Digital marketing trends help you determine how to adjust future marketing strategies. The trends outlined below are the result of technical advances and changing consumer behaviors. If you’re a marketer or looking to begin a career in marketing, it’s necessary to remain up to date.
Google’s core principle of marketing is that it should connect the right people to the right product by surfacing the right messages at the right time. Our ability to segment and personalize has grown dramatically. As a result, customers expect personalized messages rather than blanket statements.
Digital Marketing Trend 1: Consumers Look to Stay Closer to Home
As people began to leave their homes again when pandemic lockdowns ended, shopping habits changed. A European study found 81% of people surveyed now shop at local businesses rather than travel long distances.
In order to capture the new customers looking to shop small, businesses should review and update their hyper-local SEO strategy. Update the copy on your website to include terms associated with the local area. Use your city and its neighborhoods throughout the website. Then be sure to include local terms in your blog posts the way you would with other keywords.
Google My Business
One of the most important tools in your arsenal for local requests is Google My Business (GMB). Many businesses focus on their website and social media platforms and may not even realize the existence of GMB. Without your direct input, your GMB profile will update over time on its own and without structure. If you take the time to set it up, you can create a profile with intent and structure that is inviting to consumers when it appears on the search sidebar.
When phone users enable geofencing, you have the ability to set notifications based on their location. Think of restaurants offering coupons only to users nearby or department stores pushing out fire sales when customers enter the mall.
One good example of a company using geofencing is Starbucks. If you’re out for a morning walk and find yourself within a short distance of a Starbucks, you’re likely to get a notification teasing you with your favorite drink.
Digital Marketing Trend 2: More Consumers Using Messaging Apps
Though it’s been increasing in recent years, the United States has underutilized the ability to market to customers on messaging apps. China, on the other hand, has used messaging app marketing to great success for years. If you’re not paying attention, it’s time to do so. There are over 3 billion monthly messaging app users on all applications combined.
In China, the biggest messaging app is WeChat, with over 1.2 billion users on the platform. Consumers use it for entertainment, personal and business communication, and online and in-person payments. Luxury watch brand Tag Heuer makes it possible for users to join their community, connect with a Tag Heuer associate, and get responses to their customer support questions or book appointments.
The leading marketing messaging channel in the United States is WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook. Because all Facebook apps are so tightly woven with Facebook Ads, advertising on WhatsApp is as easy as setting your Instagram ad to show across all Facebook properties. Absolut Vodka ran a promotion where users communicated with a fictional character on WhatsApp. The three-day campaign resulted in 600 users and 1,000 messages of various formats.
Not as big as the leaders in app messaging, Telegram has made a significant impact on the industry because of its security features and independence. It’s increased its user-base 40% year-over-year each year since its inception in 2013 and now boasts 200 million monthly users. Its easy, free, and secure marketing features encourage companies to explore using Telegram for public communications with their communities.
Thanks to its security features and ability to create groups with an unlimited amount of members, Telegram has become the hub for crypto and NFT communities. Users can turn to various Telegram groups to access news about these two emerging markets and research related future trade decisions.
Digital Marketing Trend 3: Queries Have Taken a Conversational Tone
Studies show people today expect devices to understand spoken commands. If you have a teenager at home, chances are they’ve never typed their Google searches and instead speak into their phones or virtual assistant. According to ComScore, more than 50% of mobile users are using voice search.
The desire to communicate with machines as we do with humans does not stop with voice search. Chatbots are an example of conversational communication over typed text. When we first interacted with chatbots they were fairly easy to spot. Today, it’s more difficult to distinguish them from human beings. Companies like Cense.AI provide companies with advanced conversational assistants that can capture leads, schedule appointments, provide technical support documents, and more.
As you work on keyword research moving forward, it’s important to think of keyword phrases as users are asking today. Start by considering the tried and true Five Ws: Who, What, Why, When, and Where. You can then turn to your established keyword search tools like Semrush to build from that starting point. Focus on long-tail keywords and statements or questions you’d use when asking your friend to find the answers for you.
Digital Marketing Trend 4: Increased Adoption of the Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) promised to change how we live. Chances are you have at least one or two connected household devices. The IoT market increased from $250 billion in 2019 to $761 billion the following year. It is projected to reach $1,463 billion by 2027.
