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Twitter and Facebook Want to Shift Power to Users. Or Do They?

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SAN FRANCISCO — Not so long ago, the technology behind Bitcoin was seen in Silicon Valley as the best hope for challenging the enormous, centralized power of companies like Twitter and Facebook.

Now, in an unexpected twist, the internet giants think that technology could help them solve their many problems.

The chief executive of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, said last week that he hoped to fund the creation of software for social media that, inspired by the design of Bitcoin, would give Twitter less control over how people use the service and shift power toward users and outside programmers.

Likewise, Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has said he hopes the same concepts from Bitcoin could “take power from centralized systems and put it back into people’s hands.”

This push toward decentralization — the buzzword people in tech are using to describe these projects — has already gained enough currency and has sounded outlandish enough that it was one of the central themes of the satirical HBO show “Silicon Valley.”

Though Bitcoin’s digital tokens are widely used among the tech set, its underlying concept — a network of computers managing the currency without anyone in charge — is what’s most interesting to many people working on decentralization.

Countless entrepreneurs are working on decentralization projects, including the creator of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee. He founded Solid, which seeks to fix the problems of the centralized internet by shifting the ownership of personal data away from big companies and back toward users.

But the other efforts have largely been aimed at taking down Twitter and Facebook rather than helping them solve their problems. And the two behemoths have plenty of problems, from policing their sites for toxic content to dealing with pressure from regulators who think tech companies have grown too powerful.

Not surprisingly, the efforts at Twitter and Facebook have faced skepticism and questions about whether they are just trying to land some positive press while dodging responsibility — and regulations.

“When a company does something like this when it is under pressure, it becomes a way to distract attention by appearing to do something,” said Mitra Ardron, the head of the decentralized web project at the Internet Archive, which has hosted the Decentralized Web Summit the last four years.

Many people working on decentralization projects are concerned that Twitter and Facebook are trying to align themselves with the work’s countercultural spirit without giving up their enormous power.

“The monoliths see it as a threat to their model, so they try to weave in the concepts into their own products to maintain control,” said Eugen Rochko, the founder of Mastodon, a competitor to Twitter. With around two million users, Mastodon has been one of the most successful alternative projects.

Mr. Dorsey said Twitter was just starting to look at the idea and had committed only five people to it. Facebook has moved ahead with its Bitcoin-inspired cryptocurrency and has beefed up encryption, but the company has otherwise taken few steps to decentralize its services. Mr. Dorsey and Mr. Zuckerberg, though, have frequently discussed decentralization, suggesting they have a personal fascination that goes beyond business interests.

Mr. Dorsey also hired a small team at his second company, Square, to work full time on Bitcoin, without any commercial responsibilities. And he recently announced that he was hoping to take an extended sojourn in Africa to understand how Bitcoin was working there.

“It’s clearly catching on in part because people believe in it,” said Neha Narula, the director of the Digital Currency Initiative at the M.I.T. Media Lab. “It’s not necessarily that it is cheaper or more efficient or faster or easier. In fact, it is much harder. But it’s clear that this idea speaks to people.”

Mr. Dorsey’s tweets last week suggest that he wants the new team, Blue Sky, to build essentially a basic version of Twitter that would be available for anyone to copy. This would make it easier for outside developers to build on top of Twitter and to compete with it. A competitor might be able to offer a version without ads, or one that recommends tweets to readers based on different standards.

While that would most likely pose a commercial threat to Twitter, Mr. Dorsey said it would also force the service to be “far more innovative than in the past” and could draw more overall users to it.

The idea of decentralization harks back to the basic design and ideals of the internet, which was supposed to be a global gathering place where everyone was welcome and no one was in charge.

Mr. Dorsey said the invention of Bitcoin had made it possible to revive those early ideals. The key to Bitcoin is its blockchain database, which provides a way for a network of disconnected computers to agree on a single set of records for every Bitcoin in existence.

Mr. Dorsey is following in the steps of the many cryptocurrency advocates who have argued that the underlying technology could be used to record all the users and activity on a social network, and to agree on a single set of rules for the network, without having any single company in charge. He said, though, that it would most likely take “many years.”

Facebook has pursued several projects over the past year that would shift control to its users.

The company’s most notable effort with blockchains is the Libra cryptocurrency, which aims to create money outside the control of any one company. The Libra effort has faced crippling opposition from politicians, regulators and even some of the project’s original partners. But it appears to have inspired central banks in China and Europe, which are also considering ways to duplicate Bitcoin’s underlying technology.

Already, many start-ups have tried to use blockchains to create social networks to compete with Twitter and Facebook. But these networks, with names like Minds and Steemit, have faced many of the same problems that Bitcoin has, struggling to attract mainstream attention and leaving users to fend off hackers themselves. Many investors have largely given up on blockchain investments.

