The digital marketing landscape is ever-evolving, with various techniques not only emerging but becoming an intrinsic part of what we do in our roles as marketers. But what does the near-future hold exactly?
From voice-activated and visual search to AI and video, there are many components to consider. Let’s take a quick look at four key areas and trends to help chart our industry’s future road map.
While voice-activated search has exploded onto the scene (with experts predicting that as many as 67 million voice devices will be found in US homes this year), many marketers are still struggling to incorporate it into their digital strategy. This is because voice-activated search has yet to be monetised and therefore doesn’t offer a concrete revenue stream in the same way that other channels do.
Another issue with voice search is that it is a bit of a one-stop shop, offering a final answer to a user’s questions, which makes it harder to pinpoint where this research happens within the wider consumer journey. For example, a Google search will pull up lots of different website options, giving users the freedom to peruse these at their leisure and engage across multiple different touch points. However, voice search simply provides a single answer from a single source, effectively offering the user no cohesive journey to pursue via a different device at a different time.
In short, this lack of tracking makes it difficult to attribute voice search results as part of a wider marketing campaign. However, with voice-activated search now being introduced into cars, it could become an effective option in the future for geo-targeting as well as for bricks-and-mortar stores looking to attract local business.
Where marketers are leveraging this is in the race for the top position in semantic search via organic featured snippets. At this time, it is believed that these are a key source for voice search results. Brands who successfully secure these will support their marketing by reinforcing the perception as the “expert” and authoritative source for this search.
AI and machine learning
When paid search and programmatic advertising were originally launched, there were considerably fewer options at the fingertips of marketers than there are today. In the past, the only data we had were keywords that users were searching for. This soon expanded to geographical data, demographics, time of day and device.
But the introduction of numerous data signals has meant that there is now too much data available (sometimes millions of millisecond calculations for each user’s search), so it is near impossible for human marketers to successfully analyse and then utilise these learnings in future campaigns. Therefore, the only way to successfully exploit this insight is via the application of machine learning.
The state of play has shifted so that AI will now, more often than not, analyse these learnings automatically, and that machine learning will, for example, inform the day-to-day optimisation of PPC accounts. This gives marketers the time to focus on the more holistic, strategic side of campaigns, successfully moving them from optimisers to consultants. Brands will have to take this leap of faith and allow AI greater involvement or get left behind!
New research from ViSenze has found that 62% of Generation Z and millennial consumers want to utilise visual search more than any other technology. And when you consider that the likes of Google, Amazon, Bing and Pinterest are developing and pushing their capabilities in this area, it’s easy to see visual search becoming an ever-increasing option. For example, currently, there are more than 600 million visual searches on Pinterest each and every month.
Backing this up, Pinterest CEO, Ben Silbermann, has said in a recent interview that, “The future of search will be about pictures rather than keywords.” This analysis seems right on the money, especially considering the consumer and the aforementioned brands investing in visual search. Do not be surprised to see this become one of this year’s hottest trends, with marketers looking to add image optimisation back into their SEO strategies.
While there is an abundance of content on the internet, most of it is not engaged with by consumers. Quality over quantity is key, so to cut through the noise, brands must take a more emotion-led approach. For this reason, “quality” content is often taking the form of video, which offers a multi-sensory medium through which to connect with consumers.
According to Cisco, nearly four-fifths (79%) of the world’s mobile data traffic is expected to be video by the year 2022. Plus, now that everyone has high-quality cameras on their phones, everyone is becoming a content creator – raising the quality benchmark for brands.
To take full advantage of the growing popularity of video, brands need to stop seeing it as a format option for their next Facebook campaign (like a Carousel or Canvas), and more of a strategy in and of itself. Consider if you are giving video the adequate attention it deserves.
These are just four areas of note worth watching. As you can see, the future is certainly an exciting one for digital marketing!