If your refrigerator knows the milk is low, it could provide a promotion on the user’s favorite brand. But it’s perhaps at the customer experience retail level where IoT marketing opportunities are most abundant. Through a partnership with Google Tango and Aisle411, Walgreens developed an IoT-powered shopping podium customers can utilize to find products in the store. When they provide the information, the podium displays the requested products along with the location. In addition, it can provide complementary products, product upsells, and special offers.
Digital Marketing Trend 5: Some Pandemic Shopping Habits Are Here to Stay
COVID-19 shook up the world, moved people indoors, and changed all of their habits. As we begin 2022, it’s clear many of those habits won’t go away. The most obvious habit is online shopping. During the pandemic, the average online order value increased over 20% and 48% of consumers claim their new shopping habits are permanent.
Another consumer habit is asking questions via social media and chat. An Ameyo survey found 57% of customers prefer to contact companies over digital channels than through voice support. Customer service reps online usually become the online representation of the brand and often take on customer service, sales, and marketing roles. If you thrive in digital communication, this may be a route into a career within the marketing landscape.
Digital Marketing Trend 6: The Metaverse is Here
The metaverse is one of the newest trends in marketing and one also pushed forward faster than originally expected due to the pandemic. The metaverse market was $46 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $280 billion by 2025.
Virtual reality and augmented reality discussions have occurred for years but as we all moved to working online and developed “Zoom fatigue,” it became clear we needed something that felt closer to natural human interactions. The metaverse gives you the immersive and social experience of being in the same room as other people. Beyond the immediate need due to COVID-19 regulations, it also erases geographical barriers. And the largest company with their sights on the metaverse is Facebook, who this year officially changed its name to Meta.
Education will also change thanks to the metaverse. Students from all over the world can now be in the same classroom as the teacher located in Boston. Collaboration can now occur in real-time despite time zone changes because everyone is together. Edstutia is a clear example of the future of education, as the first fully virtual campus in the world. Stay tuned as we are investing in Metaverse education through our development of upcoming module offerings.
Digital Marketing Trend 7: Consumers Favor Featured Snippets for Their Searches
Position zero, also known as Google’s featured snippets, were present in 23% of search pages as of 2019—a jump of 165% over three years. You’ll often hear marketers talk about fighting for the top ten spots of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Those ten results are the first page and statistics show only about 6% of website clicks occur on the second page of a SERP. In fact, 25% of users click on the first search result.
Better than number one, however, is position zero. Digital home assistants tend to lean heavily on featured snippets with nearly 41% of voice search answers coming from featured snippets. Most digital home assistants provide answers pulled from the featured snippets. In the browser, they tend to take clicks away from the top results. This is especially true in mobile browsers, where the featured snippet result takes up more than half the screen.
Featured snippets lead to what is known as a zero click search. This is when the featured snippet answers the user’s question. As a result, the search is abandoned before visiting any of the websites on the SERP.
Historically, zero-click searches have been good for Google but not so good for the companies creating the content. As users have grown accustomed to Google’s actions, companies have shifted in their thinking. Even if the user doesn’t click on the link, Google is giving the source a level of authority on the subject matter.
Digital Marketing Trend 8: Brands Forced to Collect Their Own User Data
Browsers have been moving away from using third-party cookies since 2013, when Firefox and Safari browsers blocked them. In 2019, Chrome, the world’s most popular browser, began to phase them out as well.
Cookies are a digital type of bookmark for websites and companies to recall certain data in the future. The “third-party” refers to cookies placed by other services and then provided to partners of those services. Third-party cookies are the reason you may see ads across several websites for something you viewed hours before.
In addition to cookies, governments are placing heavy pressure on companies to return control of user data to the users. And now that users understand how much data they’ve been giving up, they too are eager to regain control. Companies like Apple are taking the lead and forcing applications to request user permission before tracking.
Not surprisingly, the majority of people are denying apps’ requests to track your behavior. Only about 4% of users are opting into app tracking when receiving iOS prompts.
The result of all of this is companies must now do more to track you directly. With data becoming valuable currency, brands are adapting fast. 83% of advertisers surveyed by Claravine said they are already shifting their efforts to first-party data. You may have noticed more websites now asking for your email, phone number, or other information when you land on their page.
Digital Marketing Trend 9: Growing Use of Digital Payments
Money and the ways to exchange it for goods today take on more forms than ever before. For years, even with credit cards and debit cards widely available, cash was seen as the most common option to pay for things. But today, 64% of consumers feel they could go a full month without using cash.