Several up-and-coming projects focused on decentralization, including Mr. Berners-Lee’s Solid, have steered clear of the blockchain entirely because they don’t believe it is useful for anything other than financial transactions.

Mr. Dorsey said one of the great appeals of a decentralized future was that Twitter would no longer be the only one in charge of deciding what is and isn’t allowed on the network.

To many people, that sounded like an effort by Mr. Dorsey to wash his hands of the hardest but arguably most important responsibility of social networks today: identifying and filtering bad actors and disinformation.

“I’m concerned that Twitter may try to foist the responsibility for dealing with these problems onto the decentralization community,” said Ross Schulman, the senior policy technologist at New America’s Open Technology Institute.

A spokeswoman for Facebook had no comment on the company’s efforts.

Mastodon, the Twitter competitor, allows anyone to tweak the software in order to create his or her own version of Mastodon. If people don’t like the rules set up in one version, they can move to another.

But Mastodon has provided a window into just how difficult these problems are to deal with, even with decentralization.

The Mastodon software was created to form a refuge from anger and hate speech on Twitter. But recently, a social network with close ties to hate crimes and the far right, Gab, used Mastodon’s software to create a new home after it was pushed off the mainstream internet. Mastodon’s leaders were opposed to it but could do little to stop it.

“Building these types of decentralized social networks comes with a slew of challenges that we haven’t figured out how to solve yet,” said Ms. Narula, who was a co-author of an article titled “Decentralized Social Networks Sound Great. Too Bad They’ll Never Work.”





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9 top digital marketing trends for 2021 – 99designs

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So far, the digital marketing trends for 2021 seem to revolve around two distinct, but almost contradictory concepts. First is a general humanization, addressing real issues and tailoring content to suit the individual (as opposed to mass appeal) for more personal engagement. Second is a much more mechanical and technical optimization, fine-tuning the behind-the-scenes areas like SEO and how you structure campaigns—the nitty-gritty that your satisfied customers don’t see.

Below, we’ll cover 9 of the hottest digital marketing trends of 2021, to give you a head-start over your competition. Take these marketing trends to heart and consider them when outlining your own digital marketing strategy for the new year.

Digital marketing trends 2021
Illustration by OrangeCrush

Here are the 9 best digital marketing trends of 2021:

  1. Inclusivity
  2. Featured snippets & no-click searches
  3. Sustainability: loud and proud
  4. Ad-blocker blockers
  5. Image and video SEO for visual searches
  6. Interactive content
  7. Customer segmentation
  8. Local SEO
  9. Oldies but goodies

1. Inclusivity

One look at the front page headlines shows the significance of inclusivity in our current time-and-place in history. Greater numbers by the day, especially younger audiences and marginalized groups, want to see a more optimistic depiction of equality in the content they consume and the brands they purchase from. Or more accurately, they don’t want to see the same homogeneous content we’re accustomed to from previous decades.

In 2021, digital marketing includes media and subject matters that cover a variety of races, sexualities, religions, etc., as well as representation for people with physical disabilities and learning disabilities. This includes the content for your imagery and videos, but also the topics you discuss in social media and blogs, or even the line of products you offer.

example of progressive marketing with inclusivity
The research from Kantar’s #WhatWomenWant marketing campaign shows the growing number of consumers who support equality.

According to Accenture, this cultural shift is already affecting purchasing behavior: 41% of shoppers “have shifted… their business away from a retailer that does not reflect how important [identity and diversity] is to them.” The same study showed that 29% of consumers are willing to switch brands completely if they don’t showcase enough diversity—and that percentage just goes up for ethnic minorities and the LGBT+ community.

2. Featured snippets & no-click searches

For many, many years, the goal of SEO has been to get your listing in the “position number one” spot of search results. Now, going into 2021, the end-goal is continuing to shift to more SEO visibility in “position zero.”

Position zero refers to Google’s “featured snippet”, and 2021 SEO marketing trends are prioritizing it above all else. The featured snippet works differently than other search results entries—for one thing, it’s separated by a small box and located at the top. More importantly, it also displays extra, relevant information with the attempt at answering the user’s question without them needed to click on it, prompting the nickname “no-click search.”

Featured snippet of 99designs for “How to design a logo”
Our blog article wins the featured snippet for “How to design a logo.” Notice how it’s set apart from the other search results for better visibility.

Although it sounds counter-intuitive to forego someone clicking on your link, the recognition you get as a thought-leader outweighs a single click/visit. Moreover, featured snippets are sometimes read aloud with Google Assistant voice searches.

