There’s something new in digital marketing every single day, so identifying the top digital trends that will have the biggest impact in 2018 is tricky. We could focus on the several hundred updates that Google will most likely perform to their algorithm or how advertising on Facebook will evolve in light of the recent predicted changes to the news feed relating to content from pages. But a holistic digital strategy is bigger than individual channels, important though they are.
So if it feels like you’re caught in a whirlwind of digital trends to watch out for in 2018, don’t panic! We’ve laid out the top 5 we think are important to your digital strategy and how they might affect you this year.
In case we haven’t said this enough over the years, everything about creating a digital experience should be user-centric. We think 2018 is the year that marketers can no longer afford to produce any kind of digital marketing that isn’t focussed on the user. Bland, generic or poorly formatted content on any channel of any type will fade into the background and the effort of creating it will be wasted.
Equally, we still come across sites that aren’t responsive on mobile or that don’t provide an engaging mobile user experience. Now, there are probably a hundred reasons I can give why the mobile experience is as crucial to your business (if not more so) as desktop, but let the data speak for itself.
- Back in 2016 Google said that globally, mobile searches have overtaken desktop searches. And this year, Google is now making a ranking update that will probably demote slow loading pages on mobile.
- Facebook users are now predominantly mobile. In fact, over 38 billion mobile users worldwide are expected on the platform in 2018.
- 73% of all UK adults accessed the Internet on a smartphone in 2017.
- Mobile shopping transactions accounted for as much as 40% of retail revenue in 2017, and it’s probably going up in 2018.
Our top tip for 2018 is to make sure you know how mobile users are interacting with you. Interrogate analytics to determine how they are arriving at your site, what are they doing when they get there and how do their engagement levels vary from the desktop audience. Drawing out these key insights will contribute to a mobile strategy in 2018.
Data & making better use of it
We’ve been saying for some time that good data, analysed effectively creates powerful, actionable business intelligence. Big data is a term rarely far from our conversation, but in 2018, it’s about turning theory into reality. Google has actually helped 2018 off to a great start by releasing the new Search Console. If your site’s not already verified on Search Console or you don’t use it much, make 2018 the year you embrace it because, among other exciting things, you can now look at 12 months of click and impression data by keyword.
2018 will also be the year that everyone who collects customer data in any form will need to do plenty of housekeeping. GDPR kicks in on 25th May, so I reckon there will be a flurry of customer communications, especially emails requesting contacts re-subscribe, as companies seek to cleanse their lists.
Top tip – if you can’t be certain of the origin of contacts in your email lists, databases and CRM systems, get started on contacting and requesting re-opt in early before customers get bored of this message (which will undoubtedly be seen in their inbox more frequently as May approaches).
Machine learning and automation
Artificial intelligence (AI) has been in the background of our online experiences for some years now, learning our viewing and purchasing habits. Just picture the Amazon recommended products engine (and how easily it used to be thrown by gift buying!). Both Google and Amazon are opening up AI beyond developers, and now anyone can train a machine learning model with minimal coding ability. As it becomes more available, my prediction is we’ll see it move into the mainstay of digital experiences.
How does this impact your day-to-day digital marketing? Well, on a small scale it may not just yet, but it’s worth considering the environment your target audience are experiencing online. One way to ensure you’re doing the best for your users is to continue to A/B test as often as possible. Test new web pages, forms, emails and adverts for their potential to engage and drive the response you’re looking for.
2017 was the year that voice search made a move for the mainstream. Home assistants like Google Home and Amazon Echo are now a part of everyday life for many of us with sales up 312% on 2016. When we add in Siri and Cortana, ComScore estimates that 50% of all searches will be voice searches in 2020.
Google’s Search Console could soon separate voice searches from typed searches, and while many queries are the same no matter how they are conducted, there are some differences. Optimising for voice search is something every SEO strategy should include, so our two top tips for 2018 are:
- Target the rich snippets. When a voice assistant returns the answer to a search, if there’s a result in position zero (a rich snippet), that’s the answer it will give.
- Use insights from customer queries to inform content creation. If you discovered there are common questions that it would be useful to provide answers to, doing so could net you greater exposure on that search result.
We’ve seen the market for wearables continue to go from strength to strength. Last year, it was predicted to grow by another 12% to 347.53 million devices worldwide in 2018. A significant chunk of this is due to the continued appeal of the Apple Watch, sales of which were up 50% year on year in 2017.
I think part of this continued appeal is the empowerment these devices provide to take control of your health and wellbeing. Previously we’ve been reliant on medical professionals to tell us how healthy we are, but with constant feedback on elements of our health, we’re now empowered to take better care of ourselves. Who knew how hard it is to do 10,000 steps a day when you do a desk job!
In 2018, I reckon we’ll be able to do more with wearable technology, and it will play a part in our relationship with our healthcare professionals. This could mean linking up activity levels, heart rate and rhythm, and blood sugar levels and more in the future.
What does this mean for you? This is a trend to consider for the future. How might you feature on a wearable device like the Apple Watch? Is there a way you can leverage data tracked by customers who opt-in to share that sort of information with you?
Author: Sarah Sennett
Sarah is the Head of Digital Marketing & Strategy at AB... and enjoys helping organisations get the most from their marketing activities. With an affinity for a data-driven approach, she specialises in customer and user experience, SEO and PPC management. At the moment, she's really interested in voice search. Sarah is Google-certified in both Ads and Analytics and has over 11 years of experience in digital marketing. She also has an MSc in Digital Marketing Communications and joined the AB... team in April 2017.