As 2018 draws to a close, one cannot help but reflect on the year gone by. In terms of marketing, this has been an exciting year with its share of interesting new strategies and tactics. Here is a look at the top three trends in marketing that gained traction this year and are likely to accelerate in 2019 and beyond.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
There was a time when one could not possibly visualise how something as abstruse as AI could add value to marketing. We as marketers have come a long way since, with AI powering several marketing initiatives and increasing in scope. IDC’s top 10 worldwide CMO predictions for 2019 includes four predictions that are AI centric and advises CMOs to be ready for AI everywhere. Analysing data for deriving insights, customer segmentation and targeting, personalising the customer experience across all touchpoints (web and email for example), programmatic media buys and content creation are some areas where AI played a crucial role in marketing this year.
Moving forward, we can hope to see AI continue to automate the more tactical, manual and repetitive tasks and really hone customer intelligence in order to bring us closer to reaching the right customer with the right message and at the right time.
Influencer marketing has picked up cadence over the past three to five years with the rise of social media, ease of content creation and increase in Internet penetration. But what’s really driving influencer marketing is the need for authenticity. Consumers are jaded with the same old brand advertising. There is too much noise across all channels making it almost impossible for brands to stand out and get noticed. And here is where influencers come in, endorsing brands to their loyal followers based on usage and experience. That said, influencer marketing as it gathers steam also runs the risk of being awash with brand messaging and losing the credibility that has built its stature till date. What we can see moving forward is marketers increasing their spend on influencers, building a broader portfolio of influencers that also include micro and nano-influencers and investing in technology for managing their roster and content as well as for optimising spends.
Smart Speaker Marketing
Year 2018 saw a shipment of 99.8 million smart speakers comprising 15.5 percent of the smart home devices segment as per a recent IDC report. The category grew 43 percent in India in the second quarter of 2018. Needless to say, the wealth of data amassed by smart speakers (and by smart home devices in general), coupled with almost family like status in any given household presents marketers with an unprecedented opportunity to talk to consumers, quite literally. While 2017 alerted us to the crazy possibilities enabled by smart speakers (recall the Burger King Whopper commercial); 2018 saw marketers employing strategic, content-based applications that while having a strong brand correlation also provided value to consumers in the form of education and/or entertainment. That said, the use of smart speakers for marketing has been largely limited with Google Home and Amazon Echo being closed to paid ads.
What one can see in 2019 and beyond is an evolution in this space with consumers expanding usage, vendors building and standardising advertising models and marketers understanding how to better communicate in the voice era. However, it is critical that we as marketers start thinking about how to reach shoppers with a virtual assistant and how to engage consumers at the other end of a smart speaker in a meaningful way.
There are, of course, several other techniques that we saw marketers incorporate into their plans in 2018 - from social selling and account-based marketing to experiential marketing and more. The one common feature across all forms of marketing was, of course, data.
Marketing will continue to become much more targeted and data-driven as technologies to analyse and leverage huge reams of consumer data become more sophisticated. As data becomes the new elixir, marketers also need to exercise caution and judgment when it comes to handling consumer data in the face of growing concerns around security and privacy. And while on the one hand marketing is becoming more analytical, data-driven, and technology-based, there still exists a need for compelling content and creative in an increasingly crowded marketplace.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)