By Olumide Samuel

It feels like it was just a few days ago that 2018 started. But the reality is that you’re now preparing for 2019.

With every new year comes new plans to improve your business compared to the previous year. You have worked hard to make a lot of sales and profits for your business this year.

Whether you have achieved wild success, or the experience has been humbling, you need to get your business to a higher level in 2019.

But to do that, you have to take action. After all, repeating the same things you have done in 2018 and expecting a different result in 2019 would be the definition of insanity.

However, I’m sure you’re fully sane and you want to take new actions to improve your business. Digital marketing tools make it easier to get your message across to potential customers.

With poor marketing, a great product may end up with poor sales. Things change fast in the digital marketing space. There are new trends over the past few years that could improve your business tremendously next year.

What are the digital marketing trends you need to pay attention to and implement in your business?

1. Chatbots

Over the years, businesses have implemented live chat on their websites. This is for a simple reason: to answer potential customers’ inquiries while they’re still on their website. Many times, when users are unable to find answers to their questions, they navigate to a competitor’s website and you lose sales.

Live chat was supposed to be the medium to answer your website visitors’ questions. But it has its own weaknesses. First of all, it is operated by humans and to err is human. Many website visitors have to wait for minutes before customer reps attend to them through live chat.

Chatbots eliminate these issues. They can respond to users’ issues almost instantly. Although many business owners have claimed chatbots are robotic, they’re effective in answering common questions that your website visitors have at the point of purchasing your product.

And when chatbots are unable to answer customer queries, they can transfer your customer to a human customer care rep.

According to a study by Drift, Audience, Salesforce, and myclever, the biggest potential benefits of chatbots are 24-hour service, getting an instant response, and answers to simple questions.

Chatbots are growing in popularity and businesses are already using them for other functions apart from answering basic questions. These include choosing products, giving products specifications, and other activities that fast-track the process of turning a lead into a customer.

When Amtrak, a railroad service, implemented their chatbot, Ask Julie, it was to give customers more information about trips and also help them to book their tickets. With the chatbot, Amtrak generated 25% more bookings and 30% more revenue per booking.

2. Voice Search

So you’re traveling through a city and you need to stop by to eat at a restaurant or drink at a coffee shop. What’s easier? Talking into your phone or having to type a query?

Voice search has always been an easier way to carry out searches on search engines. The main limitation has been the poor ability of devices to transcribe voice. However, over the years, voice transcription accuracy has improved to be as good as human beings.

Many searchers now use voice. Because it’s faster and easier than typed search.

Two years ago in 2016, one in five searches on Android was voice search. This has only been increasing. With the introduction of smart speakers like Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple Homepod, the trend in voice usage will only increase.

According to NPR and Edison, 39 million Americans own a smart speaker. To put it in perspective, that’s about 1 in 6 American adults.

What does this mean for your business? People are buying goods on their smartphones and smart speakers using voice. You should optimize content on your website to target voice searches.

There are two major traits of voice searches:

  • They’re usually longer than typed searches.
  • They’re conversational in nature.

OC&C Strategy Consultants predicts voice commerce will jump from a $1.8 billion retail segment in the U.S. in 2017 to $40 billion by 2022.

It’s an opportunity for your business to take advantage of this growing trend.

3. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Many people see artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning as evil, or the doom of man. But the reality is that artificial intelligence is here. Businesses now use artificial intelligence to gather insights about their potential customers and customers.

These insights help businesses identify the products or services their leads are interested in. With this, they can send the right message to each lead and increase the chances of leads engaging with their brand. Likewise, they can also recommend products to customers based on their past purchases.

In a Forrester’s Global State of Artificial Intelligence Survey, 57% of business professionals are already using AI to improve their customer experience and support. There are other benefits that your business can gain from using AI and machine learning.

If there are two reasons you need to implement AI and machine learning into your business, they’re:

  • Effective personalization to send the right message to each business contact.
  • Products or services recommendations to customers based on their purchase history.

4. User-Generated Content

This is not an entirely new trend, but it’s one few businesses pay attention to. You can advertise your products and convince a lot of people. However, you can even get better results when your customers advertise your business on your behalf.

Do your customers enjoy using your products? Can they show you how it has been improving their lives? Can they take a picture or record a video?

In one way, user-generated content is a way of businesses appreciating their customers’ importance. In another way, it’s a means of attracting more customers. People often grow suspicious of advertising due to the strings attached.

But content like customer reviews and user-generated content are more believable to your potential customers because they’re external endorsements of your company.

In a study by bazaar voice, they found that user-generated content has an effect on the purchase decisions of 84% of millennials and 70% of baby boomers.

5. Native Advertising

It’s no secret that most of your potential customers hate seeing advertisements. That is the only way to explain the rise of the use of ad blockers by U.S. internet users from 24.4% in 2016 to 30.1% in 2018.

The trend is likely to continue. But the reality of business is that you need to advertise your business to get your message in front of a wider audience.

When you think of it critically, can you say people actually hate ads? Most times, what people hate is irrelevant ads. If your customer needs to buy a shoe and they see an ad about shoes, would they frown and spit? No way.

This is why native advertising is one of the hottest trends in advertising. Native advertising is a form of advertising that is similar to the content on a particular page. This means that without marking it as an advertisement, a user should be unable to tell it’s an advertisement.

eMarketer predicts that native ad spending is expected to rise to $41.14 billion and 61.4% of total digital display ad spending in 2019. This is up from the expected $32.9 billion and58.3% of total digital ad display spending in 2018.

Take Away

Digital marketing is an integral part of any business in the internet age. Businesses that fail to move fast to reach and attract customers are left behind. Or left to die.

Staying on a single spot is like going backward. Look at your marketing strategy. One or two of these trends could be what you need to reach more potential customers next year.

It could also be the difference between reaching your sales and profits targets and missing it.