Want to out-think your competitors? You need to out-plan them.
You know what they say: staying successful means always being two steps ahead. That’s why we’re entering 2018 not just thinking of what’s ahead for the next year, but what’s ahead for the next decade - because 2020 will be here before you know it. We expect to be setting the trends, not catching up with them, and you should too.
Ad Targeting and Personalization
Advertising can often feel a lot like fishing on a small pond with dozens of other fishermen all around you. It’s crowded, the fish are inclined to be a little scared, and you’re basically leaving your catch up to sheer luck that you’ll be noticed first.
The best way to beat the crowd? Bring the right bait, for the right fish, and cast it out at the right time and in the right places.
That’s why advertising needs to become more personalized and more finely targeted as more advertisers enter the market. The more closely you can align your message with precisely the person you’re delivering it to, the more you can avoid wasteful ad spending and increase conversions - and improved targeting tech can help you do it.
Whether you’re utilizing analytics, Facebook Insights, or your own collected data from emails and order forms, it’s going to be more critical than ever in the 2020s for brands to think about who they’re actually trying to reach, as well as how they’re trying to break through and make an impression. It’s a big marketplace, and customers are more likely than ever to engage - all you need to do is give the right people the right offer, and they won’t be able to refuse.
Last April, the European Union adopted a shiny new privacy rule called the General Data Protection Regulation - or GDPR - that’s looking a lot like a game-changer for web privacy. Long story short, it limits how and when private companies can collect and use the private information of users - and that means a lot of the tools that have become so useful for advertisers are going to be, for all intents and purposes, off-limits ( or at least a lot harder to collect).
Not only will companies need to comply with these new regulations in their online spaces, but they’ll also have to adapt to a marketing industry that’s a lot more private - and that can be a challenge when it comes to personalizing and targeting ads. Fortunately, it’s not the end of personal information collecting, but brands do need to be much more upfront about what, when, and why they’re collecting and using data. But any way you look at it, it’s a pretty big deal.
This Christmas, we all got a little freaked out by our moms’ Alexas and Google Homes. It’s one thing to see a Millennial talking to their phone like life is a Spike Jonez movie, but it’s another thing to see older generations getting in on the voice search - and the more they get used to it, the more they’ll put it to use. That’s why brands need to be on the voice search wave now - otherwise, the big dogs (read: Amazon, Google) are going to just dominate when push comes to shove.
Funnily enough, if you’ve mastered the subtle art of the Featured Snippet, you may already be halfway to mastering the art of Voice Search. That’s because Alexa and Google Home, when faced with a voice-guided query, will simply deliver the most useful, most immediate answer possible. Users don’t ever even have to engage with your site, but the search engine itself will still draw on your content to answer questions and guide purchases. That’s why it takes a smart voice strategy to get on Alexa’s good side, before Amazon just fills in the spaces for you.
On top of that, there are going to be big changes in the way people conduct a voice search - as in, they’re more likely to be conversational. Instead of searching for “best steak Nashua,” they may ask something like “Where can I get a nice ribeye in Nashua?” Alexa, Google, or any other voice search engine will react as organically as possible, and that means brands need to put even more thought into their keywords and content to better match this conversational search.
VR and AR
Remember back in early 2016 when Virtual Reality was supposed to take over the internet with ruthless dominance? Yeah, hasn’t happened yet - except for some pretty sweet Google Maps features, it still feels like VR is searching for its place. A classic case of “the technology is there, but the content isn’t… yet.”
Augmented Reality, however, is pretty much the opposite. Millions of products exist in photos and videos all over the internet, but connecting users with those products in a meaningful way is still in its infancy. Sites like Pinterest are eager - and working - to get on board the AR search function, integrating visual product search in ways that make it easier for visual content creators to tag and link to products in one easy interface. Now, it’s on brands to start pushing content in that direction, before the market becomes overly saturated.
Many brands are also using AR - and the ease with which smartphone users can access AR content - to tell richer and more engaging stories. Users are going to remember a face-to-face encounter with a dinosaur a lot sooner then they’ll remember a standard text ad, and that may just be the key to catching eyes in a crowded ad landscape.