If you’re going to target a featured snippet yourself, there’s a few things to know. For starters, featured snippets are mostly for long-tail keyword phrases like questions (such as “how to design a logo”). They come in different forms, from step-by-step lists to straight-up definitions to even videos (and more), so match your content with the appropriate format.

In the content itself, make sure you answer the keyword question clearly and succinctly, preferably with bulleted lists or a table structure.

3. Sustainability: loud and proud

Just like the digital marketing trend of inclusivity, people in 2021 are similarly passionate about environmentalism. They want to make sure the brands receiving their money are just as concerned for planet earth as they are.

With 81% of consumers strongly feeling companies should help improve the environment, what we’re seeing is a popularity boost for sustainable and eco-friendly brands, especially for younger consumers. This goes well-beyond the market for green products—every brand can benefit by broadcasting their sustainable practices.

Branding for ecofriendly, green, and environmental companies
With the right digital marketing design, you can visually communicate your brand’s environmentalism without saying a word.

The key is communicating your sustainability through your branding and content to make environmentalism part of your identity. There are plenty of different ways depending on your branding style, such as displaying a banner prominently on your site, or discussing it repeatedly on social media. You can even opt for more subtle methods, such as branded reusable tote bags or conveying green themes through your brand’s visual identity.

4. Ad-blocker blockers

The digital marketing trends of 2021 aren’t all about positivity and progress—it’s also about overcoming obstacles like ad blockers. With 27% of internet users expected to use ad blockers in 2021, many marketers are having their primary stream of traffic automatically cut off at the source, including PPC campaigns.

First, you want to check how big of a problem it is for you—your ad data and analytics should tell you what you need to know. Depending on your target audience or where you post ads, the damage might be negligible.

System32Comics webcomic about ad blockers
The customer is always right. Via System32Comics

If your ads do fall victim to ad blockers, your best strategy is to adapt—don’t waste time trying to convince potential customers to change their own preferences. Readjust your advertising budget to suit other, more fruitful campaigns, like influencer marketing or sponsored content. Younger audiences don’t respond well to display ads anyway, but they do respond well to influencer marketing, so making the switch is advisable in any situation.

5. Image and video SEO for visual searches

You already know you can search for images and videos by typing in keywords, but did you know you can also submit existing images for a search, or even take original photos and search for context? As more users discover these visual search techniques, it changes the overall landscape of SEO in general.

Google Lens promotional image on find products
With Google Lens, people can take a photo of something they want to buy and receive search results that lead directly to product pages.

To capitalize on the increased amount of visual searches, you want to make sure your image and video SEO campaigns are in tip-top shape. For starters, apply the basics:

Moreover, familiarize yourself with Google Lens, especially if you’re an ecommerce brand. Handle your SEO techniques right, and you can take traffic away from competitors when shoppers conduct picture searches for products or barcodes.

6. Interactive content

Here’s a trend that’s technically been around for awhile, but it’s just now being recognized as a best practice. Interactive content doesn’t just promote more engagement, it also improves the user’s enjoyment.

Interactive content like quizzes, open-ended questions, surveys, contests, giveaways, polls, calculator widgets, etc., can do wonders for your brand. At the very least, they increase the length of time users engage with you, which helps your standing in algorithm-based searches and feeds. But more importantly, people want to be engaged, so interactive content almost always improves your user experience.

Twitter polls used as a digital marketing trends for 2021
Twitter Polls are quick, easy and effective—just be sure to stay on brand with topics. Via @Social_Hire

Interactive content is part of the greater trend towards personalization; by allowing the users to answer for themselves or have their opinion heard, they feel a more personal connection to the brand. Don’t forget it can also be used to collect data on user preferences, such as for product or site improvements.

7. Customer segmentation

Another trend that’s not new but rather newly popular is customer segmentation. The idea is simple: instead of a small number of large marketing campaigns targeting general audiences, it’s better to have a large number of small marketing campaigns targeting specific audiences.

Customer segmentation means grouping your target audience by certain traits or behaviors, such as demographics or shopping habits. This allows you to more accurately tailor your content to suit their preferences; for example, having two separate email lists for big spenders and small spenders, and sending different newsletters to each that feature different products.

graphic explaining customer segmentation
You’re free to choose how to segment your customers, but the most common divisions are by demographic, psychographic, geographic, behavioral and customer journey. Via Intercom

This strategy works best for personalization and customer engagement, as your followers receive content hand-picked for them. Beyond email lists, you can apply customer segmentation to specialized ads on different sites, categories of blog content and social media content for multiple communities.