Whether on Android or Apple devices, customers now carry their wallets on their phone. The expectation is now that any app or website selling online can tap into these wallets. Many carts today are abandoned simply because users are asked to manually enter credit card information into the shopping form. Apple Pay and Google Pay make customers feel safe. If they are in a public place, they don’t want to enter their credit card information by hand.
In addition to proper mobile pay, consumers are now using new currency to pay for products. If you sell internationally, you know about accepting different currencies. Thanks to the popularity of cryptocurrency, it may now become necessary for businesses to implement the capability to accept crypto payments.
Bitcoin alone accounts for $6 billion in daily online transactions. For comparison, Visa and MasterCard combine for nearly $47 billion. Even entire nations are getting behind the convenience of crypto. Earlier in 2021, the small Central American country of El Salvador adopted Bitcoin as an official form of payment.
In 2018, Amazon opened an experimental convenience store in Seattle dubbed Amazon Go. Upon entry, the store’s network taps into the Amazon account on your phone. Using sensors on the products inside the store, an order is created and billed based on the products you take with you outside the store.
In 2019, Caper Labs created a shopping cart equipped with sensors that identified the products inside and calculated their weight. The idea was that stores would then install shopping cart readers that allowed customers to simply run the cart through to create their order.
If we all now carry digital wallets, is it really necessary to stand in long lines to make purchases anymore? As customers adjust their pay habits, marketers must identify new places to send messaging in physical locations before customers make those final purchasing decisions.
Digital Trend 10: AI is Deep in Everyday Life
The Artificial Intelligence market is expected to reach $190 billion by 2025. At least 60% of Internet users have interacted with chatbots. Virtual assistants notify you of products you may like based on purchase history. And all customers by this point understand there isn’t a human being curating their netflix interface.
There are ways AI is used in marketing that not all customers see or understand. For example, the average online searcher may see a Google results page and assume somebody had to write the text on the screen for each of those results but that is not necessarily the case. Using Google dynamic search ads, brands change the copy used in an ad based on specific user behavior.
Creative mediums were always seen as AI’s biggest hurdle. The idea of machines making musical masterpieces or writing the Great American Novel was seen as impossible. Then it started to happen.
The results may not be the most creative but when the goal is relaying information rather than creativity, AI is catching up. There are machines generating ad copy and in some cases, writing short blog posts. According to the New York Times, one-third of the content Bloomberg publishes is AI-generated.
Many of these advancements are a result of improved Natural Language Processing capabilities (NLP). Google now implements a language model called Google BERT. Its purpose is to help Google understand the context of your searches. BERT makes it possible for Google to search based on the entire query rather than build the search word by word and omitting prepositions we use in everyday language.
In Coffee, Ice Cream, and More
Other examples of AI in marketing include Starbucks using predictive analytics to improve their personalized recommendations, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream using Unilever’s AI data centers to analyze user behaviors and identify a new target audience, and Tomorrow Sleep using AI-driven content research to identify gaps in search terms so they could create content that captured searchers their competitors missed.
Digital Trend 11: Interactive Digital Content is the Reality
Augmented reality refers to the ability to overlay digital content onto the physical space around you. It didn’t take long for companies to identify ways to market using AR.
Furniture companies and clothing companies have developed apps with AR capabilities built into them. Partnering with Shopify Plus, Magnolia Market in Waco, Texas makes it possible for customers to see how any of their pieces would look in their own space using their phone app. When it comes to fashion, you have the ability to see an outfit on yourself as you look in a mirror.
Door fridges in convenience stores used to require stickers to be replaced when a promotion ended. Now, the entire fridge door can serve as a promotion for the very products found on the other side. Walgreens went all-in on AR advertising when they rolled out sensor-equipped fridge doors that display advertising when customers stop to look at their options. The system can actually read the efficacy of the ad after it is served by tracking door opens.
If augmented reality is designed to bring the digital to the physical space, virtual reality takes you out of the physical space and completely immerses you into a digital world. VR came on strong as the future of gaming but it’s since turned into so much more. As companies continue to move away from employees in a central location, more people are communicating and socializing virtually and seeing people on a small screen does not recreate the social experience.
Remember the metaverse: a virtual reality space where multiple people can congregate and communicate as they would if they were physically in the same space. With Facebook, one of the largest advertising platforms in the world, looking to lead the charge into the metaverse, it’s evident marketing in VR is coming. With 57 million VR users today and that number increasing each year, several brands are embracing the metaverse and preparing to target audiences within it.
