9 Digital Marketing Trends, Tips and Strategies for Small Business
by Mike Khorev
Digital marketing is constantly evolving, and we have seen many significant changes—both positive and negative—throughout 2018 and 2019. In late 2019, we have seen huge changes due to big data and AI implementation, as well as Google’s increasing use of featured snippets, among other platforms.
In 2021, however, we can almost expect bigger—and ‘weirder’ — changes to hit the digital marketing world, some might be very relevant to change the digital marketing ecosystem as a whole.
What are they? Below, we will outline 7 of the most prominent ones.
9 Top Digital Marketing Trends In 2020
1. The Domination of Zero-Click Search
In the past recent years, there have been very significant changes in how we use Google as a search engine:
|Google Then||Difference||Google Now|
|Type in a search query on our PC or laptop||How we search||Use voice search, type on desktop or mobile devices|
|Paid search ads on top, followed by organic results||The Result||Paid search ads on top, Featured snippet results, “People also ask” box, organic results|
|Go to the most relevant result and visit a website, and go to other results if it didn’t meet our expectation||Our action||If we can get the answer from the featured snippet, we move on, or we might check the “People also ask” queries for interesting information. We rarely visit any website unless it’s absolutely necessary.|
Our main lead generation method for years is to get people to visit our website in one way or another, and get them to give their contact information (mainly email address). We can then follow them up with email newsletters, show them display ads (via remarketing), and other efforts. In short, them visiting our website used to be the core of the strategy.
Nowadays, however, only less than 50% of Google searches now result in a website visit. Think about it, nowadays, we spend more time on YouTube, Instagram, and other social media networks over any ‘real website. If we want to read something, even, we probably go straight to Medium and search. We can certainly expect this trend to continue and become even bigger in 2020 and onwards.
While this is certainly a good thing for the users/consumers and for Google, small businesses and marketers must adjust to this fact by:
- Find ways to extract value and generate leads from featured snippet results—or zero-click results—, a thing that is still a mystery for many marketers today
- Find and target keywords with higher CTR (but naturally, the competition for these keywords will be very high)
- Publish content on Google’s platforms (YouTube, Google Maps/Google My Business, etc.)
These are still easier said than done today, and in most cases, we can only take the ‘wait and see’ stance.
2. Maturity and Saturation of Video Marketing
For half-decade or so now, we have always seen “video marketing” on basically everyone’s digital marketing trends list.
However, video content and video streaming have rapidly matured this past couple of years or so. In 2018, according to HubSpot’s content preferences survey, 54% of US consumers are already preferring video content from any brand.
Nowadays, video marketing is no longer a luxury, but a necessity, with video production, also getting more affordable and faster than ever. In 2020 and onwards, we can expect the trend to continue, but the question is: with all the videos out there, how can we get ours noticed?
With video getting more saturated as a medium, it will be interesting to see how it will continue to evolve, especially due to the next trend we’ll discuss right below.
3. Podcasts Steal The Spotlight
Since the end of 2018 and throughout 2019, podcasts have grown tremendously and stolen a lot of market shares from other channels.
The sudden rise of podcasts might partially due to our increasingly busy lives: we can consume podcasts while doing daily chores and commuting— and even when we work, to some extent—, but we can’t consume videos during these cases. In short, practicality.
We will see more podcasts being published—and listened to— in 2020, and marketers must start to find ways to integrate their existing marketing strategy with the podcast format—or even probably start their own podcasts—.
4. Rapid Implementation and Evolution of AI
Similar to video marketing, AI has been the major buzzwords of digital marketing for the past few years, and 2020 might be the year when we truly see the explosion of AI in digital marketing and any other fields—the true ‘rise of the machine’ —.
The thing is, we can almost certainly predict that AI will make it big in 2020 and onwards, but it’s much harder to predict how AI will be implemented, simply because of its endless possibilities.
We might see a wider adoption of chatbots in more businesses. Back in 2018, a survey by Oracle pointed out that 80% of surveyed brands expect to serve customers via Chatbot by 2020, and 40% of millennials have reported that they have interacted with chatbots daily in 2019.
We might also see more implementations of AI in email marketing and social media marketing: from automation, user segmentation, personalization, scheduling, and other possible applications.