8. Local SEO

Google frequently updates their local SEO algorithm, so if you’re a local business, you should continuously update your business’ appearance in local results too. In a way, local SEO is even more powerful than broad SEO—people searching for a specific type of business with their geographic location have more intent to purchase, so it’s easier to convert them.

For starters, you have to get verified by Google. You can do this by signing up for Google My Business and either claiming your listing or creating a new one. This helps you rank higher in Google SERPS, and also gives you the chance to offer additional information about your company to online searchers.

Screenshot for Google My Business
Registering through Google My Business is easier than it sounds.

Additionally, you want to incorporate local keywords prominently into your SEO strategy. Obviously, prioritize the name of your city or town as a top keyword, but you can go the extra mile by also incorporating related keywords. If your location has a famous landmark or quirky claim-to-fame, mention it once or twice.

9. Oldies but goodies

Not all of the best digital marketing trends of 2021 are from 2021. Plenty of marketing trends from last year or the year before are still going strong, and will continue to be game changers throughout the next year as well. And if you still haven’t implemented them yet, there’s more urgency now than ever before.

In particular, don’t forget about these ongoing digital marketing trends from 2020:

  • Shoppable Posts: social media posts that directly connect users to product checkout tend to increase conversions by streamlining the payment process. See if you’re eligible for Checkout on Instagram.
  • Gen Z Marketing: last year saw the eldest of Gen Z turning 18 and entering the workforce. If you want to infiltrate this young market, first understand the best practices for marketing to Gen Z.
  • Microinfluencers: as opposed to premier influencers, microinfluencers are more like average people who have a larger-than-average social media follower. If you attract enough of them, typically through social media contests and giveaways, you can achieve the same numbers as top-level influencers at a fraction of the cost and effort.
  • Voice Search SEO: since voice assistants first hit market a few years ago, voice searches have been upending traditional SEO tactics—people don’t use the same keywords when they talk as when they type! Try altering your SEO strategy to incorporate speech keywords.

Keep checking back with the 99designs blog throughout the year to stay up-to-date on all the latest digital marketing trends yet to come!

Need an email, ad or infographic designed?
Our designers can help you create just about anything.

Continue Reading

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9 top digital marketing trends for 2021 – 99designs

Published

on

So far, the digital marketing trends for 2021 seem to revolve around two distinct, but almost contradictory concepts. First is a general humanization, addressing real issues and tailoring content to suit the individual (as opposed to mass appeal) for more personal engagement. Second is a much more mechanical and technical optimization, fine-tuning the behind-the-scenes areas like SEO and how you structure campaigns—the nitty-gritty that your satisfied customers don’t see.

Below, we’ll cover 9 of the hottest digital marketing trends of 2021, to give you a head-start over your competition. Take these marketing trends to heart and consider them when outlining your own digital marketing strategy for the new year.

Digital marketing trends 2021
Illustration by OrangeCrush

Here are the 9 best digital marketing trends of 2021:

  1. Inclusivity
  2. Featured snippets & no-click searches
  3. Sustainability: loud and proud
  4. Ad-blocker blockers
  5. Image and video SEO for visual searches
  6. Interactive content
  7. Customer segmentation
  8. Local SEO
  9. Oldies but goodies

1. Inclusivity

One look at the front page headlines shows the significance of inclusivity in our current time-and-place in history. Greater numbers by the day, especially younger audiences and marginalized groups, want to see a more optimistic depiction of equality in the content they consume and the brands they purchase from. Or more accurately, they don’t want to see the same homogeneous content we’re accustomed to from previous decades.

In 2021, digital marketing includes media and subject matters that cover a variety of races, sexualities, religions, etc., as well as representation for people with physical disabilities and learning disabilities. This includes the content for your imagery and videos, but also the topics you discuss in social media and blogs, or even the line of products you offer.

example of progressive marketing with inclusivity
The research from Kantar’s #WhatWomenWant marketing campaign shows the growing number of consumers who support equality.

According to Accenture, this cultural shift is already affecting purchasing behavior: 41% of shoppers “have shifted… their business away from a retailer that does not reflect how important [identity and diversity] is to them.” The same study showed that 29% of consumers are willing to switch brands completely if they don’t showcase enough diversity—and that percentage just goes up for ethnic minorities and the LGBT+ community.

2. Featured snippets & no-click searches

For many, many years, the goal of SEO has been to get your listing in the “position number one” spot of search results. Now, going into 2021, the end-goal is continuing to shift to more SEO visibility in “position zero.”

Position zero refers to Google’s “featured snippet”, and 2021 SEO marketing trends are prioritizing it above all else. The featured snippet works differently than other search results entries—for one thing, it’s separated by a small box and located at the top. More importantly, it also displays extra, relevant information with the attempt at answering the user’s question without them needed to click on it, prompting the nickname “no-click search.”

