By Senior Digital Strategist, Sarah Evans
As we move into 2020, a new decade, the pace of change is only set to increase for the marketing world. This will be the year that some proposals will be out of date if they get stuck in a six-month queue waiting for the board to sign off the budget. It’s hard to benchmark and forecast results when it’s never been done before. Marketers must be brave, curious and nimble, balancing long term and short-term goals. Well strap in…. here’s what we think are the actionable trends coming next year.
1. The Social Marketplace: the role of social will change for brands and consumers
Social sharing has declined over the past few years, digital detoxes are so common they’re boring, and people are becoming more conscious about how they use social media. They’re wising up to how the platforms use our data and the permanence of how and what they share online is off-putting. At the very least, this knowledge is now influencing the level of curation, editing and filtering that their social profiles undergo. Their presence is selective.
The real conversations are hidden behind closed doors in closed groups or messaging apps – a consumer’s prerogative of course. For brands, that means social listening for consumer insight is far less informative, but also that if they want to get in front of that audience, they’re going to have to pay for that privilege.
There is another version of social media – it’s increasingly the place you go to shop. Wired called Instagram a shoppable mall: introducing shoppable posts and features that make it easier for people to spend money directly from their feed. Brands may even forgo the money to engage their audiences when sales opportunities are now so readily available through this platform, and the audience is willing.
Native integration has turned social posts into mini ecommerce experiences where the sales funnel can be much shorter. It’s a great traffic driver from social to a brand’s website too – not to mention making it easier to track sales from an influencer marketing program.
2. Influencer Marketing ‘Glows Up’: maturing and diversification
This is not a new trend, but we’ll see the next phase of its evolution. Budget spent on influencers is estimated to grow from £4.5bn to £18.4bn in 2024, despite misgivings about transparency, efficacy and measurement to name a few: brands still insist on throwing money at this tactic.
In 2020, we’ll see this kind of activity ‘grow up’, as governance increases and both brands and influencers themselves get more discerning and savvier when it comes to things like contracts, compliance and exclusivity. We expect to see the scale increase, both length of partnership and number of people in a brand’s ambassador program.
Influencer marketing will go beyond Instagram and YouTube. Not least because algorithm changes, removal of likes and decline of organic reach all pose a threat to influencers’ livelihoods, but also due to the emergence of other niche channels. The explosion of TikTok for example, took most people over 30 by surprise.
TikTok are trying to woo brands with their 800m global active monthly users and predominantly Gen Z audience. Brands could think laterally about where else to find authoritative people on existing channels as well as emerging ones: like Reddit (just tread carefully), LinkedIn, Medium and even Quora will mean that influencer marketing will be audience-first, not channel-first. This will be key for B2B brands looking to capitalise on this type of activity next year.
3. The BERT Effect: humanising SEO means voice search will kick up a notch
We all know of that stat that was absolutely everywhere. On October 25th 2019, Google launched its most significant update in five years, called BERT. It’s a deep-learning, natural language processing model, which is now powering search queries. This is huge and could give voice search the impetus it needs to hit critical mass, as the semantic and contextual understanding BERT will bring lends itself perfectly to that type of search.
What do brands do about this new update? What they should have been doing all along – which is solve for the user. BERT is now able to read sites just like humans, so write for humans. Google also use humans to manually check websites and the effectiveness of the search results based on their Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, so there is no hiding anymore.
Be useful, trustworthy and authoritative with your content (the E-A-T update is here to stay), and create a lot of it to help people throughout the research process, even those who are at the speculative, low intent phase. Keyword optimisation is dead, it’s all about the topic.
On a broader note around SEO – Google has been making moves to optimise for the best user experience possible. In years gone by, the methodology may have been clunky, but now it’s extremely sophisticated, so instead of trying to second-guess what Google is looking for now, focus on the user and you’ll always be heading in the right direction.
4. Brands Without Boundaries: marketing will (continue to) break the fourth wall
Native advertising will be taken to new heights – beyond advertorials and product placement. We’ve already seen some venture into the gaming world, like the Wendy’s avatar “saving Fortnite from frozen beef” and Burberry’s new online game to race a deer to the moon. Brands will continue to break the fourth wall to connect with audiences where they are spending time, continuing to infiltrate the consumer’s every day. Product placement on streaming platforms will increase as they offset money lost through traditional TV advertising, and people seem to be more receptive to accepting products alongside a much-loved character than force-fed them in TV adverts.
2020 will see the introduction of the much-anticipated advertising on Whatsapp. Any communications channel, where it once may have been saved for personal communication, seems to be for the taking. Creative, irreverent and innovative use of these existing channels may earn forgiveness for crossing the line; like using Airdrop for a recruitment campaign.
With all these opportunities within reach, brands must go beyond the excitement of new territory and ensure their presence is welcome and valued by their audiences – so think about why and how you have the right to be there – not just about the PR story you can tell about it afterwards. Remember, people have yet to forgive U2 for the automatic iTunes album ‘gift’.
5. The Purposeful Pound: consumer behaviour pivots towards sustainable brands and shopping habits
The damage we’re doing to the planet is coming into ever-sharp focus and concern about the environment is at its highest level on record. This is no longer an aspirational or status-driven trend for the liberal elite – the ones who could afford the first iterations of electric cars. It now concerns all of us and is shaping our behaviour and our demands on brands.
Take one movement: veganism. By 2020, the number of vegans will have grown by 327%. Smart brands clocked the demand and responded: Burger King, Nando’s, Zizzi, Wagamama, even Greggs to name a few have all launched vegan options to their menus. Greggs’ Chief Exec is even vegan now.
When it comes to environmental responsibility, for brands and consumers alike: it’s not status-enhancing if you opt in, it’s shaming if you opt out. Just look at #flygskam (or ‘flight shame’).
Consumers (of all ages) are becoming more conscientious than ever before, voting with their money. With tools like Rank-a-Brand, people can find out how sustainable their favourite brands are.
Brands will have to work hard to prove their green credentials to this growing, discerning group, but if they can then this will be a powerful marketing tool. Brands need to not only respond to, but also nudge consumers into better habits. Mastercard partnered with Doconomy to launch a credit card that tracks the CO2 of purchases and blocks it when you’ve reached your carbon limit.
Whatever 2020 brings, you can be sure that the only constant will be change.
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