Digital Trend 12: Blockchain Goes Beyond Crypto
The headlines around blockchains have centered on cryptocurrency but the benefits go far beyond it. The purpose of blockchain is to decentralize and protect the digital information it transfers. It will change marketing because it brings a level of visibility and power to the consumer.
We already know companies want our data and consumers agree to give it to trusted companies in exchange for perceived value. Blockchain is making it possible for users to get paid for interacting with ads. As we transition to this type of exchange, the process resembles a sort of digital focus group.
Consumers can also use blockchain to gain a sense of transparency about the products they buy. As the supply chain adopts blockchain for its transactions, customers can now confirm the produce they are buying is organic or confirm their coffee is actually fair trade by tracing them right to the source.
Digital Trend 13: It’s Time to Go Beyond Vanity Metrics
Apple holds 15% of the global smartphone market and 54% of email client market share. When Apple makes changes to their phones’ behavior, it ripples through the industry. Two updates in 2021 did just that.
Apple iOS Update
First, Apple’s iOS update forced applications to request permission from users to be tracked across other applications. When you install a new app on your phone today, you should receive a pop-up window requesting this permission and the majority of users are denying this request. In fact, according to Flurry, only about 4% of users are enabling tracking features since the update occurred.
Apple Mail Update
Second, Apple updated the way email is handled to help protect users’ data. Customers now have the ability to hide their IP address, geolocation, and whether or not they’ve opened a message from their senders. Companies will see dramatically skewed open rate numbers and lose valuable user data as a result of this update.
Vanity metrics are top-level metrics like impressions, views, and email opens that seem impressive at first but ultimately do not say much for the bottom line of the business. The point of any business is to convert and vanity metrics are only step one in a process of several steps before reaching conversion.
Instead of looking at open rate, focus your initial attention on your emails’ click rate. This metric gives a better idea of how often people are interacting with your content. Even if a click does not turn into a sale, that reader followed your initial call to action. If a campaign yields a solid click-thru rate but very few sales, you should consider reviewing the landing page users see after clicking.
Digital Trend 14: The Use of Visual Search Continues to Rise
According to HubSpot, 62% of millennials and members of Gen Z prefer to use visual search over all other options. Visual search is the ability to use your phone to identify and image and provide more information on it. QR technology is an early version of visual search.
Translation applications are taking advantage of visual search features. Google Translate allows you to hold your phone up to a sign in a different language than you understand. The app can then interpret the sign and translate the information for you.
Manufacturers of all types can take advantage of visual search. Have you ever been in a store with limited personnel and you wish you could ask questions about a product on the shelf? Thanks to visual search, all information from features to user reviews can be just a picture away.
Digital Trend 15: More Livestream Shopping
The livestreaming market grew significantly during the pandemic with so many people locked inside and artists finding it a good way to continue to share their talents with the public. The market is projected to hit $25 billion by 2025.
Influencer marketing cannot be denied but for a long time, marketers were left with few real data of their success. An initial influencer campaign consists of putting product in an influencer’s hands and letting them broadcast that product to their audience. Your brand gets an awareness boost, is associated with an industry influencer, and hopefully gains new customers.
The initial influencer campaign above is okay as your initial touch point but in order to move customers down the sales funnel, you must have data. Some manufacturers used promo codes for their influencers in order to track sales connected to influencer campaigns. Now that influencers are livestreaming, a more immediate opportunity exists.
Livestream shopping capabilities allow influencers to host livestreaming events associated with their brand partners. The audience can touch the screen and initialize a purchase of the featured products right on the app and over half of Gen Zers say they would buy this way. It’s a fantastic opportunity for marketers that provides immediate, trackable conversion data.
One brand already capitalizing on this opportunity is Tommy Hilfiger. The company held a livestream event in China to promote a hoodie. The event drew 14 million viewers and blew out 1,300 hoodies in two minutes.
Digital Trend 16: Voice Assistant Shopping
Voice assistant sales reached $1.8 billion in 2020. Experts believe up to 50% of consumers will shop using their voice assistants by 2022. Google and Amazon devices account for 94% of smart speakers.
Voice assistants are designed to connect with your IoT devices and serve as the hub for your connected home. They also answer questions and provide shopping notifications. Consumers are more likely to shop right on their device today. In fact, 23 million people shopped using their voice assistants in 2020; a 45% increase from 2018. It’s of course no coincidence the two leading devices are also the two largest online shopping networks.