Featured snippet of 99designs for “How to design a logo”
Our blog article wins the featured snippet for “How to design a logo.” Notice how it’s set apart from the other search results for better visibility.

Although it sounds counter-intuitive to forego someone clicking on your link, the recognition you get as a thought-leader outweighs a single click/visit. Moreover, featured snippets are sometimes read aloud with Google Assistant voice searches.

If you’re going to target a featured snippet yourself, there’s a few things to know. For starters, featured snippets are mostly for long-tail keyword phrases like questions (such as “how to design a logo”). They come in different forms, from step-by-step lists to straight-up definitions to even videos (and more), so match your content with the appropriate format.

In the content itself, make sure you answer the keyword question clearly and succinctly, preferably with bulleted lists or a table structure.

3. Sustainability: loud and proud

Just like the digital marketing trend of inclusivity, people in 2021 are similarly passionate about environmentalism. They want to make sure the brands receiving their money are just as concerned for planet earth as they are.

With 81% of consumers strongly feeling companies should help improve the environment, what we’re seeing is a popularity boost for sustainable and eco-friendly brands, especially for younger consumers. This goes well-beyond the market for green products—every brand can benefit by broadcasting their sustainable practices.

Branding for ecofriendly, green, and environmental companies
With the right digital marketing design, you can visually communicate your brand’s environmentalism without saying a word.

The key is communicating your sustainability through your branding and content to make environmentalism part of your identity. There are plenty of different ways depending on your branding style, such as displaying a banner prominently on your site, or discussing it repeatedly on social media. You can even opt for more subtle methods, such as branded reusable tote bags or conveying green themes through your brand’s visual identity.

4. Ad-blocker blockers

The digital marketing trends of 2021 aren’t all about positivity and progress—it’s also about overcoming obstacles like ad blockers. With 27% of internet users expected to use ad blockers in 2021, many marketers are having their primary stream of traffic automatically cut off at the source, including PPC campaigns.

First, you want to check how big of a problem it is for you—your ad data and analytics should tell you what you need to know. Depending on your target audience or where you post ads, the damage might be negligible.

System32Comics webcomic about ad blockers
The customer is always right. Via System32Comics

If your ads do fall victim to ad blockers, your best strategy is to adapt—don’t waste time trying to convince potential customers to change their own preferences. Readjust your advertising budget to suit other, more fruitful campaigns, like influencer marketing or sponsored content. Younger audiences don’t respond well to display ads anyway, but they do respond well to influencer marketing, so making the switch is advisable in any situation.

5. Image and video SEO for visual searches

You already know you can search for images and videos by typing in keywords, but did you know you can also submit existing images for a search, or even take original photos and search for context? As more users discover these visual search techniques, it changes the overall landscape of SEO in general.

Google Lens promotional image on find products
With Google Lens, people can take a photo of something they want to buy and receive search results that lead directly to product pages.

To capitalize on the increased amount of visual searches, you want to make sure your image and video SEO campaigns are in tip-top shape. For starters, apply the basics:

Moreover, familiarize yourself with Google Lens, especially if you’re an ecommerce brand. Handle your SEO techniques right, and you can take traffic away from competitors when shoppers conduct picture searches for products or barcodes.

6. Interactive content

Here’s a trend that’s technically been around for awhile, but it’s just now being recognized as a best practice. Interactive content doesn’t just promote more engagement, it also improves the user’s enjoyment.

Interactive content like quizzes, open-ended questions, surveys, contests, giveaways, polls, calculator widgets, etc., can do wonders for your brand. At the very least, they increase the length of time users engage with you, which helps your standing in algorithm-based searches and feeds. But more importantly, people want to be engaged, so interactive content almost always improves your user experience.

Twitter polls used as a digital marketing trends for 2021
Twitter Polls are quick, easy and effective—just be sure to stay on brand with topics. Via @Social_Hire

Interactive content is part of the greater trend towards personalization; by allowing the users to answer for themselves or have their opinion heard, they feel a more personal connection to the brand. Don’t forget it can also be used to collect data on user preferences, such as for product or site improvements.

7. Customer segmentation

Another trend that’s not new but rather newly popular is customer segmentation. The idea is simple: instead of a small number of large marketing campaigns targeting general audiences, it’s better to have a large number of small marketing campaigns targeting specific audiences.

Customer segmentation means grouping your target audience by certain traits or behaviors, such as demographics or shopping habits. This allows you to more accurately tailor your content to suit their preferences; for example, having two separate email lists for big spenders and small spenders, and sending different newsletters to each that feature different products.

graphic explaining customer segmentation
You’re free to choose how to segment your customers, but the most common divisions are by demographic, psychographic, geographic, behavioral and customer journey. Via Intercom

This strategy works best for personalization and customer engagement, as your followers receive content hand-picked for them. Beyond email lists, you can apply customer segmentation to specialized ads on different sites, categories of blog content and social media content for multiple communities.

