Happy New Year! 2017 has officially come to a close. And what a year it was! If you steered clear of all things internet, allow us to regale you:
This guy drew a thing.
This baby couldn’t even.
Twitter gave us this guy:
Some benevolent god gave us salt bae.
And while rest of the world hurled itself headlong and burning toward oblivion, this dude played chess.
As for marketing? Well, AdWords got a makeover. Similar audiences came to the Search Network. In Facebook, Power Editor and Ads Manager said to hell with divisive rhetoric, one love, dammit, and merged into one platform.
Where does all this leave us? We have some ideas. We scoured the web, combed through the dabs and the cat memes, and put together this list of the top seven boldest marketing predictions for 2018. Let’s take a look at some of the trends that have potential to make noise this year.
1. We’ll see the rise of 360-degree video/virtual reality campaigns
If you checked out our post on the best video editing software for beginners, you might remember reading a lot of about 360-degree video. That’s because nearly all the top pieces of video editing software now offer 360-degree video support—a development that occurred in the last year or so—giving marketers, amateurs, and surfer bros alike the ability to get radical:
If, like me, you’re skeptical about the benefits of virtual reality (VR), and worried that too much virtual immersion could devolve into a never-leave-the-house-type situation, a quick scan of some of 360-degree content around the web might put your mind at ease. Ex-military men and women afflicted with PTSD are using virtual reality to reclaim their lives; those afraid of flying are therapeutically exposing themselves to take-offs and other in-flight experiences; this dude climbed a tree—think of the marketing possibilities! The best video marketers will leverage VR to seamlessly evoke the feeling—be it joy, comfort, whatever—they want their customers to associate with the purchase and use of their product. Sound more effective than a text ad? We think so too!
We still might be a few years away from widespread, effective use of VR in marketing; but innovators will get the ball rolling this year.
2. The potential of chatbots will finally be realized
While lead generation still gets the glory, customer support brings home the days-simmered bacon. Nurture doesn’t stop once your prospects pass through the funnel. Do you know much easier it is to sell to an existing, happy customer, than to a new prospect? 14 times easier.
Image via Marketing Metrics
The chatbot was in bold atop most marketers’ “2017 predictions” lists, but it proved more a shy debutante than an all-out party-crasher. This year, companies are expected to put more effort than ever into testing and implementing artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. The global chatbot market is predicted to grow substantially year-over-year—one report has it reaching $1.23 billion by 2025 (a compounded annual growth rate of 24.3%). And an Oracle survey found that 80% of chief marketing officers, chief strategy officers, senior marketers, and senior sales executives already use chatbots, or plan to use them by 2020. Put simply, the customer service revolution is already in motion.
Given improvements in AI technology, the growing understanding of the importance of customer support, and the anticipated market trajectory, we predict chatbots are going to have a huge year in 2018.
3. Brands will allocate more budget than ever to influencer marketing
Image via Google Trends
Influencer marketing is quickly establishing itself as one of the most effective ways to increase brand exposure and credibility. It allows brands to skip countless hours of targeting and nurturing, and has become a more time-effective (and often cost-effective) way to reach new potential customers. The majority of marketers rate influencer marketing among their most cost-effective channels; ditto, among their fastest-growing channels for online customer acquisition. Look for more brands to get in on the act in 2018.
4. SEOs will finally be forced to take voice search seriously
I was riding alongside my sister’s boyfriend, John, on the way to Christmas Eve this past week, when The Cranberries’ “Zombie” came on the radio. John wondered aloud whether the song was released in the 90s (it was), and, pulling out his android, asked Google Assistant. That’s the wonderful thing about voice search. You no longer have to keep your Zombie-related queries IN YO’ HEADDD.
For real though: not convinced voice search is a trend worth paying attention to? Take a look at the number of articles published in the past year about “how to optimize for featured snippets”:
Up 178% from 2016! The biggest reason for the influx? Systems like Google Home and Google Assistant get their information primarily from featured snippets. They even cite the name of the site that answered the query. Have you heard that ridiculous stat that by 2019, video will account for more than 80% of all video traffic? Well, ComScore predicts that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be voice searches. 50% of all searches. If that number comes anywhere close to fruition, the SEO community is in for some serious voice search optimization in the next year plus.
5. Digital advertising will continue its pace to supplant traditional advertising
Data shows that consumers continue to spend less time with their television sets, and more time with their devices. Gone are the days of getting home from work and settling in for 2 hours of Seinfeld reruns. We now have more power than ever to personalize our viewing experience. Evidently, it’s power we intend to wield.
That’s great news for digital marketers. 49% of organizations do not yet have a clearly defined digital marketing strategy. About the same amount of small-to-medium-sized businesses have just a basic understanding of SEO. 60% of consumers still don't even know a PPC ad when they see one. What does all this amount to? A digital landscape that’s ripe for cultivation, and a whole bunch of budget heading there in the near future.
6. Gated content will get all liberated, and stuff
“They can take our lives, but they can never take our emails.”
It’s a bit dramatic to say that the digital marketing world does whatever HubSpot does; but hey, they run a tight ship over there. To say nothing of the experiments! One very interesting experiment this year tested the effects of un-gating content to see how SEO and conversions would be impacted. Their method was to convert gated PDF pages into HTML pages, optimize the HTML content to convert, then re-gate the pages just when the content was (supposed to be) getting good—a la, “click to read more,” and such.
What HubSpot found was an increase in organic traffic exclusively for the already-highly-visible (in the SERP) PDF pages. Other pages, however, experienced negligible impact; and conversion rates more or less plummeted across the board.
Still, such an experiment opens the door for all kinds of experimenting with un-gating and partially-gating content; and with the potentially exponential return on SEO, we anticipate more brands will get in the game.
7. The ad revenue gap between Facebook and Instagram will shrink
While Instagram’s ad revenue still lags behind Facebook’s by quite a bit, you should fully expect that gap to shrink in 2018. 20% of Facebook’s total mobile ad revenue this year came from Instagram, an increase from 8.4% in 2016. And while that number says a lot, take a look at Instagram’s user growth rate in the past year plus:
Not only did the platform double its number of monthly users in the past two years—hitting 800 million this September—but from March 2016 to March 2017, its advertiser base grew by 500%. Expect that number to continue to rise astronomically as marketers realize how much money they’re leaving on the table by excluding the platform from their marketing budget. Ultimately, as Instagram’s number of advertisers catches up to its number of monthly actively users, clicks and impressions won’t be so cheap/easy to come by; but until then, the race is on.
We put this list together in the hopes that it would help you try to anticipate the year to come in marketing, and plan accordingly. Of course, no prediction is guaranteed to come to fruition. Take a look back, find a trend or two you strongly believe in, and get optimizing!
Have a 2018 marketing prediction you think we missed? Let us know in the comments below!
About the Author
Gordon Donnelly is a college hockey washout, failed poet, and all-around oxford comma enthusiast. He's a sucker for: fly fishing, mudslides, and the dwindling half-light of Clery's basement. Tweet him @gord_donnelly.