Digital Trend 17: Consumers Demand Sustainability from Brands
According to a report conducted by Trivium Packaging and Boston Consulting Group, 67% of consumers consider recyclable packaging important and 54% consider sustainable packaging when deciding on a product. For a long time, manufacturers invested thousands to deliver their products with elaborate packaging that added to the experience.
Today, brands are considering a minimalistic approach using recyclable or reusable materials. If the packaging is minimal, it may only include the branding for the product, a basic description, UPC, and any warnings or logos required by law.
A good way for brands to get the most out of minimal packaging, it’s a good idea to use combinations of AR, visual search, and other mobile advances to deliver product marketing.
Digital Trend 18: Brands Want to Partner with Independent creators
The digital age has changed media in many ways but one of the most impactful is the ability to give the average person a creative outlet. Independent creators continue to find ways to monetize their art without the need for large companies.
2021 brought us the NFT, short for non-fungible token, and it’s bound to be one of the biggest stories of the year. Independent creators can now sell the rights to a digital product and because it’s so new, we are only beginning to tap into the possibilities.
Particle—a platform for art and technology NFTs—will auction a painting by street artist Banksy as an NFT. The painting, Love is in the Air, will be sold as a type of crowdfunding work. Rather than buying the entire painting, fans will buy one of 10,000 equal digital portions of the painting and have the right to claim complete ownership and see the piece where it will be permanently displayed.
Brands are exploring ways to use NFTs in their nascent stage. Robert Mondavi Winery designed limited-edition bottles linked to NFT’s as a method of counterfeit protection. Coca-Cola ran a special auction to sell unique loot-boxes featuring special digital items. And Charmin auctioned off five digital rolls of toilet paper with unique designs to benefit the humanitarian charity, Direct Relief.
Stay tuned as Edstutia will have a module offering in Blockchain/NFT/Crypto for learners to ensure they are prepped for work and changes that come with this trend.
Digital Trend 19: The Ongoing Push for Inclusivity and Diversity
Society’s heard the movements of recent years loud and clear. The makeup of top company executives does not resemble the diversity of our real lives. And if a company does not have a diverse staff, it’s incapable of sending an inclusive message.
When developing campaigns, we must consider the messaging behind them. It begins internally, with a diverse management team, and a diverse marketing team. This team must then consider how they are reaching out to their audience. Several companies in recent years have hurt their reputations through negligent marketing practices.
Marketing cannot take a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Campaigns should be inclusive and feature people as diverse as the world around us. More targeted messaging must take caution to not offend its target audience. This most often occurs because the team creating the content does not have members who represent their target audience.
Edstutia is supportive of education in this area. We offer a module in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging. For enterprise partners, we offer a complementary module in Cross Cultural Competence.
Digital Trend 20: Ongoing Virtual Events
As all events went virtual in 2020, there was one key finding: people enjoyed the ability to participate virtually. As things open back up, event organizers are now forced to revisit their strategy and offer both experiences.
When ComicCon in San Diego canceled its 2020 show, DC decided to put on their own digital experience dedicated exclusively to the content they were creating in the coming year. The event drew 22 million viewers. It was so popular, even with ComicCon returning in 2021, DC decided to skip it and hold a second annual DC Fandome. This second event drew 66 million viewers.
CES is one of the largest trade shows in the country. It was forced to go completely digital in 2021. The show is back on in Las Vegas in January 2022 as both an in-person and digital experience. Manufacturers have to be excited by this new dimension because now, an event originally available only to industry insiders, can be available to just about anybody with a computer. This means more content produced about the show touting the big winners and getting consumers excited. It’s created an entirely new marketing channel for manufacturers.
Digital Marketing Trends Wrap-Up
With technology evolving at such an impressive rate, marketing is also going through dramatic changes. Businesses of all sizes must be aware of digital marketing trends in order to deliver their messages successfully. It’s equally important for marketers of all experience levels to not only stay aware but continuously upskill in order to keep up.
Edstutia will soon offer modules focused on in-demand marketing skills and concepts, and an Integrated Marketing & Analytics track tied to apprenticeships so that you can stay up-to-date with these trends. Contact Edstutia for more information on marketing training and other exciting, in-demand modules offered on our fully virtual campus.