8. Local SEO

Google frequently updates their local SEO algorithm, so if you’re a local business, you should continuously update your business’ appearance in local results too. In a way, local SEO is even more powerful than broad SEO—people searching for a specific type of business with their geographic location have more intent to purchase, so it’s easier to convert them.

For starters, you have to get verified by Google. You can do this by signing up for Google My Business and either claiming your listing or creating a new one. This helps you rank higher in Google SERPS, and also gives you the chance to offer additional information about your company to online searchers.

Screenshot for Google My Business
Registering through Google My Business is easier than it sounds.

Additionally, you want to incorporate local keywords prominently into your SEO strategy. Obviously, prioritize the name of your city or town as a top keyword, but you can go the extra mile by also incorporating related keywords. If your location has a famous landmark or quirky claim-to-fame, mention it once or twice.

9. Oldies but goodies

Not all of the best digital marketing trends of 2021 are from 2021. Plenty of marketing trends from last year or the year before are still going strong, and will continue to be game changers throughout the next year as well. And if you still haven’t implemented them yet, there’s more urgency now than ever before.

In particular, don’t forget about these ongoing digital marketing trends from 2020:

  • Shoppable Posts: social media posts that directly connect users to product checkout tend to increase conversions by streamlining the payment process. See if you’re eligible for Checkout on Instagram.
  • Gen Z Marketing: last year saw the eldest of Gen Z turning 18 and entering the workforce. If you want to infiltrate this young market, first understand the best practices for marketing to Gen Z.
  • Microinfluencers: as opposed to premier influencers, microinfluencers are more like average people who have a larger-than-average social media follower. If you attract enough of them, typically through social media contests and giveaways, you can achieve the same numbers as top-level influencers at a fraction of the cost and effort.
  • Voice Search SEO: since voice assistants first hit market a few years ago, voice searches have been upending traditional SEO tactics—people don’t use the same keywords when they talk as when they type! Try altering your SEO strategy to incorporate speech keywords.

Keep checking back with the 99designs blog throughout the year to stay up-to-date on all the latest digital marketing trends yet to come!

Need an email, ad or infographic designed?
Our designers can help you create just about anything.

Continue Reading

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6 essential marketing trends for 2020 | Smart Insights

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Examples of digital marketing tools and techniques to give you an edge in the year ahead

Well, we’ve nearly made it! For years I’ve been looking to the future, predicting how innovations in digital media, platforms and technology will shape marketing in 2020. The cutting edge examples certainly show the exciting opportunities available – there is almost too much choice…

In this article, I’ll explore six key marketing trends based on examples and research on the adoption of the latest marketing techniques and technology marketers can use.

For recommendations on tapping into the innovations in different digital marketing channels, including email, social media and search engine marketing, see all the other posts from the Smart Insights team covering channel-specific digital marketing trends for 2020.

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In 2020, we can see the huge impact that digital marketing has had over the last decade, and more. Looking at advertising alone, these eMarketer predictions show how the duopoly of Facebook and Google dominate paid media investments online, although offline media buys remain important for many larger brands.alfred

Trend 1. Lifecycle marketing

Although it’s often said that the ‘funnel is dead’ since consumer follows non-linear journeys, regardless of the product or service you’re involved with marketing, it will always be the case that to grow a business, your primary focus is growing awareness, closely followed by increasing customer leads and prospects.

This focus is shown by the latest Altimeter / Prophet State of Digital Marketing report, which shows a primary focus on increasing awareness.

The role of digital in creating a unified customer experience is also high in the response, but it’s shocking that digital marketing isn’t seen as a driver of boosting revenue from existing customers. It’s an artefact of the question since digital marketing is effective in achieving all of these goals, including customer retention.

A more practical way to plan to integrate online marketing into marketing activities is to consider communications from a customer point-of-view through the customer journey. I call this always-on lifecycle marketing and recommend you review your use of online AND offline media across the customer lifecycle.

An example of an audit is shown by this example of the use of marketing activities by a B2B company, which although strong at the top-of-funnel in terms of activities used, is less strong in the middle and bottom-of-funnel nurture and re-targeting activities. Many businesses are adopting marketing automation and account-based marketing technology to implement these touchpoints. See the article linked to above for all of the potential activities that can be audited.

Trend 2. Conversational marketing

For me, this is the most exciting trend in marketing today, bringing together rapid consumer adoption of smart speakers and innovation in search query processing, conversational interfaces and messaging.

