With the excitement of every new year comes a new batch of marketing trends and predictions. Marketers all over the world are pondering what trends, tactics and technologies they need to focus on in order to attract, engage and convert towards reaching their marketing and business goals?
From one year to the next, there are often a mix of new trends, technologies and consumer behaviors combined with enduring best practices that marketers have yet to fully adopt. This year is no different.
As I contemplated the evolution of our own marketing efforts for clients reconciled with research on top marketing trends for 2019, I found a concentration of interest in a few specific areas like video, voice, AI and influencer marketing as well as a long tail of sorts ranging from AR/VR to camera marketing to visual search.
Here are a few areas of focus for B2B marketers as we kick off another great year of marketing.
6 Overall B2B Marketing Trends for 2019:
1. Live, Interactive Video
Virtually every year video gets a nod on marketing trends lists and for good reason. According to research from Cisco, 80% of the world’s Internet traffic will be video this year. And marketers are finding new ways to capitalize on the trend in a variety of ways including animated videos, demos, interviews, case studies, 360-degree interactive video, and live streams on platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Periscope, and Livestream.
With Instagram reaching over 1 billion users, IGTV has become a place for many marketers to explore vertical video. If you’re craving more of a Vine length experience, new video apps like Tik Tok are also getting marketers’ attention.
The classic video marketing platform, YouTube, isn’t slowing down either. Over 1.9 Billion logged-in users visit YouTube each month and every day people watch over a billion hours of video and generate billions of views. Overall, marketer adoption of video is up to 68% from 49% in 2018 according to Spiceworks. Whether you simply start creating useful livestream or recorded content to answer buyers questions with video or produce an ongoing show, now is the time to get started on a video marketing evolution track.
2. Voice Search
According to Comscore, nearly half of the searches on Google will be through voice search in 2020. Smart speakers and smart phone functionality on iOs and Android phones has driven the use of voice to discover and consume content significantly. Alexa alone has over 45,000 skills and growing. The number of households in America that own a smart speaker is expected to increase from 13% to 55% by 2022 (Juniper).
Accelerating sophistication of AI and natural language processing has made voice interaction with smart devices an indispensable tool to find information. The question is, are marketers creating and optimizing their content to be the best answer for voice search?
Unlike text based search where 5 or 10 search results appear, voice search typically gives just one. Being number one pays, too. Voice-based commerce sales in the United States reached $1.8 billion in 2017 and are projected to reach $40 billion by 2022 (Search Engine Land).
Customers are using voice to discover, consume and act on information. To take advantage of this fast moving trend, marketers need to research what questions buyers are asking and provide content in formats that are easy for voice search technologies to deliver.
3. AI/Machine Learning/Chatbots
Artificial Intelligence is one of those trend items that has reappeared over the last several years and it’s safe to say AI will remain for many more. AI driven machine learning systems are helping to make sense of vast stores of structured and unstructured data so marketers can provide more relevant, timely and personalized content. AI helps automate many redundant tasks like categorizing images and other content assets.
One area where AI is seeing a lot of traction is through the increased use of chatbots for everything from customer service to pre-sales engagement. According to eMarketer, 1.4 billion people interact with chatbots every year and using live chat means a 300% greater chance that customers will buy (AMA).
In a study by Grand View Research, 45% of end users said they prefer to use Chatbots as a major means of communication in customer service. That’s a pretty compelling number considering the efficiencies and scale of chatbots over traditional customer support. Even better is the immediate assistance provided to customers.
Marketers are responding the the chatbot trend: Three in 10 B2B tech marketers are also expected to utilize chatbot-powered marketing by the end of 2019 (Spiceworks). If that doesn’t convince you, by 2022, it’s estimated that chatbots will help businesses save over $8 billion per year. Doing what exactly? Warming prospects, scheduling sales appointments and helping to make purchases (Forbes).
The amount of data brands are collecting is greater than ever – more than most of us ever realized based on reporting that came out in 2018. The days of companies playing fast and loose with consumer data are coming to a close with initiatives like GDPR in Europe and the growth of data privacy efforts here in the U.S.. Consumer trust in brands has eroded and mishandling of data or the lack of transparency hasn’t helped.
And yet, data is critical to providing qualitative customer experiences at scale:
“Data is key to companies being able to make good decisions about products, services, employees, strategy.”
Daniel Newman, Principal Analyst at Futurum Research
Data is also a strategic differentiator when it comes to customer experience:
“Data helps marketers work more productively, create the right content faster, and deliver that content to the right customer, across the right channels, at the right time. companies that integrate data and creativity in their day-to-day practices actually drive two times the growth of companies that have those capabilities but manage them separately.”
Stacy Martinet, VP of marketing strategy and communications at Adobe.
Breaking down data silos, enriching data while employing proper security and governance is critical to earning back customer trust while delivering the experiences they have come to expect from leading brands.
