. Understand how your audience is viewing your content on each platform.
Ensure that your content is made for mobile – reports estimate that more than 78% of all video content is watched on mobile. Test organic content to see how it performs, then put some money behind it if it’s cutting through. Invest in creativity, using video is so ubiquitous that you need to create something that stands out. Get skilled in the basics or hire someone to help you develop content. Just because we can make videos so easily doesn’t mean we all should!


Our love-hate relationship with Data will continue

I once heard someone say “if you are given access to a platform for free, then you and your information/data is the payment”. We know that data improves marketing personalisation, engagement and experiences and the amount of information that is available to marketers continues to move at a torrid rate. Google has reported they are seeing an increase in personalised searches like ‘near me?’ and ‘should I?’’ So we know consumers want this and we know that as a brand, it’s very clear that data assists discovery with more personalised targeting. We just need to find the right balance with our customers between what we take and what we give.

What does this mean for modern marketers?
Your data strategy needs to be on point. You need to have a clear understanding of
a) What data you need to inform your business decisions – this will be different for each business
b) How you are going to collect the data in a safe, transparent and ethical way, and
c) How you are going to use that data to inform your marketing tactics and strategies


Podcasts rule

Podcasts have been around since 2004 but have recently only started to gain prominence since high profile shows like the cult classic ‘Serial’ was released in 2014.

According to the ABC Podcast Research 2017, 86% of Australians are now aware of podcasts and listening increased by 56% between 2016 and 2017. The average listening time is 48 mins for weekly listeners who commit beyond the first 5 minutes and just slightly more women than men are listening. (58% vs 41%)

For marketers, we’ve only just started to scratch the surface in regards to looking for opportunities to create educational, informative and entertaining content that can be consumed easily while doing other things. According to the ABC research, 73% of people listen to podcasts to ‘hear content they are interested in’, 67% ‘want to be informed’ and 57% ‘want to be entertained’. Furthermore, 49% listen so they can ‘multitask’. Besides Podcasts being a great channel for branded content, there are also advertising opportunities for brands wanting to insert themselves into someone else’s content.

What does this mean for modern marketers?
While podcasts might not be for every brand it is worth having a think about what you might be able to offer that can fit into one of the categories above. Can you create content that is a) informative b) educational or c) entertaining and if you can do all 3 then what are you waiting for!


More money spent on digital

Digital now accounts for 55% of overall marketing budgets in Australia, with digital advertising in Australia having reached $8.5 billion (PwC Online Advertising Expenditure Report 2019).

Regardless of a business’ size, a majority will be shifting more marketing budget to digital. In this study, findings reveal that from now through to 2021 there will be an overall shift toward online marketing channels across all business categories. The large swing from offline to online is due to digital channels being more trackable and generally producing a higher ROI.

What does this mean for modern marketers?
Investing in digital channels, particularly social media, and shifting your overall marketing strategy to include more digital activity will be key.


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