Conversational marketing was highlighted as a key innovation in the latest Gartner hype cycle alongside Artificial Intelligence, which often fuels it.  You can see that of the technologies on the Innovation Trigger slope, many aren’t expected to become mainstream for 5 to 10 years. Of those forecast to hit the mainstream within the next 2 to 5 years, the three most significant for marketers to consider are personification, real-time and conversational marketing.

Gartner explains:

Conversational marketing technologies enable interactions between companies and customers that mimic human dialogue and do so at scale. This category is near the Peak of Inflated Expectations phase”.

Personally, I think the hype about smart speakers to support the purchase journey is just that. While some products lend themselves to purchase, where a choice is to be made amongst complex products, they just won’t cut it until we have truly intelligent comparison bots. However, the research suggests I may be wrong. A study of 2,000 British adults commissioned by Artefact UK, an AI and data-driven agency, reveals that:

“Six out of ten smart speaker owners (60%) have used them to make a purchase in the past year. In fact, nearly a quarter (22%) said they have done so within the past week”.

I believe that building in more relevant to web, email and mobile-based conversations can have a bigger impact by boosting relevance and speaking in a more personal tone. Persado is an interesting tech here.

Persado uses a copy impact classification applied to existing copy, which is used to tailor copy and calls-to-action on an individual basis.

For example, using Persado Natural Language Generation to run an experiment, Air Canada sparked a higher response using Anxiety language getting a 3% engagement lift, compared to a 5% drop using Exclusivity language, and a 3% drop using Safety language.

Another example of  AI application is nutrition and wellness retailer Holland & Barrett using AI to provide better-targeted emails. This Machine Learning approach from Tinyclues goes beyond optimizing copy using a tool like Persado, instead, it also involves targeting based on the behaviour of individuals to create more micro-targeted campaigns.

Speaking at a session I chaired at the Email Innovation Summit, Richard Lallo, Head of Digital Marketing, described what he calls ‘strategic promotions and mono-product pushes’ in a campaign. The business was able to drive campaign revenue and increase re-purchase rate while sending emails. Campaign revenue increased by 27%, open rates increased by 19%, while email send volume decreased by 23%, which also gives cost savings.

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Trend 3. Insights-driven marketing

At Smart Insights we’re huge fans of using analytics and insight to drive business performance and optimize the results from digital marketing. It’s why we’re called what we are.

Improving their data-driven marketing is an aim of many businesses indicated by the most desired skill amongst digital marketers revealed by the Altimeter/Prophet State of Digital Marketing report.

Data-driven marketing

Businesses using this approach are trying to gain the benefits reported by Mckinsey research that suggested that:

Intensive users of customer analytics are 23 times more likely to clearly outperform their competitors in terms of new customer acquisition than non-intensive users, and nine times more likely to surpass them in customer loyalty.

In addition to advances in customer analytics supported by CDPs described in the next section, new Voice of the Customer (VoC) techniques, such as online-hosted customer communities, can improve customer preferences for future products and how they are delivered.

For example, Red Bull used insight platform Vision Critical to launch a community of consumers passionate about the energy drink category. By providing a deeper understanding of consumer preferences, the community challenges widely-held assumptions. The company, for instance, learned who consumes Red Bull drinks — and how and when they buy — were changing. Data from the community provides insight on the competitive landscape, revealing channels the company can enhance to improve growth. The community also helps Red Bull deliver more value to retailers.

Trend 4. Marketing technology

Today, Marketing Technology (Martech for short) presents a bewildering choice of software services for businesses looking to improve their management of digital media, experiences and supporting data. If your business and your agencies adopt the right blend of Martech, it can help give you an edge against competitors, but if not, you may be missing out on the insights and automation processes they are using.

The latest 2019 Martech supergraphic from Scott Brinker, a specialist who hosts Martech conferences and has advised on technology for HubSpot, has created this somewhat scary map of all the potential categories and services that companies can use.

To highlight the range of great services available and to simplify the options a little, we designed this essential digital marketing tools infographic to recommend the categories of tools you should consider across the Smart Insights RACE Planning system and highlight the most popular, most capable tools.

We will create the annual update for this in early 2020, discussing it recently on LinkedIn has highlighted some of the latest trends that aren’t evident from this version of the wheel. Raviv Turner, Co-Founder, of B2B service @CaliberMind said:

“No MarTech stack is complete these days without the third leg of CRM, MAP & CDP. The only way to map, store, analyze and act on the complete end-to-end customer journey is having all the data in one place using a Customer Data Platform (CDPs).”

I’m not sure ‘the only-way’ is accurate, but that is the sentiment.