Does anybody read FAQ pages anymore? As social media managers and content creators, we can safely say that no, they do not. Instead of combing through a list of questions to find one that maybe, sorta gives them the info they’re looking for, users today are much more likely to simply send a question off via social media, expecting brands to be ready-to-answer at a moment’s notice.
The trouble is that answering all of those questions - often, the same questions over and over - takes time, and it’s time we don’t have. That’s where AI can be your new best friend.
With the rise of on-demand customer service, there’s also been an explosion in the number of chatbots out there, and they’re getting smarter by the day. Chatbots and other AI systems can be an excellent way to run interference on customer service questions, responding instantly and effortlessly to your most commonly asked queries and support needs.
If a customer needs more help than that, then your chatbot can act as the first line of defense and re-director to get customer questions in the right place without ever having to lift a finger. It’s a strategy most brands simply don’t have the resources to match - and one you may not be able to afford to miss out on.
So if you’ve had any contact with the marketing world over the past few years, it should be no surprise that video has become the big thing. For just about a year now, we’ve known that Facebook has been pushing marketers to create more and longer videos, and those that do have been handsomely rewarded for their efforts in sheer audience exposure.
But for many marketers, agencies, and brands, the transition to video has been hard - harder than it needs to be, maybe, but difficult nonetheless. So, when some may be starting to say that it’s too late in the game to get your foot in the door with video, what makes 2018 the right time to begin your video marketing efforts?
Simply put: it’s no longer an option - it’s a necessity. It’s not just that the audience is learning to prefer video; the platforms are too - and that means creatives and marketers alike need to step up to the plate and put those ubiquitous iPhone cameras to good use, before those potential leads find their right fit with someone else.
On January 1, 2018, the very first adults born after the turn of the millennium hit 18 years old. That means the rise of Generation Z as a serious audience segment is no longer just something to anticipate on the horizon - it’s here, it’s happening, and it’s time to adjust.
Gen Z consumers aren’t just “digital natives” like Millennials - they’re “mobile natives;” they’re accomplished self-marketers; and they’re highly-critical consumers. It’s not enough to just tell Gen Z consumers that you’re an industry leader or that you’re socially responsible. You have to show them, and build meaningful, lasting relationships with them along the way.
Of course, it’s no secret that we tend to trust those most alike to us, and the same goes for Gen Z. As more post-millennials reach adulthood and enter the workforce, their thinking and habits will begin to change the way marketing is done. Older and more experienced marketers can either get on board or get out of the way, but the times they are a-changing.
One of the biggest pitfalls for many marketers trying to swing focus over to local marketing is to treat things the same way they would for regional or national campaigns. The truth is, approaching local marketing means thinking differently about your audience, about your goals, and about your KPIs, all of which will be (relatively) unique to your business.
From an SEO perspective, bringing in local customers means keeping your content and your presence online relevant, timely, and as easy as possible to engage with. Google snippets, customer reviews, and keyword targeting all play an important role in gaining and keeping trust among local consumers and locally-based leads, with voice search only adding to the change and confusion. By thinking like a local searcher, you can help more easily identify and strengthen those points of contact where your potential consumer becomes an active consumer.
Social media, too, should adjust for local marketing - especially when it comes to cultivating those local relationships. Targeted, local ad campaigns can bring in neighbors and nearby consumers for special, local-only offers; social Action Buttons and CTA’s can (and should) be designed to encourage immediate action (like “Call Now,” “Get Directions,” or “Book Now”) to function less as an information repository and more as a living, breathing tool for creating connections with your most loyal, local fans.
Ready To Own The Next Decade(s)?
In all of his immortal wisdom, Alice Cooper may have said it best:
“I'm in the middle
The middle of life
I'm a boy and I'm a man
I'm eighteen and I like it…”
The new millennium is now, officially, an adult. That means that many of the training wheels marketers have relied on during the past 18 years of newness are now off, and a refined, more established blend of consumers and platforms is taking shape. Businesses that try and hold on to old habits are going to find themselves - quickly - falling behind. Instead, it’s time to think forward.
Ready to take your marketing game into the next decade and beyond? We love the way you think, because we’re thinking the same things. Let’s talk - and then, let’s get started.
- Megan O'Keefe
- Social Media & Content Specalist