Before the internet, marketing was very different from what it is today. Print advertising, direct mail, and traditional media were the only options companies had for getting the word out. Today, of course, things are much different. In 2018, spending on digital ads was projected to surpass traditional advertising for the first time, with digital media spend reaching $100.8 billion.
We all know that things are changing quickly, and digital marketing has rapidly adapted to new mediums and customer demands over the years. With that in mind, what does the future hold? Where will digital marketing go in the next five years? While it’s impossible to say for sure, here are a few projections for what will be important in the coming years.
Although the mobile revolution has shown no signs of slowing down, one thing is absolutely true: it’s much harder to type on a phone or tablet than a keyboard. It also takes more time to type something than to say it. Enter: voice search.
Smart devices equipped with “personal assistants” who respond to voice commands like Siri, Alexa, and Cortana are on the rise for good reason. People love the convenience of being able to place an order, check the weather, or set a reminder.
As Barry Schwartz notes in a recent expert round-up on the future of digital marketing, “Expect voice search to be a huge area in the near future.” Some estimates suggest that by 2020, more than half of searches will be conducted using voice search.
Marketers will need to adapt to this new search method by writing in a conversational tone and anticipating the kinds of keywords people will search for using their voice. It won’t so much affect the marketing itself as the way content is considered and written.
Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality
People love novelty and quickly get used to new mediums. Video is now a staple, but virtual reality (VR) is a rising star in marketing that will really come into its own in the next few years. Immersive experiences help people connect on an emotional level, which is key for increasing brand loyalty and sales.
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Artificial intelligence (AI) will also play a larger role in the future of marketing. It can be used in many different applications including image recognition, personalization, chatbots, and enhanced pay-per-click campaigns. Smart marketers will begin to invest in this technology now, in order to stay competitive in the future.
Brand PR Will Become Essential
Generation Z, which will soon control much of the spending power in the United States, is a socially-conscious generation that demands more from brands than just great products and services. They want to purchase from companies that are ethical and care about improving society and the world at large.
Customers are acutely aware of issues like climate change, social justice, poverty, and income inequality, which is becoming a larger issue in the United States every year, with just 1% of the population controlling 40% of the nation’s wealth. Younger buyers are concerned about these issues, and will direct their dollars to companies that pledge to help find solutions.
In order to cater to these buyers, companies will need to focus on brand PR and get involved with a social or environmental cause to help their local and global communities. Some of the world’s richest people are already getting involved with these kinds of initiatives, such as The Giving Pledge, which people take to signal that they plan to give away the majority of their wealth to benefit current and future generations.
Continual Focus on Consumer’s Wants & Values
Marketing is always about what the customer wants, needs, and values. That’s not going to change in the next five years. You can’t sell products if you don’t know what your customers want or what their problems are. Marketers will need to understand their audiences on a deep level so they can serve those needs.
Even More Targeted Advertising
Online advertising is an uphill battle, because we’re less tolerant than ever of popups and other types of digital advertising. Marketers will continue to focus on creating more targeted advertising to create the kinds of emotional reactions that sell products. Emotion-based campaigns, like the Dove “Real Beauty” campaign and Google’s “Friends Furever” were some of the most successful online ad campaigns because they were created to elicit an emotional response in their target audiences.
Storytelling is a Constant in Marketing
No matter where digital marketing goes in the next few years, good storytelling will always be a key component of effective marketing. Marketers need to keep on top of trends as they change, but keeping the audience’s needs top of mind and creating content that speaks to that audience’s emotions are always key. Digital marketing is an ever-changing landscape that requires creativity, curiosity, patience, and a willingness to try new tactics.