5. Influencer Marketing 2.0
One of the hottest topics of 2018 was influencer marketing and it will be even hotter in 2019 – but not in the same way. Exposure of fake followers, lack of paid endorsement disclosure and general brand/influencer sloppiness have led to some embarrassing attention to this fast evolving discipline.
As brands clean up their act when it comes to influencer marketing, they’re also shifting their attention from celebrities to niche influencers – aka micro or nano influencers. According to research from Digiday, average engagement with nanoinfluencers can approach 8.7% vs.1.7% for celebrities. This shift in focus matters to up and coming buyers. Econsultancy has reported that young consumers prefer more “reliable, authentic influencers” compared to a “celebrity with mass appeal”.
Influencer Marketing is making progress in B2B too. B2B tech marketers’ adoption of influencer marketing is expected to grow to 48% by the end of 2019, up from 31% in 2018 (MarketingCharts). Rather than one and done transactional engagement, marketers that have evolved in their influencer marketing maturity are focusing more on ongoing influencer partnerships and relationships. Always on influencer engagement inspires organic advocacy and provides customers with consistent voices they can trust.
6. Purpose Driven Brands and Gen Z
According to a study of Millennial and Gen Z aged youth by Deloitte, “opinions about business’ motivations and ethics, which had trended up the past two years, retreated dramatically this year, as did their sense of loyalty.”
Building trust with customers is one of the biggest opportunities for marketers in 2019.
Brands that lead with values and purpose can create opportunities to communicate transparently and with authenticity – leading to greater trust with buyers. Belief-driven buyers now make up the majority of consumers in every market (Edelman). In 2019 we’ll see many more businesses articulating their brand purpose to more effectively connect with and engage customers.
While it can be overwhelming to think of how any mix of “trends” can fit in your marketing mix on a given year, there is a way to simplify and focus. Of course the common link of that focus is the customer and the relationship between their journey and the information marketers can provide to help buyers move from problem to solution.
By understanding what approach and tactics make sense to attract, engage and convert buyers, marketers will always be relevant with current trends. For example, we can organize some of the marketing trends and tactics for 2019 into the following customer journey states:
- AEO – Answer Engine Optimization focuses on optimizing for answers over specific keywords, which is how buyers are seeking solutions.
- Voice Search – Speaking to smart assistants like Alexa, Siri or Cortana as well as specific voice interfaces to search engines like Google and Bing enables solution discovery in the medium customers prefer.
- Influencer Marketing – Engage influencers to co-create and promote content reaching audiences new to the brand.
- Amazon Advertising – Retailers are increasingly seeing the benefit of placing direct ads on Amazon, instead of on Facebook on Google reaching audiences in an entirely new context.
- Visual Search – Reverse Google image search and Pinterest image search is on the rise for content discovery.
- AR/VR – Augmented Reality combines the real world with digital and Virtual Reality creates an opportunity to engage digitally without real world distraction.
- Audio/Podcasting – Podcasting publishing and listening is up significantly as is audio streaming along with advertising opportunities.
- Camera Marketing – “2 billion smartphone users globally, up from 220 million in 2008. By 2020, that number is expected to increase to 3.2 billion, allowing for the widespread growth of AR. Snap claims 1 billion images are taken on its platform each year, equal to the number taken on Apple devices. The camera is where your audience is” (PRWeek).
- Chatbots – Repetitive questions and basic interactions can be handled at scale while also providing customers an immediate solution whether it’s support or assistance scheduling a sales meeting.
- Influencer Marketing – Influencers with media creation skills can add capabilities to brand marketing departments that delivers content in the formats and with the voice that actually resonates with buyers.
- Personalization – Customers expect content that is relevant, timely and specific to their needs. More brands are leveraging AI and data responsibly to create personalized experiences for customers resulting in shorter sales cycles and increased marketing / sales performance.
- Video – Content with video performs better than content without and more platforms are making it easier to leverage video to engage customers. From livestream to 360 interactive video to episodic content on video hosting platforms, brands are using video to create more personal and engaging connections with customers.
- ABM – 64% of marketers are adopting an account-based marketing strategy (Spiceworks) and this year even more B2B brands will be evolving their marketing mix to include ABM.
- Browser Push Notifications – To engage customers while they are on your site, you can use browser push notifications, triggered by specific actions. For example, online retailers use browser push to retarget shoppers who have abandoned their shopping carts to encourage purchase completion.
- Influencer Marketing – Trusted industry experts, peers and social connections that recommend, advocate and educate are powerful resources to inspire engagement with brands.
- Real-time Marketing – Social listening for brand terms, buying questions, and objections enables brands with an immediate customer engagement opportunity.
- Rich Lead Profiling – Marketing with data isn’t much use if your prospect data is not complete and up to date. Data enrichment tools can help fill in the gaps and coordinate to create new insights for customer engagement.
Whether you’re already starting to adopt and evolve your use of these trends or you’re considering some of them, I hope this post gives some useful context for your 2019 marketing journey to provide the best possible exploration , experience and engagement for your customers.
What marketing trends would you add? Which would you leave out?