Kristen Obaid, Always On digital marketing campaigns manager for an international Education company, added:

“The Salesforce and Adobe MAPs are underrepresented here (eg Pardot can be used for email, social, CRM, CMS, audience management, analytics. Krux is now SF. They can both be used as DMPs if the data is configured properly.) BI with simple data integrations (like Domo, Tableau) are also missing, plus Intercom for service CMS eg FAQs, and Drift for automated service chat”.

Trend 5. Consumer Privacy and KYC

Repeated privacy faux-pas by Facebook, Google and security breaches at other brands leading to the release of customer details have highlighted to consumers that their data isn’t as safe with online brands as they may have once thought. Privacy regulations like GDPR have been enacted to improve data privacy with increased fines.

Record fines have arisen in 2019 from the maximum penalty for contraventions increasing under GDPR to up to €20m (£17.5m) or four percent of global turnover – whichever is the greater.

British Airways, was issued with a proposed fine of £183m for a breach of customer data and a £99 million fine on hotel chain Marriott for failing to protect personal data contained in approximately 339 million guest records.

While these may be more the concerns of the CIO or CFO rather than the CMO, it shows the need for marketers to work with colleagues to mitigate the potential impact of security breaches and reassure customers.

At the same time, we have seen a decreasing effectiveness of traditional identification methods such as cookies for tracking, which makes media ROI determination – supposedly one of the key benefits of digital channels – more difficult.

Emerging technologies can potentially help with both of these challenges.

New Identify Management or Know Your Customer solutions are being developed that can both improve security, reduce fraud and improve insight about customers across multiple devices.

For example, UK startup Hooyu blends traditional methods of customer verification such as database checks (where available) with ID document validation, digital footprint analysis, geo-location and facial biometrics. While this is most relevant for banks and other gambling applications, it indicates the range of data points that are now available.

With these consumer concerns and new legislation such as the EU ePrivacy legislation about to be launched and the inaccuracy of tracking online with increasing restrictions built into browser like Chrome and Safari it seems like the days of the cookie (and particularly third-party cookies) and digital fingerprinting may be numbered. This means that businesses should be considering other alternatives if they aren’t already.

Discussing Unified ID – Why Identity becomes a key success factor in the post-cookie era era – Alwin Viereck, Head of Programmatic Advertising and Ad Management, United Internet Media estimates that

More than 20% of all cookies in a desktop environment do not live longer than a day and a further 15–20% do not survive a month. For vendors in a third party context (which are typically all participants of the programmatic ecosystem), the problem might even be worse.

Multiplatform consent solutions like Sourcepoint and Identity and Access Management integration solutions like Auth0 and OneIdentity will be adopted more widely. Within AdTech new solutions will have to be found in response to Google and Apples Ad-targeting limitations.

Trend 6. Digital transformation and Marketing Transformation

Our managing digital marketing research revealed many challenges in terms of how digital marketing is run in companies today. Problems included a lack of focus on integrated strategy, testing, and optimization and structural issues like teams working in silos or a lack of skills in integrated communications.

To counter these types of problems and to make the most of the opportunities for growing a business through digital marketing, many businesses are now putting a digital transformation programme in place.

Digital Transformation research

The aim of digital transformation is to develop a roadmap to improve digital capabilities and skills, while at the same time, integrating ‘always-on’ digital marketing activities with brand and product marketing in the business.

This chart from the research shows that many businesses are active in transformation to try to achieve this aim through the success factors covered in this briefing.

Despite some talk that we might be in a post-digital world by 2020 and some traditional marketers suggesting that “it’s time to shut down digital marketing for good” the reality is that many specialist digital job roles and are needed to run digital marketing activities as my post ‘10 reasons you still need a digital team‘ shows.

A common practice that we can expect to continue in the future is a move to a hybrid approach to managing digital marketing with digital marketing skills being developed in marketing teams as suggested by this structure.

Digital marketing governance modelHowever, the label of a ‘digital department’ is outmoded, since the creation of large digital teams has caused silos to develop with other marketing and product teams. Instead, we can expect a continued move to a digital/marketing Centre of Excellence model. The DCoE will be smaller ‘digital services units’ that track the latest developments in development, advising on new digital techniques and technologies.

Through the year, we’ve been adding to our tools to help all members assess how well their businesses are adapting to using digital media and technology as part of Digital Transformation. To review your digital readiness, either for integrated digital marketing or individual channels, download our benchmarks or take our interactive capability graders.

All the best for grasping the opportunities from digital marketing in 2020 and beyond! To help you on your way take a look at our benchmarking templates, each of which will give you a quick review for digital marketing governance and the key channels like search, social, email marketing plus analytics, content marketing and experience.

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