Top 10 marketing trends to watch for in 2020

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By Heidi Melin, Chief Marketing Officer, Workfront

As we prepare for the start of a new decade, we’re looking forward to the continued innovation in marketing—new technology trends for marketers to explore and new ways of finding and connecting with buyers. From dozens of predictions and analyses across the industry, here are the top 10 marketing trends to look out for in 2020.

  1. Voice search.

Perhaps the most defining marketing trend in 2020 will be the rise of voice searches on devices like Google Home or Amazon Echo/Alexa. According to Statistica, there were likely 36 million smart speakers sold in 2019 and 34 million the year before.

From specialty items to regular grocery shopping, buyers are using smart speakers to find information on products as well as place their orders. Nearly half of owners are using their smart speakers daily. According to Quora Creative, most users are open to receiving personalised tips, promotions, and event notices via their voice activated speakers.

Right now, voice searches are used for simple queries like an address, calendar reminders, or song title. But as user needs expand and grow more complex, so must voice search features, and so must optimisation. In the coming year and decade, voice search will change the nature of SEO, web traffic, competition, and brand strategies. We think you’ll want to consider a voice strategy in the coming year.

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  1. Customer experience.

The idea that marketing needs to be blended with Customer Experience (CX) isn’t new, but it’s likely going to gain traction in the next year. A blended brand experience calls for customer service and relationship building with serious investment, dedicated to imprinting positive experience, changing feelings, and delighting customers with added value. Marketing of the future won’t be able to stay separate from CX.

Exceptional customer experience is leading the way in marketing, shifting focus onto inbound strategies for serving and retaining existing customers. When customers share their enjoyable experience or outstanding service, their reviews are more likely than ads to impact new buyer behaviour. How do we start CX marketing? Rely on data and source it from multiple channels, strive for memorable experiences, and infuse the entire customer lifecycle with CX strategies.

  1. Hyper-personalisation.

A key way to improve customer experience is to make it all about the individual—not generic, not even just slightly personal, but extremely tailored. We’re moving beyond basic automation to greet a buyer by name to digging into personal shopping habits and browsing trends to leverage behaviour, wants, and needs to maximise conversions.

Despite this growing trend, 80% of marketers today aren’t personalising their efforts, even though they know it improves customer engagement. Content marketing expert Shafqat Islam predicts:

“Consumers are smart and they expect their world to be personalised. Netflix and Amazon set the bar high, and consumers expect that from brands and publishers. Yet, almost every marketer’s website is generic and one-size-fits-all…Personalisation will move from a buzzword to a fundamental part of the marketer’s toolkit, across web, social email and every other channel in the customer experience.”

It’s easier said than done, but here are some examples of brands that are pulling it off, plus ways technology can help you keep up with the shift from personal to hyper-personal.

  1. Artificial intelligence (AI).

Already chatbots and various kinds of automation are widely used tools that help with personalised recommendations, more insightful predictive analysis, and a host of other key marketing functions. In fact, none of the first three trends listed here would be possible without sweeping advances in AI.

Some of the most interesting changes are happening in areas that were beginning to feel outdated, but can, with the help of AI, remain relevant and profitable. For example, building basic websites and running standard advertising campaigns have grown easier and faster. Not every trend or new development has to mean a whole new direction. Sometimes, as with AI, it means a new integration that can help revive or revitalise an existing strategy.

  1. Live video.

We’ve already seen the rise of video as a tool for engagement, and now the trend is toward live video, streaming content via many already existing channels (Instagram Stories, Facebook Live, etc.). Watching a live video is preferred over reading blog or a social post, and shoppable video content is beginning to have a bigger influence on buyer behaviour.

Live video creates a sense of intimacy and urgency, especially if the content is ephemeral. Some advances that can heighten both these experiences in the viewer are interactive 360 videos and better one-on-one video experiences. Watch for the growing need for videos to be searchable, immersive, and captivating without sound.

  1. Brand integrity.

We already know how quickly a brand can be damaged by poor online reviews and angry customers taking to their platforms to share negative experiences. Even beyond customer experience, brands are expected to behave ethically in every aspect of their business, and brand integrity suddenly means your action on climate change, inclusivity, and behaviour across social channels.

What this means is a new kind of narrative for marketing, one in which the company tells its story about refusing to continue carrying tobacco or firearms or tweets out support for a human rights campaign. Brand identity now means internal choices that become external stories, carefully presented with honesty, humility, and a consistent moral code. Otherwise, you risk brand recognition for all the wrong reasons.

  1. Shoppable content.

Brand influencers are still holding a strong place in any good marketing strategy. And having them produce shoppable content means readers feel like they’re both receiving a personal recommendation and satisfying an immediate purchasing desire. It’s real-time marketing, often with another key tool—user-generated content. And shoppable content is interactive, personalised, with a shortened buyer’s journey.

And here’s the exciting news: shoppable content isn’t just for retailers anymore. It’s becoming increasingly useful and popular for professionals to link you to scheduling an appointment through video content, or a school to bring you to their enrolment page as you watch a tutorial.

  1. Content marketing (still) converts.

Good content will still show returns, even with all the other marketing changes happening around us. This 2020 trend isn’t new, but rather a note to stick with what’s working and not get too swept up in what’s trending. If it’s well-timed, distinct, high-value, and relationship-driven, a content strategy will still yield 30% higher growth rates.

The way we produce content and the kind we distribute may be changing, but the numbers remain consistent: 78% of consumers prefer to get to know a company through content over ads, and 70% believe that companies that produce custom content are interested in building a good relationship with them. And content marketing remains a good investment, generating 3 times the number of leads per dollar than a paid search.

  1. Predictive analytics.

This is another item on our list that is intertwined with other trends. You need advanced AI capabilities to run predictive analysis. Along the same lines, predictive analysis should help you strategise hyper-personalisation with shopping recommendations and curated suggestions, for example.

Without getting into too much detail about predictive models, just keep in mind that predictive analysis depends on AI technology and should be a guide, part of a roadmap for strategic initiatives. When you can harness data to predict trends, opportunities, limitations, and threats, you can stay ahead of market swings and get ahead of customer desires.

  1. Privacy and data protection.

We can’t really discuss the top 9 marketing trends without landing on customer privacy and data security. The massive amount of data that fuels our analytics and strategies come with some significant safety risks. Most of our social media channels are labelled as high risk for data breaches, and most cybersecurity professionals predict their own companies will experience a major security breach at some point in the year.

And consumers are smarter and more informed than ever about their own data privacy and what they expect from businesses. They want brands to care about their privacy and personal data security. This might mean you engage a cybersecurity professional or update your policies. You could use the EU’s guidelines laid out in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which are among the strictest.

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