Last but not least, we might also see radical innovations from some of the prominent AI startups trying to make their big break.
5. The Deconstruction of Marketing Funnel
The mobile devices, the changes in Google search, and the saturation of social media, among other factors, have changed the customer journeys—and the marketing funnel— significantly and radically in 2019 alone.
The customer’s journey is now scattered and fragmented: we can purchase almost anything directly from our website, bypassing any other steps of the journey.
This phenomenon has caused a boost in impulse shopping, which surely can benefit many businesses. However, it’s now harder to engage with customers and retaining them. Marketers must develop a ‘new’ version of the marketing funnel that can tackle the scattered, non-linear customer journey with one purpose: creating a unified customer experience.
This will be the trend of marketing going forward, no longer focusing on each channel/campaign, but looking at the overarching, fragmented customer journey across the different marketing channels and devices, while at the same time personalizing and optimizing our message to align with various touchpoints.
Automation, obviously, will be a key in achieving this, and AI (as discussed above) might play a big role in 2020 and onwards.
6. Marketing as An Experiential Activity
Still connected to the evolution (or devolution?) of the customer journey, now marketing is no longer solely about advertising our product/service and building awareness. It’s no longer enough just to show them your brand, but they have to experience and feel it in order to trust your credibility.
Interactivity and engagement will be even more important than before. It’s no longer enough for customers to see how great a product/service it over an advertisement or probably a video—no matter how well-produced the video is—, they need to experience it somehow.
Checking for social proofs—online reviews, peer recommendations— is also an aspect of this experiential marketing as a whole, so working with (the right) influencers can help brands to engage with customers and get your voice heard.
7. Customer Data Onboarding for 1:1 Marketing
1:1 Marketing—or one-to-one marketing, is essentially a CRM strategy focusing on personalized (one-to-one) interactions with each customer. The main idea is that personalization can help us cut through all the noises of the saturated digital marketing world, while at the same time improving customer loyalty and better conversion rate—maximizing marketing ROI—.
Data onboarding, on the other hand, is the process of bringing offline data into the online realm, and in this case, transforming offline customer records into online customer datasets.
Data onboarding is a tech field that is growing at a rapid rate throughout 2019, and is expected to hit the $1 billion market cap in 2020. In practice, we can, for example, study the offline customer database (i.e. business card information) and use PII (Personally Identifiable Information) to find a similar audience online.
In general, however, data-driven marketing or insights-driven marketing will be even bigger going forward in 2020.
8. Google Gallery Ads
As a response to Facebook Carousel Ads, Google recently launched Google Gallery Ads in 2019.
Gallery Ads is essentially a new version of paid search, featuring swipeable image-based ads (just like Facebook Carousel Ads), with the main focus of meeting the user’s search intent with visuals. In essence, providing users with images and interactivity, two key ingredients to capture user’s attention in this very saturated world.
While the adoption of Gallery Ads is still fairly low in 2019—it launched in beta just back in August—, we can expect it to grow even bigger in 2020 and onwards, as many marketers become aware of its existence (and more case studies of its usage being published).
9. The Importance of Customer Privacy
User privacy and data security have been major issues in 2018 and 2019, mainly due to repeated privacy blunders by Facebook, but also other tech giants like Google. Reactions in the form of privacy regulations like GDPR and more recently CCPA ) have been enacted, and record fines regarding data privacy have also arisen in 2019.
As the internet grows bigger and faster than ever before—especially with the launch of 5G and WiFi 6—, the risks associated with data privacy and security breach will also grow bigger. While it’s not directly the job of marketing, marketers must work with other teams to minimize the potential risks of a security breach, while at the same time ensuring consumers about the company’s policy regarding security.
Emerging technologies in data security might be a viable solution in 2020. Know Your Customer (KYC) technologies will be even more important in 2020, both to better protect your existing customers and to detect potential threats.
The upcoming digital marketing trends in 2021 emphasizes one thing: the interaction between artificial intelligence and humans, in so many different ways. On the one hand, customers are demanding more personal, human touch from growth and digital marketers, but on the other hand, the demand for machine learning, new technologies, and data analytics are rapidly increasing.
In our opinion, 2021—as the start of a new decade—, might be the transition year in digital marketing, as a new foundation for the new era when digital marketing reaches yet another maturity level.
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